Coalition forces claim they are just enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya, but they have been engaged in widespread and heavy attacks on Colonel Gaddafi’s ground forces, as well as buildings and other targets linked to his regime.
So what are the real motives for France, the UK and US leading the attack on Libya? Some say it is pure vengeance.
“They are certainly settling accounts and taking revenge”, says Sara Flounders from the International Action Center.
Turkey says it is disturbed by France’s eagerness to invade Libya. But experts believe Ankara shouldn’t be surprised. Gaddafi is accused of ordering the bombing of UTA flight 772 which killed 54 French men and women in 1989.
A UK court found that in 1988 Gaddafi’s agents had planned and executed the bombing of PanAm Flight 103 over Lockerbie, which killed 43 British and 189 US citizens.
“He blew up, [I mean] his intelligence agency, did a terrorist bomb very similar to the Lockerbie bombing in the UK, it was called UTA Flight 772, that blew up over Niger with everyone on board. So I would argue that there is an element of revenge, a very strong element of revenge now,” says Jonathan Foreman, journalist.
More recently Gaddafi’s hurt French commercial interests.
“He fined the French oil firm Total half a billion dollars. He also bought Russian fighter planes instead of French Rafal jets,” says Aleksey Podtserob, former Russian ambassador to Libya.
But now coalition bombs are reported to be killing Libyan civilians.
“The West’s resorting to heavy bombing, civilian casualties are of no concern (to the West),” says Podtserob.
This could increase regional hatred towards the West.
“After some time there will be quite open resistance from the Arab countries,” says Aleksandr Vavilov, Professor of History at Moscow State University.
Critics say the western-led military alliance is simply taking one side in what is an internal civil war, where rebels are seeking to overthrow an internationally-recognised government.
Western forces should be prosecuted, one author believes, not just for civilian deaths, but also for killing Libyan conscripts.
“I don’t know why people find it OK to kill solders when attacked by the foreign country. I mean soldiers are often civilians in uniform drafted in the army,” says Jean Bricmont, the author of the book “Humanitarian Imperialism”.
As NATO chiefs arrive to plan the next stage of the bombardment of Libya, there are growing calls for them to be held accountable for what they describe in war-speak as ‘collateral damage’, but which in real language means the death of innocent civilians.
The coalition now admits it is hunting Gaddafi, although the original reason was to impose a no-fly zone. The trouble is, the more civilian deaths their bombing causes, the more they risk being accused of the same crimes as Gaddafi himself.