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Borzou Daragahi and Brian Bennett report: "The second day of the Western military campaign against Moammar Kadafi saw an escalation of attacks, with bombing raids against ground forces loyal to the Libyan leader - and an escalation of questions on the strikes' objective and the extent of the US role."

People mill around near Moammar Kadafi's residence after a missile destroyed a building in the Libyan leader's complex in Tripoli, 03/21/11. (photo: Imed Lamloum/AFP)
People mill around near Moammar Kadafi's residence after a missile destroyed a building in the Libyan leader's complex in Tripoli, 03/21/11. (photo: Imed Lamloum/AFP)



Missile Damages Kadafi's Compound

By Borzou Daragahi and Brian Bennett, Los Angeles Times

21 March 11


RSN Special Coverage: Egypt's Struggle for Democracy

 

he second day of the Western military campaign against Moammar Kadafi saw an escalation of attacks, with bombing raids against ground forces loyal to the Libyan leader - and an escalation of questions on the strikes' objective and the extent of the US role.

As US officials said that Kadafi was not being targeted in a campaign that has seen his air defenses blasted by cruise missiles, a structure in his massive compound in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, was hit in a missile strike late Sunday.

With antiaircraft fire lighting up the sky, journalists were led to a bus after midnight and driven to the Bab Azizia compound, whose barracks-style buildings, barbed wire and hundreds of young militiamen brandishing semiautomatic weapons give it the look of a Tripoli "Green Zone."

Just 100 yards from the residence that President Reagan bombed a quarter-century ago, and 50 yards from the tent where the flamboyant leader receives dignitaries, a three-story complex had become a mound of wiring and tangled concrete. Metal girders stuck out from where the missile had sheared through the structure.

Journalists rummaging through the wreckage found guidance and control parts consistent with a US-made cruise missile. One piece said it had been manufactured in 2006.

"This attack was in contradiction to what the Americans and others have been saying, that it's not a priority to hit the leader," government spokesman Musa Ibrahim said as crowds of Kadafi supporters chanted, "Down, down, USA," and, significantly, "Death to Sarkozy," the French leader who has taken a very public role in the campaign.

Asked about the strike, Vice Adm. William E. Gortney told reporters, "At this particular point I can guarantee he is not on the targeting list."

In a briefing at the Pentagon, he said it was possible Kadafi could be hit "if he happens to be in a place inspecting a missile site and we don't have any idea he is there at the time" but that "we are not targeting his residence at this time."

After the initial bombardments, the leader of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, called the overnight campaign "excessive." At the same time, however, Arab League member state Qatar was moving fighter jets into position to begin flights patrolling over Libya.

In Brazil with President Obama, national security adviser Tom Donilon said the US military role is "very specific," involving a limited action meant to protect Libyan civilians from Kadafi's forces, which have been advancing on the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

The near-term goal of the military exercise is not to force Kadafi from power, White House officials said. Rather, the administration hopes to "squeeze" him by isolating him diplomatically, peeling away his support and imposing sanctions on his regime, they said.

It was only last summer that the US declared an end to combat operations in Iraq. In Afghanistan, where the US is leading a nearly 10-year war that recent polls show most Americans feel is no longer worth fighting, Obama has approved a plan to keep fighting until at least 2014, with no guarantee that by then the government in Kabul can handle security in the country.

But faced with the prospect of a humanitarian disaster at Kadafi's hands, Obama found himself in the uncomfortable position he has spent weeks trying to avoid: that of world policeman.

On Sunday, Republican House Speaker John A. Boehner asked Obama to clarify his objectives in Libya. "Before any further military commitments are made, the administration must do a better job of communicating to the American people and to Congress about our mission in Libya and how it will be achieved," Boehner said in a statement.

Indiana Republican Sen. Richard G. Lugar repeated his call for a declaration of war by Congress that would lay out a plan for the operations. "There always ought to be a plan for what is going to proceed," said Lugar, citing polls that the American people don't want to take on more expensive challenges when the nation is already struggling with the budget, deficits and the economy. One problem the administration faces is that even though Obama wants the US to play a supporting role in Libya - and, indeed, the first strike came from a French fighter jet - only the United States has the resources to launch the complex operations to clear Kadafi's air defenses.

But details about when and how the US will hand over leadership of the operation were elusive.

"We do not know when we will be ready to do that [hand over command] and we do not know what that structure will look like," Gortney said. "We are working very hard to define it."

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Sunday that there were a couple of possibilities for future leadership of the campaign. "One is British and French leadership. Another is the use of NATO machinery," Gates told reporters as he flew to Russia.

