On March 26, over a week after [Obama] ordered the strikes on Libya, hitting tanks, anti-aircraft, radar sites, troops and Gadhafi’s own compound in Tripoli, 600 miles away from Benghazi, Obama told the nation he had acted to prevent a “bloodbath” in Benghazi. “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.”
White House Middle East expert Dennis Ross reportedly told foreign policy experts: “We were looking at ‘Srebrenica on steroids’ — the real or imminent possibility that up to 100,000 people could be massacred, and everyone would blame us for it.”
A hundred thousand massacred! And our fault? But that is seven times the body count of Katyn, one of the Stalinist horrors of World War II. Was Benghazi truly about to realize the fate that befell Carthage at the hands of Scipio Africanus, at the close of the Third Punic War? How did the White House come to believe in such a scenario?
In this low-scale war, the cities of Zwara, Ras Lanuf, Brega, and Ajdabiya have changed hands, some several times. Misrata, the only rebel-held city in the west, has been under siege for seven weeks. Yet in none of these towns has anything like the massacre in the Ivory Coast taken place, let alone Srebrenica. The Guardian’s Saturday report read, “Fierce fighting in Ajdabiya saw at least eight people killed.”
True, on March 17, Gadhafi said he would show “no mercy.” But as [Stephen] Chapman notes, he was referring to “traitors” who resisted him to the end. And Gadhafi added, “We have left the way open to them.”
“Escape. Let those who escape go forever.” Gadhafi went on to pledge that “whoever hands over his weapons, stays at home without any weapons, whatever he did previously, he will be pardoned, protected.”
Perhaps Gadhafi is lying. But there is, as yet, no evidence of any such slaughter in any town his forces have captured. Nor do the paltry forces Gadhafi has mustered to recapture the east — Ajdabiya was attacked by several dozen Toyota trucks — seem capable of putting a city of 700,000 to the sword.