Discussion Section: Han Han (and China) on Libya

I was about to translate this post when I discovered that Global Voices beat me to the punch. I guess some people are still paying attention to Han Han, even if the domestic media isn’t allowed to mention him anymore.

Hit the link above for Han Han’s take on Libya, but here’s the money quote (from the Global Voices translation):

My view is very simple: dictators have no internal affairs, and slaughterers ought to be invaded and eliminated. Yesterday just happened to be the brightest moon in 19 years. It doesn’t matter who, it doesn’t matter why; in the name of the moon, annihilate him.

The moon bit is just a joke; “In the name of the moon, I’ll annihilate you!” is a quote that’s been bouncing around the net for a couple years. But the rest of it seems to be genuine, and it’s interesting because there is a lot of debate happening on the Chinese net right now about Libya.

It’s not hard to guess where the Chinese government — which abstained on the vote to enforce a no fly zone — falls on this issue. I’m just waiting for Li Hongmei to write one of her classic columns on it.

More than a few Chinese netizens have a similar take. Comparisons to the Iraq war and condemnations of “the West” are already flying around Chinese social networking sites and microblogs like Sina, where “Iraq” has been a trending topic for the past couple days mostly because of that comparison.

As I understand it — and I haven’t had time to follow it too closely — there are a couple issues at play here. First, people are concerned about “the West’s” incursion being a violation of Libyan sovereignty. In China, of course, any incursion into another country’s “domestic affairs” is always a hot topic and a point of pride for the Chinese government, an opportunity to take the moral high ground because China doesn’t interfere in other countries’ affairs unless those countries are Taiwan, Japan, India, any African country with useful resources, etc….

With regards to that argument, I’m with Han Han. And in an age of instant international communication, I’m not sure what the value of national sovereignty is when (1) the “domestic issues” of any given country inevitably affect things in other countries ((Just look at the wave of protests that continues to sweep through the middle east; somehow, Tunisian internal affairs managed to affect Egypt…)) and (2) there are civilian lives hanging in the balance. As a government, I think you probably forfeit your sovereignty right about the time you start using fighter jets to bomb peaceful protesters. And from the perspective of a Libyan protester, I suspect I’d prefer the French violating our national airspace to being killed by my own military ((even though it would mean I could die happy in the knowledge that Libyan sovereignty was secure!)).

The second issue is that the UN forces have allegedly also killed civilians, although for the moment, those claims appear to be a your-word-versus-mine situation, with Gaddafi and supporters claiming several dozen citizens killed, and allied military leaders denying any civilian casualties ((Obviously, both of those groups have reasons to potentially “massage” the truth)). Personally, even if the UN has killed 40-something civilians ((I believe that was the number Gaddafi was claiming yesterday; I haven’t seen more recent figures)), I suspect that’s preferable to what would have happened without UN intervention (to wit: more civilian deaths, and not accidental ones).

What’s interesting — if predictable — is that in the discussions I’ve seen on Weibo and other Chinese sites thusfar, tend to focus on the former issue rather than the latter. Even to regular Chinese people, it seems, Libya’s sovereignty is a more pressing issue than whether or not its citizens are being killed.

And, of course, most of the discussion isn’t really about Libya at all, it’s the same China-versus-the-West narrative of Western arrogance and imperialism that we hear every day. Libya is a bit player, and the eventual outcome there probably doesn’t matter much to the people discussing its fate.

That said, I haven’t had enough time to properly follow all the news on Libya or to research this post — as many of you probably noticed, things have been busy lately. So I’ll leave it at that for now, the comments thread wide open below, waiting excitedly for you to condemn me.

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0 thoughts on “Discussion Section: Han Han (and China) on Libya”

  1. China abstains because it doesn’t want to be seen encouraging UN-backed revolutions against oppressive governments, for obvious reasons, or inviting other countries to meddle in their internal affairs. It has nothing to do with obeying national sovereignty.

