Another ‘Endless War’? Regime Change or Not? Washington’s Mixed Signals

March 23rd, 2011 - by admin

PressTV & Sam Youngman and Jordan Fabian / The Hill – 2011-03-23 22:50:59

“(A)ny future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as Gen. MacArthur so delicately put it.”
— US Defense Secretary Robert Gates to the cadets at West Point, March 4, 2011

Gates Hints at Open-ended War in Libya

(March 23, 2011) — The US defense secretary says there is no timeline for the end of the US-led assault on Libya as international opposition to the invasion continues to grow. During a visit to Cairo, Robert Gates said no one was in a position to predict what would happen in Libya.

Gates also rejected criticism with regards to the air strikes in Libya, which have resulted in civilian causalities over the past five days. However, he predicted that the aerial attacks would be scaled back within days.

Gates also failed to suggest a political solution to the unfolding crisis in the North African country. “It seems to me that if there is a mediation to be done, if there is a role to be played, it is among the Libyans themselves. This matter at the end of the day is going to have to be settled by Libyans. It’s their country,” he said.

Five days ago, coalition forces led by the US, France and Britain launched attacks on Libya from air and sea. A British commander now claims that the air force of embattled Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi has been totally disabled. Gaddafi has vowed to defeat both the opposition and the foreign forces.

Reports say forces loyal to the Libyan ruler have killed at least 17 civilians, including five children, in Misratah over the past 24 hours. Residents in Misratah say Western forces have also hit the city’s air bases where Gaddafi’s brigades are based. Water and electricity has been cut off to the city. Medical personnel say at least 90 people have died in Misratah in the past five days.

Meanwhile, in a hospital in the city of Benghazi, bodies are piling up in the morgue. This comes as US-led military operations in Libya have received negative responses from different countries and also parties within the US. Some US senators have severely slammed President Barack Obama for his decision to attack Libya, saying it is outside the US constitution and that Obama must be impeached for the move.

Russia, China and India as well as several other countries have also opposed the military campaign in Libya. Germany has already announced that it has pulled out of NATO operations in the Mediterranean. Italy says it will review the use of its bases for attacks on Libyan regime forces unless NATO leads the operations.

“It is US policy that Gaddafi needs to go. We have got a wide range of tools in addition to our military efforts to support that policy. We were very rapid in initiating unilateral sanctions and then helping to mobilise international sanctions against the Gaddafi regime.”
— US President during a news conference in Santiago, Chile.

White House Denies Regime Change
Is Part of Libya Mission

Sam Youngman and Jordan Fabian / The Hill

(March 22, 2011) — The White House strongly denied Tuesday that regime change is part of its mission in Libya, despite a statement earlier in the day that characterized the goal there as “installing a democratic system.”

Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, issued a statement acknowledging that President Obama would like to see a democratic government in Libya, but explained that the aim of the US military’s intervention there is not to enact regime change.

“We’re clarifying, as we’ve said repeatedly, that the effort of our military operation is not regime change, that as we actually say in this readout, it’s the Libyan people who are going to make their determinations about the future,” Rhodes said. “We support their aspirations, their democratic aspirations, and have stated that Gadhafi should go because he’s lost their confidence.”

Earlier on Tuesday, a White House-issued readout of a phone call between Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that installing a democratic system in Libya was a goal of the two leaders.

The statement said Obama and Erdogan had reaffirmed their support for implementation of United Nations security resolutions authorizing force in Libya. After noting that this would require a broad-based international effort, the statement said the two leaders “underscored their shared commitment to the goal of helping provide the Libyan people an opportunity to transform their country, by installing a democratic system that respects the people’s will.”

Rhodes said the unusual White House clarification came after reporting on the initial statement about the Obama-Erdogan call. The Hill had reported that the use of the world “installing” had suggested a US goal in Libya was regime change.

The White House was emphatic Tuesday in insisting there was no change to the US military mission. White House press secretary Jay Carney said in an e-mail earlier Tuesday that the military mission was clearly focused on protecting civilians. He also noted Obama’s remark Monday that Gadhafi is no longer fit to lead.

Members of both political parties, including Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), have criticized the president for not clearly stating the aims of the US’s military strikes in Libya and for not articulating those goals to Congress.

The UN has approved measures to protect civilians in Libya, and the US has said the mission of its military is to do so. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said it is important for the militaries involved in air strikes in Libya to stay within the boundaries of the UN resolution.

At the same time, a strike on Gadhafi’s compound and statements from officials in other nations involved in the operation, have raised questions over the goals of the mission.

From the onset of the strikes against Libya, senior administration officials have said the goal is to create an atmosphere in which Libyan rebels would be able to oust Gadhafi from power.

Lawmakers have demanded that Obama better communicate his aims both with Congress and the public. Some members have even requested that a special session of Congress, which is currently in recess, be held to formally consider the military operation.

To address members’ concern and fulfill his obligation under the War Powers act, Obama penned a formal letter to Boehner on Monday explaining those goals.

But Obama has struggled to reconcile the stated US policy of wanting Gadhafi out of power with the UN mission of protecting the Libyan people.

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