Posts Tagged ‘Juan Miguel Muñoz’

Negotiating with War Criminals? Obama’s Debacle in Libya — Update #7 (May 4)

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Moammar Qaddafi continues to commit war crimes, attacking a ship in Misurata delivering humanitarian supplies and evacuating wounded, while members of the Libya contact group travel to Rome to devise a political solution to the crisis in Libya. See

Adrian Blomfield, “Libya: aid ship cuts short mission in Misurata after coming under fire — A British-funded aid ship was forced to cut short its mission to evacuate civilians from Libya after Col Muammar Gaddafi’s forces shelled the port of Misurata shortly after it docked,” The Telegraph, May 4, 2011.

Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, “Libya: Aid ship comes under fire in Misrata — An international aid ship helping to evacuate people from the besieged Libyan port of Misrata has come under rocket attack from government forces,” BBC News, May 4, 2011.

Video: In Misrata Port, Ship Braves Shelling to Save Patients, Migrant Workers, May 4, 2011

In New York, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, has told the U.N. Security Council that there is evidence that crimes against humanity and war crimes have been and are being committed. He is requesting arrest warrants for three Libyan officialse. Joe Lauria reports,

UNITED NATIONS—The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor told the U.N. Security Council he is seeking arrest warrants against three members of Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s regime on suspicion of committing crimes against humanity in Libya.

“The evidence collected establishes reasonable grounds to believe that widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population have been and continue to be committed in Libya, including murder and persecution as crimes against humanity,” prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said Wednesday.

“There is also relevant information on the alleged commission of war crimes,” Mr. Moreno-Ocampo told the 15-member council in New York. The Security Council in February referred the situation in Libya to the ICC to investigate possible war-crimes charges.

–Joe Lauria, The Wall Street Journal, May 4, 2011

Meanwhile, as noted above, diplomats are traveling to Rome for a meeting of the international contact group on Thursday, where a wide range of items are reported to be on the agenda, including plans for financing for the rebel government in Benghazi, and the political future of Libya.

One problem appears to be that the U.S. and major powers, with the great success of eliminating Bin Laden, have had a hard time paying attention to what is occurring on the ground in Libya. Had they been doing so, there might also be an urgent meeting on Thursday of NATO generals in Brussels.

One is never so vulerable to error as immediately following a great success.

The bankruptcy of the present policy of managing a war campaign by consensus amoung politicians and diplomats, in diplomatic conferences where consesus is the goal, is manifest.

We can at least hope that in Rome full attention will be given not to the many sideshows that are on offer (e.g., Berlusconi’s idea of putting a time limit on the coalition’s military operation), but rather to the central issue:

Will the coalition give its military commanders clear instructions to throw all of their resources into an effort to win the battle against Qaddafi?

It is certainly time for boots on the ground, in the form of amphibious and other forces that can secure the port of Misurata so that humanitarian aid can be supplied to the population, and the wounded can be evacuated.

Or should the Rome contact group consider a cease-fire that leaves Qaddafi in command of his troops, with a view toward a political settlement–with a regime which is engaged in an ongoing campaign of committing crimes against humanity and war crimes against its people?

Stay tuned.

The Trenchant Observer

For previous articles on Libya, see the following:

If Misrata falls…: Obama’s debacle in Libya– Update #6 (May 2)
May 2, 2011

Fierce Artillery Attacks on Misurata: Obama’s Debacle in Libya — Update #5 (May 1)
May 1, 2011

NATO Impotent: Obama’s Debacle in Libya — Update #4 (April 28)
April 29, 2011

The Human Cost: Obama’s Debacle in Libya — Update #3 (April 26)
April 26, 2011

Obama’s Debacle in Libya — Update #2 (April 23)
April 23, 2011

Obama’s Debacle in Libya — Update #1 (April 22)
April 22, 2011

Obama’s Debacle in Libya
April 21, 2011

Libya — “All necessary measures”
March 29, 2011

Current military actions in Libya
March 26, 2011

“Analyst-in-Chief” muddies waters; “Commander-in-Chief” cannot be found
March 22, 2011

Shooting Straight About Military Operations in Libya
March 21, 2011

While Carthage Burns, Obama Dithers
March 14, 2011

Zawiyah–Qaddafi’s victory, but stories will be told
March 10th, 2011

Libya—America Abdicates Global Leadership in Struggle for Democracy
March 10th, 2011

Zawiyah 2011 = Srebrenice 2005
March 8th, 2011

Libya and “The Audacity to Act”
March 6, 2011

The Struggle for Democracy in Bolivia, Spain, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon, Ivory Coast, and Iran
March 3, 2011

If Misurata Falls…: Obama’s Debacle in Libya– Update #6 (May 2)

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

For the latest developments in the fighting in Libya, see

Lin Noueihed (Reuters), “Fighting rages in Libya’s Western Mountains,” Reuters.com, May 2, 2011.

