Obama's attempts to take his "Gadhafi must go" foot out of his mouth was partially successful in the speech he gave on Monday night attempting to justify America's involvement in Libya. But like any Obama speech he just couldn't help slipping in a few self-aggrandizing outright lies about what happened as well as his decision making based on the "moral" imperative behind it. Which actually would have been stirring and uplifting had any of it been true. But, this is Obama talking and, par for the course, none of it was true.
Obama in his speech, said that he had "taken the lead" in forming a coalition of countries to create a no fly zone in Libya and to use military power to do it. He said it was based on his moral imperative of protecting Libyan civilians from being slaughtered by Gadhafi. That was, of course, a noble a sentitment and also a flagrant lie. Obama waffled,dragged his feet and was not just silent but played Where's Waldo regarding the revolution in Libya when it began, not even making a public appearance. People were wondering aloud when and if he was even going to say anything about Libya and, then when he did he made his famous "Gadhafi must go" remark but was indecisive when it came to taking action. Obama did nothing to back up what he was saying until finally the French and British had enough of the foot dragging and acted on their own.
Before the UN resolution authorizing force had even been voted on, a resolution that according to background sources had little or no input from the United States, French fighters were bombing targets inside Libya. Days before the resolution, the Arab League had given their seal of approval to a no fly zone and still Obama did nothing. Now, in his self serving speech he was trying to rewrite recent history and take credit for something he didn't do and had no part of.
In fact Jill Doughrety, a CNN correspondent in Paris attending Hillary Clinton's press conference announcing the enforcement of the no fly zone and that French fighters were already in the air over Libya and how America would support it, described Clinton before the press conference as "stunned" by how quickly the French acted unilaterally with the promise of support by the UK and the Canadians.
Clinton, in her press conference joked that to say that things were moving quickly was an understatement. Background reporting at the time said that because of Obama's foot dragging the US wasn't even consulted by French president Sarkozy and David Cameron of the UK about sending fighters into Libya and only knew about it after the fact.
Obama's statement that " at my direction America led an effort in the UN..." is preposterous, petty and even embarrassing in his attempt to claim credit. It is completely untrue.
Then according to Obama, it was his moral outrage at the killing of civilians that compelled him to decide to use military force in Libya to protect civilians. He said, " I refused to let a massacre happen and so ordered military action". A noble sentiment. And also a fairy tale.
A massacre would have happened if the French, British and others hadn't decided to take action first. People were already being killed. In fact it was the killing and bombing of civilian targets by Gadhafi that had been going on for days and his promise of a bloodbath to come and still no action or leadership role by Obama that led the French and UK to act on their own.
The sentiments Obama expressed in his speech were all the right ones. The reasons for military intervention were all the rights reasons. Only none of them were his. Obama was dragged into military action by the French and British. They were the ones who took the lead while Obama has tried to take the credit. And if anything goes wrong, you can bet Obama will point out that we are only there to help, that we have no leadership role and that its a NATO operation.
As for Obama's moral imperative, let's not forget that this revolution for democracy in the Arab world began, not in Tunisia or Egypt a few months ago, but more than a year ago in Iran when hundreds of thousands of protestors took to the streets to protest the rigged election that kept Ahmadinejad in power. The government attacked Iranian civilians in the street.Thousands were assaulted. Many killed. The most famous being Neda, the 24 year old student shot in the face and killed on the street by government thugs, all captured on a cell phone video. At the time, Obama did nothing. No American led UN resolution, no effort to bring pressure to bear on the Iranian goverment, no US led coalition, no concerns about civilians being killed by their government. Obama's response was that he "didnt want to meddle". Maybe his moral outrage was at the dry cleaners. Or maybe he just didnt have the guts to stand up to Ahmadinejad. So how far the U.S. will go in Libya will depend not on moral outrage but on how hard Obama is pushed in getting rid of Gadhafi. And hopefully the Libyan rebels wont be taken to the cleaners.
NOTE: In blowing his own horn less than 24 hours ago, Obama said in his speech, " as president I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action". As the headline and thrust of this article predicted, less than 24 hours later, reports of slaughter are coming from the city of Misrata which is under heavy attack from pro Gadhafi forces. Witnesses from the city have said " the carnage and destruction and human suffering from Gadhafi's forces terrorizing the city is beyond imagination" . Reports are of wholesale slaughter, Gadhafi troops evicting people from their homes and looting them, and gang rape of anti-Gadhafi women. Reports are that rebel forces are pleading with the coalition to use their air power to strike Gadhafi's tanks and artillery which are shelling the city. They are not and Obama has done nothing, seemingly to say that in this case he has no problem with images and reports of slaughter after all and proving once again that what Obama says are always just empty words. And unfortunately it seems, at least in Misrata, the rebels are being taken to the cleaners.