Posts Tagged ‘Gaddafi’
The CIA is in Libya and this has some people very upset.
Spencer Ackerman describes what they are doing:
[A]ccording to the Times, the CIA role in Libya is more furtive. The agency isn’t giving guns to the rebels. It’s finding out precisely who they are — important, since the U.S. has “flickers” of intel that they include some al-Qaeda members. And along with British spies, the CIA teams are learning “the location of Colonel Qaddafi’s munitions depots [and] the clusters of government troops inside Libyan towns.” And figure they probably have some tasking to get Gadhafi’s inner circle to abandon him.
Dave von Ebers gives historical context:
Anyway, here’s the thing. This, unfortunately, is exactly what every president has done with the CIA, since its inception in the late 1940s.The CIA was on the ground in Vietnam long before the United States was at war there; meddled in the affairs of Guatemala dating back to the 1950s; was neck deep in the 1953 Iranian coup d’état that secured the brutal reign of Shah Mohammad-Reza Pahlavi; aided the Chilean military in the coup that brought Augusto Pinochet to power; worked with El Salvadoran death squads for decades; established secret prisons in Eastern Europe to detain and interrogate detainees in the “war on terror” … and on and on and on. I’m not suggesting that any of that was right – it most definitely wasn’t – but note that for decades the CIA was, in almost every instance, on the side of brutal dictators who were oppressing their own people.
And don’t forget that with or without the CIA’s assistance, past American presidents tacitly supported Pol Pot in Cambodia after Vietnam overthrew him in 1978 (later Pres. Reagan doubled down on America’s covert support for Pol Pot, leading to years of civil war there); supported the Shah throughout his dictatorial reign despite hishorrific record of human rights abuses; supported the Contra rebelsin Nicaragua, many, if not most, of whom formerly worked under the dictator Somoza; and only grudgingly (and ineffectively) came to oppose Apartheid in South Africa in the 198os.
Dave concludes that here, at least, the CIA is on the right side. (BTW: follow Dave on Twitter.) But even more broadly speaking, it makes sense to have some sort of communication with these rebels and to find out who they are, what their factions are, etc. We shouldn’t have to just wonder.
And it makes sense to give them basic intelligence of what we know about Gaddafi’s approaching forces. I don’t think warning them that they’re about to be outflanked works so well when you say it from inside the cockpit of an F-15.
And I’m really at a loss as to how the CIA being on the ground means there’s boots on the ground. We’ve had numerous memoirs such as this one written from CIA agents about how they were on the ground in places the US was not at war with. I remember a lot of stories when Anna Chapman, alleged Russian spy, was captured. None of which were: “OMG, Russia is invading the United States! Wolverines!” I’d certainly have hoped the CIA or Mi6 or some similar agency was on the ground making contacts in Libya, Algeria, Bahrain, Yemen, etc. That information is crucial for policymakers to actually make the right choices.
What’s doubly surprising about the leak is that we’ve known about MI6 being on the ground in Libya for weeks now. In fact, this defense of human intelligence ought be read by anyone confused about the role of intelligence services (putting aside the role of SAS support):
First, much is made of the notion that the British could have simply put in a phone call. Such an assertion is naive in the extreme, and conveniently forgets the fact that telecommunications in Libya are vulnerable – as the British ambassador to Libya knows all too well.
As any intelligence officer would tell you, signals intelligence is vital, but it needs to be supplemented by human intelligence. When business people broker deals, they like to see each other first, check out the cut of their jibs, have a drink, build up a rapport – in short, build trust. Gathering secret intelligence is no different, and it is essential for agencies such as MI6 to build personal relationships with parties such as the Libyan rebels. A mere phone call will not do. [. . .]
Some have also speculated that all the British needed to have done was to have popped into Benghazi to see the rebel leadership, rather than head off into the desert. This is another naive assertion, and supposes that the rebel forces are a unified bunch under a centralised command structure. As we shall see, there are numerous groups of rebels, and it is possible that Tom had made contact with a group that was not represented in Benghazi. Besides, it is just as possible that Tom and his team had in fact received some sort of blessing from Benghazi. We don’t know, but what we do know is that the lives of two MI6 officers, six SAS men and a helicopter crew are not risked on a mere jaunt.