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  2. this — “dictators have no internal affairs, and slaughterers ought to be invaded and eliminated” — is a painfully lacking talking point in just about any major media outlet reporting on what’s going on, foreign and domestic.

    sovereignty? please. the libyans are still being allowed to fight amongst themselves. the missile strikes were more or a less a form of policing action against gaddafi openly and proudly boasting he was going to slaughter his own people.

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  3. ” it doesn’t want to be seen encouraging UN-backed revolutions against oppressive governments, for obvious reasons,”
    “““““““““““““““““““`

    “We’re not gonna stand for this! Look what that nutjob is doing to his…”

    Advisors *psst psst pstt

    “…oh.. I guess you’re right……..that certainly puts us in an awkward position………..Golf, anyone?”

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  4. I find it funny that Gaddafi and his family was coddling with Western Leaders even when they know all those kind of ‘atrocities’ that he has done. Han Han’s oversimplification of reason for invasion of Libya is going to be another Iraq.

    China has voted for the UN resolution 1970 which is to condemn of shooting of protesters and get the ICC involved in this issue. Notice that shooting of protesters happened in many other Middle East countries recently yet Libya is the only country is going to be punished.

    China, as well as Russia, Germany, India, and Brazil abstained in the UN resolution 1973 which is to enact a no-fly zone because they want a peaceful resolution to this matter. Furthermore, China says that they abstained because they would like the Arab League or the African Union to decide on this matter. The last I heard is that The Arab League was against bombing of Libya also.

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  5. @pug_ster

    if you saw a man holding an ax standing about ten full paces away from his entire extended family — 1 wife, 5 girls, 5 boys, 2 grandmothers, 2 grandfathers, 10 aunts, 10 uncles, 20 cousins, etc. etc. — all bound and being held down by thugs, and he then confidently announced to you that he was going to kill them all…

    would you try to stop him?

    or would you call the nearest courthouse?

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  6. Moralist bs…

    Every country is going to have dark times, shoddy leadership etc. That hardly justifies invasion on moral grounds, there’s always an ulterior motive to it. China is of course no exception, except the CCP knows Libya is none of its business. I’m sure Beijing knows Gadhafi is no saint, and yeah, maybe he is going from town to town killing civilians. But abstaining from voting will keep China from being seen as “taking sides” in the whole Islam vs West thing, and that’s what really matters. Good, practical diplomacy.

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  7. I find it odd that so many people in the West are complaining about Gaddafi killing innocent civilians, yet somehow overlooks or justifies US and NATO killings of innocent civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq. And people say Chinese nationalism is bad. If you look at pure numbers, the US and NATO have killed more civilians. The difference is that when the Western powers kill civilians the euphemism “collateral” is used prevent self-directed moralistic outrage and the MSM will remain silent. For those who are complaining about China’s “intervention” in other people’s affairs, when China actually stations hundreds of thousands of its troops all over the world, starts wars which kills tens of thousands of civilians in the process of getting rid of tyrants who happens to be former allies of China, then these complaints would sound less hypocritical.

    I am actually somewhat surprised that so many people think that getting rid of Gaddify would make things better. If there is anything which can be learned in the last decade it would be that in Muslim nations getting rid of dictators without proper plans for succession will only create a power vacuums which leads to more terrorism, death, and chaos. Even if Gaddafy is taken out there has been little to no discussion as to why things would turn out any differently than Iraq or Afghanistan. It seems that the “free” media can never get over its habit of ignoring the hard, but important questions.

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  8. @LOLZ

    While you do raise a point that there need to be some important, forward-looking questions asked, this issue is muddled by the rest of your post which prompts me to ask you this question:

    Are you on fucking crack, bro?

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  9. @C. Custer

    “And, of course, most of the discussion isn’t really about Libya at all, it’s the same China-versus-the-West narrative of Western arrogance and imperialism that we hear every day. Libya is a bit player, and the eventual outcome there probably doesn’t matter much to the people discussing its fate.” If you wasn’t such a pentagon salesman maybe we can have a better discussion.

