President Obama's Speech on Libya
Good evening. Tonight, I’d like to update the American people on
the international effort that we have led in Libya – what we
have done, what we plan to do, and why this matters to us.
I want to begin by paying tribute to our men and women in
uniform who, once again, have acted with courage,
professionalism and patriotism.
They have moved with incredible speed and strength. Because of
them and our dedicated diplomats, a coalition has been forged
and countless lives have been saved. Meanwhile, as we speak, our
troops are supporting our ally Japan, leaving Iraq to its
people, stopping the Taliban’s momentum in Afghanistan, and
going after al Qaeda around the globe.
As Commander-in-Chief, I am grateful to our Soldiers, Sailors,
Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and their families, as are all
For generations, the United States of America has played a
unique role as an anchor of global security and advocate for
human freedom. Mindful of the risks and costs of military
action, we are naturally reluctant to use force to solve the
world’s many challenges. But when our interests and values are
at stake, we have a responsibility to act.
That is what happened in Libya over the course of these last six
Libya sits directly between Tunisia and Egypt – two nations that
inspired the world when their people rose up to take control of
their own destiny. For more than four decades, the Libyan people
have been ruled by a tyrant – Moammar Gaddafi. He has denied his
people freedom, exploited their wealth, murdered opponents at
home and abroad, and terrorized innocent people around the world
– including Americans who were killed by Libyan agents.
Last month, Gaddafi’s grip of fear appeared to give way to the
promise of freedom. In cities and towns across the country,
Libyans took to the streets to claim their basic human rights.
As one Libyan said, “For the first time we finally have hope
that our nightmare of 40 years will soon be over.”
Faced with this opposition, Gaddafi began attacking his people.
As President, my immediate concern was the safety of our
citizens, so we evacuated our Embassy and all Americans who
sought our assistance. We then took a series of swift steps in a
matter of days to answer Gaddafi’s aggression.
We froze more than $33 billion of the Gaddafi regime’s assets.
Joining with other nations at the United Nations Security
Council, we broadened our sanctions, imposed an arms embargo,
and enabled Gaddafi and those around him to be held accountable
for their crimes. I made it clear that Gaddafi had lost the
confidence of his people and the legitimacy to lead, and I said
that he needed to step down from power.
In the face of the world’s condemnation, Gaddafi chose to
escalate his attacks, launching a military campaign against the
Libyan people. Innocent people were targeted for killing.
Hospitals and ambulances were attacked. Journalists were
arrested, sexually assaulted, and killed. Supplies of food and
fuel were choked off.
The water for hundreds of thousands of people in Misratah was
shut off. Cities and towns were shelled, mosques destroyed, and
apartment buildings reduced to rubble. Military jets and
helicopter gunships were unleashed upon people who had no means
to defend themselves against assault from the air.
Confronted by this brutal repression and a looming humanitarian
crisis, I ordered warships into the Mediterranean. European
allies declared their willingness to commit resources to stop
the killing. The Libyan opposition, and the Arab League,
appealed to the world to save lives in Libya.
At my direction, America led an effort with our allies at the
United Nations Security Council to pass an historic Resolution
that authorized a No Fly Zone to stop the regime’s attacks from
the air, and further authorized all necessary measures to
protect the Libyan people.
Ten days ago, having tried to end the violence without using
force, the international community offered Gaddafi a final
chance to stop his campaign of killing, or face the
consequences. Rather than stand down, his forces continued their
advance, bearing down on the city of Benghazi, home to nearly
700,000 men, women and children who sought their freedom from
At this point, the United States and the world faced a choice.
Gaddafi declared that he would show “no mercy” to his own
people. He compared them to rats, and threatened to go door to
door to inflict punishment. In the past, we had seen him hang
civilians in the streets, and kill over a thousand people in a
single day. Now, we saw regime forces on the outskirts of the
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
President Obama's Libya's Speech Con't