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Vol. 75/No. 14      April 11, 2011

U.S. rulers extend war:
Hands off Libya!
(front page)
While President Barack Obama talks about a military drawdown, Washington is extending imperialist air assaults against Libya.

In the first 10 days since the attacks began March 19, nearly 200 Tomahawk cruise missiles have been fired, all but 7 from U.S. warships. U.S. forces have flown about 370 attack missions, dropping more than 450 precision-guided munitions, with another 147 dropped by other governments.

Along with Washington, the most aggressive powers conducting the assault have been Paris and London. The European governments of Spain, Denmark, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Romania, and Belgium are backing the attacks. Arab League members Qatar and the United Arab Emirate have sent warplanes.

The imperialist airstrikes come in the midst of a civil war raging in Libya following protests to end Moammar Gadhafi’s four-decade-long tyrannical rule. The aim of Washington and imperialist powers in Europe is to stabilize capitalist rule and protect their interests and investments in Libya and the region.

The U.S. military will “continue to do the lion’s share” of specialized missions like flying aerial refueling tankers and surveillance planes, Vice Adm. William Gortney, director of the U.S. Joint Staff, told the media March 25. Plans are in the works to use Air Force’s AC-130 gunships armed with cannons, as well as helicopters and drones.

In appearances on several Sunday talk shows March 27, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Washington’s military intervention could go on for months or longer. Gates and Clinton “say it may last awhile,” as a New York Times headline put it.

The Obama administration is considering whether to supply arms to the opposition forces, a move strongly backed by French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

The airstrikes on Gadhafi’s ground forces and equipment enabled opposition forces in the civil war to briefly retake several key cities in eastern Libya, including Brega and Ras Lanuf, where two major oil refineries are located. But Gadhafi’s forces drove the rebels back.

Gains by the opposition may be fleeting, noted Gen. Carter Ham, head of the U.S. Africa Command. The Libyan regime’s firepower on the ground “still vastly overmatches opposition forces militarily,” he told the Times.

Much of the artillery deployed by Gadhafi was supplied to his regime by some of the very imperialist governments now bombarding it. Since 2004, when the European Union lifted its arms embargo, EU states sold $1.5 billion worth of arms to Gadhafi. Last year Paris and Rome were in the midst of negotiating further modernizing of Libya’s weaponry. Prior to this year’s protests, the Obama White House itself had approved $77 million for armored troop carriers for Tripoli.

“There’s no solution unless you put boots on the ground,” retired army general Jay Garner told the Wall Street Journal. “That’s the dilemma the president and everyone else are realizing.”

Obama in his nationwide address on Libya March 28 spoke against this option. “If we tried to overthrow Gadhafi by force, our coalition would splinter. We would likely have to put U.S. troops on the ground,” the president said. “We went down that road in Iraq… . That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya.”  
NATO assumes command
Military command for enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya is being taken over by NATO March 30. The U.S. Africa Command had been in charge.

Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard from Canada will command the NATO operations, serving under the direction of top U.S. military officials. Washington is the dominant power within the NATO military alliance. NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, currently U.S. admiral James Stavridis, is a post always held by a U.S. officer.

Handing command over to NATO has been fraught with controversy among rival imperialist regimes, each seeking to advance the class interests of its own capitalist rulers. Washington, London, and Italy argued for NATO to take over.

Paris, which rejoined NATO in 2009 after 43 years of maintaining its own separate military structure, sought to establish a joint Anglo-French military command instead. Under pressure from Washington and London, however, French president Sarkozy dropped the proposal.

For the imperialist government in Paris, the intervention in Libya “is a way to reassert to Europe, but particularly to Germany, that France still leads the Continent on foreign and military affairs,” wrote Stratfor, a private intelligence service. It’s aimed “as a counter to Germany’s overwhelming economic and political power in the European Union.”

Berlin, for its part, has taken its distance from the military attacks on Libya. It withdrew four of its warships from NATO command in the Mediterranean Sea. Instead, the government is shipping 300 additional troops to Afghanistan.

As the imperialist rulers continue their assault and vie for position against each other, working people the world over must demand, “Hands off Libya!”  
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