- Japanese Death Toll to Top 18,000; Food & Water Supplies Contaminated
- U.S. & Allies Begin Bombing of Libya to Enforce No-Fly Zone
- Yemeni Generals and Officials Defect After Killing of 35 Protesters
- Thousands Protest in Syria
- Egyptians Approve Constitutional Referendum
- Leaked Photos Show U.S. Soldiers Posing with Dead Afghan Civilians
- Over 130 Arrested at Iraq War and Bradley Manning Protests
- Wisconsin Judge Blocks Union-Busting Bill
- Israeli Military Intelligence Targets Foreign Activist Groups
- Haitian Vote Held as Aristide Returns from Exile
- U.N. Warns about Crimes Against Humanity in Ivory Coast
- Thousands Protest in Senegal
- Obama Kicks Off Latin American Tour
- AT&T to Buy T-Mobile for $39 Billion
- Newspaper Guild Calls for Boycott of Huffington Post
There’s a debate over whether the photos are as bad as or even worse than the Abu Ghraib photos. Either way, this is going to be another blow to the already bad situation in Afghanistan. It’s only a matter of time until the disturbing photos – including the alleged murdering of an innocent civilian with a grenade – find their way online.
A group of U.S. soldiers who took pictures of themselves posing with an Afghan corpse were condemned by the military on Sunday after the photos were published by German news organization Der Spiegel.
Cpl. Jeremy Morlock, on trial for murdering civilians while on tour in Afghanistan, can be seen in one photo smiling as he lifts the head of a corpse by the hair.
In another, PFC Andrew Holmes, who served in the same unit as Morlock, poses with the same corpse. Holmes is also charged with killing Afghan civilians.
Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalif announced March 21 that “a foreign plot” against the small Gulf state has been foiled. “There is a foreign plot that has been in the making for at least 20 to 30 years so that the ground is ready for its execution,” said the king, in a clear allusion to Iran. But the crackdown on protesters in Bahrain has left many angry with the United States. At the Sadiq Mosque in Manama, Sheikh Issa Qassim said of the US: “They have influence they’re not using to save the people here.” One of the worshippers, Isa Ashoor, agreed: “Everybody is thinking America gave them the green light to beat the Bahraini people.” (AGI, NPR, March 21)
Tanks were deployed in the Yemeni capital on March 21 as top generals pledged allegiance to the “revolution.” Tanks took up positions in key locations across Sanaa including at the presidential palace, the central bank and the ministry of defense, but it is unclear what their orders are or who is in command. Ge. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, commander of the Northwest Military District, announced: “The crisis is getting more complicated and it’s pushing the country towards violence and civil war. According to what I’m feeling, and according to the feelings of my partner commanders and soldiers… I announce our support and our peaceful backing to the youth revolution.”
US, French and British warplanes continued to strike targets in Libya March 21—including Qaddafi’s central compound, sparking accusations that Allied forces are trying to kill the Libyan leader. This was denied by the Pentagon, but Hillary Clinton stated: “We will continue to work with our partners in the international community to press Qaddafi to leave, and to support the legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people.” There were also rumors that Qaddafi had been killed; he spoke the day before the strike to pledge resistance to the Allies’ “naked aggression,” but hasn’t been heard from since. The Libyan military announced a ceasefire, but this was met by skepticism. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said: “I sincerely hope and urge the Libyan authorities to keep their word. They have been continuing to attack the civilian population.” Rebel fighters trying to retake the eastern town of Ajdabiya said they were driven back by rocket and tank fire from government loyalists still controlling approaches to the city. Fighting was also reported from Misurata, the last major western city held by the rebels.