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  10. @David

    “China abstains because it doesn’t want to be seen encouraging UN-backed revolutions against oppressive governments, for obvious reasons, or inviting other countries to meddle in their internal affairs.” Are you serious, how quickly you forget that the Egyptian government was on the U.S payroll for like 30 years. Saddam Hussein was once an U.S Allie and over throwing of a Democratic government like Ecuador to install a pro western dictator. But of course we Chinese are bunch of brainwashed communist, what do we know.

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  11. Searching Han Han isn’t censored. Also Han Han Sina blog is recommended search. New blockage? Here’s uncensored result from Baidu News search term “Han Han Sina blog”:

    http://news.baidu.com/ns?cl=2&rn=20&tn=news&word=%BA%AB%BA%AE%D0%C2%C0%CB%B2%A9%BF%CD

    CDT, as a US-government funde mouth piece, is simply propaganda. So is the Kadaffi bombing peaceful, unarmed protester, propaganda from our industrial-military-media-complex. Look into other reporting at the same time, the armed rebellion started already.

    While peaceful protest should be supported, IMHO it is “moraly repugnant” (yup, the same trigger words y’all love to use on China) for US to usurp UN resolution 1973 to provide air cover in aid of the rebels. Taking side in Libya’s civil ware and allowing rebel incursions effectively endangers and punishes civilians that support Kadaffi, and violates res 1973’s stated goal of portecting all civilians.

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  12. @pug_ster/shuaige/ChinaGlee

    No one in a position of responsibility with even a shred of understanding of what’s actually going on in the world can afford to have such a narrow worldview as the one you’re apparently espousing. I mean, thank the god none of you actually have any real say in what goes on in the world! Imagine what terrible ambassadors you’d all make!

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  13. Good lord Custer, you take your readers as dummies who would never bother to click thru? Here’s what the boston.com article said:

    “Libyan protesters celebrated in Benghazi yesterday, claiming control of the country’s second largest city after bloody fighting”.

    So these people were not “peaceful protesters”, were they? They actually killed people and took over a city. This kind of insurrection would never be tolerated in US, when the fact is any protest turn disorderly (the recent police shooting protest in Seattle was broken up for blocking street) is immediately suppresed, let alone armed rebellion (remember those Texas separatists that printed their own money?)

    It’s simply immoral to support armed rebellion in order to topple regimes we don’t like. How would we feel if China riled up the Native Americans and gave them guns to attack us? I’d be pissed I tell ya.

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  14. @ChasL

    “It’s simply immoral to support armed rebellion in order to topple regimes we don’t like. How would we feel if China riled up the Native Americans and gave them guns to attack us? I’d be pissed I tell ya.”

    I think you would be genuinely surprised at how many people living in America would actually support doing this. And at how many ‘Native Americans’ would be genuinely opposed to doing this.

    Can I ask you question, where do you guys/girls like you get your debate training? I know that sounds like a patronizing question, but I’m genuinely curious. Your style of debate is a rather fierce and discordant one, and I have to admit, it is very effective.

    What’s your secret?

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  15. @zusya, it my supposition, so my rules. It’s not about anyone’s actual sentiment, but framing the Libyian events onto ourselves.

    I for one would be PISSED, if China supported armed rebellion within America (Native American, Hawaiian Statehood, Reconqista, whatever), and turned around sought UN blession to bomb our military in the name of protecting the rebels.

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  16. @ChasL

    I’m interested in your usage of this phrase: ‘framing the Libyian events onto ourselves.’ Could you help me understand what you mean by that? I’m asking because I am seeking to better understand the situation at-large, and I think you can help me.

    And I know what you mean about supporting armed rebellion. War is a patently stupid thing. You’d think about many millenia of human history, we finally would’ve been able to figure out how to stop it once and for all.

    Do you think the UN has a serious role to play in the 21st century? And do you ever think there will be a Chinese UN secretary general? I’ve heard that maybe Bill Clinton will take it over one day, maybe ten years from now. Do you think Wen Jiabao would ever be able to do such a thing? It could be interesting.

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  17. @ChasL

    From Seattle. Right.

    You don’t have any thoughts about any of my questions?

    The Internet tends to be a rancorous echo chamber, and I’m trying in earnest to reach out to get to the bottom of your views. I can only hope that you can empathize with my motives here.

