Ten days after the US began missile strikes in Libya, US President Barack Obama has addressed his nation, following calls from a war-weary public to clarify America’s role in the military mission in Libya.
The president’s speech, which was delivered at the National Defense University in Washington DC on Monday, was meant to be an “update for the American people on the international effort” that the US government, its allies and partners have made in Libya.
Addressing the nation, Barack Obama pledged that America’s role in the Libyan conflict would be limited.
Explaining his decision to authorize military action in Libya, the US leader stressed it was not in America’s national interest to allow a “massacre” to happen.
“We knew that if we waited one more day, Benghazi – a city nearly the size of Charlotte – could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world,” Obama said.
The US president said he had ordered US warships into the Mediterranean because of Libyan leader Gaddafi’s “brutal repression” of his people and “a looming humanitarian crisis.”
Though both Democrats and Republicans have criticized the president’s policy in the war-torn North African nation, Obama said that US intervention had saved “countless lives” that were threatened by Gaddafi’s forces.
Obama raised the issue of Iraq, saying that the same situation with regime change there took “eight years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives and nearly a trillion dollars.” He added, “that is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya.”
Another point President Obama mentioned in his speech was his planned assistance to the people of Libya. The US will use the $33 billion of Gaddafi’s frozen assets to rebuild the country.
“We will safeguard the more than $33 billion that was frozen from the Gaddafi regime so that it is available to rebuild Libya. After all, this money does not belong to Gaddafi or to us, it belongs to the Libyan people, and we will make sure they receive it.”
He confirmed, though, that America would assist its allies and NATO in the military campaign.
Now, NATO has taken command of the enforcement of the arms embargo and no-fly zone and will be “protecting civilians on the ground”.
“This transfer from the United States to NATO will take place on Wednesday,” said the president.
However, many experts say that in reality this formal transition does not make the US any less involved and handing over command to NATO does not mean quitting.
President Obama ended his 27-minute speech with a call for democracy and freedom around the world.
“Let us also remember that for generations, we have done the hard work of protecting our own people, as well as millions around the globe. We have done so because we know that our own future is safer and brighter if more of mankind can live with the bright light of freedom and dignity.”