Vol. 75/No. 18
May 9, 2011
Libya: White House talks about
pullback, launches drone strikes
BY BRIAN WILLIAMS
Just weeks after President Barack Obama said Washington was ending its airstrikes in Libya, his administration April 23 unleashed aerial drones armed with Hellfire missiles on the country. The move subjects one more place to the flying remote-control assassins, which are deeply resented by working people from Pakistan to Yemen.
Since coming to office, the Obama administration has greatly expanded the use of drone strikes in Pakistan, from 35 in 2008 to 53 in 2009 to 118 last year. In mid-March a Predator strike killed more than 40 civilians in the remote tribal areas of northwest Pakistan, according to Pakistani officials. The day before the first drone strike against Libya, at least 26 people, including civilians, were killed by a CIA drone attack in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal region.
Now the White House plans to use drones to attempt to identify and kill supporters of Moammar Gadhafi mixed among the civilian population in densely populated urban areas.
The drones are “uniquely suited for urban areas” where “it’s very difficult to pick friend from foe,” said Marine Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Cartwright said this step was being taken because the Libyan military has altered its tactics. “You are seeing a much more dispersed fight, people that are digging in or nestling up against crowded areas,” he said.
Cartwright, often described as Obama’s “most favored general,” is considered a likely replacement for Adm. Michael Mullen as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff later this year.
“Drone attacks have become an addictive tool of U.S. national security policy,” wrote David Ignatius, an associate editor of the Washington Post. “It brings a weapon that has become for many Muslims a symbol of the arrogance of U.S. power into a theater next door to the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions.”