Why Action in Libya is Necessary

In this op-ed Sayeeda explains her views on action in Libya.

Last Saturday British forces went into action over Libya as part of an international operation at the request of Arab nations acting to enforce the will of the United Nations. It might surprise many people to hear that someone who marched against the Iraq War is prepared to take to the streets in support of military action in Libya. But the truth is that I am just as passionately in favour of taking action in Libya as I was opposed to the Iraq War. Why? It all boils down to three things.

One – it’s necessary. Colonel Gaddafi said himself that he was planning a violent assault on the rebels in Benghazi. He said every home would be searched and that he would show no mercy. That’s why I felt so strongly that we had to take a lead and stop this atrocity. And we have.

Two – it’s legal. Unlike Iraq, this time we got that UN resolution for military action. There’s no question this time of dodgy dossiers about weapons of mass destruction. This time the mandate from the Security Council couldn’t be clearer – a no-fly zone and the use of all necessary measures to protect the people of Libya.

Three – it’s got regional support. There are millions in the Arab world who want to know that the UN and the UK care about their suffering. The Arab League have asked us to intervene and to stop the slaughter – and we should answer their call.

Back in the 1990s, we failed to act in Bosnia. We stood by as thousands died. In the end the UK and the international community did act. We intervened to stop the ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims. However, we were too late to stop the atrocities committed in Srebrenica where over 8000 people were killed. I’ve travelled to Srebrenica. I’ve seen the women who lost their fathers, husbands, brothers and sons. And more than 15 years on, they are still uncovering mass graves and burying their dead. We should never, ever let that happen again. That’s why I would take to the streets to support our action in Libya – and it is why Libya is right for many of the reasons that Iraq was wrong. This military mission is not about regime change: it is about protecting civilians. What is crucial is that the future of Libya is for the people of Libya to decide, aided by the international community. With this action the people of Libya have a much better chance of determining their destiny.