Gaddafi: calls grow for humanitarian intervention
First calls come for the West to save Libyan people from their bloodthirsty leader
With fears of genocide in Libya following Col Gaddafi's bellicose speech on TV yesterday evening, the inevitable calls are growing for outside intervention to save the Libyan people from their bloodthirsty leader.
Addressing the country from outside his Tripoli residence, never repaired since the US bombing in 1986, Gaddafi vowed: "I am not going to leave this land. I will die here as a martyr. I shall remain here defiant."
Describing the protesters against his 41-year regime as "cockroaches" and "rats", he called on his supporters to "cleanse Libya house by house".
"All of you who love Muammar Gaddafi, go out on the streets, secure the streets, don't be afraid of them... Chase them, arrest them, hand them over," he said.
The speech - described by German Chancellor Angela Merkel as "very, very frightening" - came on the day the United Nations finally discussed the crisis, urged on by members of the Libyan delegation in New York.
As a result, the Security Council issued a statement condemning the Libyan authorities for using force against protesters, demanding an immediate end to the violence and saying Libya's rulers had to "address the legitimate demands of the population".
The statement was "not strong enough" for Libya's deputy permanent representative in New York, Ibrahim Dabbashi, who had called on Monday for Col Gaddafi to step down. (His superior, Abdul Rahman Mohammed Shalqam, has distanced himself from Dabbashi's remarks, calling Gaddafi "my friend".)
Nor was it what Libyan Americans living in the Washington DC area wanted to hear. Hearing terrible stories from their homeland, and learning of the deaths of relatives, they are calling for direct intervention by the West.
"We are really concerned... about the safety of our families in Libya," Ashraf Tulty, organiser of a group gathered in Fairfax, Virginia, told ABC News. "We urge the international community to intervene through the UN to stop this bloodshed."
Their demand was supported by an editorial in the Christian Science Monitor which compared Gaddafi's use of force - and threat of more to come - to the incidents of mass slaughter seen in Rwanda (1994), Bosnia (1995), Kosovo (1999), and 2003 Darfur (2003).
Nato forces intervened on humanitarian grounds in Bosnia and Kosovo and while it may be a difficult decision to "break a state's sovereignty", the paper argues that the killings in Libya "have been atrocious enough to provide moral clarity".
The editorial concludes: "More than democracy is at stake. The world must also act against crimes against humanity. And words of condemnation are not enough...
"If ever a 'responsibility to protect' was made clear, it is now in Libya, where terror has been unleashed on its people."
The Wall Street Journal also calls for intervention, arguing: "It is hard to believe, but the Obama Administration seemed more eager to topple Egypt's Hosni Mubarak than it has Muammar Gaddafi, who has more American blood on his hands than anyone living other than Osama bin Laden. Now that the Libyan people are rising against him, they deserve urgent and tangible American support."
In Britain, Marc Lynch writes for Foreign Policy magazine: "We should not be fooled by Libya's geographic proximity to Egypt and Tunisia, or guided by the debates over how the United States could best help a peaceful protest movement achieve democratic change.
"The appropriate comparison is Bosnia or Kosovo, or even Rwanda where a massacre is unfolding on live television and the world is challenged to act.
It is time for the United States, NATO, the United Nations and the Arab League to act forcefully to try to prevent the already bloody situation from degenerating into something much worse."
Of course, politicians and academics are still arguing today over the rights and wrongs of the interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo.
When US bombers attacked Tripoli in 1986 it was to send a message that President Reagan's administration would tolerate no more acts of terrorism following the bombing of a West Berlin disco, in which two US servicemen were killed and many people were injured.
With hundreds of Libyans dead, and reports of atrocities including the attempt to bury alive a group of soldiers who refused to fire on unarmed protesters, we can expect more calls for the UN and Nato to send a forceful message to desist.
From Tripoli last night, there were reports immediately following Gaddafi's defiant speech of fireworks being set off and car horns blaring, suggesting his loyal followers were responding gleefully to the call to arms. Time is tight.
• Should the West intervene in Libya? Defence expert Robert Fox examines the post-Iraq dilemma. ·
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