Libya is no Iraq

by on March 31, 2011 · 56 comments

in Military, Popular, War and Peace

Really?  Really people?  First you carp at the Obama administration for NOT acting as the conflict in Libya started rolling, and now you’re crying because he has?  It’s time to go back on the meds, folks, and time to stop playing partisan politics with serious foreign policy issues.

President Obama absolutely did the right thing with regards to Libya.  He is absolutely right to send in the U.S. military to enforce a no-fly zone and to protect civilians from the deliberate and devastating attacks of Moammar Qaddafi’s army.  He is absolutely right to aid the Libyan rebels in their quest to oust the dictator.  And any comparisons between Libya circa 2011 and Iraq circa 2003 are just plain wrong.  Ridiculous, even.

In the past month we’ve seen lawmakers  from both sides criticize this president for not doing enough to help the Libyan rebels when they asked for help.  Just over a week ago, President Obama finally committed military air power against Qaddafi’s forces.  Since then, those very same lawmakers have changed course and berated him for involving the U.S. in what they call a Libyan civil war, and doing so without consulting Congress.

Say what?

Which is it, people?  Do we stand for freedom, human rights, and against the methodical, vicious slaughter of innocent civilians?  Or are we suddenly an isolationist nation that thinks it necessary to leave everyone to their own devices?

Look, there’s no denying that the run-up to the Iraq war was a complete disaster.  It was a war manufactured by the Bush administration via lies and exaggeration.  Yes, Saddam Hussein was a bad guy.  But no, he was not an imminent threat to the United States or even his own countrymen.  He was a brutal dictator, but the circumstances in Libya today are far different from the circumstances in Saddam’s Iraq.

First, there is a viable, identifiable, somewhat cohesive opposition group in Libya that opposes the Qaddafi government and has a leadership structure in place to immediately install a provisional government should Qaddafi fall.  They have an established base and have clear control of the city of Benghazi in the Eastern part of Libya, near the Egyptian border.  They have been recognized as the legitimate government by the French, and have been in direct communication with American and NATO diplomats, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Second, this rebel leadership asked for our help.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, the Arab League, in a most unusual and unexpected move, specifically asked the United States and its allies for assistance.  The Arabs themselves have asked for NATO forces to militarily intervene in Libya, specifically requesting the establishment of the no-fly zone, and have offered their full support, including involving their own military forces.

Let the significance of that sink in for a moment.  This is not the “Great Satan” America looking to impose its “empirical will” on a sovereign nation through military force.  This is not the “Evil America” unilaterally seeking the overthrow of a foreign regime.

This is the United States, after very careful consideration and deliberation, with the consultation of our allies and under a United Nations directive specifically authorizing the use of force, contributing resources and unique capabilities to aid an organized yet underequipped opposition force who asked for our help.

This is a collaborative effort with very significant resources being contributed by France (who took the lead in establishing the no-fly zone), Britain, Turkey and several others.

But let’s go back to the rebel leadership, because their role cannot be overemphasized.  They have a clear goal of regime change, and they have the desire and capability—with a little help—to accomplish it.  They are willing and able to do the heavy lifting, but they needed a little boost to level the playing field.  Qaddafi, after all, has an entire air force and military at his disposal.  The rebels maybe have a few planes, but not enough to push back against Qaddafi’s forces.

They are not counting on foreign military forces to do the fighting for them.  They are not looking for the United States or anyone else to do all the work.  And unlike in Iraq, there was a clear desire and necessity for outside intervention.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, sniping from both sides of the aisle continued, even after President Obama’s speech on the efforts in Libya.  Democratic Congress members Barbara Lee, Maxine Waters, Mike Capuano, Dennis Kucinich and others have questioned the constitutionality of U.S. missile strikes in Libya.  Kucinich has been particularly outspoken from the start of the U.S. military role in Libya, and is authoring a bill in Congress to stop funding military activities there.

On the Republican side, you have presidential hopefuls such as Newt Gingrich first clamoring for action, then, once Obama takes action, declaring that the U.S. should not be involved.  Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and Senator Lindsey Graham (S.C.), among others, are  insisting that Obama’s response was too timid or weak, implying that instead of a no-fly zone, Obama should have sent U.S. ground troops in to start a full scale war with the Libyan dictator.  As if our already overly extended military could withstand a third war.  And their displeasure with the fact that <GASP> the FRENCH of all people have taken the lead.  After all, it’s just plain un-American to allow anybody but us to start a war!

As to John Boehner’s and others insistence that Congress should have been involved, wouldn’t consulting Congress have delayed action?  They could still be mulling it over!

The bottom line is this:  We’re a bunch of freaking hypocrites!  We cry about how we’re all for freedom and democracy, and hide behind those sentiments in order to justify actions in Iraq and Afghanistan (although military action in Afghanistan was justified……it was just badly mishandled.  But that’s another story).  But when we’re asked—nay, BEGGED for our help, and when our president thoughtfully and responsibly works to ensure that the United States will not be burdened alone with the responsibility of and fallout from military action; guaranteeing that the monetary costs of action will not be borne solely by the U.S.; and that military action has the world’s support so that no one can criticize us for being an overly zealous military power seeking to take over the world……when our assistance is requested by the very same entities that have decried our actions in the past, we’re supposed to say ‘NO?’

Either we stand for freedom, democracy, and basic human rights, or we don’t.  And in the case of Libya, where the costs of not acting far outweigh the costs of doing something, we have a responsibility to heed the call for assistance, but to do so in a responsible manner that has the significant support of the rest of the world.

And that is exactly what President Obama has done.  And for that, I say “Well done, sir!”

{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Old Hermit Dave March 31, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Well somewhat true, apparently Obama does not want to KILL the leader of Libya like Cheney/Rummy/Blair wanted to KILL the leader of Iraq.

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avatar Alissa March 31, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Good for you! Thanks for this factual rant!

