The strike that killed the dictator’s youngest son came nowhere close to killing Gaddafi, says Fadel Lamen’s Libyan sources , who also cast doubt on whether grandchildren were killed.
Forgive me for being cynical, but I’ve seen this act before. Yes, the NATO strike on the Gaddafi family – both the death of Saif al-Arab Gaddafi (not to be confused with Saif al-Islam, as the Libyan spokesman himself initially was) and the reported near-hit on the dictator himself – is important for the message sent and the chaos sewed.
But the details on the Gaddafi hit don’t add up, and they make me – and a half dozen sources I talked with last night, including several in Libya – skeptical about how close we came to hitting the dictator. Or that three grandchildren were actually killed, as Gaddafi’s embattled government claims.
Musa Ibrahim al-Gaddafi, belligerent leader’s spokesman – and cousin – went straight into propaganda mode after the strike. “Mr Saif al-Arab was a civilian, a student… He was playing and talking to his father and mother and his nieces and nephews and other visitors when he was attacked and killed.”
Like most of what the spokesmen there say, the regime has so far failed to provide any proof of its claim, except to guide the western journalists in a tour of a facility bombed by NATO. The lack of clear evidence of any death, except spots of blood, just increases cynicism.
My Tripoli sources confirm an attack on one of regime’s building frequented by another of his sons, Hanibal Gaddafi — but not Gaddafi himself, his wife or the other sons. In fact, one of my sources knowledgeable about with the family habits, maintained that the family almost gets together, especially given the current circumstances, which makes the idea of a NATO strike that somehow hit of a nest of Gaddafis (sparing the leader, of course) seem a bit far-fetched.
President Obama’s speech explaining America’s objectives in Libya strayed far from the partisan and, judging by the immediate response on the O’Reilly Factor, it may have won him some points on the right. Bill O’Reilly and Brit Hume assumed the task of giving the first reaction to his comments on Fox News, and while they were both somewhat disappointed in the lack of urgency, there was a mutual appreciation for his “emphasis on effectiveness” and American exceptionalism.
For O’Reilly, the most important meta-issue in the balance during the speech was the state of American exceptionalism in light of her third war in a decade. Having questioned that the President had, to a certain extent, permitted France to make the first move in the war rather than the pattern that emerged during the Bush administration of America acting preemptively, O’Reilly reiterated during his Talking Points Memo that “Gaddafi is a monster” and, as Americans, “we do not turn a blind eye to atrocities.” That said, he later told Hume that, while he believed Obama should have “just joined forces in the beginning” with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, his caution in approaching a new battle front was appreciated.
The speech was, to no one’s surprise, ably delivered. The president spoke with emotional and rhetorical power of how he felt there had been a need to intervene in order to prevent “a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.” He explained how there are times “when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and values are.” He decried the temptation “to turn away from the world” and promised that “wherever people long to be free, they will find a friend in the United States.”
Those are noble sentiments, well expressed.
Unfortunately, he also spoke about how he had initiated the way on his own: “I ordered warships into the Mediterranean.” I refused to let that happen.” “I authorized military action…” “At my direction…”
The problem is that presidents are not supposed to start wars, especially wars of whim that are offensive rather than defensive in nature. That was the complaint against George W. Bush when he failed to obtain a declaration of war before ordering the invasion of Iraq, that is the ongoing complaint against Obama for maintaining the undeclared wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And that is the legitimate and necessary complaint against Obama now, a complaint that should come not just opponents of the military intervention but supporters who want that intervention to be lawful and legitimate.
The president did not address the fact that the Libyan adventure is an undeclared war. In fact, he barely mentioned the Congress that is supposed to declare wars, saying only: “And so nine days ago, after consulting the bipartisan leadership of Congress, I authorized military action to stop the killing and enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973.”
But the Constitution does not discuss “consulting the bipartisan leadership…” It says that: “Congress shall have the power… to declare war, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water.”
That was the point that Congressman Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, made with regard to the speech.
Air Raids Force Regime To Pull Back.. Rebels Seize The East
Libyan rebels clinched their hold on the east and seized back a key city on Saturday after decisive international airstrikes sent Moammar Gadhafi’s forces into retreat, shedding their uniforms and ammunition as they fled.
Ajdabiya’s initial loss to Gadhafi may have ultimately been what saved the rebels from imminent defeat, propelling the U.S. and its allies to swiftly pull together the air campaign now crippling Gadhafi’s military. Its recapture gives President Barack Obama a tangible victory just as he faces criticism for bringing the United States into yet another war.
In Ajdabiya, drivers honked in celebration and flew the tricolor rebel flag. Others in the city fired guns into the air and danced on burned-out tanks that littered the road.
Their hold on the east secure again, the rebels promised to resume their march westward that had been reversed by Gadhafi’s overwhelming firepower.
