Thursday, July 07, 2011

He'll have to find someone new to blame





Starting with Libya. Yesterday on Flashpoints (KPFA, Pacifica), guest host Kevin Pina spoke with Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya who has left Canada to report from Libya on the illegal war.
Kevin Pina:The US Congress delayed a vote for a resolution supporting the NATO-led air campaign in Libya amidst reports of new bombing raids on Tripoli just this weekend. This comes on the heels of last week's revelations that France had flouted a UN resolution barring arm shipments to Libya by providing guns, ammunition and rocket launchers to Libyan forces opposed to Muammar Gaddafi The French government has since said that the armaments provided to elements aligned with the Libyan National Transitional Council were intended for defensive purposes only. However, no sooner had the French provided that qualifier, Libyan rebel commanders announced offensive military plans to take the capitol of Tripoli. And you're listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio and now joining me from Tripoli, Libya is once again our special correspondent Mahdi Nazemroaya. Mahdi, welcome back to Flashpoints.
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya: Thanks for having me, Kevin.
Kevin Pina: So I understand that the bombs fell again this weekend on the capitol Tripoli. Give us an update, what's going on on the ground there?
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya: Well the last time I talked to you, right after we finished our discussion, bombs had started falling and very close to me actually. I was in a civilian residential area at a fact-finding NGO, talking to the organizers there and during the middle of our conversation: Bombs. I've talked to foreigners living here. Italians, people from other Arab countries and Europe, even a Canadian who lives here. They've gotten so used to the bombs they can tell the difference between a missile and a bomb from the noise -- what's hitting what. Their lives have changed. The Italian lady I talked to who lives here, she was never into politics or the media or scrutinizing it until she lived here because she's saying what the media is reporting is her life and a total contradiction of reality. She can't get the reality of her life to-to correspond with what she's saying about Libya. She's totally disgusted about what's happening. So, yes, they've been bombing at night, they've been bombing during the day and there's been flights overhead on the hour almost.
Kevin Pina; And so what are the effects of the bombings been? Have they been hitting military targets? Have they been -- saying they're hitting military targets but striking civilian neighborhoods again as they did in the past?
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya: They have not been hitting military targets. There's no more military targets to hit after the first two days. There's nothing military left. All they've been doing is carpet bombing this place. That's essentially what it's coming down to. It's a watered down form of carpet bombing and they've been giving aerial support to the forces opposed to the government and Col Gaddafi here. That's what they've been doing. They've been bombing places that have nothing to do with war, have nothing to do with commanding control, they've been bombing civilian areas. I've taken pictures of them, others have. They've bombed food storage facilities. They've bombed a place where bank notes are made. They've bombed the university -- one of the main universities. They've bombed medical facilities and hospitals. They bombed a place used to bring oxygen for people in the hospital. Like oxygen needed in hospitals. They haven't bombed any military -- Libya really doesn't have a strong military at all. In fact, I was telling somebody today, what we're seeing on the ground is mostly volunteers and semi-organized people, people of all walks of life. They're fighting against the Libyan people, they're not fighting against the Libyan military because all or most of these people are volunteers who are fighting for their country.
Kevin Pina: Now we had talked about this last week, you had said that there was going to be a large demonstration in Tripoli against the war and against NATO's bombing campaign. We had this discussion about whether they were coming out pro-Gaddafi or whether they were coming out pro-Libya. And you had made it very clear that they were pro-Libya more than they were pro-Gaddafi. What happened with that demonstration? Did it happen? Did it occur?
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya: Let me point out that many of these people like Col Gaddafi, not all of them. It is pro-Libya first, yes. But a lot of them, they know or they see Col Gaddafi and Libya as being on the same line. And, yes, I was at the protest. It was remarkable, it was big. It was energized and no one forced these people to come. And I want to point something out, Kevin. All the people in Tripoli -- not just Tripoli, in Libya, the part of Libya that are not of the rebels are armed. The government's armed them. Every house is armed here. They have civilian defense contingency plans here that's been put into effect. It's not that organized but there's neighborhood watches, there's neighborhood armories, there's green tents in every neighborhood, every house has weapons that have been distributed. If these people wanted to get rid of Col Gaddafi, believe me, they could have. They all have arms --
Kevin Pina: So let me just interrupt real quick, Mahdi. So you're saying that there has been a campaign by the Libyan government to arm the population. And that if the population wanted to overthrow Gaddafi, they're armed and could do that now?
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya: 100% there have been independent journalist here who have verified this. And you can easily find this on the internet now with pictures, with descriptions of these civilian defense contingency plans. And it wasn't recently that this happened. Col Gaddafi said at the start that they were going to arm the people and if they wanted to get rid of him, they could have.
Turning to the illegality of the LIbyan War, at Antiwar Radio, they've posted Horton's interview with Matthew Rothschild where they discuss his article "Stop the Bombing of Libya" (The Progressive). Excerpt.
Scott Horton: You start out by describing the extent of the war going on over there --whatever the president wants to call it. And you know I think, gee there's so many wars for people to keep up with, it can be hard. I'm amazed when I saw your assertion here that NATO has conducted 11,500 sorties in Libya thus far.
Matthew Rothschild: Isn't that amazing? I mean here we have a campaign that was started ostensibly to protect civilians and to impose a no-fly zone. Well it didn't take 11,500 sorties to impose a no-fly zone and to protect civilians in Libya from an imminent massacre -- that was what we were sold. No, this is a campaign that's entirely different from it's intentions right now. It may have been entirely different from the intentions that were sold to us at the very beginning because, look, there's no reason why these bombing raids should have continued after the no-fly zone was imposed because, at that point, Muammar Gaddafi could not have sent in his pitiful airforce to bomb those people who were supposed to be in such peril. So the no-fly zone and protection of civilians in Libya was accomplished really within 48 hours and everything else since then has been something designed to do quite a great deal more than what the UN signed off on and that was to protect civilians. Now what's going on now is a campaign to get rid of Gaddfi and seize the oil in Libya for US control of the oil supplies in the Middle East which is, of course, what the Iraq War was largely about to and what our connivance with Saudi Arabia's been all about for the last many decades.
