Thursday Reads

Good Morning!! Here are the stories that caught my eye this morning.

Reuters: Exclusive: Obama authorizes secret help for Libya rebels

President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing covert U.S. government support for rebel forces seeking to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, government officials told Reuters on Wednesday.

Obama signed the order, known as a presidential “finding”, within the last two or three weeks, according to government sources familiar with the matter.

Such findings are a principal form of presidential directive used to authorize secret operations by the Central Intelligence Agency. This is a necessary legal step before such action can take place but does not mean that it will.

Washington Post: In Libya, CIA is gathering intelligence on rebels

The Obama administration has sent teams of CIA operatives into Libya in a rush to gather intelligence on the identities and capabilities of rebel forces opposed to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, according to U.S. officials.

The information has become more crucial as the administration and its coalition partners move closer to providing direct military aid or guidance to the disorganized and beleaguered rebel army.

Although the administration has pledged that no U.S. ground troops will be deployed to Libya, officials said Wednesday that President Obama has issued a secret finding that would authorize the CIA to carry out a clandestine effort to provide arms and other support to Libyan opposition groups.

I can’t imagine why anyone would be surprised that the CIA is involved in Libya (they are everywhere). But the progs are looking down their noses in strong disapproval.

Emptywheel: Where Will Obama Try Himself for Material Support for Terrorism?

After all, according to Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project any help to a terrorist group–even counseling on how to make peace–is material support. And no matter how we try to spin arming rebels as an act of peace, it’s a good deal more help than legal counsel.

And, as the DC Circuit’s decision yesterday in Uthman Abdul Rahim Mohammed Uthman’s habeas suit makes clear, it’s not enough for a person to stop associating with al Qaeda in the 1990s, nor does the government need any real evidence of a tie between someone in al Qaeda’s vicinity to claim that person is a member of al Qaeda.

Glenn Greenwald: The wisdom and legality of arming Libyan rebels

Then there’s the question of the legality of arming Libyan troops. Salon’s Justin Elliott reported on Monday that the administration was actively considering arming the rebels despite an absolute arms embargo imposed by U.N. Resolution 1970 (“imposing an arms embargo on the country”). Today, The Guardian elaborates by citing numerous legal experts insisting that it would be a violation of the U.N. Resolution for the U.S. to arm the rebels. For its part, the U.S. insists that it is legally entitled to do so, with Hillary Clinton announcing that the arms embargo has been “overriden” by the broad mandate of U.N. Resolution 1973, allowing “all necessary measures” to be used to protect Libyan civilians.

On the strictly legal issue, this seems to be a close question. Can the specific arms embargo really be “overriden” by a general clause allowing the protection of civilians? That seems redolent of the Bush arguments that specific prohibitions in the law (such as the ban on warrantless eavesdropping) were “overriden” by the broad war powers assigned by the AUMF. More to the point, can it really be said that arming Libyan rebels is necessary for the protection of civilians? That sounds much more like what one does to help one side win a civil war.

I don’t know, and I admit I don’t like the idea of this action in Libya expanding too far. I remember when Reagan armed the “Contras.” Of course back in those days we were arming right-wing groups and the US was involved in countless human rights violations. In Libya, the opposition forces are trying to depose a genuinely evil dictator who has been involved in terrorist attacks.

But here’s my question: why don’t the progs convince the guy they supported to get us the hell out of Iraq and Afghanistan? They wanted this guy, they forced him on us, and now they’re whining. and what are they doing to find a decent alternative? A big nothing.

I’m not going to be happy if we get involved in a ground war in Libya or anywhere else, but it hasn’t happened yet. We’ve been in Afghanistan for almost ten years!

Raw Story: Most Americans think Obama does not deserve re-election, according to new poll

Obama’s approval rating is also at its lowest point ever, at 42 percent, while his disapproval rating rose from earlier in the month to a new high of 48 percent.

A similar Quinnipiac poll published March 3 found President Obama with 46 percent approval and 46 percent disapproval.