Why people thought MI6 was running around Libya then and not the CIA boggles the mind (not everyone was so dense). The risk in early March was that the rebellion would not look endemic; by now it’s clear that there is no reason for that particular concern – which is one reason why it seems the Administration intentionally leaked this news now.
Perhaps two of the organizations least known for leaking, the CIA and the Obama White House, the latter of which has made a special habit of prosecuting leakers, appear to have both leaked the same story at the same time to the New York Times and to Reuters, the latter of which cites four separate sources. Together, they report that President Obama signed a secret finding authorizing the clandestine operations in support of Libya’s rebels, including Central Intelligence Agency agents on the ground but not including arms for the rebels. . . .
. . . [I]t’s also possible that the leak was planned, as so many U.S. government leaks are. [. . .] Such a leak makes appear Obama more bullish on Libya without requiring him to explain the plan for this new secret authority. It wards off domestic pressure without actually engaging those pressuring him. It also prepares the American people for the possibility of clandestine actions without actually carrying them out or even promising to consider carrying them out. After all, though the finding’s approval may be broad, very little appears to have actually been done with it. Arming the rebels, the first logical step in a serious clandestine commitment, doesn’t have the necessary congressional approval.
Perhaps most significant of all, leaking news of the finding would send a clear and no doubt chilling message to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and the remainders of his regime: if you allow this war to continue, you could go up against the CIA . . .
With the rebel advance stalled, and the war appearing to head for either Qaddafi’s victory or a costly stalemate that could consume Libya for years, Obama faces a dauntingly hard choice: escalate U.S. involvement and risk entangling the country in another Afghanistan or, by refusing to escalate, put make the U.S. culpable for the rebels’ failure and Qaddafi’s sure-to-be bloody victory. The best possible way forward, then, could be to coerce Qaddafi into stepping down voluntarily, as both Egypt’s Mubarak and Tunisia’s Ben Ali did. These hints of greater U.S. involvement could be Obama’s way of showing Qaddafi the door. Also on Wednesday, a senior official with the government of Uganda, a close U.S. ally, suddenly announced to Al Arabiya, a pan-Arabic TV network, that his country would consider an asylum request from the Libyan leader.
The whole article is worth reading.
There’s no evidence that ground troops would be welcome by regional partners in the coalition. But liaising with the rebels, getting on the ground intelligence to match with satellite overlays, and maybe looking for creative ways to push Gaddafi out? That’s just prudent.
There are ways the Libya conflict could potentially escalate in ways I would not support. This is not one of them.
This is kind of a weird Nation article:
Could Obama and his supporters take a break from celebrating so-called no-fly zones—and take a look at what’s happening in Arizona?
Qaddafi, after all, isn’t the only one using military technology against his own people. Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, has launched “Operation Desert Sky” to round up “illegal drugs and human cargo”—read: men, women, human, immigrants.
If that name sounds familiar, perhaps you’re remembering Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in Iraq under the first President Bush. That’s right, the sheriff of a US county is deliberately evoking the names of military operations in his war on migrants.
THIRTY aircraft will be used in the operation, and, according to the Cypress Times, will be furnished and flown largely by the sheriff’s armed volunteer posse—in other words, vigilantes. They’ll be armed with M-16s and a 50 caliber machine gun.
Isn’t it time for a no-fly zone in Arizona? . . .
Former GRITtv guest Salvador Reza, an Arizona immigration activist, says it’s unconscionable for Obama and the Justice Department to be part of Arpaio’s coalition of the willing. But beyond that, isn’t it time for us to put a stop to Arpaio’s violence once and for all?
I mean, even progressives are arguing that intervention in Libya was justified on humanitarian grounds. How big a humanitarian disaster must we see on our own soil before we act?
Before we go any further, while I support the action in Libya, I do oppose this action and the Department of Justice and Homeland Security should prevent it from happening. There’s obvious jurisdictional questions, as well as issues regarding armed vigilantes without the necessary training.
