Sunday, March 20, 2011

Did GOP Racists Slow US Response to Libyan Crisis?

In real life, rarely does the cavalry appear over the horizon at the last moment to save the besieged townfolks. 

In Benghazi, the cavalry did come in the nick of time, but instead of John Wayne leading the charge, it was Gerard Depardieu.  With Moammar Ghadafy's armoured columns poised to strike the city, his lead forces already reported to be executing probing attacks on its western edge, French Rafale and Mirage fighters streaked over the horizon.  They pounded Ghadafy's column, leaving charred hulks of tanks and armored vehicles as his soldiers fled.

British and American ships launched more than one hundred cruise missiles against Khadafy's air defense net, and British and American aircraft joined in destroying the regime's radars and anti-aircraft missile sites.

But it was the French air force that saved the day for the residents of Benghazi, the city of 700,000 that was the heart of Libya's anti-Ghadafy uprising. "This is all France," a rebel fighter told a reporter from Reuters as they surveyed a field outside Benghazi littered with the smoking wreckage that had been Ghadafy's army.

A first world air force had obliterated a third world army.  The soldiers who had survived had fled, reportedly in stolen civilian vehicles. There had been no contest.  The workaday tanks and pickups with machine guns bolted onto their beds were fully capable of inflicting unmitigated death and misery on virtually unarmed civilians, but were no match for highly trained pilots in NATO aircraft launching precision munitions and cluster bombs.

Ghadafy's air defense net had been no match for cruise missiles capable of hitting a city bus from 600 miles away, or American B-2 bombers invisible to their radars.

No losses were reported among the Allied forces participating in the largest airstrike since the opening days of the Iraq War eight years ago.

This one-sided smack-down of a crazed and blood-thirsty tyrant was the impossibly perilous gambit US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his supporters had stubbornly refused to countenance. Gates, a Republican and former board member of the neo-con Iraq War think tank Science Applications International Corporation, had warned against imposing a no-fly zone over Libya in testimony before the US Congress, and had stuck by his position throughout the course of the delicate negotiations conducted by French and British leaders to build consensus for the action.

Gates was a key player in launching George W. Bush's Iraq War, and SAIC was front-and-center promoting the fictions about Saddam Hussiens' purported stockpile of chemical and biological weapons and his relationship with Al Qaeda.  Gates and SAIC declared that Khadafy was an important ally in the Bush Administration's War on Terror, the ongoing debacle that has become superseded by more recent and relevant crises throughout the Middle East.

To what extent Khadafy's role as Terror War ally impeded American support for the Libyan no-fly zone cannot be determined. Elements within President Barack Obama's administration were clearly concerned how others among America's allies would react to the US turning against one who had been so named.

It is also impossible to determine to what extent support for Khadafy among rank-and-file Republican voters impacted the long road to the French cavalry charge at Benghazi. Many white supremacists, an important constituency for Republicans, support Khadafy, as he is seen as a bulwark against immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa reaching Europe and the West.

As amazing as it may seem to many, American white supremacists included groups that saw a crazed tyrant who would slaughter his own people as a bona fide compatriot.  As Allied warplanes turned back Khadafy's loyalist column from massacring a major city's population, American white supremacists decried the intervention and denounced its success. 

Republican lawmakers, such as Senator Richard Lugar, joined Gates in sounding ominous warnings about the perils of implementing the Libyan no-fly zone. Both Lugar and the white separatist Council of Conservative Citizens expounded on the theme that US military action would require a Congressional declaration of war.

Some Republicans called for swift action against the Libyan tyrant, notably Senator John McCain, a Navy Vietnam veteran, ex-POW, and his party's candidate for President in the 2008 elections. McCain, a self-styled maverick, had recently hewed closer to the party line, but was among the few Republicans who advocated a no-fly zone.

Allied air incursions over Libya continued, as the French air force settled into enforcing the no-fly zone and actively sought signs of aggression by Khadafy's forces. In Benghazi, rebel forces regrouped and set out once again to rid themselves of the tyrant who had ruled their country for four decades. In a region where the United States could use all the street cred it could lay its hands on, it was the French who got to ride into the sunset as the townfolk cheered.

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