In that earlier poll, voters also split on whether Obama deserves reelection, with 47 percent saying yes and 45 percent saying no.

The latest poll reflects the president’s sliding fortunes in other studies, with a full 50 percent now saying that he does not deserve to stay in office beyond 2012.

The big problem with this is that the Republicans are bound to nominate someone who is to the right of Atilla the Hun and about as crazy and unempathetic as Muammar Gaddafi. I refuse to vote for Obama, but what if we end up with Michelle Bachmann or Mike Huckabee as President?

Anyway, the Tea Party’s polls are in the crapper along with Obama’s.

Just 32 percent of respondents viewed the tea party favorably, while a record-high 47 percent had a negative view of the movement that propelled Republicans to dramatic Congressional victories last November. Fourteen percent had no opinion, and 7 percent said they’ve never heard of the tea party.

I sure hope the Congresspeople find out about that.

Russ Feingold doesn’t think Jeffrey Immelt is a very good jobs czar. No kidding, lol.

Feingold’s new group, Progressives United, is set to launch a new campaign to pressure General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt to step down as the head of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competiveness. Feingold’s campaign — which I’m told will be joined by Move On later today — is based on two pieces of news that, Feingold says, render Immelt unfit for the gig of Obama jobs chief: GE paid no American taxes in 2010; and Immelt’s compensation doubled .

In an email to members of his new group, Feingold will argue that if Immelt doesn’t step down, Obama should fire him, arguing that Dems need to stop coddling corporations whose behavior undermines our economy:

I’ve got a couple of semi-humorous stories to get your mind off all the bad news. Get out your tiny violin. Did you know that the super-rich are unhappy and dissatisfied with their lives?

The Atlantic: Secret Fears of the Super-Rich

Does great wealth bring fulfillment? An ambitious study by Boston College suggests not. For the first time, researchers prompted the very rich—people with fortunes in excess of $25 million—to speak candidly about their lives. The result is a surprising litany of anxieties: their sense of isolation, their worries about work and love, and most of all, their fears for their children.

Awwwww. Too bad, so sad. Then give your money away to people who actually need it, why don’t you. And then get a real job.

Raw Story: Death anxiety linked to acceptance of intelligent design: study

Research conducted at the University of British Columbia and Union College found that people’s death anxiety was associated with support of intelligent design and rejection of evolutionary theory.

Death anxiety also influenced those in the study to report an increased liking for Michael Behe, a prominent proponent of intelligent design, and an increased disliking for Richard Dawkins, a well-known evolutionary biologist.

The findings suggest that people are motivated to believe in intelligent design and doubt evolutionary theory because of unconscious psychological motives.

Okay, time out. Because? No. This is a correlational study, and as we all should have learned long ago, Correlation does not equal causation.

The study was lead by UBC Psychology Assistant Professor Jessica Tracy and and UBC psychology PhD student Jason Martens. It was published in the March 30 issue of the open access journal PLoS ONE.

“Our results suggest that when confronted with existential concerns, people respond by searching for a sense of meaning and purpose in life,” Tracy said. “For many, it appears that evolutionary theory doesn’t offer enough of a compelling answer to deal with these big questions.”

There are a lot of variables unaccounted for in this description of the study. Maybe death anxiety is just associated with fundamentalist Christianity. I guess I could look up the study and see what the findings really were… But I probably won’t.

That’s all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about?


Late Night Update: Libya

The “allied forces” have been bombing targets in Libya for a second day. Gaddafi is outraged and has issued multiple threats. Meanwhile, here at home there is quite a bit of criticism of the President’s decision to participate in the UN action.

The Guardian has a pretty detailed description of events in Libya over the past couple of days: “Coalition attacks wreak havoc on ground troops.” I’m leaving out the bloodthirsty-sounding paragraphs–you can read them if you choose.

The barrage of attacks led by France, Britain and the US on Libya’s army, air bases and other military targets drew threats of a prolonged war from Gaddafi himself. But on the ground many of his forces were in disarray and fleeing in fear of further attacks from a new and unseen enemy.

