On last night’s KaibCast, I said the violence in Libya will continue until Gaddafi is killed. I stand by that statement and wish the CIA would get a move on things. Lawlessness is lingering all over Libya, as the Gaddafi regime fights to hold onto the small part of Libya that it still controls.
Militias loyal to Muammar al-Qaddafi opened fire on protesters streaming out of mosques in the Libyan capital on Friday, demanding the regime’s ouster, witnesses said, reporting at least four killed. Across rebellious cities in the east, tens of thousands held rallies in support of the first Tripoli protests in days.Protesters chanting for Qaddafi’s ouster streamed out of mosques near downtown Tripoli’s Green Square and other districts after prayers, and they were confronted by troops and militiamen who opened fire, said several witnesses. Gunmen on rooftops in streets near the square shot down on marchers, they said.
One witness reported seeing three protesters killed in the Souq al-Jomaa area near the square, and another reported a fourth death in another district, Fashloum. The reports could not be immediately confirmed.
Qaddafi loyalists have clamped down hard in Tripoli, the center of the eroding territory that the Libyan leader’s regime still controls. The uprising that began Feb. 15 has swept over nearly the entire eastern half of the country, breaking cities there out of his regime’s hold.
Even in the pocket of northwestern Libya around Tripoli, several cities have also fallen into the hands of the rebellion. Militiamen and Qaddafi forces on Thursday were repelled in trying to take back opposition-held territory in the cities of Zawiya and Misrata, near the capital, in fighting that killed at least 30 people.
Starting Friday morning in Tripoli, pro-Qaddafi militiamen set up heavy security around many mosques in the city, trying to prevent any opposition gatherings. Armed young men with green armbands to show their support of Qaddafi set up checkpoints on many streets, stopping cars and searching them. Tanks and checkpoints lined the road to Tripoli’s airport, witnesses said.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch has put the death toll in Libya at nearly 300, according to a partial count. Italy’s Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said estimates of some 1,000 people killed were “credible.”
It’s about time the U.S. gets tough with Gaddafi. Eugene Robinson, I man I never agree with, actually said some good stuff in his recent column:
President Obama pledged that “the entire world is watching” the horror in Libya, but watching isn’t nearly enough. There is much more that world leaders — beginning with Obama — urgently must say and do.The world’s censure means nothing to Col. Moammar Gaddafi, the dictator who vows to die rather than surrender the power he has held for four decades. At this point, the long-running debate about whether Gaddafi is mostly diabolical or mostly deranged is irrelevant. Despite his incoherent ramblings, he clearly is fighting not just for power but for his life.
Gaddafi seems to have calculated that the longer he can drag out the conflict — and demonstrate that he still commands the capital city and a potent, if diminished, military force — the more likely it becomes that he can find some way to survive.
That’s where Obama and other world leaders come in. The immediate aim should be to separate Gaddafi from as much of his military strength as possible.
On Wednesday, in his first extended remarks on the crisis, Obama warned that “the Libyan government has a responsibility to refrain from violence.” Those words, while correct, were far too weak. Obama should state plainly that we no longer consider Gaddafi’s regime to be the legitimate government of Libya and that the dictator must immediately step down.
This will not have the slightest impact on Gaddafi, of course. But the message isn’t for the Mad Colonel, it’s for the military officers — the pilots of his warplanes and commanders of his warships — who must decide whether to follow his orders. They need to be told, in no uncertain terms, that if they side with Gaddafi they will suffer the consequences.
And those consequences need to be spelled out. A chorus of world leaders should make clear that those who commit war crimes, such as firing on civilians, will personally be held accountable. If the avenging mob doesn’t get them, international justice will.
The United States should lead NATO in immediately declaring a no-fly zone for Gaddafi’s military aircraft and announcing that Libyan airspace is being monitored for violations. You wouldn’t attempt to enforce such a ban immediately. The idea, again, should be to influence those who must choose whether to follow Gaddafi’s orders.
I actually agree with Mr. Robinson. He concludes his column by saying the U.S. has fallen “woefully short” in its response to the Libyan unrest. Let’s hope Obama reads that and shifts course. Even if he doesn’t believe America is exceptional, Obama should realize that the U.S. has an exceptional amount of global power in situations like these. It’s okay for American to show some leadership once in a while. Obama can apologize for it later.