ABC News (Australia), “Gaddafi’s tanks hit rebel city as son is buried,” May 3, 2011.

See also

Borzou Daragahi, “Inside a city running on fear:
Six weeks in the Libyan capital, in a hotel under lock and key, give a journalist a taste of the daily oppression and suffering Kadafi’s regime inflicts on citizens,”Los Angeles Times, May 1, 2011..

If Misurata falls…

One might have written, “If Zawiyah falls…,” but then Zawiyah did fall. We still don’t know exactly what happened there.

One could make the argument that however regrettable the loss of innocent human life as the result of the bombing of Qaddafi’s son’s compound, which NATO reports was being used as a command and control center–and the deaths of three small children are indeed regrettable–one should not lose sight of the fact that Qaddafi’s forces are killing many more than three small, innocent children every day. Under his orders.

One could make the argument that the ongoing commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in e.g., Misurata, where the civilian population has been subjected to tank and artillery attacks– and is probably under attack at this very moment–should be brought to a halt.

By the use of “all necessary measures”.

One could argue that amphibious and ground troops should be introduced immediately in Misurata in order to secure a humanitarian supply route through the port and the airport.

One could argue that the United States should re-engage in Libya with “the two most accurate close air support weapons systems, the A-10 and the AC-130“, to help defend the civilian population of towns currently under assault by Qadaffi’s military forces.

But why bother? Why should the Libya contact group meeting in Rome on Thursday do anything other than manage their political exposure, attend to inter-alliance arguments over what is and what is not appropriate action in Libya, when up to now they have been perfectly happy to proceed in disarray, with no vision of victory, and no sense that it even matters to prevail in Libya.

Punch the clock. Show that you are doing something. Explain to the world that you can’t complete the anti-mining operation to clear the port of Misurata because Qaddafi’s forces use small mines that are difficult to find.

Who is there to make the argument that in war speed, tactical advantage and momentum are qualities that can make a decisive difference if properly seized upon?

Who could make the argument that while the Russians and the Chinese are unhappy with the way the NATO campaign is going, their displeasure might be mitigated if it were brought to a rapid and successful conclusion?

The failure of incremental decision making by a broad political coaltion is there for all to see. What was and remains necessary has been for the politicians and diplomats to turn the conduct of NATO military operations over to a single commander who is tasked with simply finishing the job.

The longer the fighting in Libya drags out, the more difficult it will become for coalition partners to maintain essential domestic support.

Perhaps it is time for NATO and other coalition members to focus intently on Plan B, prolonged and inconclusive military operations from the air, with a substantial likelihood of failure, leaving Qaddafi entrenched in power. This outcome could even be the result of a negotiated solution.

Would it be possible under Plan B, assuming you don’t care about the thousands who will be hunted down and executed by Qaddafi, to somehow put Qaddafi “back in his box”? To prevent him from supporting or engaging directly in international terrorism?

Of course, coalition partners and the contact group might find “success” through knocking out Qaddafi when he is somewhere giving commands, and therefore operating as a command and control center. That would be legitimate.

In the meantime, what about the people in Misurata and the other towns and cities in Libya that are under assault?

What should be done to protect those civilians?

The Trenchant Observer

Twitter: www.twitter.com/trenchantobserv
E-mail: observer@trenchantobserver.com

Fierce Artillery Attacks on Misurata: Obama’s Debacle in Libya — Update #5 (May 1)

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

EYES ON THE BALL

While overshadowed by the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death–for which President Obama deserves great credit–the war on the ground in Libya proceeds with renewed intensity.