The air assault halted and then reversed the advances by Gaddafi’s army on Benghazi and other rebel-held towns. But the revolutionary leadership wanted more. On Sunday it appealed for an intensification of the air assault to destroy the Libyan ruler’s forces and open the way for the rebels to drive him from power.

The air bombardment is regarded among rebel military commanders as creating a more level battle field by removing Gaddafi’s advantage of heavy armour.

“There must be more attacks, to destroy his forces and heavy weapons,” said Kamal Mustafa Mahmoud, a rebel soldier on the edge of Benghazi. “Then they can leave Gaddafi to us. We know how to fight him but we are afraid of his heavy weapons. I want them to destroy the ground forces of Gaddafi.”

Quite a few people in the US have problems with that notion. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who has opposed the U.S. getting involved in the Libyan uprising had a few words of warning today.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the U.S. military campaign against Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi should be limited to the terms of a United Nations resolution rather than being broadened to target the leader directly.

The coalition with the U.K., France and Arab countries relies on the terms laid out in the UN Security Council resolution adopted last week, Gates told reporters traveling with him to Russia today on a trip he delayed yesterday so he could monitor the start of “Operation Odyssey Dawn.” The resolution backed military action to prevent Qaddafi from using his forces to attack fellow Libyans.

“If we start adding additional objectives, then I think we create a problem in that respect,” Gates said. “I also think that it is unwise to set as specific goals things that you may or may not be able to achieve.”

Here’s a bit more from Gates:

Gates said the mission is backed by a diverse coalition, and adding additional objectives to the mission “create a problem in that respect.” He also said “it’s unwise to set as specific goals things that you may or may not be able to achieve.”

Gates said most nations in the region want to see Libya remain a unified state, and “having states in the region begin to break up because of internal differences, I think, is a formula for real instability in the future.”

The Pentagon chief also cautioned against getting too involved in the internal conflict of that country, saying the internal conflict should be left to be resolved by Libyans themselves.

After Gates made these remarks, Pentagon spokesman Navy Vice Adm. Bill Gortney said that there is no plan to directly attempt to oust Gaddafi. Gortney:

“I can guarantee that he’s not on the targeting list.”

Gortney said Khadafy’s forces were already beginning to crumble, but stressed that the focus of the campaign remains protecting civilians, not taking out the despot.

In addition,

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen acknowledged that Khadafy might remain in power when the mission is over.

“It’s hard to know exactly how this turns out,” Mullen said on CBS. “I recognise that’s a possibility.”

Today French and British forces did “expand” the bombing campaign, and actually targeted a building within Gaddafi’s private compound. Read more below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »


Libya: UN Air Strikes Coming; Gaddafi Threatens to “Get Crazy”

Gaddafi’s radio address from earlier today:

I know you’ve all heard that the UN Security Council has approved international intervention in the Libya conflict. What does it mean? What will happen next? Your guess is as good as mine, but we might as well talk about it anyway, right? Here are a few links to get us started.

The Guardian UK: Libya: UN security council backs no-fly zone and air strikes

British and French military aircraft are preparing to protect the Libyan rebel stronghold of Benghazi after the UN security council voted in favour of a no-fly zone and air strikes against Muammar Gaddafi’s forces.

With Gaddafi’s troops closing in on Benghazi, the French prime minister, François Fillon, said “time is of the essence” and that France would support military action within hours of the vote. But US sources were more cautious, speaking of action in days rather than hours.

Fighter jets and bombers could take off from French bases along the Mediterranean coast, about 750 miles from Libya. Several Arab countries have promised to join the operation. Washington supported the resolution, a complete turnaround after weeks of resisting no-fly zone proposals, but has not yet said what role, if any, it would play in military action.

The 15-member security council voted in favour of a resolution authorising all necessary measures, other than occupation, to protect civilians under threat of attack, including Benghazi. Ten members voted in favour, with five, including China, Russia and Germany, abstaining. The resolution ruled out putting troops on the ground.