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avatar Patty Jones March 31, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Senate Resolution 85, Mar 1, 2011: Submitted in the Senate, considered, and agreed to without amendment and with a preamble by Unanimous Consent. (This measure has not been amended since it was introduced. The summary of that version is repeated here.)

Applauds the courage of the Libyan people in standing up against the dictatorship of Muammar Gadhafi and for demanding democratic reforms and respect for human and civil rights. Condemns systematic violations of human rights in Libya, including attacks on protesters demanding democratic reforms. Calls on Muammar Gadhafi to desist from further violence, recognize the Libyan people’s demand for democratic change, resign his position, and permit a peaceful transition to democracy. Welcomes the vote of the U.N. Security Council on resolution 1970 referring the situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court (ICC), imposing an arms embargo on the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, freezing Gadhafi family assets, and banning international travel by Gadhafi, members of his family, and senior advisors.

Urges:
(1) the Gadhafi regime to abide by Security Council Resolution 1970, and
(2) the Security Council to take such further action to protect civilians in Libya from attack, including the possible imposition of a no-fly zone over Libyan territory.

Welcomes:
(1) the African Union’s (AU) condemnation of the disproportionate use of force in Libya and urges the AU to take action to address the human rights crisis in Libya,
(2) the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) decision to recommend Libya’s suspension from the Council and urges the U.N. General Assembly to vote to suspend Libya’s rights of Council,
(3) Secretary of State Clinton’s attendance at the UNHRC meeting in Geneva and urges the Council’s assumption of a country mandate for Libya that employs a Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Libya, and
(4) U.S. outreach to Libyan opposition figures in support of an orderly transition to a democratic government in Libya.

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avatar Andy Cohen March 31, 2011 at 12:51 pm

But WAIT! It gets better:

See this article at MSNBC

According to Rand Paul–that would be the Senator from Kentucky, he of Tea Party ilk (and apparently intelligence), son of Ron Paul–there has been no Congressional debate or action on Libya. None. They haven’t taken the matter up. They haven’t voted on anything.

So I guess “unanimous consent” doesn’t count. As Lawrence O’Donnell pointed out, good ‘ol Rand had his opportunity to bring the matter to the floor of the Senate, and decided to pass.

God these people are dumb.

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avatar Patty Jones March 31, 2011 at 1:53 pm

So Rand Paul is either lying or doesn’t read before he signs off on things.

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avatar Andy Cohen March 31, 2011 at 1:56 pm

Oh, he’s just lying. Period. Grandstanding for the TeaBaggers.

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avatar annagrace March 31, 2011 at 1:47 pm

I believe that we should “stand for freedom, democracy, and basic human rights…” I also believe in a nuanced, comprehensive long term approach toward achieving those goals, and launching tomahawk missiles does not qualify as nuanced.
I reject completely that the only responses possible to the genocide that arises from civil wars or repressive regimes against their own peoples is either to ignore them or bring in the bombs. We didn’t bomb South Africa, for example, and apartheid did come to an end. That is an example of global divestment in the economy of a repressive state.
For all the decades that I have been alive, my government has consistently chosen the putative “stability” of dictators over support of democratic governments. We have trained and armed those dictators. Qadaffi is only one in a long long list of those dictators. Andy- that is where we need to talk hypocrisy.
When the budget and timeline for the Afghanistan war was under scrutiny, one national magazine ran on its cover the shocking photograph of a young Afghani woman whose nose and ears had been cut off. The message of course, was that this is what we are fighting against- the cruelty of the Taliban against women. Support the war! It was the most cynical appalling lying sack of shit propaganda that I have seen in a long time.
When Obama became president, he promised that his administration would be based upon diplomacy, not military intervention. I am disheartened to see more and more of the latter and less of the former.
I will grant you that Libya is different than Iraq. I would also add that they are also different from Pakistan and Afghanistan. It seems to me that what hasn’t changed is our approach- shoot first and then try to figure out how to pay for the carnage later.

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avatar Andy Cohen March 31, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Annagrace-

There’s an awful lot of diplomacy going on behind the scenes as we speak. There were attempts to resolve the situation diplomatically for 3 weeks before the first French plane was flown and the first NATO/U.S. bomb dropped. There were attempts to get Qaddafi to back down for weeks, but he insisted on escalating to a full scale civil war. As a result, high ranking members of his government are defecting, abandoning their leader of 40 years, including his most trusted advisor, Moussa Koussa (the alleged mastermind of the Pan Am 103 bombing) who defected yesterday to Great Britain.

If war was what the NATO allies wanted, then they would have sent in ground troops. Instead, they’re conducting a calculated bombing campaign to weaken Qaddafi’s forces in order to give the rebels a fighting chance. They’re also hoping that the pressure will force Qaddafi to step down, something he has vowed never to do.

For three weeks the fighting went on. For three weeks the rebels and the Arab League asked for NATO/UN intervention before France finally did commit to a no-fly zone. And since the United Nations is entirely a diplomatic organization, I find your assertion that there is no diplomacy involved rather shortsighted, since the UN itself authorized the use of force. They are not exactly a war making alliance, and even they saw the need for intervention. And when Secretary Clinton herself has been directly involved in talks not only with NATO and UN allies, but with the Libyans and rebels themselves, I don’t see how you can claim that diplomacy isn’t at play. South Africa was very different, and not at all comparable to what we currently have in Libya.

The fact is that the actions that have been taken to this point have been given very careful and thorough consideration, and the actions that have taken place have been very measured and limited. They serve only to protect civilians, and perhaps to give the rebels a mild boost; a fighting chance against what would otherwise be an insurmountable military force. Without the actions taken by the US and NATO, the rebels would have no chance and would be wiped out completely.

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avatar annagrace March 31, 2011 at 2:44 pm

There needs to be tougher sanctions in terms of both trade and oil embargoes imposed by the world community. Yes, it would take some doing to get China to sign off, but that is what diplomacy is all about. And Libya’s foreign assets must be frozen- again as a concerted effort by the world community, not just the few countries which have already done so. We are not privy to those kinds of diplomatic negotiations if they are indeed happening. I can only hope that they are.

