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Stop the Qaddafi Tsunami Before It Is Too Late

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Posted on March 14 2011 11:13 am
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The horrific natural disaster in Japan and its aftermath have appropriately dominated the news since the earthquake and tsunami first struck last week. The death toll – in excess of 10,000 so far – is truly staggering. And the leakages from Japan’s crippled nuclear reactors threaten the lives and health of many more people.

But the press must not submerge the man-made horrors that continue to engulf the world today, particularly in Libya where military forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi are rolling over the rebels in his own version of a tsunami of mass murder.

Where is the Obama administration as Qaddafi’s killing field expands? No human efforts could have prevented the tsunami in Japan, but the same cannot be said of the tsunami overtaking Libya.

President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have said that they must wait for a consensus of the international community in support of military intervention before the United States will use any force to stop Qaddafi’s advance. But if that is so, why isn’t the United States taking the lead at the United Nations Security Council to help make that happen? Why hasn’t the United States even taken the steps that France has to officially recognize the Libyan rebel leadership, the National Libyan Council (NLC), as the country’s legitimate government.

When Obama accepted his Nobel Peace Prize, he delivered a speech outlining his notion of a just war, which was consistent with the United Nations’ declaration of the “Responsibility to Protect” civilian populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, by collective force if necessary. Obama acknowledged that the use of force can be justified for certain purposes other than self-defense, namely on humanitarian grounds, to prevent the slaughter of civilians and to halt mass violence:

I believe that force can be justified on humanitarian grounds, as it was in the Balkans, or in other places that have been scarred by war. Inaction tears at our conscience and can lead to more costly intervention later… When there is genocide in Darfur, systematic rape in Congo, repression in Burma — there must be consequences. Yes, there will be engagement; yes, there will be diplomacy — but there must be consequences when those things fail.

Those things have failed in Libya. It is time for “consequences” in response to the pleas from the besieged rebels, and applied in concert with regional groups such as the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Conference and the Gulf Cooperation Council, whom have called on the UN Security Council to authorize a no-fly zone to protect civilians from relentless air strikes. The resolution should be worded broadly enough to allow other forms of military action, such as the use of unmanned drone attacks, against Qaddafi’s tanks, planes on the ground, runways and munitions facilities.

If the United States takes the lead in sponsoring such a resolution that Muslim nations are requesting, Qaddafi’s attempt to score propaganda points by alleging a Western invasion of a Muslim country for oil will have no credibility.

We should not be afraid to act because of the possibility of a veto by China or Russia. If they want to be seen as the defenders of Qaddafi’s brutality against the citizens of his own country including women and children, so be it.

There is no time to waste. Military experts estimate that, unless something is done immediately to stop Qaddafi’s momentum, his forces will be in position to retake the rebels’ capital of Benghazi within a week. Massacres will surely follow.

Anne-Marie Slaughter, a foreign policy advisor to Barack Obama during the presidential campaign and professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton, wrote in today’s New York Times that the noose is

tightening around the Libyan rebels, as Colonel Qaddafi makes the most of the world’s dithering…It is time to act.

In Japan, all we can do is pray and provide whatever humanitarian and technical assistance we can to alleviate the suffering and prevent further damage. The forces of nature were too powerful to be prevented. In Libya, we can do more to stop the tide of evil in its tracks.

Joseph Klein is the author of a recent book entitled Lethal Engagement: Barack Hussein Obama, the United Nations and Radical Islam

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