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Gaddafi Learns from Hamas… and NATO is Ready to Give Up

by
Posted on April 8 2011 8:54 am
Seth Mandel is the former managing editor of four New Jersey-based newspapers, where he won awards for his coverage of the Middle East and Russia. He has appeared on Shalom TV's current affairs roundtable. He is currently based in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @SethAMandel

 

On the day after Israel declared a ceasefire to end Operation Cast Lead in January 2009, the Associated Press published a story that presumably was met by those in Israel with the famous quote from Adam Sandler’s character in The Wedding Singer: “Gee, you know that information really would’ve been more useful to me yesterday.” Here’s the key paragraph:

“The high visibility of uniformed Hamas police stood in contrast to the furtive movements of Hamas fighters in civilian clothing who confronted or tried to evade the Israeli onslaught that began Dec. 27. Some have suspected the Islamic group was in disarray, but even some Israeli observers have acknowledged that the tightly knit organization remains largely intact.”

That is, Hamas waited until after the war to put their uniforms on. And how nice of the AP to tell its readers that Hamas was using the entire population of Gaza as human shields the day after the ceasefire.

In any event, the reason I bring this up is because Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi has begun using the same tactic, and NATO has all but raised the white flag. Here’s the Washington Post report:

Libyan military commanders loyal to Moammar Gaddafi are blunting the impact of NATO’s air campaign by hiding tanks and artillery in densely populated areas where the alliance’s fighter planes cannot easily reach them, U.S. and European diplomats said Wednesday.

The shift in tactics has meant fewer targets for NATO warplanes, fueling complaints by rebels who say the quality of air support has plummeted since the United States turned over command of Libyan operations to NATO. Opposition leaders say Gaddafi’s forces are inflicting particularly heavy casualties on civilians in the rebel-held city of Misurata, where dug-in loyalists have been operating with little interference from NATO missiles and bombs.

NATO officials in Brussels acknowledged carrying out fewer strikes around Misurata because of fears of inadvertently killing civilians in areas where the Libyan military was cheek by jowl with civilians.

“We have confirmation that in Misurata tanks are being dispersed, being hidden, humans being used as shields in order to prevent NATO sorties to identify targets,” Brig. Gen. Mark van Uhm, NATO’s chief of allied operations, said at NATO headquarters in the Belgian capital.

In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton decried the use of civilians as cover and said the tactical shift had complicated NATO’s task.

“It is difficult when you have a force such as is deployed by Gaddafi, insinuating itself into cities, using snipers on rooftops, engaging in violent, terrible behavior that puts so many lives at risk,” Clinton said at a news conference with Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini. But she added that NATO was “performing admirably” under the circumstances.

And that’s exactly what the rebels we’re supporting want, right? Right?

But in Benghazi, the mood in the streets turned angry Tuesday as demonstrators blasted NATO for reducing the number of airstrikes in recent days.

At the courthouse, a hub for revolutionary activity, about 300 people waved flags and chanted slogans, demanding airstrikes from NATO and arms for the rebels.

So the rebels are upset that we’ve dramatically reduced air cover. But don’t they know we’re protecting them? Then again, it turns out we may not be protecting them at all, and the “civilians” we’re not firing at are really Gaddafi’s hired guns. Here’s Strategy Page:

Gadhafi’s henchmen are now using trucks instead of tanks for transport. This shift was forced upon them — coalition air power has turned Gadhafi’s tanks into death traps. However, another new tactic his thugs are employing — so-called human shields — is a war crime, pure and simple, and an example of the tyrant’s calculated depravity.

Gadhafi’s upside, however, is a reduction in the effectiveness of coalition air power. Coalition pilots must now answer a crucial question: Is the vehicle we are targeting a rebel SUV or one belonging to Gadhafi?

You see, just like Hamas, Gaddafi’s forces are dressing as civilians, so the civilians we’re protecting by not allowing strikes are actually Gaddafi’s “civilians,” which is allowing Gaddafi’s “civilians” to murder the real civilians at will. Peter Kirsanow laid this all out about a week ago while Obama was still deciding whether and how much to arm the rebels:

We bombed Qaddafi’s forces because they were killing civilians. So Qaddafi’s forces began dressing like civilians. So the rebels began killing civilians. So NATO is warning the rebels not to kill civilians, otherwise NATO will bomb the rebels. But the rebels are dressed like civilians. So NATO may end up killing civilians.

In other news, the administration continues to debate arming the rebels who are dressed like civilians. But Qaddafi’s forces are also dressed like civilians. So we may be arming Qaddafi’s forces who are killing civilians while we also bomb the rebels who are killing civilians and bombing civilians who really are civilians but look like Qaddafi’s forces who are killing civilians.

Who’s on first?

And so, here we are a week later, and NATO has made the decision that since we can’t tell who is who, we’re just going to take a mulligan, pretend we haven’t taken sides in this Libyan civil war, and hope something else distracts the media.

And why would NATO take chances anyway? They know exactly what happens to Israel when Hamas dresses up as civilians and uses the few noncombatants they find as human shields. Goldstone appears, and immediately and falsely accuses Israel of war crimes. Who needs that trouble?

Though Israel doesn’t have this luxury in Gaza—as proven by the 45 rockets fired into Israeli territory in a three-hour span on Thursday—it appears NATO is ready to turn its back on the rebels and leave.

Who knew NATO could be so easily outfoxed by Gaddafi’s band of mercenaries? I would wager a guess that the Libyan rebels didn’t. I’ll bet they thought we were serious when we promised not to throw them to Gaddafi’s wolves.

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