Qadaffi’s forces continued to attack Misurata with artillery, in perhaps the fiercest attacks to date. Juan Miguel Muñoz of El País reports:

Military attacks

The Army undertook an offensive against various cities throughout the length and breadth of Libya, with particular fury in Misrata, in a war that becomes more confused each day.

The attacks of the Army with artillery and Grad rockets against Misrata were more virulent than ever, according to neighbors quoted by various news agencies which reported intense bombardments of the port and the airport. Uniformed soldiers were also deployed in strength against the western town of Zintan, and also in Wazin, a small city near Tunisia, whose authorities closed the border crossing. They also tried to attack in Jalu, hundreds of kilometers south of Benghazi, where NATO destroyed 45 military vehicles. The rebel commanders are convinced that Qaddafi wants to seize control of the border between Libya and Egypt in order to isolate the insurgents.

–Juan Miguel Muñoz, “La muerte de un hijo de Gadafi desata las represalias del régimen: Partidarios de Gadafi asaltan embajadas.- La ONU se retira de Trípoli. -El Ejército bombardea el asediado puerto de Misrata,”El País, 1 de mayo de 2011.

See also

Lin Noueihed (Reuters), “Les kadhafistes poursuivent leurs attaques dans l’Ouest libyen,” Le Point, le 2 mai, 2011 (LePoint.fr).

The mightiest military alliance in the world, NATO, has not yet halted the attacks on Misurata.

If NATO can’t stop artillery attacks on Misurata and the shelling of its port, it is not likely that the Taliban in Afghanistan will be swayed by its awesome power.

If NATO can’t halt the attacks on Misurata, it is difficult to see it playing a useful role in the North Atlantic in the future.

Indeed, NATO’s impotence in Libya may well be a harbinger of the demise of the organization.

Republicans are not likely to fail to make the point that it was a failure of American leadership that produced this failure by NATO, and Obama’s debacle in Libya.

The Trenchant Observer

Libya — “All necessary measures”

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011
  • Update on Military Operations in Libya Juan Miguel Muñoz of El País (Madrid) continues to provide perhaps the best reporting on what is actually going on in Libya on the ground. His reports in Spanish may be translated using the Google translate button at the bottom of this page.

    ***

    By U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 (17 March 2011), the Security Council

    4. Authorizes Member States that have notified the Secretary-General, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, and acting in cooperation with the Secretary-General, to take all necessary measures…to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi…

    Is Qadaffi a legitimate military target?

    Muammar Qaddafi continues to head and direct a command structure which, implementing his orders, employs sharpshooters to assassinate innocent civilians in cities like Misurata which have been under siege, to conduct artillery and other heavy weapons strikes against civilian areas of cities such as Misurata, and to detain and torture and assassinate other individuals in violation of the laws of war.

    Looking back over the last several weeks, it seems clear that this command structure, and the man who leads it, have systematically ordered and implemented a strategy of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in order to retain power.

    A key question which has not been answered by the Allies is:

    On what rationale is Qaddafi, the commander of this military and state apparatus that is killing civilians and committing war crimes, not considered to be a legitimate military target in order to protect the civilian population of Libya?

    Of course, even if he is a legitimate military target, there may be other practical and political considerations that militate against attacking him directly.

    Still, the clarification of the fact that Qaddafi is a legitimate military target could help concentrate his mind on departure options.

    President Obama, NATO, and Comand of Military Operations by Consensus

    The bravery of French, U.K. and U.S. pilots in establishing a no-fly zone over Libya and attacking Qadaffi’s military forces on the ground turned back the tide of Qaddafi’s advance on Benghazi, saving hundreds if not thousands of lives.

    Securing the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1973 was the product of brilliant diplomacy by the U.S. and other nations. But there are disturbing signs of growing confusion between the concepts of coalition-building to produce Security Council authorization, and the use of coalition-building to implement its terms by the use of military force.

    The decision to hand over the control of military operations to NATO, at a very early date in this military campaign, has resulted in a cessation of allied air strikes against Qaddafi’s mechanized forces, superior firepower, and trained military units.

    By asking NATO to command military operations and taking a backseat role in the leadership of NATO, Obama and the U.S. have in effect chosen to weaken the use of military force against Qaddafi, while simultaneously introducing a cause of dissension within NATO that could cause grievous damage to the alliance.