Reportedly, the opposition forces were heartened by the decision. I hope it won’t be to late to make a difference.

Simon Tisdall, Guardian: Libya finally forces Barack Obama’s hand as he goes for broke

With a boldness that the world had begun to believe he lacked, Barack Obama has gone for broke. The US wants Muammar Gaddafi’s head. It will not rest until he is deposed and there is regime change in Libya. And it will fight to get it.

Obama spent weeks pondering, prevaricating and posturing, infuriating Britain and France, arch advocates of military intervention. He used public appearances to prate professorially about plans, contingencies and downsides. He allowed senior administration officials such as Pentagon chief Robert Gates to give full vent to their doubts and misgivings about a possible Libyan quagmire.

Obama finally made his mind up. The US would intervene to stop him. And there would be no half measures. All steps short of boots on the ground, as the US under-secretary of state William Burns put it are now urgently contemplated, with a view to immediate implementation.

Whatever. My hypothesis is that Obama couldn’t take the criticism or the worldwide attention that Hillary has been getting during her recent travels.

Gaddafi is not happy.

Whoa! WTF?!

Muammar Gaddafi has pledged to retake the rebel stronghold of Benghazi and warned that any foreign attack on Libya would endanger air and maritime traffic in the Mediterranean area, as the UN security council voted for military intervention.

In a defiant and menacing radio address, the Libyan leader sought to pre-empt the UN. “No more fear, no more hesitation, the moment of truth has come,” he declared. “There will be no mercy. Our troops will be coming to Benghazi tonight.”

The defence ministry in Tripoli issued its threat of retaliation in the Mediterranean in the apparent hope of influencing deliberations in New York that approved an assault on Libya’s air defences and ground forces.

The Independent UK reports tough talk from the British and Americans:

After the vote, British Foreign Secretary William Hague reiterated the case for the resolution. “We have said all along that Gaddafi must go,” he said.

“It is necessary to take these measures to avoid greater bloodshed, to try to stop… attacks on civilians and the people of Libya.”

His US counterpart Hillary Clinton took a similar stance, speaking during a visit to Tunis. “Gaddafi must go,” she said. Calling him a “ruthless dictator,” she added: “If Gaddafi does not go, he will just make trouble. That is just his nature. There are some creatures that are like that.”

Defence sources in London meanwhile indicated that the coalition’s first targets would be the tank convoys closing on Benghazi or ships attempting to bombard the city. Arab participation is likely to be provided initially by Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, although there were already reports as the resolution was passed of Egypt shipping arms to the rebels across the border.

In the wake of the UN decision, Gaddafi has stepped back a bit: After pounding rebel hub, Gaddafi calls for truce as UN action looms

Libya’s army said it would halt operations from Sunday to allow rebels to lay down their arms, softening repeated threats by Muammar Gaddafi to crush them, as world powers edged towards adopting tough measures to shut down the strongman’s military machine.

Libyan troops pushed forward towards the insurgent stronghold of Benghazi on Thursday and launched air raids on its outskirts as Washington raised the possibility of air strikes to stop the forces. The international debate on what action to take may have dragged on too long to help the anti-Gaddafi uprising, now struggling to hold its ground one month after it started.

What do you think? Is is too little, too late? Or are we getting ourselves into another Iraq?

UPDATE: Dakinikat called my attention to this article at the Foreign Policy blog: Inside classified Hill briefing, administration spells out war plan for Libya

Several administration officials held a classified briefing for all senators on Thursday afternoon in the bowels of the Capitol building, leaving lawmakers convinced President Barack Obama is ready to attack Libya but wondering if it isn’t too late to help the rebels there.

Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Bill Burns led the briefing and was accompanied by Alan Pino, National Intelligence Officer for the Near East, Gen. John Landry, National Intelligence Officer for Military Issues, Nate Tuchrello, National Intelligence Manager for Near East, Rear Adm. Michael Rogers, Director of Intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Rear Admiral Kurt Tidd, Vice Director of Operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Several senators emerged from the briefing convinced that the administration was intent on beginning military action against the forces of Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi within the next few days and that such action would include both a no-fly zone as well as a “no-drive zone” to prevent Qaddafi from crushing the rebel forces, especially those now concentrated in Benghazi.


Libya News Update

Lots of Libya news is breaking today, so I thought I’d post an afternoon update.

First up, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced today that she plans to meet with Libyan rebels.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday that she would meet with Libyan rebel leaders in the United States and during travels next week to France, Tunisia and Egypt.

Mrs. Clinton did not identify the Libyan rebel leaders she intended to meet.

American officials have reached out to members of the rebel’s provisional council in eastern Libya, directly and through intermediaries, but Mrs. Clinton’s meetings will be the administration’s highest-level contacts with those who hope to replace Colonel Qaddafi’s government.

“We are standing with the Libyan people as they brave bombs and bullets to demand that Qaddafi must go — now, ” Mrs. Clinton said in remarks to a House panel.

Earlier, France became the first country to recognize the opposition government in Libya. Unfortunately, I’m afraid this, and Clinton’s efforts could turn out to be too little, too late. From the LA Times:

France became the first nation to recognize the opposition government in eastern Libya on Thursday, even as rebel fighters protecting a key oil complex on the Mediterranean coast were reported to be retreating under a fierce assault by government forces.

In the coastal oil city of Ras Lanuf, captured Friday by rebel fighters, reports from the front said troops loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi had forced rebels to begin a retreat from the city. Rebel positions there were pounded by airstrikes, artillery and rockets, according to news accounts.

If pro-Kadafi forces are able to seize the petrochemical complex, port and airport in Ras Lanuf, it would give the regime in Tripoli control over one of Libya’s largest oil facilities. Ras Lanuf is 225 miles by road southwest of Benghazi, the rebel stronghold.

The apparent rebel setback in eastern Libya came after Kadafi’s government claimed Wednesday it had regained control of the contested city of Zawiya, 30 miles west of the capital, Tripoli. Residents reached by phone said Zawiya was under siege.

A tank shell explodes outside Ras Lanuf

Nicholas Kristof made “the case for a no-fly zone” today:

“This is a pretty easy problem, for crying out loud.”

For all the hand-wringing in Washington about a no-fly zone over Libya, that’s the verdict of Gen. Merrill McPeak, a former Air Force chief of staff. He flew more than 6,000 hours, half in fighter aircraft, and helped oversee no-fly zones in Iraq and the Adriatic, and he’s currently mystified by what he calls the “wailing and gnashing of teeth” about imposing such a zone on Libya.

“I can’t imagine an easier military problem,” he said. “If we can’t impose a no-fly zone over a not even third-rate military power like Libya, then we ought to take a hell of a lot of our military budget and spend it on something usable.”

He continued: “Just flying a few jets across the top of the friendlies would probably be enough to ground the Libyan Air Force, which is the objective.” …. “If we can’t do this, what can we do?” he asked, adding: “I think it would have a real impact. It might change their calculation of who might come out on top. Just the mere announcement of this might have an impact.”

I guess the problem is that we have an inexperienced, indecisive Commander-in-Chief who is waiting for his aides to tell him what to do. As our President dithers and NATO “squabbles” Gaddafi is succeeding in crushing the courageous, ragtag opposition fighters.

Read the rest of this entry »


Diary of a Madman

Gaddafi continues to cling to delusion and power in Libya.   His insane tenure has joined Arabs and Israelis and sent the above Youtube into viral territory.  It seems every one wants to get into the act of sending Gaddafi a get out of Dodge message.

Noy Alooshe, 31, an Israeli journalist, musician and Internet buff, said he saw Colonel Qaddafi’s televised speech last Tuesday in which the Libyan leader vowed to hunt down protesters “inch by inch, house by house, home by home, alleyway by alleyway,” and immediately identified it as a “classic hit.”

