More details are emerging about the costs for the Roman-style triumph in Ottawa that marked the end of the recent Libya campaign (Paul McLeod, “MacKay defends $800,000 flyover,” Chronicle Herald, 14 March 2012):
The Privy Council Office initially approved $396,000 for the celebration but it ended up costing over $800,000, according to documents first obtained by the Ottawa Citizen.
At a defence committee meeting Tuesday, New Democrat David Christopherson accused MacKay of “runaway spending” and asked if it was appropriate to hold such an event while Libya is still in turmoil.
The Hamilton Centre MP from Ontario twice compared the event to U.S. President George W. Bush’s 2003 speech on the end of major American combat operations in Iraq. The speech was given in front of a Mission Accomplished banner that has since become a symbol of hubris and overconfidence.
“Was that really the best timing in light of what we saw George Bush do with his Mission Accomplished banner and how that has hung over his legacy to this day?” Christopherson said.
If the goal was runaway military spending, then the mission was certainly accomplished.
The success of the Libya mission itself, on the other hand, remains in doubt. The Gadhafi regime is gone, but the situation of Libyan civilians remains highly precarious as warlords and militias divvy up the country (Glen Johnson, “Libya militias pose threat to precarious stability,” Chicago Tribune, 7 March 2012):
Rising inter-tribal violence has left scores dead. About 100 people were reported killed last month when rival tribes battled with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades in the remote southern town of Kufra, probably for control of lucrative arms-smuggling and human-trafficking routes in the vast empty spaces near the Chadian and Sudanese borders.
The surge in violence has raised fear of spreading chaos as weapons continue to flow out of the country to Egypt, Tunisia, Chad and Algeria.
The militias’ actions and “the refusal of many to disarm or join the regular forces are threatening to destabilize Libya,” says a recent report by Amnesty International. The report says armed gangs “hinder the much-needed building of accountable state institutions based on the rule of law, and jeopardize the hopes of millions of people who took to the streets a year ago to demand freedom, justice and respect for human rights and dignity.”
A spate of torture, arbitrary arrests, wanton destruction of property and summary execution has beset the country, engendering an environment of impunity while ensuring that Libya’s people remain trapped within the violent logic of last year’s insurgency.