And while it’s easy to blithely accuse the Obama Administration of being complicit, just days ago Sec. Janet Napolitano said that the border security was as good as it ever had been – which does not sound much like she’s agreeing to a massive air invasion. Second, I had to find a Spanish language version of this story to confirm Arpaio is, in fact under federal investigation for human and civil rights abuses. Per the Great Orange Satan, they’re looking into: “the funding of SCA; the bogus filing of charges against County Supervisor Don Stapley, meant to intimidate one of Arpaio’s opponents; racial profiling and abuse of powers; the misuse of restricted funds; and a corrupt land deal for one of the Sheriff’s headquarters.” Also, the feds have permission to look into anything else that may arise.
That makes the Obama Administration complicit!?
Moreover, I don’t see why Arpaio and Gaddafi are even connected… unless you’re looking for a hook for anti-interventionists and wanted to get page hits. That couldn’t be it, could it? Gin up controversy against Obama from the left to get attention and sell magazines, even if the criticism isn’t entirely based in reality?
Lastly, Arpaio just announced this. Let’s give Napolitano and/or Holder a chance to respond before we accuse every Obama supporter of killing people with machine guns, ok?
I agree with DougJ about the the least convincing pro-intervention argument is from Richard Cohen regarding Libya. But this gem is the dumbest Libya argument against intervention yet. Andrew Sullivan:
The Libya case is an interesting one because of the need for dispatch, as events on the ground made a Congressional debate moot. But to my mind, that kind of emergency decision is precisely the moment when deliberation is necessary. Deciding war in a rush and in secret is normally not a good idea. And Obama did not have to act urgently to save American lives or vital interests. He had to act urgently for purely humanitarian reasons.
And so we now have an executive branch claiming powers far, far beyond what the Founders or any prudent constitution would allow. The presidency becomes Angelina Jolie with an air force.
So let me get this straight: the circumstances under which Obama had to make a decision made any further consultation with Congress moot – in Sullivan’s own words. But he would still argue that one is necessary. And not just necessary, but necessary in fancy italics.
Moreover, it takes special writing abilities to contradict your entire argument that thoroughly. The first sentence shows that there’s absolutely no time for discussion, the decision needs to be made immediately. The rest of the paragraph completely ignores that reality.
Needless to say, intervening after Benghazi had fallen would be the worst of both worlds: people would say the US does not caer about human suffering, only taking out dictators who interrupt oil flow. It’d be a pointless exercise. Sullivan has to know that – he admitted it to start the excerpt!
Additionally, Sullivan refuses to grapple with refugees anywhere on his blog. Reading him (and mind you this is someone who obsessively chronicles events) you would have virtually no idea about refugee crises on the Tunisian and Egyptian borders, or the EU commissioner warning of a refugee nightmare. Why? I can only guess that he still is obsessed with a Napoleonic conception of war as aggression and responding to it; and human suffering never involves people fleeing from nightmare scenarios, but people taking suffering with a stiff upper lip, because hey, it’s the British way. It’s a fundamental lack of empathy that clouds Sullivan’s reasoning. And all of that might be false. But Sullivan sure as hell isn’t answering it, that’s for sure (in the one in a million shot he responds to this post, it’s one and a million he takes this question seriously).
But it’s not just a lack of empathy, it’s an emotional commitment to reacting immediately that he does not even look at all the facts and grapple with them. And I’m not exaggerating. His blog has mentioned refugees a grand total of once since the resolution was passed, and that was just in reprinting the Security Council Resolution. So as far as I can tell, Sullivan himself has no idea what regional destabilization actually means. His lone reference to the crisis this month was – literally – on March 9 when he said “let Egypt and Tunisia deal with it.” Really, Andrew? They have the resources and wherewithal to deal with that right now? Nothing else is going on there? There’s not going to be any regional effects from them having to deal with it? What a crock of shit. That’s not grappling with a problem, that’s Sullivan sticking his head in the sand. No responsible administration would or should think this way. Not even George W. Bush would think that way. Not even Neville Chamberlain would think this way – at least Chamberlain was willing to take the time to hitch a flight to Munich.
