THE LIBYAN REVOLT – WE THINK – AT 10:01 A.M. ET: It continues to be extremely difficult to get hard news out of Libya. There are few Western reporters, and the claims by both sides keep flying. From CNN:
Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- Throngs of people took part in a boisterous demonstration Sunday supporting Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and insisting that the government had triumphed in recovering key Libyan cities, despite witness accounts that the opposition maintained control in some of those sites.
In the eastern Libyan town of Misrata, a fierce battle was under way Sunday, as people seeking an end to Gadhafi's 42-year-rule fought his heavily armed forces.
"People are willing to die for the cause," a witness told CNN, describing them as "fearless" and "amazing." The rebels are using machine guns or, in some cases, just sticks to fight off pro-Gadhafi forces who use tanks and heavy artillery.
Even as the witness described the heavy fighting under way, pro-Gadhafi demonstrators in the capital of Tripoli said they were celebrating the government's victory in Misrata.
The size of such rallies praising the 68-year-old leader do not offer a clear sign of how much support he actually has. Throughout the uprising, which began February 15, witnesses in Tripoli have described the government using all methods to drum up crowds, including forcibly dragging people to them, while keeping anti-Gadhafi demonstrators off the streets.
RAS LANOUF, Libya -- Libyan warplanes launched airstrikes and forces loyal to leader Muammar Qaddafi engaged in fierce ground battles Sunday with a rebel force advancing west toward the capital Tripoli along the country's Mediterranean coastline.
The opposition fighters pushed out of the rebel-held eastern half of Libya late last week and have been cutting a path west toward Tripoli. On the way, they secured control of two important oil ports at Brega and Ras Lanouf. By Sunday, the rebels were advancing father west when they were hit by airstrikes and confrontations with ground forces.
Associated Press reporters at the scene said Qaddafi loyalists retook the town of Bin Jawad, about 110 miles east of Qaddafi's stronghold city of Sirte, which could prove to be a decisive battleground. The reporters witnessed airstrikes on the rebel forces and heavy fighting on the ground.
From Barack Obama:
"Hey, let's party."
Okay, okay, I made that last one up. But it's correct in spirit.
It is clear that heavy fighting is going on, and that there are many, many casualties. There are also refugees, said to be in the hundreds of thousands.
The issue for Americans is how long this can go on before we're pressured to intervene, simply on humanitarian grounds. Obama has no stomach for that, but Obama's stomach is no guide to wise policy. His public demand that Qaddafi step down was apparently issued to convince people that he has some spine, or some other anatomical credit, but it has placed the United States in an awkward position. If the Libyan leader goes, fine. But if he doesn't, Obama looks weak and ineffective...and not for the first time. This bears repeating: Earlier this week we quoted Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins quoting Lyndon Johnson, who'd said that if you tell a man to go to Hell, you'd better be prepared to send him there. We see no coherent American policy in Libya, and Qaddafi has not yet left for Hell.
March 6, 2011