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WHY LIBYA? March 23, 2011

Posted by wmmbb in North Africa, Peace, US Politics.
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Why is the bombing of Libya continuing, given that it was supposedly intended to protect civilians?

The Gaddafi forces have used tanks to fire on Misurata and Ajdabiya, even after three nights of air raids. Al Jazeera reports:

Gaddafi’s regime has encircled Misurata for days, bringing in tanks and stationing snipers on rooftops, in an attempt to choke off one of the only cities in the west where a strong rebel presence remains. Shelling there killed at least 40 people on Monday, Ahmed said.

Misurata lies around 200km east of Tripoli, the capital, and is home to a major oil refinery.
. . .
There was also fierce fighting further east in Ajdabiya. Opposition fighters were seen retreating in the face of an attack by government forces.

Al Jazeera’s Tony Birtley, reporting from an area close to Ajdabiya, said there had been clashes outside the city.

“There’s been heavy fighting and heavy shelling going on … the rebels told me there have been heavy casualties and there are a number of corpses between here and the town [of Ajdabiya] that they have been unable to reach.”

He said the road between the eastern city of Benghazi and Ajdabiya was littered with the “burned-out wreckage of what was Gaddafi”s armour and tanks,” destroyed in air raids by coalition forces.
. . .
Meanwhile, around 106km south of Tripoli, Libyan pro-democracy fighters forced government troops to withdraw from the outskirts of Zintan, breaking a siege of the town.

After enduring heavy shelling the day before, rebels on Tuesday pushed pro-Gaddafi troops out of the eastern outskirts of the city, a Swiss journalist, Gaetan Vannay, told Al Jazeera.

Gaddafi’s forces withdrew around 10km east, to a village that is still controlled by Gaddafi, he said.

During their push, rebels managed to capture four regime tanks, Vannay said. The international military coalition that is enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya did not aid the rebels by launching air strikes against Gaddafi’s forces.

The anti-Gaddafi forces now run the risk of air attack if they chose to use the captured tanks. The UN Security Council rejected a Libyan request to hold a meeting to stop what the Libyan Government described as “military aggression”.

There are other examples of brutal military force used that resulted in civilian deaths in Gaza, Yemen and Bahrain, but in none of these cases were punitive counter measures either envisaged or enacted. Jeremy Scahill suggests that it is possible that the international use of violence may shore up the Gaddafi Regime. When the no-fly zone bombing campaign is called off the forces marshaled by Gaddafi will still have the preponderance of military hardware and training.

David Swanson provides an analysis of presidential prerogative, which from time to time be subject to isolated critics in Congress who can point to the quaint intent of the US Constitution, and concludes that peace is possible.

ELSEWHERE:

Marjorie Cohn at Common Dreams writes “Stop the Bombing” and sets out the case that actions taken are contrary to the UN Charter.

The question then is what in practice can be done in the situation as experienced by the people of Benghazi, and may happen again, where they are subject to shelling and bombing. There are now questions as to whether the coalition will hold. The suggestion has been made that intervention was too late. We should not forget that the death of combatants is to be avoided if possible.

BBC News presents the different views of two Libyan women with respect to the bombing of their country.

James Oliphant in the LA Times addresses the issue as to whether Congressional Approval was required for the bombing and missile attacks on Libya:

In the wake of Vietnam, Congress passed the War Powers Act, which was an attempt to curb presidential authority to conduct military actions by requiring the president to seek congressional approval within a fixed period of time after commencing such an action. But its legality has always been in question.

The act requires Obama to notify Congress of military action within 48 hours, and Monday, Obama did just that. But in a letter to congressional leaders Monday, Obama, like other commanders-in-chief before him, specifically declined to recognize the act’s supremacy over the executive branch while asserting his constitutional authority to launch the assault.

With regard to missile strikes launched this weekend against Moammar Kadafi’s anti-aircraft batteries, Obama wrote: “I have directed these actions, which are in the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as commander in chief and chief executive.

“I am providing this report as part of my efforts to keep the Congress fully informed, consistent with the War Powers Resolution. I appreciate the support of the Congress in this action.”

Obama wrote “consistent” with the War Powers Act, not “pursuant” to it. It’s a fine legal distinction, but for experts on the constitutional separation of powers, an important one.

As a result, the only real leverage Congress has in this arena is the power of the purse. Only it can appropriate money to support the Armed Forces.

Where is James Madison when you need him?

The BBC’s Andrew North asks why the US is using violence against Libya but not Yemen or Bahrain.

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