Scott Horton: Well now, there's so much there. I guess first of all, it's probably worthy of note that "no-fly zone"? It's been months since we even heard anybody talk about that. I kind of almost forgot it's supposed to be a no-fly zone.
Matthew Rothschild: Yeah and it's certainly not applying to NATO. NATO's flying all over the place. And the amazing thing about Obama's doctrine here is that the War Powers Act doesn't apply. And the reason he's saying the War Powers Act doesn't apply -- and if Bush had said that I think the peace movement in the United States would be in the street in the tens of hundreds of thousands. Obama's reasoning just gives a justification for the next president to go in and attack any country that doesn't have a decent air force or surface to air missiles because what he is saying and what his lawyers are saying is that the War Powers Act doesn't apply right now because our military is not at risk of being killed because essentially we've so wiped out the Libyan air force and surface to air missiles that there's no chance that our bombers are going to be shot down -- or almost no chance -- and so they're not really in a zone of hostilities which is what the War Powers Act was dealing with. Well that's -- this is a crazy doctrine then because the United States now has carte blanche to go attack any weaker country as soon as its air force has been obliterated.
Scott Horton: Well, yeah, and funny about that, the lawyer for the Pentagon and the lawyers at the Justice Dept, they didn't buy that argument for a minute. They were over-ruled by the president.
Matthew Rothschild: Yeah, it's extraordinary when the president's own lawyers want to follow the law and the president of the United States doesn't. That gives you an idea of just how far out there Obama has gone in expanding presidential war powers. This from a presidential candidate who played footsie with the left, played footsie with the progressive peace movement, said he would never unilaterally engage the US military overseas unless there was an imminent threat against the United States which there wasn't. Gaddafi didn't attack the United States, he didn't represent a threat to the United States. [Former] Secretary [of Defense Robert] Gates even admitted that on TV. I saw him when he said it. And my jaw kind of drops because, you know, why are we there if he's not a threat to us? And yet Obama has expanded this idea that he, the president of the United States, and, of course, future presidents can go start a war or at least a bombing crusade anywhere they want without asking Congress' permission, without getting Congressional authorization. After all the Congress has the sole power to declare war under Article I, section 8 of the Constitution. And now he wants to completely violate the War Powers Act which he's violated three times now. He violated it at the beginning because the War Powers Act says a president can go in without Congressional permission at first if there's an imminent threat against the United States -- there wasn't an imminent threat. And then within 60 days of that the president has got to get approval from Congress -- Obama didn't get approval from Congress. And then 30 days after that the president is supposed to withdraw those troops if he hasn't gotten Congressional approval -- and, of course, Obama hasn't gotten Congressional approval and hasn't withdrawn the bombers. So he's really in illegal territory here and he's kind of gloating about it.
Onto Iraq. Yesterday Lara Jakes (AP) reports 10,000 is the number of US soldiers the White House is floating to Iraq to keep with an understanding that Iraq will respond by September to the offer. Jakes reports, "Already, though, the White House has worked out options to keep between 8,500 and 10,000 active-duty troops to continue training Iraqi security forces during 2012, according to senior Obama administration and U.S. military officials in interviews with The Associated Press." Today David S. Cloud and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) add that the White House has "made its proposal now in hopes of spurring a request from Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's government, and to give the Pentagon time to plan, the officials [in the administration] said. The troops would be based around Baghdad and in a small number of other strategic locations around the country, the officials said." Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor) explains, "While that word 'offer' has been repeatedly used by US officials named and unnamed in recent months, a better word might be 'pleading'." ABC News Radio adds, "In Washington, D.C. keeping American support forces in Iraq past the deadline could start a mutiny in the president's own party." Zeke Miller (Business Insider) points out, "The plan would put Obama on the wrong side of his promise to remove all U.S. troops from the country by the end of 2011." Ryan Blethen (Seattle Times) observes, "We have no business staying in Iraq. We shouldn't have been there in the first place. Obama must live up to his campaign promise to get us out of Iraq. We have wasted too many lives and too much money. It is time to leave the rebuilding of Iraq to Iraqis and turn our attention to fixing our own country." Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) notes that offer is being made "despite vows to bring U.S. forces home by the end of the year." She also notes Vice Adm William McRaven told Congress a "contingent of commando forces should remain in Iraq." Last Tuesday, McRaven appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee and this was the exchange:
Ranking Member John McCain: Adm McRaven, do you believe that the United States should have a residual force in Iraq in order to assist -- with particularly special operations, functions and intelligence?
Vice Adm William McRaven: Sir, I think that it would be mutually beneficial to us and the Iraqis if in fact that was the case. Obviously, remains to be seen whether the Iraqis will want us to stay past the intended drawdown time. But clearly there is still a threat in Iraq. And a small, soft presence there I think would be advisable.
Ranking Member John McCain: And if you look at recent US casulties, the situation -- at least in some respects -- politically as well as militarily has shown some deterioration. Would you agree?
Vice Adm William McRaven: Sir, I would. Statistically that appears to be the case, yes, sir.
And the denials grow even less believable. Pentagon spokesperson Col Dave Lapan declared today that stories about the US government having a number in mind that they would like to remain in Iraq? Untrue, huffs Lapan. "The process for troops to remain in the country after the date begins with an official request from the Iraq government and no such request has been made. Until the government of Iraq makes a request, there is no number."

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