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avatar Andy Cohen March 31, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Very shortly after the fighting first broke out over $30 billion in Libyan/Qaddafi assets were frozen.

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avatar Shane Finneran April 1, 2011 at 7:16 am

War is a racket. This Libyan one, too.

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avatar Shane Finneran April 1, 2011 at 7:37 am

Syria? Yemen? Bahrain? Ivory Coast? China? Russia? Saudi Arabia? Lots of would-be revolutions, and lots of civilians being oppressed and murdered out there.

I think it would be so insightful to run our rationalizations for bombing Libya by some of the civilians who have been killed by our bombs. To get their feedback. But we can’t because they’re dead.

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avatar Frank Gormlie April 1, 2011 at 10:38 am

Sharing your concerns, we must reiterate the following:
* the initial US / International response was to prevent a massacre in Benghazi, a city of 700,000 civilians – where Gaddafi had promised to hunt down and kill dissidents – and where most of the city opposed him;
* the Libyan opposition asked/ pleaded for military assistance;
* the Arab League asked for air cover against Gaddafi’s forces (check out who the Arab League is);
* the United Nations Security Council ordered the ‘no-fly-zone’ and other measures;
* there has been NO independent confirmation of any civilian deaths by “our bombs”;
* none of this has occurred for or in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia.

We need to continue to watch and observe events in the Middle East. Some of us wholeheartedly support the “Arab Spring”. It’s tough to watch and enjoy the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and the initial days in Libya without feeling a humanitarian solidarity with the people in the streets.

Definitely a tough call for the international community and for us Americans sick and tired of war but if it had not acted, we would have witnessed a huge slaughter of probably thousands in east Libya. When the Arab League stepped up and demanded some kind of immediate response to halt this slaughter it would have been extremely irresponsible for the international community not to act.

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avatar Frank Gormlie April 1, 2011 at 10:59 am

Today from Al Jazeera :
Al Jazeera’s Sue Turton reports from Ajdabiya that a number of civilians were killed in the village of Argkuk when a coalition airstrike hit a pro-Gaddafi vehicle which, being full of ammunition, exploded.

A commander at the front described the incident as a “mistake”, while a doctor at Ajdabiya’s Al Gharif hospital, where the wounded were taken, said that seven civilians had been killed in the explosion, and 25 others injured.

He said that the relatives of those hurt or killed were very clear that they were not blaming the NATO-led coalition for the deaths, taking the position that if the pro-Gaddafi vehicles had been allowed to escape, “thousands” could have died in Ajdabiya because of them.

NATO has told Al Jazeera that is unclear as to whether the ammunition-laden vehicle was destroyed by artillery, mortars, an airstrike or some other cause, and that while it had launched an inquiry into the incident, without ground forces to verify the on-the-ground evidence, it would be difficult to determine exactly what happened.

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avatar Shane Finneran April 1, 2011 at 11:26 am

Arab League? From what I can tell, none of the countries that form the Arab League can point the finger at anyone else’s human rights records. Could it be that the Arab League doesn’t like Qadafi and saw a way to get rid of him?

As for preventing the possibility that Qadafi might kill some of his own civilians, where was that same concern regarding Iraqi civilians? Afghan civilians? Why is it OK for some Middle Eastern civilians to die, but not others?

You imply that no civilians are at risk in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia. But from what I understand, those countries all rely on secret police, disappearance, torture, and murder to stifle dissent. Not to mention China and Russia, who do the same. Yet where is the push-back there?

I guess what I’m saying is if you believe the Libya rationale, shouldn’t there be about a dozen other similar missions you’re ready to support? calling Team America, World Police…

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avatar Frank Gormlie April 2, 2011 at 12:32 pm

What you call “the Libyan rationale” is based on an international community effort demanded by the Arab League. Are you suggesting that the Arab League is a worthless or meaningless organization because all its member states are repressive? That’s almost like dissing the UN because most of its countries are ‘capitalist’.

The Arab League is made up of 22 nations: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Kuwait, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. It also has some non-voting observer members – Eritrea, India, Venezuela, and Brazil.

The Arab League stepping in as it did is HUGE. It was/ is a very rare request/ demand from an organization of mainly Arabic countries to the West and the international community to assist a former member.

It is true that the Arab League kicked Libya out years ago. There are not too many countries that are defending Kaddafi right now

This was a momentous international effort to aid the civilians. Gaddafi was on the verge of murdering thousands of civilians – not just “some” – thousands. Benghazi is a city of 700,000 people – unlike any other conflict in northern Africa or the Middle East right now – and you are not really addressing this. I don’t think you were prepared to watch the slaughter of the people of Benghazi. I know I wasn’t and apparently many others – including many leftists and peaceniks weren’t.

The way you referred to this issue “the possibility that Qadafi might kill some of his own civilians” really downplays the fact that his tanks were on the edge of the city ready to invade Libya’s 2nd largest city. It was not a “possibility” at all – do you recall the threats that he was making at the time to the people in Benghazi? “Hunt you down”, “door to door”. Your downplaying of this near-slaughter of thousands does not match the humanitarian crisis that the international community faced. And this crisis was the basis on which the ‘no-fly zone’ was established.

There was a split back in the Nineties around the bombing of Serbia also. Many so-called peaceniks were not ready to support the struggle of a mainly Muslim European society against the onslaught of racists and fascists. I find a similar split going on today.

I never wanted to imply that no civilians were at risk in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain where there have been demos against those regimes. It is a mountain of difference in scale however between them and Libya. But neither the Arab League nor the UN has called for anything in regards to those countries. This difference is a very large one, but you are not addressing the diff in scale.