No-Fly Zone Enacted as U.S. and Allied Forces Launch Air Strikes on Libya Amid Growing Concerns for Civilian Safety
U.S. and allied forces have launched a second wave of air strikes on Libya to enforce a no-fly zone. Targets have included Libya’s air defenses, forces loyal to Col. Muammar Gaddafi, and Gaddafi’s fortified compound. The attacks on Libya began on Saturday, the eighth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The Arab League had supported the establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya, but Arab League Chief Amr Moussa criticized the U.S.-led air strikes. For analysis, we speak to Phyllis Bennis with the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. “The U.S. government is going to great lengths to convince the U.S. public and the world that we are not leading. But right now, at this military beginning stage, there’s no question that the U.S. is in command,” Bennis says. [includes rush transcript]
Libyan Citizen Journalist Mohammed Nabbous Killed by Gunfire While Reporting on the Battle for Benghazi
A coalition of forces from the United States, U.K. and France launched air strikes against Libya over the weekend after the U.N. Security Council on Friday approved a no-fly zone. On Saturday morning, Mohammed Nabbous, a Libyan citizen journalist in Benghazi, was shot and killed. Nabbous established Libya AlHurra TV to broadcast online live feeds and commentary from the popular uprising that began last month. Described as the face of citizen journalism in Libya, Nabbous was killed while reporting on attacks by pro-Gaddafi forces. We play a clip of his final report and an excerpt of an emotional message from his wife urging people to continue to fight for democracy in Libya. Democracy Now!correspondent Anjali Kamat interviewed Nabbous last month at the media center he helped to build. [includes rush transcript]
It is extremely unclear what the political outcome inside Libya of the tripartite (western) assault against the country will be. It is unclear, too, what political outcome the leaders of the three countries are aiming at in Libya.
In my experience, all wars are anti-humane and anti-humanitarian. But according to “Just War” theory, Clausewitz, Gen. Sherman and other definers of the western pro-war canon, wars can only ever be justified if they are fought to bring about political outcomes that are clearly defined, compellingly desirable, and highly probable. If you can’t even define the desired political endgame, then launching a war is ipso facto immoral. Launching a war just to “prove some kind of a point” is doubly immoral.
The only things that are clear as of today are that the politics not just of terminating this war but also of fighting it are extremely muddled; that this degree of muddle can be expected to grow; and– given the passions that the war has already ignited– that the escalation of violence that it represented will be very hard indeed to tame, de-escalate, and finally bring under control.
French Pres. Nicholas Sarkozy was facing local elections in his country yesterday. I can’t escape the feeling that his bellicosity against Qadhdhafi last week might have been connected with that. He has seemed eager to make this a fiight “to the very end”– the end of Qadhdhafi’s rule in Libya, that is.
Two weeks ago, Obama called for end to Qadhdhafi’s rule, too. But when the war-permitting UNSCR 1973 was passed on Thursday (March 17), Obama spelled out that “regime change” in Libya. was not part of the war plan. And today, the American general who has been leading the war effort for the Pentagon, “Africom” head Gen. Carter Ham, reiterated that position:
- “I have no mission to attack that person, and we are not doing so. We are not seeking his whereabouts or anything like that,” Ham said.
… “I have a very discreet [discrete] military mission, so I could see accomplishing the military mission and the current leader would remain the current leader,” Ham said. “I don’t think anyone would say that is ideal.”
In that article, FP’s Josh Rogin also wrote that Ham spelled out that the tactical goals that U.S. missile and drone strikes are planned to achieve have to do only with “the protection of civilians” rather than with aiding the military campaign of the Libyan insurrectionaries.
Here is Ham’s very complex explanation of what his forces are trying to achieve, as reported by Rogin:
- “Many in the opposition truly are civilians…trying to protect their civilian business, lives, and families,” said Ham. “There are also those in the opposition that have armored vehicles and heavy weapons. Those parts of the opposition are no longer covered under that ‘protect civilians’ clause” of the U.N. Security Council resolution that authorized military intervention.
“It’s a very problematic situation,” Ham admitted. “Sometimes these are situations that brief better at the headquarters than in the cockpit of an aircraft.”
So how are pilots in the air supposed to tell the difference? If the opposition groups seem to be organized and fighting, the airplanes imposing the no-fly zone are instructed not to help them.
“Where they see a clear situation where civilians are threatened, they have… intervened,” said Ham. “When it’s unclear that it’s civilians that are being attacked, the air crews are instructed to be very cautious.”
“We have no authority and no mission to support the opposition forces in what they might do,” he added.
What’s more, the coalition forces won’t attack Qaddafi’s forces if they are battling rebel groups, only if they are attacking “civilians,” Ham explained. If the Qaddafi forces seem to be preparing to attack civilians, they can be attacked; but if they seem to be backing away, they won’t be targeted.
“What we look for, to the degree that we can, is to discern intent,” said Ham. “There’s no simple answer.”
