No sooner had the French Defense Minister spoken on 7/12/11, reflecting also the views of the British and Italian military, than the US State Department issued a statement insisting that "the United States will continue efforts as part of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) coalition to enforce a U.N. Security Council-authorized no-fly zone in Libya designed to protect civilians under threat of attack, the State Department said. The spokesman did not mention that the no-fly zone was achieved back in March in 48 hours and that no Libyan aircraft have flown since. Mission accomplished 100 days ago.
Hilary Clinton repeated her earlier words, "Our efforts in Libya will take time, but let there be no mistake that the political, military, and economic pressure on Qaddafi continues to grow. The allies will continue to increase pressure until the Libyan people are safe, their humanitarian needs met, and a transition of power is fully under way."
And so it goes. On 9 July 2011, NATO claimed its aircraft carried out another "precision strike on a pro-Qaddafi missile firing position near Tawurgha, south of Misrata. According to its media office, "NATO intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance were conducted over a period of time to ascertain the military use of the site. It was confirmed as being used to launch indiscriminate attacks on Libyan civilians in the area and a staging area by pro-Qaddafi villagers, including planning attacks on rebel forces near the port and city of Misrata." The next morning, 7/10/11, local inhabitants denied that the farm had any military activity on the property and an examination of the farm buildings failed to discover any.
NATO is getting hammered by critics, including during its press conferences, especially by reporters from such groups as Jane's Defense Weekly who know a thing or two about weapons and war. Last week Jane's ridiculed the NATO commander who claimed that seeing satellite dishes on roofs were evidence of a particular site being a "Command and Control Center." Jane's found that assertion silly.
Congressional sources have been demanding answers from NATO, including the following incidences of civilian deaths caused by NATO's bombs and rockets (70% of which are US supplied, raising serious legal and political questions under the 1976 US Arms Export Control Act) and which were forwarded by a Congressional NATO liaison staffer for comment. The exact cases sent to NATO from the US Congressional included the following with a demand for an explanation:
1. On May 13, 2011, a peace delegation of Muslim religious leaders having arrived in Brega to seek dialogue with fellow Sheikhs from the east of Libya, was bombed at 1 a.m. in their guesthouse by two US MK 82 bombs. Eleven of the Sheikhs were killed instantly and 14 were seriously injured. NATO claimed the building housed a "Command and Control Center." All witnesses and the hotel owner have vehemently denied this claim.
2. During the early morning of June 20, 2011, 8 US missiles and bombs supplied to NATO targeted the home of Khaled Al-Hamedi and his parents and family. Fifteen family members and friends were killed , including Khaled's pregnant wife, his sister and three of his children. NATO said it bombed the home because it was a military installation. Witnesses, neighbors and independent observers deny there was ever any military installation or troop presence on the property.
3. In late June, 2011 on the main road west of Tripoli, a public bus with 12 passengers was hit by a TOW missile killing all the passengers. NATO claimed that public buses are being used to transport military personnel. Foreign observers, including this one, unanimously aver that they have not seen military personnel in Tripoli, including tanks; APC's or even military equipment.
4. On June 6, 2011, at 2:30 a.m. the central administrative complex of the Higher Committee for Children in central Tripoli, two blocks from this observer's hotel, was bombed with a total of 12 bombs/rockets. The complex housed the National Downs Syndrome center including its records and vital statistics office, the Crippled Women's Foundation, the Crippled Children Center, and the National Diabetic Research Center.
5. On June 16, 2011 at 5 a.m. NATO bombed a private hotel in central Tripoli, killing three people and destroying a restaurant and Shisha smoking bar.
NATO responses was to thank the Congressional office for the "interesting" information and then to explain, as NATO has been doing ad nausea recently, that , "By using civilian sites for military purposes, the Qadhafi regime has once again shows complete disregard for the welfare of Libyan civilians."
NATO's response continued, "Clearly, the main issue for NATO are allegations of civilian casualties, but it's important that we put those allegations in context of the NATO mission. Each and every civilian death is a tragedy. Obviously, more than we would like to see, sometimes, due to a technical failure, one of our weapons does not strike the intended military target. We deeply regret these tragic accidents and we always convey NATO condolences to the families of all those who may have been involved."
NATO'S response continued: "When NATO believes we have caused civilian casualties we will say so and we will do it as swiftly as we can establish the facts. If you look at our track record after nearly 15,000 sorties and nearly 5,000 strike sorties you can see we have taken utmost care to avoid civilian casualties and will continue to do so. Finally let me assure your Office that our mission fully complies with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 and our mandate remains to use all necessary means to prevent attacks and the threat of attack against civilians and civilian populated areas.
As international pressure builds on the White House to call off the NATO bombing campaign, several proposals are being discussed within the African Union, the Russian and Chinese Embassy's, and even between the "NATO rebels" and representatives of the Libya government in Tripoli.
One possible scenario might be for Libya to offer Obama and NATO a fig leaf which would include Colonel Qadaffi "retiring to his tent to write and reflect" while dialogue takes places among the Libyan people, including the tribes and 600 plus Peoples Congresses which of course should have been allowed to take place as Congressman Dennis Kucinich and others insisted back in February, 2011 before NATO invaded.
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