Really don’t understand also your points about China and Russia. Are you suggesting we should intervene because of human rights abuses in those countries? I don’t think so. Appears that you are using sarcasm to hint that this stance against the slaughter is hypocritical.

Remember, this is an international effort. Unlike the invasion of Iraq. What we are doing in Afghanistan now is partially based on the ambivalence that the left and the peace community had about that country. Was anyone prepared in 2001 to say we should not go into Afghanistan to go after those who were responsible for 9/11? What was your position about the Taliban and Al-Queda ten years ago?

I am opposed to our continuing involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

And what about the U.S.? Our own government has spied on our own citizens since the early 1950s. Our gov’t has a history of abusing its own people by Republicans and Democrats alike, such as COINTELPRO, the round up and assassinations of Black Panthers, spying on leftists and anti-war radicals and progressives by Johnson, Nixon, and George W Bush (and of course we can go back to the round-up of radicals prior to World War I, and the hysteria and black lists of the McCarthy days). What about the treatment of all those in “rendition” or what about Bradley Manning?

It is in the end the crisis is situational. It appears that NATO is taking the lead now and despite the howls from the right-wing, Obama is content to step back. And just because mistakes were made by the international community in the past does not mean the same type of mistakes should continue to be made.

Again, this is a very tough place for American progressives to be in. And I think this debate is a healthy one. I don’t think either side of this debate within the US left-of-center community should be closed to the points made by the other.

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avatar Shane Finneran April 3, 2011 at 9:24 am

I appreciate your reply, Frank — thank you.

When our action in Libya is framed as protecting thousands of civilians, it’s hard to argue with. But on further review, that rationale is suspect because our government has killed tens of thousands of civilians (probably hundreds of thousands of civilians) over in that region since 2001.

Now when Qadafi is “on the verge” of killing some civilians, we can’t let that happen? Sorry, but there is no consistency in that logic. (Not to mention the questionable premise of punishing someone for something they are “on the verge” of committing — shades of “Minority Report” — who gets to judge what someone is “on the verge” of doing?)

Where does non-violent resistance factor in to this? What would Gandhi or MLK say? Drop bombs on Libyans to help them? Somehow I don’t think so.

Have you thought of the perspective of the rank-and-file solider in Qadafi’s army? Why is that guy in the army and not revolting? What does he know that we don’t? Who are we to tell him “sorry buddy, but you made the wrong choice in employment and political alliance, and therefore you die now!”?

And what about Libyan civilians? What are the odds they will be better off under whoever comes in after Qadafi? If we don’t know those odds, are we really helping them by what we’re doing? If they end up without Qadafi, but dead, is that good for them?

Ivory Coast? What’s the threshold there?

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avatar RB April 1, 2011 at 9:18 am

There is always a reason for war. There is always a statement about how this action will be limited. There is always a front group, like the UN or NATO, masking a clearly US lead, financed and conducted war. The American public is always told how unique the current situation is. However, if you look at the forest rather than the individual trees, you see there is something very wrong with US policy. Conducting three wars while borrowing money to run the government is just crazy. We spend as much as the rest of the world combined on war, the military, and funding weapons for groups in foreign countries. I just don’t understand how war is somehow acceptable because Obama rather than Bush is in the White House.

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avatar Shane Finneran April 1, 2011 at 11:40 am

I agree, RB. It’s hard to trust the government on things like unemployment numbers. So when it starts trotting out justifications for killing people from 50,000 feet, seems like our skepticism should be super-high. Which is why it’s so sad to see liberals let Obama off the hook for continuing Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan actions. And Obama and the rest of the ‘mongers have no credibility on Libya.

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avatar Frank Gormlie April 2, 2011 at 12:35 pm

RB, calling the UN a “front group” really, really denigrates the rest of the world. Does not deserve a response.

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avatar RB April 2, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Frank, I will apologize when they pick up the cost for this Libyan exercise.
I expect the UN and the Arab league to contribute nothin’ but talk.

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avatar The Mustachioed OBecian April 1, 2011 at 1:33 pm

So everyone is on board with launching an offensive against North Korea as well, and Syria, and Iran?

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avatar Shane Finneran April 2, 2011 at 9:41 am

I’m kind of surprised there’s not more debate in this here comment section. Maybe there’s nothing we can do anyway? I mean when we manage to elect a Democratic president and then he still keeps the violence coming, it’s probably natural to feel powerless. The sad reality is this stuff is pretty much out of our hands.

But reading about budding civil war in Ivory Coast today, I have to ask those think we’re doing the right thing in Libya: what do you think of Ivory Coast? UN reports that hundreds of civilians have already been killed in the violence, which is stemming from power struggle between forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara and supporters of Laurent Gbagbo.

So if you support intervening in Libya, why don’t you support same in Ivory Coast? At what point do you write articles justifying bombs over Yamoussoukro? (That’s a big city in Ivory Coast, whose chief natural resource is not oil but cocoa, FYI.) Should we support Ouattara or Gbagbo or someone else? (Here you can apply the same standards you used to evaluate Qadafi.) And how long will it be before western companies can start tapping into that sweet, sweet cocoa? (Brown gold.)

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avatar annagrace April 3, 2011 at 12:22 pm

I’m with you Shane. And yes Frank, I read your thoughtful, articulate response. I still maintain that you don’t accomplish peace by waging war. It goes against everything I believe. I see precious little that constitutes waging peace in North Africa. The US has a military base in Bahrain; we are on the side of the wrong guy in Yemen, etc. Our interests are oil, the maintenance of military bases and lucrative arms deals brokered by our own government to virtually all of the Arab states (and Israel). In addition, I read the utterly disconcerting news that we actually haven’t frozen all the Libyan assets here- the Central Bank of Libya was exempted and it is an article worth reading. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/why-is-the-fed-bailing-out-qaddafi-20110401

I went to bed last night after reading the headline that a thousand people are reported dead in the Ivory Coast as the result of a budding civil war. A thousand people, who knows how many more in the days ahead. I would like to see our president earn his Nobel peace prize medal. The opportunities are out there.