And then he has the gall to talk about prudence. Prudent men and women before him have realized that the boundary between the war powers and the commander in chief powers are at least somewhat a grey area. Truman was prone to overreacting (Steel Seizure case) but also did send troops to Korea without authorization. I’ve blogged about the notes from the 1945 Congress which are not authoritative by any means, but certainly fall within any reasonable definition of prudent.
This is not even to mention the shock value he’s going for with the Angelina Jolie comparison. I expect that sort of thing from an Andrew Breitbart intern, not Sullivan. (Not to mention that he has use Jolie, because “a massacre in Benghazi sounds completely awful if you use any non-celebrity framing. Seriously, try to find a better way to frame what Gaddafi pledging “no mercy” on a city of 700,000 would mean.)
This post is NOT to say this was the right intervention or that the mission is being executed in the correct way. Not at all. It’s just to say that Sullivan, in his apparent haste to make up for his grave Iraq war mistakes, is turning into the the far left caricature he once loathed. There is no subtlety. There is no hard cases. There’s only actions that apparently no one can consider prudent, despite extensive evidence that some people might actually think that. It’s insulting to what’s left of his legacy. I’m surprised he hasn’t demanded that Obama instead change the color of the White House website.
Congratulations, Andrew, you’re tarnishing your worthy legacy with shitty punditry just like David Broder before you. Good luck dealing with this shit, Tina Brown.
There’s a tendency to say there are three groups of foreign policy actors in American politics: cruise missile liberals, neoconservatives, and isolationists. But in the last decade, Samantha Power has tried to carve out a niche between the people reluctant to use any force and the cruise missile liberals like Michael O’Hanlon and some people at TNR who have dreams of intervening militarily literally everywhere.
McClatchy had a good summary of Power’s position on foreign policy:
Yet to dub Power an interventionist is to miss the nuance of the mission she began as a 22-year-old war correspondent in Yugoslavia, then nurtured through Harvard Law School and turns in think tanks, academia and as an author and columnist.
“The United States should not frame its policy options in terms of doing nothing or unilaterally sending in the Marines,” Power wrote in her book “A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide,” for which she won a 2003 Pulitzer Prize. “America’s leadership will be indispensable in encouraging U.S. allies and regional and international institutions to step up their commitments and capacities.”
Power called Clinton administration officials to account for not doing more to save lives in Bosnia and Rwanda in the mid-1990s. She didn’t support the 2003 invasion of Iraq, criticizing the unilateral U.S. approach and questioning the Bush administration’s concern for Iraqis’ welfare.
In a 2006 commencement speech for Santa Clara University School of Law, Power said her life’s work was driven by a sense of obligation “to demand that our representatives are attentive to the human consequences of their decision making.” She advised the students to “let reason be your tool, but let justice be your cause.”
I was in college during the run up to the Iraq war and I’ve constantly regretted not being more informed (my own version of Iraq war guilt, I suppose, those I would characterize mine as a sin of omission rather than commission). The clearest and most persusaive theory I identified in since then was Samantha Power’s, adequately summarized here.
As a tentative supporter of actions in Libya, I’ve felt caught in the crossfire between those who would want to go in harder and those that are (in my opinion) overly reluctant to use military force. It’s clear the nation-building plan hasn’t worked in Iraq and Afghanistan. If this intervention leads to a stalemate, sending in the Army to do COIN will not be cost effective. But that doesn’t mean the world has to have let Gaddafi’s army have his way with Benghazi either. (Tom Ricks’ post today was good on along those lines).
I’d like to point out one other inconsistency in critics of any action in Libya: that we are simultaneously involved in a Libyan civil war (16.5 million results on google) and also that the Libyan rebels only have 1,000 trained soldiers and some of them are less than savory characters. My favorite such phrasing was during his press briefing today by US Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz saying ““But I don’t think we’re at a point where we can make a judgment that this is a 100 percent kosher, so to speak, group.”