    So you’re saying that helping other Americans understand what’s going on in Libya? Is that what your phrase means?

    One thing that’s really surprised me is the absolute rainbow of editorial opinions re: what’s going on in Libya right now found in media all over the world. It seems like everyone’s getting a chance to say what they really think.

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  18. @ChasL

    Introspection can be a powerful thing, especially when wielded completely honestly. But I would argue it doesn’t always prove useful when it comes to getting things done.

    Speaking of which, do you happen to think the UN is a useful institution? I’m amazed at how many real-blooded Americans don’t. Demonstrates a lack of awareness of true history, imho.

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  19. @ChasL: No; because of the lovely internet restrictions here, I couldn’t get anything to load, so I made an assumption about the content of that story based on the title. In any event, we both know that the Libyan government DID attack peaceful protesters before the incident that article is actually about. It may not be the right article, bad guess on my part.

    Good lesson to you, though — don’t take your unrestricted American internet for granted!

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  20. zusya,

    No one in a position of responsibility with even a shred of understanding of what’s actually going on in the world can afford to have such a narrow worldview as the one you’re apparently espousing. I mean, thank the god none of you actually have any real say in what goes on in the world! Imagine what terrible ambassadors you’d all make!

    Like what shuaige says, Moralist bs… Let’s see if the lives of the ordinary Libyans will improve in the next few years as the result of this bombing campaign.

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  21. @zusya
    That’s why ambassadors exist, to sugarcoat things that would otherwise sound immoral. The point is the average person will debate on and on about morals and legal interpretations, without knowing that these things have nothing to do with what happens on a geopolitical level. It’s just something to keep the ants talking, and we’re the ants. On the diplomatic stage China has acted correctly, carefully avoiding this conflict altogether.

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  22. @C Custer, don’t tell me savy laowai internet users like yourself don’t know about Proxy Hunter or VPN providers operating legally in China?

    Ignorance isn’t bliss, cite the article.

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  23. Custer, you said:

    “using fighter jets to bomb peaceful protesters”

    Now your propaganda is changing to “attack peaceful protesters”, which isn’t the same.

    Police all over the world have the right to “attack”, in order to maintain law and order. Just ask the Seattle police who attacked a Native American wood carver for holding a folded-close knife.

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  24. China will be the first one in there looking for oil contracts after the dust settles. (cf Iraq, Sudan, Iran, and Afghanistan for minerals). That’s how China rolls.

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  25. ChasL: And surely a know-it-all douchebag like you is aware that China is currently cracking down on VPNs, blocking their connections? Don’t be a jackass. Obviously I know about VPNs, this site’s ONLY ADVERTISER HAS BEEN A VPN SERVICE FOR THE LAST YEAR. This site is blocked, so it would be impossible for me to even post here if I didn’t have a VPN. My VPN, however, wasn’t working well at the time. Things are not like they used to be, where you buy a VPN and can access the “real” internet like a regular human. VPN connections are constantly being slowed or blocked by the Chinese government. This has happened to Freedur 5 or 6 times in the past month or so, and all accounts indicate other VPN providers having similar issues (although most of them won’t come out and say the Chinese government is involved for fear of further interference).

    As for my use of “attack”, I just meant it as shorthand for “bomb from airplanes.” And, for the Nth time, just because Americans do something obnoxious doesn’t mean other people should also be allowed to do that, or that Americans can’t criticize others for doing it.

    You might have noticed that I ended the post with this: “That said, I haven’t had enough time to properly follow all the news on Libya or to research this post — as many of you probably noticed, things have been busy lately.” I think that made it pretty clear that the post wasn’t meant to be taken as anything more than it was, a quick write-up of my own reaction and a solicitation for comments.

    In any event, the UN resolution for sanctions (which even China voted for) was because of Gaddafi’s violent actions against peaceful protesters. You can play with semantics all day, and it’s possible I’m mistaken, and that the only protesters bombed were arguably not that peaceful. But regardless, it’s pretty clear that Gaddafi was doing horrible things to nonviolent opposition protesters, and morally speaking, it doesn’t matter much to me whether he was doing it with bombs, guns, or knives. The result — and the principle — are the same.