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avatar Sarah April 3, 2011 at 5:40 pm

I know I’m not supposed to paste links in the beginnings of posts, or something along those lines. I just saw this headline and thought I’d toss it into the discussion. Hopefully I’ve written enough ahead of the link to make this work.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/04/world/middleeast/04yemen.html?_r=1&emc=na

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avatar annagrace April 3, 2011 at 6:32 pm

Thanks Sarah. I also want to add this post about women peacefully protesting the government in Yemen getting beat up. This is what our government is supporting. I look at them swaddled in black cloth over their faces and bodies…. and I think about freedom and human rights. Now explain to me again US interests in Yemen?
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/03/yemen-protests-female-protesters-beaten-_n_844167.html

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avatar Frank Gormlie April 3, 2011 at 9:24 pm

Anna, Shane, I’m very glad we are not discussing how we could have saved thousands of civilians in Benghazi from their brutal deaths – neither of you have addressed this point, and the fact that the Arab League pleaded with the international community to deliver some kind of assistance, some kind of response which you did not address either. I’m really glad that tanks outside that city which were poised to invade and storm through that city did not. Have you ever seen what tanks do to civilians and their buildings.

It’s true that there are reports of 800 to 1000 people were killed in Ivory Coast – which happened over the course of 4 months. But you are comparing different situations. There’s estimates that 3000 Libyans were killed by Kaddafi in 3 weeks.

I just finished Legacy of Ashes – the History of the CIA – which lays out in detail how the CIA and our government killed thousands, lied to presidents and congress and much, much more since it began over 60 years ago. It’s a horrible history and we have to live with it because it’s part of our history.

I believe it is possible to support the international community – which our gov’t is part of – to assist the Libyan freedom fighters, rebels – whatever you want to call them – in this particular situation. Why does every situation have to be compared with others. There does not need to be a doctrine established here.

Were you supporting the Tunisians, the Egyptians during this great outpouring of popular rebellion known as the Arab Spring? I was and most of the world was being inspired by them. I did a live blog one day of the struggle of the Egyptians. Then the Libyans started demonstrating for their freedoms. Did you support them then? I did and read what was going on daily. How can you support a popular uprising and then turn away when their need is at the greatest point? I think it is possible to be opposed to US intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan but support the international community’s response in Libya. Different situations.

Any talk of Yemen, (what about Syria?) or the Ivory Coast needs to take into account that no one within the international community has stepped forward. Different situations. And sure there are plenty of contradictions bulging everywhere, but this was an humanitarian international effort. Explain why you are opposed to that.

I’ve made my points about the significance of the Arab League and am starting to repeat myself.

I’ve been striving for peace since I was in college but I’m not a pacifist. I would have signed up for instance in WWII if I was there. Even though our gov’t and military subjugated the Filipinos during the thirties (not to mention killing off the Indians) I still would have signed up. And even though I opposed for years our govt and military in Vietnam, I still supported the air war against the fascist Serbians when they were slaughtering the Muslim Bosnians in the Nineties.

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avatar Shane Finneran April 3, 2011 at 10:01 pm

I’m certainly for saving civilians. And I’m glad when our leaders support saving civilians. But I’m also suspicious because our leader’s actions in the recent past do not suggest their concern for civilians is genuine.

I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone when the same leaders telling us how we need to save civilians are the ones who are cool with us plugging somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 a year in Iraq/Afghan/Etc since 2001.

Again, I support stopping sick militaries from killing civilians. But I’m a numbers guy, and when I run them in this case, it seems like the stop-Qadafi logic says we should also be enforcing a no-fly zone against ourselves, too.

Maybe I’m just a naive pacifist yelling “hypocrite” at the war machine. Maybe the war machine is grinding and bleeding its way toward a noble destination in this case. I just don’t trust that monster one iota, and I never will.

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avatar Frank Gormlie April 2, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Not biting on this – see my earlier response.

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avatar Rick Ward aka mr.rick April 2, 2011 at 2:11 pm

I think it was the mechinized pieces that were so objectionable.

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avatar Gary Ghirardi April 3, 2011 at 3:25 pm

This debate does not take into account not to distant historical pronouncements that suggest foreign policy directives that the United States is pursuing exceed the partisan agendas of Republicans and Democrats. I think the entire political range of beliefs within the citizenry need to investigate the likelihood that as we see corporately financed government serve their interests to our perpetual discouragement that the chatter between Dems and Repubs is largely a distraction. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s speech on the “New Middle East” had set the stage. More than a coalition of United Nations working to protect human rights are we not witnessing an Anglo-American coalition moving forward with long range plans to secure controllable energy resource arrangements without the need to loose the additional profit of paying for social stability on a dictator-by dictator basis? Maybe we need to prepare ourselves for a new Democratic Party for 2012 that will raise a billion dollars quietly from a corporate base of supporters to re-elect a leader that will put a re-assuring face on a plan for the military re-alignment on the Middle-east and Africa under the flag of corporate democracy and to the financial benefit of the U.S. and its collaborators over at the U.N.

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avatar Andy Cohen April 3, 2011 at 10:14 pm

I’m in the middle of reading Al Gore’s book “The Assault on Reason,” and I came across a passage that really struck me in regards to the debate at hand. He says, regarding George W. Bush:

“There are many people in both political parties who worry that there is something deeply troubling about President Bush’s relationship to reason, his disdain for facts, and his lack of curiosity about any new information that might produce a deeper understanding of the problems and policies that he is supposed to wrestle with on behalf of the country.

Yet Bush’s incuriosity and seeming immunity to doubt is sometimes interpreted by people who see and hear him on television as evidence of the strength of his conviction, even though it is this very inflexibility–this willful refusal even to entertain alternative opinions or conflicting evidence–that poses the most serious danger to our country.”