Whether the United States would take further steps to assist the rebels in Libya "remains to be seen," said Gates, who added that a partitioning of Libya would only contribute to "enduring instability" in the region. The rebels had swept westward from their eastern base before being chased back to Benghazi by forces loyal to Kadafi.

The US and its allies had made the calculation that a failure to intervene could mean a slaughter of civilians in Benghazi, home to 700,000 and Libya's second-largest city, and escalated the attacks beyond just preparing the ground for the implementation of a no-fly zone. Senior military officials pointed to the phrase in the United Nations resolution that authorizes the coalition to use "all necessary measures" to protect civilians in Libya.

Gortney said Sunday that Benghazi was not completely safe from attack by Kadafi's forces, "but it is certainly under less threat."

Sunday's attacks were carried out by 15 US aircraft, including Marine Harrier jets deployed from an assault ship in the Mediterranean and three Air Force B-2 stealth bombers that flew the 25-hour journey from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri to drop 45 bombs, each weighing 2,000 pounds.

Meanwhile, the operation's costs are mounting. Senior Defense officials would not comment on how much the operation has cost so far, saying they were focused on carrying out the mission at hand.

But an independent report released this month by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments estimated that the no-fly zone would cost at least $400 million to set up, and up to $100 million per week to enforce. Each Tomahawk missile costs more than $500,000, bringing the total price for Saturday night's initial volley to at least $55 million.

"That's what happens when everybody is cutting their defense: We are going to have to provide the majority of the resources," said Lawrence Korb, former assistant secretary for logistics under Reagan, who once called Kadafi "the mad dog of the Middle East."

Libyan authorities say more than five dozen people, all of them civilians, have died in the air raids, but have not shown evidence of extensive damage or civilian casualties.

In Tripoli, authorities took journalists to what they described as the city's seaside "martyrs" cemetery in an attempt to substantiate the official numbers of dead.

Journalists were met with the anger of hundreds of protesters screaming anti-American slogans and chanting boisterously in support of Kadafi.

"There is no God but God and the martyr is the beloved of God," they chanted.

But the visiting journalists found few of the ordinary characteristics of Middle East funerals, including politically charged ceremonies for those who died in battle. No burial processions were seen. There were no portraits of the martyrs or grieving mothers lying beside the tombs of their loved ones.

Instead, journalists were pummeled with contradictory stories about the dead by sometimes stone-faced men claiming to be relatives of the deceased. More than two dozen open graves were present, but only one body, wrapped in a white Islamic shroud and described as a young man named Ramadan Ashegani, could be seen placed into the dry earth.


Daragahi reported from Tripoli and Bennett from Washington. Times staff writers Peter Nicholas in Rio de Janeiro and Paul Richter in Washington contributed to this report.

 

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0 # Activista 2011-03-21 09:33
" U.S.-backed dictator killed 40 demonstrators on Friday ... " now army joined the demonstrators .." Hillary is blaming restive tribes ... how this differ from Libya ....?
 
 
+1 # Activista 2011-03-21 10:59
"coup against democracy",
this is about our good democratic dictator in Yemen - president Ali Abdullah Saleh - Obama and Saudi friend.

In Yemen it is "coup against democracy"
In Libya this is "coup for democracy"
to understand the difference per USraeli media.
 
 
0 # Activista 2011-03-21 09:44
Like Hillary - like Reagan:
BBC: Reagan 1986: US launches air strikes on Libya
At least 100 people have died after USA planes bombed targets in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, and the Benghazi region.
Around 66 American jets, some of them flying from British bases launched an attack at around 0100hrs on Monday.
...
Colonel Muamar Gaddafi residential compound took a direct hit that killed Hanna Gaddafi, the adopted baby daughter of the Libyan leader
----
20 March 2011 - Obama - Just 100 yards from the residence that criminal Reagan bombed a quarter-century ago, and 50 yards from the tent where the flamboyant leader receives dignitaries, a three-story complex had become a mound of wiring and tangled concrete. Metal girders stuck out from where the missile had sheared through the structure.
Journalists rummaging through the wreckage found guidance and control parts consistent with a US-made cruise missile. One piece said it had been manufactured in 2006
 
 
+1 # fredboy 2011-03-21 11:17
We are not targeting Gaddafi--then missles hit his residential compound.
Our involvement will be brief--now it is predicted to be "prolonged."
Sound familiar?
It also raises questions: Why no "no fly zone" over Saudi or China when civilians have been repressed?
Answers: Oil. Oil. And picking your fights (those you know you can win) carefully.
 
