The Issue of a No-fly Zone in Libya

In 1991, in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War, then-President George H.W. Bush called upon Iraqis to rise up against Saddam.  The Bush administration, after “liberating” (I put it in quotes because I hardly consider the re-installation of the Sabah family in Kuwait to amount to liberation), refused going into Iraq to overthrow Saddam.  Then-Defense Minister Dick Cheney, the man who later masterminded the invasion of Iraq in ’03, justified their decision not to take out Saddam on the grounds that it would lead to a quagmire.  What irony! Iraqi Shi’as in the south and Kurds in the north, nevertheless rose up against the Ba’athist regime in the spring after Iraqi forces were defeated both in Kuwait and in Iraq. At the zenith of the uprising, 14 of Iraq’s 18 provinces fell to the rebels.  Although the Bush administration encouraged the revolt, it stood by idly as the Ba’athist regime used its air supremacy to firebomb and raze the north and south. US forces even refused to give the rebels arms that they had seized from Saddam’s forces. In other words, they denied Iraqis Iraqi weapons to defend themselves after they were encouraged to rise up against Saddam. More than 100,000 Iraqis died. When the brutality of the crackdown became an internationally publicized mass murder, which embarrassed the US, it was only then that the US (and the UK) imposed a no-fly zone. Today, in regards to the uprising in Libya, there is again much deliberation about imposing a no-fly zone. Libyans themselves have said that they don’t want any foreign ground troops on Libyan soil and that they can lead the charge against Tripoli themselves. This is understandable because foreign troops would give credence to Qaddafi’s false accusations that the rebellion is an imperialist plot. But the no-fly zone is something else and is welcomed and I agree as to its efficacy. If the last 10 days has taught us anything it’s that Qaddafi has the same capacity to murder his own people as Saddam did, and I don’t think the world should wait until after another 100,000 die to impose the no-fly zone.  There have already been reports that he has sent his fighter jets to bomb weapons caches seized by the opposition.  Qaddafi wants these rebellious cities to be defenseless for what is sure to come.  He has said over and over again that he will fight until the last Libyan and if there’s anything the international community can do to ensure this doesn’t happen, it is imperative that they do it.  Qaddafi is a ruthless tyrant and the Libyan people are leading the charge against him. If the world can offer small but vital support like enforcing a no-fly zone to aid the rebellion, it may turn out to be very decisive and they will garner the good graces of the post-Qaddafi Libya.

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