Opinion » Ted Rall

Devils We Don't Know

Who are the Libyan opposition?


SAN FRANCISCO--Give George W. Bush this: He respected us enough to lie us into war. President Barack Obama wants us sign a blank check, no questions asked.

"We do not have any information about specific individuals from any organization that are part of this [war]," Hillary Clinton said on Meet the Press.

"But of course, we are still getting to know the people [rebels] leading the Transitional National Council."

I don't know what's more frightening. That Secretary of State Clinton expects us to believe that the U.S. government is fighting, spending, killing--and soon, inevitably, dying--for a cause it doesn't know anything about? Or that she may be telling the truth?

For all we know, the Libyan TNC, also known as the National Conference of the Libyan Opposition, is composed of and led by noble, well-intentioned, freedom-minded people everyone can get behind. But that's the point: We don't know.

Who are the Libyan opposition? We have few clues. From what we can tell, the TNC is apparently a peculiar alliance of convenience between monarchists and Islamists.

One TNC leader is the pretender to the throne. The TNC uses the flag of the former kingdom deposed by Gaddafi.

Western media outlets ridiculed the Libyan dictator for blaming unrest on al Qaida. On Feb. 25, CNN's Paul Cruickshank reflected this official line: "Militant Islamists have played almost no role in the uprisings in Libya."

As bombs were raining down on Tripoli, military officials began to concede an open secret: Eastern Libya has long been a hotbed for Muslim extremism.

"Al Qaida in that part of the country is obviously an issue," a senior Obama official said in The New York Times on condition of anonymity. NATO military commander Adm. James Stavridis admitted to a Senate hearing that there were "flickers" of foreign fighters affiliated with al Qaida and Hezbollah presence among anti-Gaddafi insurgents.

Constitutionalists want to return to the founders' original intent. They say Congress, not the president, ought to decide whether to unleash the military. Obama didn't even bother to get the usual congressional rubber stamp for this latest invasion.

War should be voted upon by the citizenry. After all, we--not Congress--bear the costs. If a president can't be bothered to explain why we should kill and be killed and spend billions of dollars on a conflict, too bad for him and his pet defense contractors.

Starting with Obama's carefully calculated conflation of civilians and insurgents, everything about Obama's Libyan war stinks. The United Nations has authorized military operations to protect "civilians." How, no matter how likeable they are, do Libyan rebels armed with anti-aircraft guns qualify as civilians?

"If Jeffersonian Democrats take over in Libya, he's a hero," Robert Borosage of the Campaign for America's Future said of Obama. "If he gets stuck in an ongoing civil war, then it could be enormously costly to the country and to him politically."

Which outcome would you bet on?