 
+1 # NCMike 2011-03-21 11:38
Where is all of the anger from the left for President Obama's illegal war? This is obviously about oil, so why haven't the hysterics started?
 
 
0 # KittatinyHawk 2011-03-21 13:38
Cannot find Kadhafi, wow, that sound like Bush/Cheney with Bin Laden. Difference is Kadhafi is probably not on OBama's Ranch

Boner, oops I mean, Boehner should be promoting war, would sanction his want for more Military Spending. Believe we heard a statement on several occasions, that we would help allies.

Europe and NATO plus UN should do their work, we are still playing in other Countries for what reason? Cannot afford the Budget but we can afford Wars
GOP Way, kill, kill, kill, take, take ,take
 
 
-1 # NCMike 2011-03-21 14:36
What does the GOP have to do with this? Obama is a Democrat and is President. Hillary Clinton is a Democrat and is the Secretary of State. The inner circle making the decision to join England and France are all Democrats. We can't afford what we spend domestically or internationally . This is not about freedom or tyrannical leaders; it is military action under the direction of Democrats who are, in their words, protecting American interests abroad. That line of thinking drew never ending howls from the left when President Bush was doing nearly the exact same thing (with the exception that he sent ground troops, which President Obama still may do).
 
 
+3 # Glen 2011-03-21 16:13
In truth there is no longer a democratic or republican party. There is a new system in place and both are working toward the same end within a common agenda. Both have morphed into neo-conservativ e and neo-liberal systems.

Most Americans have not adjusted to that fact yet. Citizens continue to argue from those two sides and yes certain members of the republican party are acting out an agenda that is rather flaming in its corruption, but behind those scenes are the democrats letting it happen and then moving on with the bigger agenda.
 
 
0 # Sukumar 2011-03-21 18:34
It drew nothing of the sort. The resolution to use force inj Iraq received overwhelming support in Congress, fawning coverage in the press and yawns from much of the left. The Kucinich who yowled then is still yowling now. Others on the left only soured on the war after Bush declared "Mission Accomplished" on a deck in San Diego and still the troops didn't return home, only body bags.
 
 
+1 # genierae 2011-03-22 11:53
This person of the left howled even before the Iraq invasion began Sukumar, and I think there were millions of lefties who did the same. We just didn't get any airtime on mainstream corporate media, fawning or otherwise. President Obama should have taken his argument for a no-fly zone to congress, but the danger to Benghazi citizens from Kadaffi was imminent. He was between a rock and a hard place, and its times like this that make me wonder why anyone would want to be president in these insane times.

Wasn't the building that was bombed the one where the golden fist, clutching the US jet fighter was? Ego-inspired bombs falling on an ego-inspired statue. Testosterone on the rampage again.
 
 
0 # Activista 2011-03-21 20:49
Qaddafi/Saleh refused to submit to calls for his resignation and claimed he had the support of the vast majority of people in the most prosperous country in Africa.

"We're still here ... the great majority of the Libyan/Yemen people are with security, stability and constitutional law," he said.

"Those who are calling for chaos, violence, hate and sabotage are only a tiny minority." ???

If two do the same - it is not the same - but Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime has US and Saudi support ... killing his own citizens is kosher.
Schizophrenic neocons - McCain, Lieberman, Clinton, Congress ...
 
 
-2 # James38 2011-03-22 03:06
Yessss!! Get the camel ****ing maniac. He is nothing but a killer. Lockerbie happened without his knowledge? Like hell it did. The chickens have finally come home to roost. This is the first clearly justified use of military force I can remember. Keep it up.

Give the rebels all the help they need. How many of "his" people have Gadaffy and his goons massacred in the past week? He deserves no respect or consideration as head of state. He took power in a coup, and has set up a cult of self-worship. He is a nutcase like Mugabe, the idiot in Cote d'Ivoire, and the wacko Assad in Syria. Mugabe is next. Get that scum murderer criminal out of Zimbabwe!
 
 
0 # Foxtrottango 2011-03-22 14:38
Kadaffy was just an excuse for the US and it "western allies" to seize it's oil fields. That it is being done in the name of the Libyan people to free them them is a big joke! It's all about oil and that the prime reason why they want Kadhafi out. He has become a libility to the west and no longer serves their purpose.

But it won't do any good, the Libyan people will turn against the west once they find out what the real motive is.

And what is the real motive? It's oil, of course, and nothing else matters!
 

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