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So it begins: West appears to kill Libyan civilians, Arab League bails out

The mission said to "protect" civilians looks like it has done the opposite. Libyan state TV has reported that 48 civilians have been killed. The Arab League and Russia are among the first to denounce the bombings. Of course, it is always possible that the Libyan regime is inventing them, as part of a propaganda war. But air bombings are by their nature indiscriminate, and so civilian casualties are really inevitable - if not already, then soon enough.

The Arab League's criticsim is particularly significant, given that the West pointed to its support as a key justification for the mission. Hereis Amr Moussa, secretary general of the Arab League:

“What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone,” he said in a statement on the official Middle East News Agency. “And what we want is the protection of civilians and not the shelling of more civilians.”

The Arab League's initial call for a no-fly zone was genuine, but self-serving, as it helped to distract attention from its own put-downs of internal rebellions. But from the West's point of view, the Arab League support was a helpful fig-leaf for pursuing its own interests. In an article discussing the Obama administration's decision to pursue the UN declaration, the New York Times reported:

The pivotal decision for Mr. Obama came on Tuesday though, after Mrs. Clinton had called from Paris with news that the Arab governments were willing to participate in military action. That would solve one of Mr. Gates' concerns, that the United States not be viewed on the Arab street as going to war against another Muslim country.

This idea - that the attack on Libya is legitimate because the Arab League was behind it - is derisory. There is no evidence that the Arab military forces have participated - and even if they had, everyone knows this is a Western-led mission. Do you think when people are killed by French, British or American weapons, the response will be "that's from the international community, including Arabs?" Of course, it will be seen as coming from the West.

What's even more delusional is the notion that the Arab League's support would address the concern of how the mission would be "viewed by the Arab street". This assumes the Arab League and the Arab street are one in the same. It beggars belief that the US suggests this equation at precisely the time when the Arab regimes (which comprise the League) have minimal if no legitimacy in the eyes of the Arab masses (the "street").

Even so, Arab League backing was helpful to the West's propaganda, and now it looks like they've lost it.

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