    Regarding the “moralism” accusations—yup, it’s moralism, so what? We can’t all agree that killing nonviolent people is bad? Sure, it’s unclear how the lives of Libyans will change after the UN intervention. BUT AT LEAST THEY WILL STILL HAVE LIVES. That’s the point. Even if we totally ruin their lives and take all their oil, isn’t that better than standing by while Gaddafi kills them all while spouting our realpolitik horseshit and patting ourselves on the back for not interfering?

    On a micro scale, we can see that attitude now and then in China, when someone is hit by a car and no one on the street helps them because it’s none of their business. True, it’s not their business, and true, it could have negative consequences if they help. Even so, I don’t know how those people sleep at night.

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  26. Wow, I’ve never seen a non-native Chinese speaker use “n-th” in an expression, but anyway:

    That’s because military intervention usually has negative consequences and not much more. Even if you seriously meant to help, believe you are doing the right thing, a lot of other players won’t. The general rule is help one state and three condemn you for it, the circumstances are irrelevant. Besides, for a country this far from China/US there isn’t much to gain. I mean look at the money America has flushed into the current wars, the political schism it’s caused within, the awful reputation loss and alienation of an entire sphere of people – all for what? These wars are an overall net loss, maybe profitable only to a handful of individuals and companies. When people see America/the West interfere again they are going to make those connections, justified or not. China doesn’t want to go down the same path. Who does?

    And yes, political imperatives come far before moral ones. I’m sure everyone agrees killing civilians is bad, but I’m also sure the leadership in most countries don’t care much about dead Libyans outside of their political implications.

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  27. very telling:

    The West has dominated the world for centuries, and clinging to world dominance still remains its major strategy. The air assault against Libya is partly motivated by sympathy toward Libyan civilians. Nevertheless, it is primarily a political decision taken by a few Western powers, and the very first message it delivers is that these Western powers are still the judge and executioner on a global level.

    As a rising nation, China lacks experience in dealing with complicated international affairs. However, we should at least bear in mind that the West should not have the right to dispose of any country at will, no matter how awful this country’s situation may be. Western intervention against Libya should be strictly limited. Their excessive intervention must be condemned.

    China is still a weak player in the realm of ideas. Western countries have been our mentors over the past decades. However, we should clearly understand that these mentors maintain their own interests.

    (found toward the bottom at http://en.huanqiu.com/opinion/editorial/2011-03/637051.html)

    translation:

    y’all go do whatever, we’re busy counting money. just don’t forget who your bankers are. ok? peace out.

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  28. …waiting excitedly for you to condemn me.

    I’m getting an impression that you don’t like dissension. If you’re going to publish your views then opposing views are to be expected. If you don’t want to be criticized then take the role of a journalist where your articles should reflect both sides of the story. Let your readers decide which side to take.

    Anyway, those on the UNSC have wisely abstained as supporting or opposing the motion would make one look like an evil imperialist nation or a puppet of one. I’m surprised Russia abstained as they like to be a thorn to the Americans and frankly they don’t need any oil. I believe China abstained to give themselves some breathing room to do business in the future with Libya. It’s all about the money for them.

    China’s motivation aside, I’m totally against intervention even at the cost of innocent lives. For starters, this is an INTERNAL matter. Of course the weaker side of a conflict will be seeking external support. Given how efficient our governments are, I can already see ‘mission creep’ occurring as the objectives are clear as mud. As a tax payer, I’m cringing on what this will cost Canadians given the shaky economy that we’re all in.

    There’s also another matter which many people haven’t addressed: Gaddafi’s supporters. Remember the old saying: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Don’t be surprised if they decide to align with Al-Qaeda. It’s been almost a decade of combat operations in the Middle East and we have yet to find the ‘Holy Grail’ (i.e. Bin Laden).

    What pisses me off is the Arab League and African Union. Those members have the resources to enforce a no-fly zone. They want the us to sacrifice our own for their benefit. Fuck ’em. I consider all the current Middle East conflicts to be a regional issue and should be handled by the nations in those regions. At best, the UN should only provide logistical support to the Arab League and African Union. Definitely no boots on the ground from us.

