Monday, March 07, 2011

Engel: No-fly zone would help Libyan rebels

Richard Engel in the clip below says that a no-fly zone would definitely help the Libyan rebels. He's right, assuming NATO (or whoever) pilots don't kill civilians. There are many risks in enforcing a no-fly zone.

Engel mentioned that after the war in Iraq in 1991, there was a no-fly zone, but it didn't "apply" to low-flying helicopters, which Saddam used to crush the rebels. Now that's not getting it quite true. I know it's hard to get this all into a few seconds. It might take a minute: the US and allies had already destroyed Iraq's air force by the time US troops entered Iraq in February 1991. At the end of 40 days of aerial bombardment, Iraq's air force was decimated and US forces had complete control of the sky and the ground. No Iraqi dared fly anything over Iraqi airspace. So when the uprisings began in early March (20 years ago!), it was quite a surprise when the US, represented by "Stormin" Norman Schwarzkopf and Colin Powell, allowed Saddam's generals to use helicopters:

at the Safwan negotiations, Schwarzkopf carelessly authorized the Iraqis to use helicopter gunships on their side of the cease-fire line. The Iraqi generals were so surprised by that concession—which permitted them to strafe and rocket Kurds and Shiites from the air—that one of the Iraqi generals incredulously asked: "So you mean even the helicopters that are armed can fly in the Iraqi skies?"

The no-fly zone over southern Iraq was not enforced again until August, 1992, 17 months after the uprising began. It is inexplicable, especially when you consider that US troops were already on the ground in Iraq, and there was already a no-fly zone that was established after 40 days of continuous bombing.

I hate it when good reporters are forced to summarize so much that they end up skimming the history and not getting it right. At least Mr. Engel deserves credit for reminding the public that the US allowed Saddam to use helicopters to crush a rebellion that might have toppled him otherwise.

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1 comment :

Maury said...

There's good news and bad news. The bad news is that rebels are being bombed into submission. The good news is that Obama still has a table full of options. Of course, Obama will stand by while Qaddafi crushes the freedom movement and slaughters 1000's along the way. But, at least Obama considered helping them. I found that truly inspiring. LOL.