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



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