Moreover, doesn’t that this is a civil war with one side drastically under armed and out manned make this worse? Tienanmen Square was a human tragedy, but I would add that the reign of the Khmer Rouge was worse. There are real humanitarian crises going on across the Arab world. It seems pretty clear none are as of yet rising to what Gaddafi credibly threatened against Benghazi. That does not take away the serious, humanitarian suffering of those in Bahrain, Iran, Yemen, Syria, Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, and elsewhere. But the constant arguing that the responses are uneven ignores that geopolitical circumstances really are different in those countries. Maybe the US could say or do more elsewhere; that’s certainly possible (even probable in the case of action in the Ivory Coast). But that’s not a compelling argument against US action in Libya (even if this particular version of action isn’t the wisest course – I’m no military specialist here).
I don’t find this persuasive – does anyone think the tragedy of the Rwandan genocide is implicated in any way by what ideology the Tutsis slaughtered had. It’s easy to highlight the pro-peace Tutsis, but I’m sure there were less than savory factions too. The people being murdered by the governments of Yemen and Syria to date are not all adherents to western liberal thought.
Benghazi has roughly 750,ooo to one million people, making it the size of roughly Portland Oregon. Gaddafi had pledged no mercy shortly before the no fly zone has been implemented; since then all he has done is do things like shell a hospital.
Is the US intervention perfect? No, and there are real ways it could go seriously awry. Will the west basically have to leave Libya before everything is settled? Sure. Will post-intervention aide to Libya be underfunded? Sadly, there’s no doubt. Should the US be making more efficient interventions overseas (the omnipresent example of anti-malaria tents)? Absolutely. It’s a mark against us that we don’t.
But are things at least somewhat better than they would have been? I think so. To use a domestic analogy, we are willing to have police intervene domestically to stop a murderer, but we’re less willing to spend as much to intervene against more pernicious but endemic harms such as high-fructose corn syrup, asthma in the inner city, or accidents while driving (not to directly compare any of them – just that they are somewhat endemic). And this is (in theory) the kind of intervention the US should be doing, as Power laid out.
The same Washington, of course, is a place of defeatism, inertia, selfishness and cowardice. Warnings pass up the chain and disappear. Intelligence is gathered and then ignored or denied. The will of the executive remains steadfastly opposed to intervention; its guiding assumption is that the cost of stopping genocide is great, while the political cost of ignoring it is next to nil. President Bush the elder comes off as a stone-hearted prisoner to business interests, President Clinton as an amoral narcissist. Perhaps nobody looks worse than former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, on whose watch both Bosnia and Rwanda self-destructed. ”When innocent life is being taken on such a scale and the United States has the power to stop the killing at reasonable risk,” Power writes, ”it has a duty to act.” She objects not only to the fact that the United States declines to intervene militarily in genocidal conflicts, but also that frequently it declines to do anything — even to rebuke perpetrators publicly.
This does not mean the United States should fix everything wrong with a country, or that being at the nexus of an access of evil justifies lies about the war. It means that protecting Benghazi through international institutions is a legitimate US interest.
In short, I wish that more critics would be aware Power was a critic of the Iraq invasion and is not some cruise missile liberal. I know a lot of those type of liberals are really annoying. And they’re predictably bandwagon-ing here. That doesn’t mean everyone involved thinks that way.
While initial Western airstrikes hit Libyan air defenses and an armored column in the east, Gaddafi’s tanks kept up their shelling of Misrata in the west, killing dozens there this week.
Residents said a “massacre” was taking place with tank and artillery fire destroying buildings and snipers picking off people indiscriminately. Doctors were operating in hospital corridors and having to turn some of the wounded away.
The U.S. military said it had successfully established a no-fly zone over Libya’s coastal areas and had moved on to attack Gaddafi’s tanks. Western planes launched a series of air strikes near Misrata and stopped the tank and artillery fire.
But as darkness cloaked the city, Libya’s third largest, Gaddafi’s tanks began to roll once again.
“Government tanks are closing in on Misrata hospital and shelling the area,” said the doctor who was briefly reached by phone before the line was cut off.
A rebel spokesman said 16 people had been killed in Misrata and another six in attacks on Zintan, a rebel-held town in west Libya. It was impossible to independently verify the reports.
During the day, while the tanks and artillery fell silent, the Western air strikes did not stop the snipers in Misrata.