    Just as I’m finishing up on writing this comment, I get the news that NATO is now involved. What a fucking mess.

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  29. Perhaps Han Han’s exhortation: “In the name of the moon, annihilate them!” suggests more than a tinge of irony to what he says about Libya. As a country with a tiny population and a leader that the entire world finds annoying, it’s one of the few places that powerful countries can still get away with pounding. It’s naive to think that there will not be civilian casualties from Western attacks. But broadly speaking, the era of the West rampaging around the world and laying waste in the name of “democracy/human rights” is over anyway because a) competing views and interests from big rising countries such as China can’t be ignored and b) the West can’t afford it anyway.

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  30. Talking about Iraq and Afghanistan is clouding the issue, which sure, like most people agree are very unethical/problematic wars, but this whats going on in Libya is not the same.

    In my view its quite responsible for the US, UK and France to foot the bill in this case. Innocent people were being massacred by heavy machine guns, RPGs and snipers during peaceful protests – thats the main factor in what made the protesters become rebels, and there’s justifiable belief that things will get worse if it goes unchecked. No nation is and island and reasonable cosmopolitan efforts in the direction of human rights is not necessarily imperialism. Also, if the pro-Gaddafi forces CEASED FIRE, which the rebels were willing to, they would not be fired on by allied forces, likewise hypothetically speaking if roles were reversed, allied forces would fire on the rebels. The only reason why there’s even any action happening over there right now is because Gaddafi has sworn to “fight to the last drop of blood.” – Nice guy.

    My main criticism for “the West” is that they propped up Gaddafi for such a long time, knowing full well already he was a total c*nt. The reason why this mess started is at least partly the fault of Western nations in the first place.

    China didn’t veto because beyond oil prices they don’t really give a damn, and then they made hypocritical comments in state owned media since they violently suppress protests all the time.

    @ cdn:

    There’s no such thing as an “Internal Matter.”

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  31. “My main criticism for “the West” is that they propped up Gaddafi for such a long time, knowing full well already he was a total c*nt. The reason why this mess started is at least partly the fault of Western nations in the first place.”

    Agreed wholeheartedly. If people want to complain about US greed for oil, they should be talking about the US’s longstanding support for Gaddafi, not the begrudging, overdue effort to finally remove him. The US government has known that he is batshit crazy for years…

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  32. What right do we have to remove kadafi? If the Native Americans ask China to help them get their stolen land back, would the Chinese then have the right to bomb the shit out of us?

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  33. The only reason why there’s even any action happening over there right now is because Gaddafi has sworn to “fight to the last drop of blood.” – Nice guy.

    – brightgrey on March 25, 2011 at 12:39

    LOL So, are you saying that it’s OK for your leader to say “we will surrender if attacked from XYZ”? Talk about cowardice. I’d fight to the last drop of blood if someone attacked MY Country.

    What right do we have to remove kadafi? If the Native Americans ask China to help them get their stolen land back, would the Chinese then have the right to bomb the shit out of us?

    -ChasL on March 29, 2011 at 04:53

    Only if the US Government and it’s supporters use deadly force against them. However, Western politicians are much too smart to fall into that trap of using deadly force. They would use riot suppressing equipment. One could argue that supporters of the Hutaree (based in Adrian, Michigan) are like the Libyan rebels who is looking for a “regime” change. It’s the case of “Do what I say and not what I do.”

    As I’m writing this comment, I’m listening to a former Canadian General (Lewis MacKenzie) who states that this mission has crossed the legal boundary making this intervention illegal. Great! Another illegal war paid for by ME, the tax payer.

    Two points that I took from his speech. One, what is the definition of a civilian? Second, does actively removing all of Gaddafi’s heavy military assets that is protecting his civilian supporters a contradiction to the UN resolution?

    I think the real reason is that Europe doesn’t want any more Libyan (or other African) refugees streaming in. They’re likely hoping that a regime change in Libya would stop it.

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