“He was dressed strangely, and he raised his arms” like at a trance party, Mr. Alooshe said in a telephone interview on Sunday. Then there were Colonel Qaddafi’s words with their natural beat.

Mr. Alooshe spent a few hours at the computer, using Auto-Tune pitch corrector technology to set the speech to the music of “Hey Baby,” a 2010 electro hip-hop song by American rapper Pitbull, featuring another artist, T-Pain. He titled it “Zenga-Zenga,” echoing Col. Qaddafi’s repetition of the word zanqa, Arabic for alleyway.

It’s a bit of levity in some otherwise gruesome news as AJ reports on Gaddafi’s defiance. It does seem like it’s just a matter of time before Gaddafi falls, however, that’s not helping people in Tripoli that are suffering.

As more cities fall into the hands of the pro-democracy protesters, Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, is hanging on to the capital where security forces loyal to him seem to have a firm hold, even amid reports of sporadic gunfire.

On Sunday, protesters had reportedly taken over the towns of Misurata and Zawiyah, further shrinking the control of Gaddafi’s government.

However, tanks were surrounding Zawiyah, 50km from Tripoli, and locals feared an imminent raid by pro-Gaddafi  forces.

In an interview with Serbian television, a defiant Gaddafi repeated his message that he will stay in Libya and blamed foreigners and al-Qaeda for the unrest that is threatening his 41-year rule.

The phone interview with TV Pink in Belgrade was carried out while Gaddafi was in his office in Tripoli.

The Libyan leader also condemned the United Nations Security Council for imposing sanctions on him and launching a war crimes inquiry.

Gaddafi said the UN council could not see that the capital, Tripoli, was secure.

Residents said banks were open but bread and petrol remained tightly rationed as the opposition grip on large swathes of the nation disrupted the distribution of basic goods.

Gaddafi is now bribing families $400 each to like him.  That hasn’t stopped the Security Council of the UN from calling for a War Crimes inquiry into Gaddafi’s treatment of Libyan citizens.

The vote, only the second time the Security Council has referred a member state to the International Criminal Court, comes after a week of bloody crackdowns in Libya in which Colonel Qaddafi’s security forces have fired on protesters, killing hundreds.

Also on Saturday, President Obama said that Colonel Qaddafi had lost the legitimacy to rule and should step down. His statement, which the White House said was made during a telephone call with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, was the strongest yet from any American official against Colonel Qaddafi.

The Security Council resolution also imposes an arms embargo against Libya and an international travel ban on 16 Libyan leaders, and freezes the assets of Colonel Qaddafi and members of his family, including four sons and a daughter. Also included in the sanctions were measures against defense and intelligence officials who are believed to have played a role in the violence against civilians in Libya.

Unfortunately, sanctions have not worked very well in the past and the people are asking for a no-fly zone.  This would stop Gadaffi from firing on his citizens with airplanes and helicopters.  How many more people will die before this madman is finally gone?


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Moammar Gadhafi: Time to Step Down

It looks like President Obama finally gave Hillary the go ahead to say what she probably wanted to say several days ago. From the LA Times:

President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Saturday called on Moammar Kadafi to step down, reversing previous reticence by the U.S. leaders to directly urge the Libyan president to leave office.

In a statement, Clinton said Kadafi “has lost the confidence of his people and he should go without further bloodshed and violence,” and that the Libyan people deserved a government that “protects their universally recognized human rights.” The U.S. has always said that the future of Libya should be decided by its people, she said, and “they have made themselves clear.”

Meanwhile the White House released the contents of a phone call between Obama and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.

In a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Obama did not cite Kadafi by name, but said that the Libyan leader had lost his legitimacy. “The President stated that when a leader’s only means of staying in power is to use mass violence against his own people, he has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what is right for his country by leaving now,” a White House statement said.

