Obama Makes Case for U.S. Participation in Libya

By Dialogo
March 30, 2011

It was in America’s vital interests to stop a massacre in Libya, President Barack Obama said at the National Defense University.

Obama spoke of the justification for establishing the no-fly zone over Libya and protecting the Libyan people from Moammar Gadhafi’s regime to an audience of students and faculty gathered at Lincoln Hall on Fort Lesley J. McNair here.

Obama spoke of the cruelty that Gadhafi showed in suppressing Libyans who wanted a different government for the country.

“In the face of the world’s condemnation, Gadhafi chose to escalate his attacks, launching a military campaign against the Libyan people,” Obama said. “Innocent people were targeted for killing. Hospitals and ambulances were attacked. Journalists were arrested, sexually assaulted and killed.”

Gadhafi ordered his soldiers to cut off food, water and fuel to cities along the coast, and shelled cities and towns. “Military jets and helicopter gunships were unleashed upon people who had no means to defend themselves against assault from the air,” he said.

“Confronted by this brutal repression and a looming humanitarian crisis, I ordered warships into the Mediterranean,” the president said. “European allies declared their willingness to commit resources to stop the killing. The Libyan opposition, and the Arab League, appealed to the world to save lives in Libya.

“At my direction,” he continued, “America led an effort with our allies at the United Nations Security Council to pass an historic resolution that authorized a no-fly zone to stop the regime’s attacks from the air, and further authorized all necessary measures to protect the Libyan people.”

The coalition began military operations to enforce the U.N. resolution nine days ago, after it became apparent that regime forces were bearing down on Benghazi – the stronghold of the rebellion and home to more than 700,000 men, women and children.

“We knew that if we waited one more day, Benghazi … could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world,” Obama said.

“It was not in our national interest to let that happen,” the president said. “I refused to let that happen.”

After consulting congressional leaders, Obama ordered the strikes to save Benghazi. “We hit Gadhafi’s troops in neighboring Ajdabiya, allowing the opposition to drive them out,” he said. “We hit his air defenses, which paved the way for a no-fly zone. We targeted tanks and military assets that had been choking off towns and cities and we cut off much of their source of supply. And tonight, I can report that we have stopped Gadhafi’s deadly advance.”

The United States acted as leader of a coalition of nations. The United Kingdom, France, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates joined in the responsibility to defend the Libyan people, Obama said.

“In just one month, the United States has worked with our international partners to mobilize a broad coalition, secure an international mandate to protect civilians, stop an advancing army, prevent a massacre, and establish a no-fly zone with our allies and partners,” he said.