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Vol. 75/No. 18      May 9, 2011

Libya: White House talks about
pullback, launches drone strikes
(front page)
Just weeks after President Barack Obama said Washington was ending its airstrikes in Libya, his administration April 23 unleashed aerial drones armed with Hellfire missiles on the country. The move subjects one more place to the flying remote-control assassins, which are deeply resented by working people from Pakistan to Yemen.

Since coming to office, the Obama administration has greatly expanded the use of drone strikes in Pakistan, from 35 in 2008 to 53 in 2009 to 118 last year. In mid-March a Predator strike killed more than 40 civilians in the remote tribal areas of northwest Pakistan, according to Pakistani officials. The day before the first drone strike against Libya, at least 26 people, including civilians, were killed by a CIA drone attack in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal region.

Now the White House plans to use drones to attempt to identify and kill supporters of Moammar Gadhafi mixed among the civilian population in densely populated urban areas.

The drones are “uniquely suited for urban areas” where “it’s very difficult to pick friend from foe,” said Marine Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Cartwright said this step was being taken because the Libyan military has altered its tactics. “You are seeing a much more dispersed fight, people that are digging in or nestling up against crowded areas,” he said.

Cartwright, often described as Obama’s “most favored general,” is considered a likely replacement for Adm. Michael Mullen as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff later this year.

Cartwright and Vice President Joseph Biden argued in 2009 that instead of sending an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan, the U.S. military should instead increase drone attacks and send 10,000 special forces. The idea was that “rather than sitting there protecting people these troops would engage and kill the enemy,” wrote Bob Woodward in Obama’s Wars. “We can sort of use [the Taliban’s] tactics against them,” Cartwright is quoted as saying in the book.

The Pentagon has been deploying drones for spying missions over Libya since the civil war between opposition forces and Gadhafi’s troops began in mid-March, said Defense Secretary Robert Gates April 21, but this is the first time they’ll be used for airstrikes. At least two Predator drones will be patrolling Libya at all times.

Acknowledging that the imperialists’ military intervention in Libya “is likely to take awhile,” Gates downplayed the drone airstrikes, saying they provide “a very limited additional role” and should not be considered “mission creep.”

“Drone attacks have become an addictive tool of U.S. national security policy,” wrote David Ignatius, an associate editor of the Washington Post. “It brings a weapon that has become for many Muslims a symbol of the arrogance of U.S. power into a theater next door to the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions.”

On Sunday talk shows some capitalist politicians embraced the goal of targeting Gadhafi for assassination. Republican senator Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called for using U.S. airstrikes in Tripoli to “cut the head of the snake off.”

Sen. John McCain, who recently visited Benghazi, Libya, backed targeting Gadhafi and called on Washington to recognize the opposition Transitional National Council as Libya’s official government. Washington “has got to play a greater role on the air power side,” he said, as “our NATO allies neither have the assets, nor frankly the will.”

Britain’s former prime minister, Anthony Blair, expressed apprehensions about alternatives to Gadhafi’s rule. “I know quite a lot about what makes up the different compositions of the rebel groups—some will be people we would want fully to support, others would have a somewhat different view as to how Libya develops,” he told Danish TV.

London, Paris, and Rome announced in mid-April that they’re sending military advisers into Libya to train rebel forces.
Related articles:
Syria rebellion spreads despite gov’t repression
UK: Bahrain gov’t yanks scholarships of protesters
California demonstration condemns Syrian regime  
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