This is a key point, and perhaps the most important difference between ‘W’ and Barack Obama. Bush saw everything in black or white; good or evil; with us or against us. As if the world were really that simple. The truth is that the world is a very complex place with all kinds of shades of gray; there are many differences in what is considered acceptable behavior in different parts of the world. For example, in some parts of the world, torture is considered a legitimate and useful form of interrogation. Until 2003, that was not the case in the United States……but I digress.

Diplomacy is difficult. It is incredibly complicated and fraught with nuance. It is not easily understood, and perhaps not at all understood by someone who views the world in absolutes.

Obama understands this. Thus you have the varying responses to the multiple crises in the Middle East: In Egypt, the Obama administration chose to mostly stay out of it, working the back channels to gently push Mubarak to step down. They monitored the events on the ground and concluded that there was no major threat of catastrophic violence, and thought the best thing to do would be to let the Egyptian people sort it out themselves for the most part. Military intervention was unnecessary. Threats were unnecessary.

As the article Sarah posted points out, the US has reasonably strong diplomatic ties with Yemen, and has been working those diplomatic channels to encourage compromise on the part of the Yemeni president, who has clearly lost control of his government. There has been some violence on the part of representatives of the government, and the administration is making the case quietly that once that happens, it’s time to go. But there doesn’t appear to be any danger of a full scale civil war breaking out, and they are still able to deal with the Yemeni government in a reasonable manner to resolve the current crisis. Diplomacy is hard, and sometimes it’s slow, but in this case it appears to be effective. Military threats are not necessary. Full scale intervention is unwarranted.

In Libya, it’s an entirely different set of circumstances. You not only have a completely imbalanced leader, but a very real threat of a full scale civil war, where the Libyan military is being sent after soft civilian targets. Without intervention, the threat of massive civilian casualties at the hands of their own government was inevitable. To allow Qaddafi to unleash the full might of his military on his own people would have been unthinkable. The entire world has gotten behind the call for action. There has been no such call for action in Syria, Yemen, or anywhere else in the Middle East.

It’s easy to criticize Obama for “being slow to act,” but you must consider just exactly what it is that he’s doing: Unlike his predecessor, he is carefully examining all of the evidence, all of the available information, gathering opinions from as many knowledgeable people as he can, and acting in a measured, responsible manner so as to not only be effective, but not tarnish the United States’ standing in the world. We have a higher set of standards than most, and Obama is holding this country to them.

Each situation is uniquely different, and Obama is treating them as such.

As to Iraq and Afghanistan: You must consider the consequences of just pulling up stakes and leaving. As Colin Powell said in the run up to Iraq, “You break it, you bought it.” Well, we broke it, and now we have the responsibility of ownership. To simply leave without ensuring that a stable environment for the Iraqis and Afghans is left behind us could be catastrophic, and we could leave behind a worse problem than when we first went in. You can’t do anything about the past, but you can certainly try to exit gracefully. We as a people failed to hold our own government’s feet to the fire in 2003. The Afghan and Iraqi people should not be further punished because of our failings–and they are our failings.

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avatar Gary Ghirardi April 4, 2011 at 5:06 am

Ownership? Working the back channels? Do you really expect these arguments to be unchallengeable? The sweetened ideas you are presenting are interventionist and neo-colonialist. Do you really believe that the U. S. represents some ultimate good with these imposed actions, promoting democracy? Do we even know anymore what democracy is? We had spent a trillion dollars from the end of WWII to the collapse of the Soviet Union, more than 40 years and now er are on the verge of spending this each year for militarism. While Americans sleep through their history and react to events as they are the result of other evil, our economy is being further militarized, resembles no version of building internal sovereignty or security for its own people. These are not issues that can be justified by learning to accept shades of gray. We need to abandon these war parties and test the meddle of the U.S. as a democracy to see if the political culture will even concede power to the will of its own people or even permit a threat to its hegemony.

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avatar Shane Finneran April 4, 2011 at 7:58 am

and Andy, the “You break it, you bought it” bit about Iraq and Afghanistan (as if those nations are fragile antiques in some store on Newport), wow, that same rationale sure seems like it could be used to keep us up in Libya for decades to come.

I know we are wedded to images of the Democrats as “good guys” but that’s akin to believing in Santa Claus. The reality is both Bush and Obama and all these jokers work for essentially the same bosses. And those bosses ain’t “civilians” or “voters” or noble goals like “humanitarianism.” That’s why my instinct tells me that this military action, like just about all of them, probably stinks.

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avatar The Mustachioed OBecian April 4, 2011 at 4:51 pm

I’m not sure the comparison is apt either, between Libya and Iraq. For one, the United States led a much larger coalition of countries against Iraq. For another, we know that Libya gave up its nuclear aspirations once we defeated her neighbor. And yet another, Saddam Hussein had already slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

As for whether it’s a good idea or not, I’ll leave that to the history books. It’s too early to judge if another terrorist will take over, or if the present one will remain.

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avatar Rick Ward aka mr.rick April 4, 2011 at 8:03 pm

As the Republicans always say that the states are the laboratories of democracy.Maybe these states are the laboratories of repression,and both parties are just running a few models for later. The king in Jordan is taking an approach that would make anyone think maybe monarchs aren’t to bad as long they are kind and benevolent rulers.Who knows.

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avatar Oli April 4, 2011 at 8:41 pm

I am utterly appaled at the fact that there has been no significant backlash on behlaf of the so-called “progressive” community when it comes to our intervention in Libya. Why are we so ready to believe that the efforts of the Obama administration are so benign? Why does the American public STILL believe in the age old dichotomy of the two party system? I am baffled by our collective ignorance on the matter. Why do we applaud Obama’s rationale for going to war against Libya, when the same type of rhetoric was used to justify our actions against Iraq and Afghanistan? We are we so enamoured with the promise of change and open wide when we are spoon-fed half witted rebelions rooted in conformist, partisan politics. The color of our president’s skin may have changed but the fact of the matter is that the name of the game remains the same. Our struggle for peace was usurped by the man who ran his campaign as an anti-war candidate. The peace movement will only continue to stagnate so long as we are distracted. Let’s not loose focus and do away with this ridiculous double standard

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avatar Gary Ghirardi April 4, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Oli, Check out the Pepe Escobar article in the Asian Times that’s floating on the home page about Libya. I am not a huge fan of glibness but if what he is intimating has any basis in fact, it sheds a different light on the Libyan conflict.