    NATO’s Secretary General, for example, now takes a position contrary to that of the U.S. with regard to arming the rebels in Libya. Such action is clearly permitted by Resolution 1973. Here we see a political difference regarding the resolution’s implementation.

    NATO takes decisions by consensus. That constrains NATO’s freedom of action in the military sphere by giving great influence to its weakest links on the Libyan question, Germany and Turkey.

    Moreover, by giving operational command to NATO, the U.S. has further constrained the freedom of action of France, the U.K. and the U.S. itself to take independent military action, as authorized by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973.

    To what effect?

    Without access to information on the government’s inner deliberations and consultations with allies, one can pose the obvious questions but not, not immediately at least, provide definitive answers to them.

    The questions include:

    1. Do the U.S., its allies and NATO believe that, by halting close ground support by airstrikes against Qaddafi’s military as it proceeds to retake the cities on the road to Benghazi, they are strengthening the prospects for divisions within the Libyan military that could bring Qaddafi down? If so, is this belief based on a reasonable assessment of the facts?

    2. Can the battle be fought and won inside Qaddafi’s head or those of his inner circle, while allowing his military to regain momentum in its push to retake the cities in the east, and perhaps even Benghazi?

    3. Does the halt in close air support help the prospects for defections from Qaddafi’s regime? Is the talk of arming the civilian opposition an effective substitute for close ground support against Qaddafi’s armies?

    The Observer is reminded of Oliver Wendell Holmes’ famous dictum that if you strike at a king, you must strike to kill. In this case, that would mean at a minimum that Qaddafi departs Libya and takes up residence in a country that would guarantee that he could not direct international terrorist strikes from his new home.

    Obama’s Approach to International Affairs

    Obama’s approach to international affairs, including the use of force, even when authorized by a U.N. Security Council resolution, appears to be fundamentally intellectual and political in nature. The task is an intellectual challenge, resolved by brilliant analysis and decision on a policy. Implementation is left to others, as when the president traveled to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador on the eve of the military strikes against Libya.

    It seems to be an intellectual approach where the major action points are viewed as policy decisions, not winning territory on the ground in an armed conflict, though that is to be sure the hoped-for outcome. The president’s role is to focus on the policy decisions. And then he disengages and takes up another intellectual challenge.

    One recalls that between his apeech on Afghanistan at West Point on December 1, 2009 and his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in Oslo on December 10, 2009, the president turned his atention to an economic and jobs summit midway through this period, and then had to pull an all-nighter on Air Force One to try to pull his Nobel Prize Speech together.

    When one looks hard at the decisions he has made, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the president’s primary objective is “to manage” international conflicts and affairs, as domestic affairs, in a manner that will enable him to be reelected in 2012.

    Reelection is probably a goal of almost all politicians. Certainly there are exceptions. Winston Churchill comes to mind. But with Presdent Obama, it appears to be the primary and overriding goal.

    It is perhaps the prism through which the president’s actions can best be understood. In this sense, Obama’s current policy towards Libya seems to be succeeding.

    This hypothesis helps us understand, for example, why the president tolerates Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ repeated statements at odds with administration policy, or aimed at publicly pressuring the president in a manner that limits his freedom of action.

    If apparently successful in electoral terms, at least so far, the only things missing from the president’s approach are strategy, and attention to the details of implementation and the results they are producing, such as the advance of Qaddafi’s forces on the ground, once again, toward Benghazi.

    The Trenchant Observer

    www.trenchantobserver.com
    Twitter: www.twitter.com/trenchantobserv
    E-mail: observer@trenchantobserver.com

    Comments are invited

  • Current military actions in Libya

    Saturday, March 26th, 2011

    In U.S. newspapers, it is difficult to get a sense of what is actually going on in Libya on the ground. One of the best accounts in the last hours has been publshed in El País, in Madrid, in Spanish. The reader can use the Google Translator at the bottom of this page to see a version in English, or another language.

    See Juan Miguel Muñoz / Agencias, “Los rebeldes libios retoman la ciudad estratégica de Ajdabiya,” El País. 26 de marzo de 2011.

    See also Thierry Portes, “À l’Est, la bataille d’Ajdabiya s’intensifie,” Le Figaro, le 25 mars, 2011; and

    Imed Lamloum (AFP), “Explosions rock military site in Libyan capital,” Inquirer.net, March 26, 2011.

    The Trenchant Observer