“Without the planes we couldn’t have done this. Gadhafi’s weapons are at a different level than ours,” said Ahmed Faraj, 38, a rebel fighter from Ajdabiya. “With the help of the planes we are going to push onward to Tripoli, God willing.”
The Gadhafi regime acknowledged the airstrikes had forced its troops to retreat and accused international forces of choosing sides.
What’s Newt Gingrich’s position on the Libya? The answer might depend on what day you ask.
As ThinkProgress notes, Gingrich called for immediate strikes against Qadhafi earlier this month and aggressively condemned President Obama for his restraint.
“Exercise a no-fly zone this evening,” Gingrich said on March 7 when asked for his policy prescription, adding the administration was “inept” in its response. “This is a moment to get rid of him. Do it. Get it over with.”
But Gingrich appears to have had a change of heart since then and is now aggressively going after Obama for getting involved in Libya at all, telling The Today Show that he specifically “would not have intervened” and not “have used American and European forces” based on America’s commitments elsewhere and the danger of creating a broad humanitarian justification for war. Continued…
Speaking from Brazil on Saturday, President Obama confirmed America’s military intervention in Libya and said that the U.S. is working with a “broad coalition” in its fight against Libya’s leader. “We will not deploy any U.S. troops on the ground,” the president emphasized, calling the strikes “limited military” intervention.
Critics have slammed Obama for visiting Brazil while the U.S. strikes Libya—not to mention discussing basketball during Japan’s tragedy—but Howard Kurtz says he’s juggling it all with skill.
With key parts of the world in turmoil, the criticism of President Obama is growing louder: Why doesn’t he do something?
Shouldn’t he have sent American fighter jets to Libya right away, rather than waiting for the Europeans to join in the bombing this weekend? And what about the Japanese nuclear catastrophe? What if a dangerous amount of radiation reaches our shores? Can’t we take matters into our own hands?
Audio: Obama Addresses Air Strikes from Brazil
The conservative critique was captured by Sean Hannity: “The president received that dreaded 3 a.m. phone call this weekend when the quake struck. How did he respond? He went golfing.”
The nerve of that guy, indulging in recreation on a Saturday when he could be saving the world.
Let’s get this straight: Obama is not Superman. He can’t solve every global crisis. It is a conceit of our media-political culture to believe that the Oval Office occupant must always be ready to put on a cape and swoop in to save the day. Read more…
Barely two days after U.N. authorization, the vaunted no-fly zone over Libya has been been “officially enforced” by a coalition of U.S., French and British forces. Here’s the latest from the ongoing conflict in Libya:
Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s compound was reportedly struck by U.K. forces on Sunday night, though American officials insisted the dictator wasn’t a target. Nevertheless, the mission of the coalition forces “moved beyond taking away his ability to use Libyan airspace, to obliterating his hold on the ground as well,”The New York Times reports. [NYT]
The U.S. is hoping to pass the metaphorical war-baton to either a combined French-British or a NATO command, possibly “in a matter of days.” Italy says it is contributing eight of its jets to coalition forces, and Qatar is expected to join coalition forces in some unspecified capacity on Monday. [AP; The Guardian]
The Arab League, which had initially supported the no-fly zone and theoretically lent military action some degree of legitimacy in the Arab world, appeared to waver on Sunday as strikes went on. Secretary General Amr Moussa released a statement saying “What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone” and specifically condemning reports of civilian casualties. [WaPo]
Also not on board: Russia, India and China, all of which abstained from the U.N. Security Council vote and all of which cited reports of civilian casualties in condemning the airstrikes. [Telegraph]
Four of The New York Times’s reporters in Libya are missing, including Pulitzer Prize winner Anthony Shadid and Stephen Farrell, who was kidnapped by the Taliban in 2009 and rescued by British commandos.
Lynsey Addario, a prize-winning war photographer who shot Newsweek’s recent cover on George Clooney and has covered Afghanistan and the Middle East for more than a decade, is also missing.
Editors last made contact with the reporters Tuesday morning, and secondhand reports say they were picked up by pro-government forces in Ajdabiya. “We have talked with officials of the Libyan government in Tripoli, and they tell us they are attempting to ascertain the whereabouts of our journalists,”
New York Times editor Bill Keller said. “We are grateful to the Libyan government for their assurance that if our journalists were captured, they would be released promptly and unharmed.”
Just when it seems the heat on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi couldn’t get any higher, President Obama has again bashed him. “You have seen with great clarity that he has lost legitimacy with his people,” Obama said during a White House press conference with Mexican President Felipe Calderon.
“So let me just be very unambiguous about this. Colonel Qaddafi needs to step down from power and leave. That is good for his country. It is good for his people. It’s the right thing to do.” Obama added: “It’s time for Gaddafi to go.” In addition, he said that humanitarian concerns have led him to approve the use of U.S. military planes to airlift Egyptians who are trapped in the country and have fled to the Tunisian border. The administration previously suspending diplomatic relations, seized Libyan assets, and backed sanctions.