Jewish World Review April 1, 2011 26 Adar II, 5771
Backing the Rebels, No Questions Asked
By Roger Simon
This is not merely my opinion. It is the statement of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, our point person in meeting with the rebels.
She was in London Tuesday to meet with diplomats from 30 countries, most of whom showed up to get in the group picture. There are certainly not 30 countries aiding us in waging the war in Libya.
Most of the media headlined Clinton's statement about possibly arming the rebels. Many stories left out entirely what I consider her more important statement that she really had no idea who the rebels are and that, in fact, they might actually include members of al-Qaida, the terrorist group that attacked America on Sept. 11, 2001.
I read dozens of stories that made no mention of this. Jennifer Epstein's story in Politico, I am happy to say, was an exception:
"Clinton didn't say whether the opposition movement includes members of the terrorist group al-Qaida, though she suggested it is possible.
"The opposition has demonstrated a 'commitment to democracy and to a very robust engagement with people from across the spectrum of Libyans,' but 'we do not have any specific information about specific individuals from any organization who are part of this,' she said."
Got that? We are killing people — Moammar Qadhafi's troops and possibly civilians through "collateral damage" — in order to put the rebels in power.
But "we do not have any specific information about specific individuals from any organization who are part of this," according to our secretary of state.
And they might include terrorists trying to destroy our country.
Does this make any sense? Shouldn't we know whom we are fighting for before we fight for them? Thus far, the U.S. has taken no casualties. Two of our airmen had to bail out over Libya, but thankfully they survived without injury.
We can't be sure our absolute safety will continue, however. Wars are messy. Accidents happen. And if we arm the rebels, those arms often require instruction and maintenance that sometimes requires "advisers" to accompany them.
President Obama has promised no American ground troops in Libya, but past presidents have injected advisers and even special forces into wars and not called them troops.
Make no mistake: Eventually troops — from some country — may be necessary if the rebels are going to win.
According to accounts from Western reporters on the ground, the rebels are highly disorganized, poorly trained, lightly armed and prone to rapid retreat.
Obama gave his speech Monday just at the time the rebels were taking territory and moving toward Qadhafi's stronghold, the capital city of Tripoli. Victory was in the air, and this made Obama's policy of intervention in Libya to protect American "core values" appear to be a stunning success.
But things have turned around quickly. The next day, Qadhafi's forces dug in and fired back. And, according to Reuters, "Libyan rebels fled in headlong retreat from the superior firepower and tactics of Moammar Gadhafi's troops."
According to the BBC's Nick Springate reporting from eastern Libya: "We've seen an incredible change in the last few hours. … It is an amazing routing of rebel forces. … Whenever they come up against the Gadhafi forces, they literally turn tail and run."
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the rebels were in "chaotic retreat" and that the rebel opposition "may have reached the limits of its capacity."
So this war might take longer than a few weeks. But according to BBC News: "There may be limited appetite for a long-term military campaign within NATO, even one restricted to air operations. All of the divisions that have been there from the outset risk resurfacing.
"A stalemate on the battlefield could reopen the question of arming the rebel forces, something that many see as being banned by the U.N.-imposed arms embargo."
By the way, the rebels' Transitional National Council was not invited to the London conference, even though some people claiming to be rebel officials showed up to talk in the corridors. (Clinton sat down with them in an actual office.) This is because almost nobody, including the United States, recognizes the rebels as the legitimate government of Libya.
Which could make it kind of tricky to give that $30 billion in frozen Libyan government money to the rebels so they can pay us for arms and support, as President Obama implied in his speech. And remember how we were going to pay for the Iraq war with Iraqi oil profits? Remember how well that worked out?
So let's see where we are: We are backing the rebels. Though we don't know who they are. And they appear to be in headlong retreat. Leaving us … where?
Oh, don't worry. We are backing the people of Libya, and the people of Libya love us, do they not?
"Libya has for years been a fertile recruiting ground for al-Qaida," The Washington Post reported Wednesday. "Libyans have served in the senior ranks of the terrorist network and streamed into Iraq in disproportionately large numbers to carry out attacks on U.S. forces."
Whoops. Is there time for a rewind?
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