What is his problem with calling out Gadhafi by name anyway? Read Hillary’s full statement below the fold.
Read the rest of this entry »


Finally. Obama Breaks Silence on Libya but Doesn’t Say Much

Earlier today, Politico’s Glenn Thrush told us that President Obama would not be speaking about Libya. Period. That was apparently the word from press secretary Jay Carney this morning. That article has now been rewritten as an explanation for Obama’s slow response.

This evening, Carney announced that Obama would speak after all; and couple of hours ago, the President made what Al Jazeera termed “a strongly worded statement” (see video above) about the intense violence that has been unleashed on the Libyan people for the past few days and the resulting bloody carnage in the streets of Libyan cities.

I’m not sure why the President changed his mind about speaking. Perhaps it’s because they have managed to get American citizens out. Perhaps Obama finally realized he was be criticized all over the world for his lack of action.

So far the response to the statement hasn’t been that enthusiastic. The Washington Post wants to know why Obama was the last to speak about the situation in Libya.

By late Wednesday only one major Western leader had failed to speak up on Libya: Barack Obama. Before then, the president’s only comment during five days of mounting atrocities was a statement issued in his name by his press secretary late last Friday, which deplored violence that day in three countries: Yemen, Libya and Bahrain. For four subsequent days, the administration’s response to the rapidly escalating bloodshed in Libya was measured and relatively mild statements by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Administration officials explained this weak stance by saying they were worried about U.S. citizens, hundreds of whom were being extracted by ferry Wednesday afternoon. There were fears that the desperate Mr. Gaddafi might attack the Americans or seek to take them hostage. But the presence of thousands of European citizens in Libya did not prevent their government’s leaders from forcefully speaking out and agreeing on sanctions.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Obama finally appeared at a White House podium. He said “we strongly condemn the use of violence in Libya,” but he did not mention Mr. Gaddafi or call for his removal. He said the administration was preparing a “full range of options” to respond but didn’t say what those might be; he made no mention of the no-fly zone that Libya’s delegation at the United Nations has called for. He stressed that the United States would work through international forums – and said Ms. Clinton would travel to Geneva for a meeting of the notoriously ineffectual U.N. Human Rights Council, which counts Libya as a member.

[….]

Shouldn’t the president of the United States be first to oppose the depravities of a tyrant such as Mr. Gaddafi? Apparently this one doesn’t think so.

The New York Times also noted that Obama did not “castigate” Gaddafi, but they meekly explained that the President was worried about getting Americans out of Tripoli.

Mr. Obama made no mention of the Libyan strongman, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, reflecting the administration’s worry about the safety of American diplomats and their families in Tripoli, where a ferry meant to evacuate Americans was still stuck at the port, penned in by high winds in the Mediterranean. Mr. Obama has been coming under fire from critics who said he has not been tough enough against Colonel Qaddafi in the wake of the violent crackdown by pro-Qaddafi forces against demonstrators.

Chris Matthews apparently didn’t feel a tingle in his leg this time.

“This statement could have been put out by the first President Bush. It has the aspect of an Arabist statement. I shouldn’t be too strong here, but it doesn’t have any dignity. I mean – Ronald Reagan – to his credit, said ‘evil empire’ before the fall of the wall.”

Huh? Oh well, it doesn’t make sense, but he didn’t like the statement anyway.

At Foreign Policy, Peter Feaver is losing patience with the President. Based on Jay Carney’s lead-up to the statement, Feaver wrote:

I can think of only two plausible explanations for the weak White House response thus far:

Perhaps the Gaddafi regime is blocking the evacuation of U.S. citizens so as to intimidate the White House into making only muted statements — and this intimidation is working (note to President Obama, this is closer to what real hostage-taking feels like).

Or perhaps the administration is paralyzed with indecision because of debates between internal factions, some wanting a stronger Bush-like response and others wanting to stick with the Obama 2009 approach that guided the weak response to the Iranian post-election protests in June 2009.


What did you think of the “strongly worded statement?” Will we see any action in the near future?