By AMANDA VENDER

Women prepare the food for rebels. PHOTO: Gratiane de Moustier/IRIN
Women prepare food for Libyan rebels. PHOTO: Gratiane de Moustier/IRIN

The United States government spent $600 million to drop bombs and missiles over the oil-rich North African country, Libya, just in the first week of its war there. President Obama called his decision to bomb Libya a mission to protect innocent people from being hurt by forces of Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi. “Innocent people were targeted for killing. Hospitals and ambulances were attacked,” the president said. “When our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act.”

Obama’s statements have left people guessing about what interests he’s talking about. And why, with people uprising in countries across the Middle East and North Africa, does the Obama administration defend some dictators and bomb another?

“If the American people are uncertain as to our military objectives in Libya, it is with good cause,” said U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell. U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich said that when Obama did not get permission from Congress to bomb Libya, he violated the U.S. Constitution. According to the New York Times, the United States already has agents on the ground in Libya as part of a secret war aiding the rebels against Gaddafi.

Beginnings of a Civil War in Libya

In February, protests were held in towns and cities across Libya in defense of human rights. Protesters demanded that Libyan leader Gaddafi step down. Then protesters said they had taken control of the Libyan city, Benghazi. Gaddafi’s troops fired on rebels and killed hundreds of people. The rebels would like to move toward Tripoli, the capitol, and overthrow Gaddafi’s rule.

Western Intervention

On March 17, the United Nations (an organization of 192 countries) created a “no-fly zone” over Libya. This means that Gaddafi’s planes are not allowed to fly and drop bombs harming innocent people. Western countries, led by the United States and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), said they would enforce the no-fly zone. They pledged to shoot down Gaddafi’s planes and and fire on Gaddafi’s troops only if they think innocent people are in danger.

While The Arab League (an organization of 22 countries) approved the no-fly zone, its secretary general, Amr Moussa, criticized the U.S.-led bombing. He said, as reported on Democracy Now!, “Sovereignty is not invading or occupying a country or affecting its sovereignty, but working on protecting its civilians. Protecting civilians does not need military operations.”

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KEY WORDS

Muammar al-Gaddafi (MO-mar El-ga-DA-fee): Libya’s leader since his military takeover in 1969, creating the Libyan Arab Republic.

Sovereignty (SOV-rin-tee): A self-governing territory that is free of outside rule.

Civilian (si-VIL-yun): A person not involved in a military or rebel group.

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EXERCISES

1.    Compare the above article to this article in Scholastic News Online. Try to figure out the perspective of the news source. What information, words and views does the author choose to include or leave out? Who does the author quote? How do these decisions affect what the reader thinks about the U.S. bombing of Libya?

2.    If a group of rebels attempted to take over a large city in the United States, how do you think the U.S. government would respond? Then, what if a foreign country started bombing the United States and supporting the rebels? Compare this imaginary situation to events in Libya.

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