The United Nations seems to have taken new division and new alliances in the weekend just passed, as the United Kingdom, the United States, and France have joined to throw support behind the “freedom forces” in Libya.This is in opposition to the view put forward by China, and Russia.
The combined Western effort began on Saturday in the form of a counter-attack aimed at the Gadhafi loyalists at Benghazi. At that point, those in defense of Colonel Gadhafi were re-taking control of the Mediterranean seaport town of Benghazi. Benghazi is the area where just a few short weeks ago the rebel effort to unseat Gadhafi began. Initial reports called it a “Day of Rage”, in support of Egyptian students and other freedom fighters; other rebellions in Northern Africa.
In the early stages, Colonel Gadhafi sought to quell the popular effort with a raise in pay for some, and by the release of several hundred political prisoners. Gadhafi later denied that information, saying that in fact, Libya “had no political prisoners.” Reporting of day-to-day news events in Libya is difficult; one of the primary complaints of demonstrators in those early stages was government control of the media, and the government prevention of outside news coverage. Gadhafi was able to place sufficient restraints on global news agencies that they were unable to operate at all in Libya.
The Day of Rage developed unexpected popular support, and soon the world saw that the reign of Gadhafi was threatened. Gadhafi loyalists made effort to put down the rebels, now spread throughout Libya, with violence and bloodshed. Gadhafi was seen by the world as “murdering his own people.”
The fighting between rebels and loyalists has been torn first one way, then the other, as the world has watched. Libyan oil processing plants have been a major focal point in the ongoing bloodshed. Some in the West in response to the violence called for a no-fly zone; then the call was extended to air attacks. A decision was made to allow the attacks on the loyalists, and it is those air attacks, Operation Odyssey Dawn, that have now begun.
United States Naval EA-18G radar jammers are assisting in enforcement of the no-fly zone being established. American Marine Corps AV-88 Harrier jets, with the capacity to take off and land vertically have been enlisted against ground targets, flying from the USS Kearsarge, which was in the Far East to work with Japan on regularly scheduled maneuvers; maneuvers that were cancelled following the tragic earthquake and tsunami. United States Air Force F-15s, F-16s, and B-2 stealth bombers also are taking part.
Bombs have been dropped near the Gadhafi Palace in Tripoli. State run television indicates that hundreds of Gadhafi supporters are in the area around the palace, and at the airport, acting as human shields for the Colonel. Reports have said Gadhafi will retaliate, and will open arms depots to his supporters to defend Libya. Gadhafi has made reference to these depots on several occasions; at one point he insisted that al Qaeda terrorists had already removed the weapons.
The attacks at Tripoli were answered by anti-aircraft fire from the Gadhafi loyalists. Gadhafi made a speech imploring the people to defend Libya, and warning them that civilian and military targets were in serious danger. Gadhafi accused the attackers of “a colonialist crusade of aggression. This can lead to open a new crusade war.”
According to statements from the Pentagon, and the United Kingdom Defense Ministry, shots have been fired from planes in the United Nations campaign. A French Plane fired the opening volley. United States destroyers and British submarines have fired in excess of 100 Tomahawk missiles at Libyan military targets. Military targets, including anti-aircraft build up, radar installations, and platforms for surface-to-air missiles in the town of Misurata were attacked by United Nation military might in the form of Tomahawk/Cruise Missiles. In early fighting, Libya claimed to have shot down a French plane; this report was denied by the French government. United States Naval Vice-Admiral Wm. Gortney called the attacks thus far a “first phase of a multi-phase operation.”
Libyan Television announced that 48 civilians had died in the early hours of fighting, with more than 100 wounded. They claimed too that there had been bombardment in civilian urban areas.
Canada has promised to send warplanes to the region. Italy has okayed usage of Italian military bases.