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avatar Dickie April 4, 2011 at 10:26 pm

what do we really know about the Libyan opposition? I recoommend the below link to a truthdig.c om article about the CIA and special forces on the ground in Libya.

http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/secret_history_of_the_libyan_uprising_20110404/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Truthdig+Truthdig%3A+Drilling+Beneath+the+Headlines&utm_content=Google+Feedfetcher

what do we really know? Personally, I tend to view any extension of the US military into the world for military action as not good news. To those of you who support this intervention, please read this and think about what you are joining together with in that poor country.

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avatar Gary Ghirardi April 5, 2011 at 5:34 am

I think Democratic Progressives need to begin to face uncomfortable truths about the Obama Administration, that there are foreign policy directives at play that are not being clearly stated to the American people. To believe that multiple demonstrations against dictatorial regimes is an organic occurrence of people seeking regional democracy has much attraction for Americans who feel cheated about the Obama Administrations campaign pledges for change but it is more viable a scenario that the entire series of events have been given a little shove. Why do we have such a need to believe? Is it not a good policy to be advised by historical and political lessons that see our foreign policy consistently pursuing undemocratic modes of operation behind the scenes while seeing our media refusing to provide any profound analysis? We don’t need to look to hard to find the trends to support reasons for doubt. The enormous expansion of American military command network worldwide is a good place to begin and especially in regards to the Middle-east and Africa. If there was no intention to engage in conflict diplomacy then why have we been preparing for operations in these regions by escalating military operations? We can argue endlessly about alternative media viewpoints that don’t jive with what we would like to believe about the correctness of our personal alliances but the fact of monies being spent and operations and base expansions need to be addressed fairly and openly. If we just pretend that this is somehow justifiable or lacks relevance to the events unfolding, we are not being honest with ourselves and each other.

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avatar Rick Ward aka mr.rick April 5, 2011 at 7:59 am

Swallowing war is the hardest thing for us, O.B. Rag type readers,to do. When the people of. Libya started this deal they surely thought it would be like Egypt,But it wasn,t.They had a hateful,vindictive leader.So as progressives and somewhat revolutionally inclined people,we were behind them.When it was clear that they were going to get slaughtered we decided to save them,at thier request. It’s like starting a ruckus with someone and then when your ass is getting worked the cops are called.In Iraq they U.S. invented the reasons for war.How painful is it to know that the U.S. is us.We are just supposed to trust brother Barry on matters of war and peace. Which I am not inclined to do.Much less the people advising him on these matters.Hopefully everything will turn out the way freedom loving people hope it will.Keep your fingers crossed for the middle east.

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avatar Sarah April 5, 2011 at 10:24 am

I feel dumb. Who is “Brother Barry”?

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avatar Patty Jones April 5, 2011 at 11:26 am

Pretty sure he’s talking about our President.

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avatar Rick Ward aka mr.rick April 5, 2011 at 8:41 pm

It wasn’t meant as a slight,just a random tnought’

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avatar Shane Finneran April 6, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Just pointing out the violence in the Ivory Coast continues to worsen. Civilians not just “on the verge” of being killed but actually killed. Refugees fleeing by the thousands to Liberia. At what point do we send in the bombers?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12992829

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avatar Shane Finneran April 7, 2011 at 8:37 am

Responding to earlier questions about why I was bringing up China, here’s why I’m bringing up China, who I presume is one of the Security Council countries that supports Libya action. If we are concerned with helping oppressed people, China’s got 1 billion of them…

China’s foreign ministry has confirmed that police are investigating artist Ai Weiwei for suspected economic crimes. Mr Ai, who co-designed the Beijing Olympic stadium known as the Bird’s Nest, was detained by officials at Beijing airport on Sunday.

The man often described as China’s most famous contemporary artist is also one of the government’s fiercest critics.
* Supported online campaign to compile names of children who died in 2008 Sichuan earthquake – many in schools whose construction was allegedly compromised due to corruption
* In August 2009, beaten up by police in Sichuan while trying to testify for Tan Zuoren, a dissident facing trial
* Although a co-designer of Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Olympics stadium, he later disavowed the project, condemning China’s hosting of the Games as “fake and hypocritical”
* His frequently censored blog was read by 10,000 people a day until shut down by authorities in May 2009
* Ai Weiwei is a “maverick” who “chooses to have a different attitude from ordinary people toward law”, the Chinese newspaper Global Times said on Wednesday

Meanwhile, another campaigner says he was force-fed milk powder through the nose while on prison hunger strike. Zhao Lianhai is a writer who campaigned for the victims of a 2008 scandal over tainted milk powder after his son’s health was affected.

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avatar Shane Finneran May 25, 2011 at 11:22 am

just received this in a mass email from Dennis Kucinich:

Flashback to the campaign trail – December 20, 2007:
“The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”
That wasn’t me. It was candidate Barack Obama. But now in Libya, President Obama is continuing a war that lacks Congressional approval and constitutional authority. Our Constitution clearly states that the United States Congress has the power to declare war. The President does not. And the War Powers Act requires him to seek Congressional approval within 60 days of conflict. That was last Friday. We’ve heard nothing.

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avatar Frank Gormlie May 25, 2011 at 11:43 am

Dennis Kucinich just was elected to the Board that oversees the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) – which in another current post and set of comments is seen as “waste of time” as in it’s a waste of time working with those Democrats.

