By Miriam Raftery
March 20, 2011 (Washington D.C.) – Navy Vice Admiral William E. Gortney called initial attacks on Libya’s air and missile defense systems “very effective in degrading the regime’s air defense capability” for launching long-range missiles. Speaking at a Pentagon news conference today, Gortney said the U.S.-led coalition launched 124 Tomahawk missiles against Libyan military targets.
The attacks, following a United Nations establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya, are aimed at preventing Libyan leader Colonel Moammar Gadhafi from “slaughtering his own people” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said.
Gadhafi had ordered the massacre of protesters, prompting swift international intervention. Qatar, an Arab nation, has now agreed to provide four planes in a coalition that now includes the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Italy, Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Qatar and the United States.
Tonight, Reuters and the BBC confirm that Gadhafi’s compound in Tripoli has been struck; journalists were permitted to visit the sites. Business Insider reports that there are rumors being spread on Twitter that Gadhafi’s son, a military leader in Libya, has been killed.
Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa has criticized the bombings, although the League initially supported creation of the no-fly zone. “What we want is the protection of civilians,” he said.
Gadhafi has claimed that civilians have been killed, though the reports are not confirmed.
Secretary Gates today noted that “The tool box we bring” has tools “in addition ot hammers.” He cited a range of political and economic sanctions and other actions that have been taken.
President Barack Obama, speaking in Brazil where he is visiting in hopes of boosting economic opportunities for U.S. workers, said Brazil can serve as a model for people rising up in the Middle East in hopes of attaining freedoms. Brazil "shows that a dictatorship can become a thriving democracy" and that "democracy delivers both freedom and opportunity to its people," Obama said. He added, that Libyans and others in the Middle East share common dreams with Brazilians and Americans.
“We all seek to be free. We all seek to be heard,” the President said. “We all yearn to live without fear or discrimination. We all yearn to choose how we are governed. And we all want to shape our own destiny. These are not American ideals or Brazilian ideals. These are not Western ideals. These are universal rights, and we must support them everywhere.”
The President has assured that the U.S. will not deploy ground forces in Libya.
Today, Admiral Gortney revealed today that the U.S. will soon transfer command to a coalition command and shift to a support function for Operation Odyssey Dawn that will include providing aerial tankers, electronic warfare aircraft, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft and logistics.