“The snipers are … shooting at the hospital and its two entrances are under heavy attack. No one can get in or out,” Saadoun, a Misrata resident, told Reuters by telephone.
This is all a prima facia violation of essentially every single part of common article 3 of the Geneva Conventions (the part that applies to any conflict anywhere essentially – the Supreme Court held so in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld). It’s also a good example of what Gaddafi planned to do to Benghazi had the west not intervened. I don’t think the Administration calling what Gaddafi intended for Benghazi “Srebrenica on steroids” can be an exaggeration at this point.
This is not to make any arguments about intervention except the one I actually make: the gravity of this situation is extremely serious. The intervention may or may not be done the right way (or even for all the right reasons) but the situation was sufficiently serious (in this an d other ways I’ve previously documented in this space) that this sort of intervention should at least be on the table.
Adam Serwer on war powers:
As someone who thinks American leaders should start fewer wars and be more judicious about which wars the U.S. does choose to fight, I’m fan of requiring Congressional authorization for military actions that aren’t explicitly acts of self defense and have as much clear lead time as this one did. Even if it doesn’t end up reducing military intervention overall, it might force future presidents to think more critically about the use of force.
Except that there’s no evidence requiring Congressional authorization in practice means that presidents think more critically about the use of force. In practice, given the Iraq War and the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, it just gives the President an incentive to scare the living hell out of Congress and the American people. When that’s done, even usually sane people have a tendency to give in, for a great many psychological reasons that I don’t want to get into. But safe to say there’s good, smart people who wrongly got caught up in the Iraq war hype. And Vietnam hype.
I fully agree we ought to want the President “think more critically” about the use of force, but Congressional authorization seems to be a poor way to do it.
That does leave the question of how can we enforce this norm: one drastic way would be to abolish the 22nd Amendment. When Presidents know they have to face re-election again, they might be more concerned with long range effects. But this is highly unlikely and unwise for a great many reasons. It’s justifiably off the table.
Option two would be to elect a better Congress; that’s slightly more possible, but put a first rate fear monger in the White House and he or she would get his or her war unless it was completely ridiculous (and if we’re at the completely ridiculous phase, like President Palin wanting to invade Russia, I don’t think a norm to go to Congress is going to be the key element).
A third option would be to actually pay attention to this in Presidential elections. This is pretty convincing; What we’re seeing now is Andrew Sullivan for one not realizing what Obama being advised by Samantha Power actually meant despite Power’s article on Rwanda in the Sullivan’s own magazine. We spent the better part of a year weeding Hillary from Obama based on minuscule differences on their health care plans when Congress (read: Ben Nelson and Max Baucus) had the final say in the matter. By contrast, because of a hyper sensitive and gaffe oriented media, the closest we got to a debate on intervention on foreign policy was chest beating on Iraq, nuclear weapons use in Afghanistan, and meeting with dictators. Well, Obama (and McCain for that matter) both met with Gaddafi. And here we are.
Now, to get all constructivist on the matter:
Essentially, the Constitution is a set of norms we want judges to enforce in part, and we the public enforce in part. There’s no judge in the country who would get away with trying to stop the planes in midair; hell, look at the Korematsu decision; courts refused to opine militarily on matters that were clearly unconstitutional and already over because of national security.
If we want different war powers, we have to make that change ourselves.
UPDATE: Why DO we want Congressional authorization sooner or later? So we don’t put the military in an untenable position of choosing between the people and someone elected who is now wildly unpopular. I just don’t think a Congressional authorization meets this particular goal; there are reasons all military actions should be authorized eventually, if not prior to the action itself.
Bottom line: take this as my musings on prior Congressional authorization. Obviously, if one does not have any forever, there are certain larger problems that emerge. (I think the context was clear in Adam’s original post, and my excise took that context away).
You think Gaddafi is more likely to be influenced thinking about Saddam Hussein or the President of the United States saying they have the tools to target him if they so choose?
Just a thought.It does underscore 1) how desperate Rumsfeld is to salvage his reputation and 2) how bad at diplomacy the Bush Administration was.