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avatar Shane Finneran May 25, 2011 at 12:11 pm

I think most liberals who are upset with the Democratic Party are A-OK with Kucinich and the other truly progressive Democrats like him. It’s the centrist Democrats (like the one in the White House) who are driving me and a lot of other progressives crazy.

As for Libya vs. Iraq, one difference would be that in attacking Iraq, Bush at least attempted to construct a reason why Iraq was a threat to the US. Obama has not made such an attempt. So our actions would seem to be in more conflict with the Constitution than Bush’s Iraq invasion.

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avatar Andy Cohen May 25, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Well, not sure why this thing got dredged up so many months later, but…….

I think the bottom line is this: In both cases you have a dictator who is the embodiment of pure, abject evil. But in Iraq, the case for invasion was entirely unilateral and based on pure manufactured fiction. There was no viable opposition looking to supplant Saddam. There was no uprising looking to move Iraq in another direction. There was no one ASKING for US/NATO help.

In Iraq, Bush committed the US to a full scale ground invasion/occupation. Far more costly in terms of blood and treasure than what’s happening in Libya today. In Libya you have a home grown, grass roots opposition force that has taken the mantle for change upon themselves, but stood exactly zero chance of seeing any measure of success without aid from the outside.

If the United States can continue to claim to be the beacon of freedom and self determination–the shining example of democracy for the whole world– then we have a RESPONSIBILITY to step in and help when it’s asked for. Besides, the US involvement has been kept at a minimum. We are not putting boots on the ground and overthrowing a foreign government ourselves (CIA operatives don’t count). We are not forcefully implementing a self-styled government patterned after our own, inserting our values in the place of the native population’s.

Notice the US involvement in Egypt. In Tunisia. In Syria and Bahrain. No one asked for our intervention–at least not directly–and thus we’ve stayed mostly out of it other than throwing our political support to the government opposition. What role did the US play in the Iranian uprising a few years ago?

The Libyan rebels PLEADED for help; for direct intervention. At the same time they were still willing to do all of the heavy lifting in their battle against Qaddafi’s oppression. To ignore them and leave them out in the cold to be slaughtered by Qaddafi’s military would have been the most vile and hypocritical act in American history. To ignore them would have been a pock mark on us, and it goes against everything we as a nation stand for. It would have been no different had the United States left Europe to its own devices against Hitler’s Nazi Germany. What would this world be like today had FDR taken the side of the isolationists and declared that it wasn’t our fight? What if he had focused solely on Japan and decided that Hitler and Mussolini were not America’s problem?

There was no need, no call to invade Iraq. There was call to provide aid and assistance to the rebels in Libya who asked for and made a case for our intervention. Do ignore their pleas would have been irresponsible. And you cannot use Iraq as a rationale for not providing aid to Libya–the two are completely separate and unrelated circumstances totally unique to one another.

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avatar Shane Finneran May 25, 2011 at 12:56 pm

This story came up again because 60 days have passed since we started attacking, and War Powers Act says that within 60 days the prez is supposed to seek Congressional approval. Prez has not done that yet. Bugs me a little bit.

I understand your argument about how invading saved lives, and how some people in Libya asked for our help. But if saving lives and answering calls for help is the criterion for action, we’ve got a lot more invading to do, and we also need to update ye olde Constitution.

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avatar Gary Ghirardi May 26, 2011 at 9:17 am

The world did not elect the United States to be the world policeman to determine the political direction of the world or to represent what is democracy. And the CIA does count. With a terrible record of violations of International law and covertly disrupting governments and fabricating events for a willing world media, the argument you present, again, is not a Beacon of Democracy but a deception. Again, Andy Cohen, you present a very sanitized version of history. Your muliple citations of interventions above shows clearly a government that is over-reaching a normative role as a world power of responsibility and integrity.

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avatar Shane Finneran June 2, 2011 at 12:37 pm

So what do you supporters of our attack on Libya think of the fact that the official goal is now regime change? It’s not just about “protecting civilians” anymore. Are you surprised? Does this change your support?

Also, I’d love to hear rationalizations for why we’re not “protecting civilians” in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, and other places where they are being killed in increasing numbers.

At least Dennis Kucinich continues to step up where few other politicians, Democrats or otherwise, have the spine: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0611/56110.html

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avatar Gary Ghirardi June 6, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Maybe it is time for Progressives to stop being too willing to be Good Americans and Join the Global movement for good citizenship. The State Department has always had the intention of regime change and they have it for the entire region of North Africa and the Middle-east. Remember the Domino Theorywe were fed about the dangers of Communism that justified our wars in Korea, Viet Nam, Laos, and Cambodia? Well welcome to the U.S. version unfolding before your eyes. Check back with me on this in the next two years and lets compare notes.

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avatar Frank Gormlie June 6, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Gary, please see my latest update on the Libyan situation.

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avatar Gary Ghirardi June 7, 2011 at 8:00 am

If you mean your post about Dennis Kucinich being added to the board of the PDA, this is certainly a positive event and if that could influence a stronger movement to distance the American people from the policies of militarists, then I think we need to support his proposal for a Department of Peace and for all to be determined not to allow clever opportunists in the political culture to co-opt this movement for aggressive foreign policy directives. I see the best solution for all in this culture of war and violence is to join together in a global demand for peace where many organizations are now moving towards this result. As the baggage of the past includes counter-colonialist leaders who have transformed themselves into permanent governments, this is wrong on an ideal level but have we not created the monsters we must now negotiate with? Would Cuba have been better off if Castro had succumbed to CIA disruptions? Have we just replaced mafias with corporations that we can better identify with falling prey to their sophisticated public relations? Look at the Dominican Republic, where many of those mafias that abandoned Cuba after the revolution set up shop. Remember Trujillo and his abuses and now the DR has developed a comfortable appearance for international visitors complete with the first IKEA super store in all of Latin America. Everyone wants a decent life in the final analysis. But what is the social cost of the journey?

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