A team of NYT reporters has described the upshot inside Libya, as of earlier today, in the following terms:
- Rebel fighters trying to retake the eastern town of Ajdabiya said they were driven back on Monday by rocket and tank fire from government loyalists still controlling entrances to the city. Dozens of fighters retreated to a checkpoint around 12 miles north of Ajdabiya…
For his part, Rogin had reported that Gen. Ham “said the United States was looking to transfer leadership of the mission to an international organization or structure within a few days.”
Well, good luck with that.
The alacrity with which the Obama administration launched the military strikes against Libya– and the fact that it used the Stuttgart-based “Africom” to do so– means that Africom itself is now probably a broken instrument, inasmuch as its long-described mission had been to try to build tight military-cooperation and basing relationships between the U.S. and as many African nations as possible.
Many members of the African Union have been gobsmacked by the belligerence the U.S. has shown toward Libya. The Daily Monitor of Kampala, Uganda, reported today that,
- The United Nations Security Council has rejected requests by the African Union (AU) High Level Ad-hoc Committee on Libya (AHCL) to fly to Tripoli to mediate between President Muammar Gaddafi and pro-democracy protesters fighting to end his 42-year rule.
A communiqué of the committee issued yesterday after its meeting in Mauritania said, “The committee, in conformity with resolution 1973 (2011) of the United Nations Security Council, requested for the required permission for the flight carrying its members to Libya in order to fulfill their mandate. The committee was denied permission.”
Uganda’s President Youweri Museveni had been the author of the proposal. Lest we forget, Museveni is a longtime close ally of the U.S. in Africa.
The situation at the Arab League is scarcely any better, from Washington’s point of view. Yesterday, League head Amr Moussa expressed his consternation that the three-power attack against Libya had been so broad and so harsh. (Though honestly, what on earth had the Arab League leaders expected when they had earlier called for western action against Qadhdhafi???)
Also, no-one should be terribly impressed with the news that Qatar and the UAE might send a few of their very expensive jets over to help the French with their air operations over Libya. That realy won’t affect the military equation very much.
… But if Gen. Ham was hoping to pass off leadership of this military action to any body, it was probably not the African Union or the Arab League… but NATO.
And here’s where matters have become very interesting indeed… Because NATO is deeply divided over the war. In particular, there has been a huge spat between NATO members France and Turkey over the issue, which apparently threatens to block NATO from being able to take over command and control of the military effort.
That report, from Hurriyet Daily News in Anqara, included this:
- The Turkish and French permanent representatives to NATO, Haydar Berk and Philippe Errera, quarreled seriously during Sunday’s meeting over the role of the alliance in implementing the U.N. Security Council’s Resolution No. 1973, the Daily News has learned.
… A key contributing factor to Sunday’s rift was the French decision not to invite Turkey to a meeting on Libya where the details of the implementation of the Security Council resolution were discussed. Turkey’s anger was little soothed when French President Nicholas Sarkozy’s foreign policy advisor Jean-David Levitte called Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu to explain why Ankara was not invited to the meeting.
“It is not possible for us to understand that France is taking the lead in this operation. We’re having difficulty understanding [it acting like] it is the only executor of the U.N. resolution,” said Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül.
Diplomatic sources who spoke to the Daily News expressed concern about the way Paris is trying to take control of the situation on its own. “France is acting as if it were the gendarmerie of the region. This approach could lead to instability,” one Turkish diplomat said.
Before the tripartite assault, Turkish PM Rejep Tayyip Erdogan was working hard to try to mediate a political resolution to the contest between Qadhdhafi and the rebels– one that would have involved Qadhdhafi stepping aside and a peaceful resolution of all outstanding differences.
The news out of the ongoing NATO summit in Brussels is all over the place. (Reuters 1, Reuters 2, Reuters 3.) Bottom line: No-one in NATO seems really able to figure out what it is they want to achieve or who it is they want to achieve it.
Oh boy, it looks as if the world is in for a nasty, ill-planned, very damaging, and quite possibly long-drawn-out war in Libya.
How come no-one told Hillary Clinton, Samantha Power, Susan Rice, and their bellophilic friends from Washington’s large aviaries of liberal hawks that this is, indeed, the nature of war? I guess the U.S. military– and SecDef Gates– had tried to.
But launching this war was not, in the end, a decision that was taken by Clinton, Powers, or Rice. It was taken by Barrack Obama. Shame on him.