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2. What precisely is the endgame?
If we are not ready to declare an end to our military role after having saved the people of Benghazi and stopped Qaddafi’s forces in their tracks, when will the Commander-in-Chief deem the mission completed?
Obama told the American people in his speech that removing Qaddafi is not part of the coalition’s military mission. He contrasted his refusal to use military force to bring about regime change with the “road” the Bush administration went down in Iraq. Ironically, if Bush had not moved forcefully to take out Saddam Hussein, Qaddafi would not have been so willing to give up his nuclear arms program, which he did shortly after the 2003 Iraq invasion. Just imagine what might have happened if Qaddafi had ended up with nuclear weapons in his arsenal today.
In any case, we are in fact using our military resources for much more than just protecting civilians in imminent danger. We are also actively helping the rebels advance towards Tripoli and topple Qaddafi. We are taking sides in a civil war, which may be very protracted. When Secretary of Defense Gates was asked by ABC News on Sunday specifically about reports that some officials within the Pentagon believed the mission could last many months, Gates did nothing to dismiss that belief. “I don’t think anybody knows the answer to that,” he said.
The president did not level with the American people on how long we will be involved militarily in Libya. He did not promise to seek formal congressional authorization if we remain involved past the next few days, as George W. Bush did before undertaking the Afghan and Iraq wars. And Obama did not address where the money will come from to pay for his “humanitarian” war, except to say that our “international partners” will be sharing the cost.
3. Who exactly are we helping?
We can all agree that Qaddafi is an evil man with American blood on his hands, but that fact does not automatically mean the Libyan opposition is a force for democracy that will protect the “universal rights” that Obama says he is defending. Obama did not share with the American people anything about the opposition, including whether we can be sure that, if it prevails, it won’t turn on civilian Qaddafi supporters with the same ferocity as Qaddafi was prepared to unleash against them.
More alarmingly, Obama concealed from the American people some disturbing facts he undoubtedly knows about elements in the opposition that we are now supporting. This Telegraph headline says it all: “Libya: the West and al-Qaeda on the same side.”
As reported on March 17, 2011 by the Asian Tribune, a document prepared by the U.S. West Point Military Academy Combating Terrorism Center revealed that Libya sent more fighters to join Iraq’s Islamic militant insurgency and kill American soldiers in Iraq on a per-capita basis than any other Muslim country, including Saudi Arabia. Most of those fighters come from the very forces in eastern Libya that we are now helping and are considering arming.
The West Point report said:
Most of the Libyan recruits came from cities in North-East Libya, an area long known for jihadi-linked militancy. Libyan fighters were much more likely than other nationalities to be listed as suicide bombers (85% for Libyans, 56% for all others).
The commander of anti-Qaddafi rebels forces in Libya, Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, has confirmed the West Point report’s findings, admitting that among the ranks of those fighting against the Qaddafi government are Islamic militants who killed U.S. troops in Iraq. He added that “members of al-Qaeda are also good Muslims.” Hasidi, by the way, was arrested by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2002. Without any explanation to the American people, Obama has decided that his ill-defined mission in Libya is worth allying ourselves with opposition troops who have tried in the past to kill our soldiers and who are, in turn, aligned with our global terrorist enemy, al Qaeda.
Certainly, the Obama administration is not the first to find itself with strange bedfellows. The Reagan administration, for example, provided billions of dollars in arms to Afghanistan’s Islamic resistance against the Soviet Union, including to Osama bin Laden. The crucial difference, however, was that when Reagan acted in 1987, he did not have the benefit of hindsight. Al Qaeda had not emerged as a terrorist organization committed to killing Americans. Obama, on the other hand, went into Libya despite knowing (or at least he should have known) that we were helping al Qaeda allies, who had previously sent their forces to Iraq to kill American soldiers.
President Obama told the American people in his speech that “As Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than keeping this country safe.” Yet, for the first time perhaps in our nation’s history, we have a Commander-in-Chief asking American soldiers to defend individuals who, not too long ago, tried to kill other American soldiers and who are allied with a sworn enemy of the United States. Of all the failures associated with the Libyan conflict, this is perhaps the most devastating.
Joseph Klein is the author of a recent book entitled Lethal Engagement: Barack Hussein Obama, the United Nations and Radical Islam.
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