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English bishop urges restraint in Libya mission

By on Thursday, 24 March 2011

Libyan women demonstrate in support of military intervention. Placards read 'Thank you France' and 'Russia and China, do not decide on behalf of Libyan people' (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

Libyan women demonstrate in support of military intervention. Placards read 'Thank you France' and 'Russia and China, do not decide on behalf of Libyan people' (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

The head of Britain’s military diocese has urged restraint in the ongoing military action against Libya.

Bishop Richard Moth said it was vital that coalition forces did not lose sight of the limits of their mission to protect civilians in the North African country.

He said action against the armed services of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi was only to defend civilians from attack.

In a statement released yesterday, Bishop Moth said: “The recent decision to enforce a no-fly zone over the country in order to protect the people of Libya sent a strong and clear message to the international community as a whole.

“Such action must serve only to provide defence for the defenceless,” he said.

“It must be hoped that the necessity for the use of force is over as soon as possible and that international forces continue to make every effort to avoid loss of life and unnecessary damage to the country’s infrastructure,” the bishop said.

He added: “I would ask every parish community in these islands to continue to keep the people of Libya in prayer that a peaceful solution may soon be found, and to pray for those servicemen and women who are working to protect innocent civilians from harm.”

David Cameron was instrumental in securing UN Security Council Resolution 1973 to establish a “no-fly zone” and to authorise military intervention by member nations to protect Libya’s civilian population at a time when Gaddafi’s army was advancing on the rebel-held eastern city of Benghazi.

Since the resolution was passed March 17, Western aircraft – predominantly American, British and French – have flown more than 300 sorties over Libya, and American and British warships and submarines have fired more than 160 Tomahawk cruise missiles at military targets in the country.

Bishop Moth’s comments reflect mounting concerns among the British public of “mission creep” in the conflict, whereby their armed forces are drawn into an increasingly widening commitment without either clear objectives or exit strategy.

Although only 13 British members of Parliament opposed the airstrikes in a vote March 21, recent opinion polls have revealed public support to be shaky.

A March 22 ComRes poll for ITV News found that 53 per cent of people thought it was unacceptable for British forces to be put in danger by protecting Libyan rebels and civilians, with just 35 per cent saying the government was right to commence military operations in the country.

YouGov survey results published March 22 in The Sun newspaper found that 45 per cent of people interviewed were in favor of military action, while 36 per cent opposed it.

  • Revdjeanrolt

    I agree completely and thank God that someone has said it

  • Andrew Holden

    If the good Bishop wants reasurance as to the restraint of the British Military in this matter perhaps he should visit the people of his military diocese. All that has been done up to now has been necessary to protect the Libyan people from Gaddaffi and his armed forces. So long as he is a threat to them they will need to stay there – so unless he has a major conversion experience they will have to continue the action until he goes. Regime change by the Libyan people is the logical objective and exit strategy,.

  • Martin

    And this is the Bishops concern, he is fully aware of how military operations work, they have a habit of escalating beyound the original goals. Regime change is not part of the UN mandate. It maybe politically desirable but it is not what the UK forces along with everyone else was sent in there to do. It was to defend people who where getting killed by providing a no fly zone.

    It must be remembered, it was the libyan’s who rose up in the first place on a wave of emotion and executed a very bad take over plan, they are now reaping the rewards of standing up to a brutal dictator. What did they expect? That he would roll over and accept it?

    Governments are now going to be stuck between a rock and a hard place. Do they: Carry on defending the rebels until Gaddaffi forgets about them? He wont (and media terms of rebel doesnt help, they are not a standing army or even close to one, the Army Cadets have had more training). Do we chose sides and back Rebel military attacks? We cant because they are civilians with Guns and havent a clue about warfare, they would be destroyed. Or do we escalate and put troops on the ground and fight for them, but against others who are just doing what they are told? The soldiers you must remember are simply that. They are doing what the chain of command want them to do. They probably believe they are fully in the right. Do you think America or any other country would allow a take over of government through mass demonstration that involved suddenly taking up arms after it had deployed forces in order (from their point of view) to keep the unity of the country? The moment that anyone take up arms regardless of the pressure they are under, they justify the other sides aggression in the eyes of the oppressor. The police and probably the army would be sent in the same way but with a better PR campaign.

    This is not black and white, good against bad situation. The region is tribal and like Iraq ruled by the toughest chieftein. There may be some who want democracy, but most havent a clue about anything other than than the tribal position. Once the tribal command structure (however bad that may be) is broken up the result can be worse than what the original issue was all about. I give you Iraq and Afghanistan as an example. We are still trying to solve this. The same religious elements exist here.
    The Bishop is right to warn of Mission Creep. What was in principle a good idea, where does it end?

    Maybe the best solution in order to save more lives is to directly target the government? That may sound harsh, but they are they not as dangerous as the soldiers carrying the weapons? it is their orders that are being followed. If the world governments want regime change then target the ruling family and kill them. As much as that leaves a bad taste in your mouth, it requires less deaths than armed intervention or a long drawn out civil war.

    Or alternately do we pull out and say we have achieve the no fly zone and pat ourselves on the back and let the rebels suffer? Because they will. And the vengence they would suffer is heaped up because of the punishment the regime is suffering on their behalf.

    Bishop Moth is right, there is a pandoras box of mission creep here

  • Martin
  • DBMcGinnity

    The CIA, MI5. Mossad and the Vatican Intelligence Service (The best in the world) warn caution about Libya and the Arab world because they know that very well that there several radical mainly Shia Ayatollahs waiting in the wings, just like what happened in Iran thirty years ago.

    Of course, I have no way of knowing, anymore than anyone else, but the spread of radical Islam could mean big trouble for all Christians in the years ahead. Mind you it would give Catholics something to do other, than score petty points with nonsensical, ‘one-up-man-ship’ dialogue, as expressed in The Catholic Herald

  • Fr. Joseph

    I join to the message of our Prime mininister not to violate the right of the innocents :civilians in Libiya.
    Fr. Joseph Manjananikal C.M.I.India