The Arab League has just formally proposed a resolution at the UN Security Council to create a no-fly zone over Libya. After weeks of international deadlock, this is the moment of truth -- and if we don't persuade the UN to act now, we could see in Libya one of the worst bloodbaths of our new century.
Qaddafi's forces are crushing the rebellion town by town. If they retake the country, brutal retribution awaits Libyans who challenged the regime. Already, reports of torture and killing are flowing from retaken areas.
Ordinary Libyans are asking if the world has abandoned them. The Avaaz community is deeply committed to non-violence, but enforcing a no-fly zone to ground Qaddafi's gunships is one case where UN-backed military action seems necessary. Polls of our community show 86% of us support a no-fly zone. Now, as the decisive UN vote nears, it's time for the biggest outcry we can raise.
We cheered when Libya's people rose up, and we cannot, we must not, ignore their plea for help now, in their darkest hour. Even if you've sent one before, click to send a message to the UN Security Council now:http://www.avaaz.org/en/libya_no_fly_zone_3/?vl
The UN is split, but the ground is shifting rapidly -- with China, Russia, and Germany arguing against, and the Arab League, the Islamic Conference, the UK, and France pushing in favor. The US and India are on the fence. This is no old-style East-West debate, nor, as some fear, an oil-grab conspiracy. The Libyan provisional council, which France has recognized as Libya's legitimate government, is desperately calling for the no-fly zone and international support, but with each passing day, the danger grows that any help will come too late.
A no-fly zone alone isn't a silver bullet -- it should be matched by still-stronger targeted sanctions and asset freezes, jamming of Qaddafi's violence-inciting broadcasts, and more countries extending diplomatic recognition to Libya's provisional council. Even with all of that, it could fall short. But those opposing strong action must ask whether, with tens of thousands of lives in the balance, they're ready to call for inaction.
International law and the UN Security Council have made clear that, when mass crimes against humanity are committed, the international community has a responsibility to protect people from these crimes, even if their attacker is their own government. While we do not yet know the full magnitude of Qaddafi's crimes, we cannot look away. Click to send an urgent message to the UN Security Council delegates:http://www.avaaz.org/en/libya_no_fly_zone_3/?vl
In the best-case scenario, Qaddafi would react to a UN resolution about a no-fly zone by ending his air attacks. But if he does not, enforcing the no-fly zone would require strikes on fighters he attempts to use, and possibly air strikes on Qaddafi's anti-aircraft missile batteries. There is a chance that a no-fly zone could lead to deeper international military involvement in Libya.
While the world (and Avaaz) objected strongly to George W. Bush's war in Iraq, and we have advocated for peaceful solutions to conflicts in numerous places, this is not Iraq. If we don't act soon, Libya could look more like Darfur, with massive crimes against humanity committed against whole communities of people. The Qaddafi regime has a long history of torture, massacring its own people and sponsoring international terrorism, and the Libyan people are unified against Qaddafi’s troops – even his own tribe and hometown have distanced themselves from his actions.
The situation in Libya -- and the world's response to it -- is complex, with many different actors and agendas, and the future of a post-Qaddafi Libya remains unclear. While this complexity must dictate the care we take in our actions, for the sake of tens of thousands of Libyan people, it cannot, it must not, render us inactive. Let's make the best choice we can, and act, now.
Stephanie, Ricken, Ben, Alice, Graziela, Benjamin, Rewan, and the whole Avaaz team