Obama under heavy fire at home over Libya

© AFP/File Saul Loeb


WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Barack Obama faced fierce criticism and even long-shot calls for his impeachment Wednesday over a US role in Libya that had no formal price tag and only a murky “exit strategy.”

Under pressure to bring US military strikes to a quick conclusion, Obama assured Univision television Tuesday that “the exit strategy will be executed this week” — but made clear US forces would not really “exit” the conflict.

“We will be pulling back from our much more active efforts to shape the environment. We will still be in a support role, we’ll still be providing jamming, and intelligence and other assets that are unique to us,” he said.

Obama, who planned to cut short a Latin America tour by a few hours amid the Libya crisis, told CNN that Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi might seek to “hunker down” and cling to power but vowed to keep pressure on him to go.

The US president, who has described military strikes purely in terms of protecting Libyan civilians, added that “we don’t just have military tools at our disposal in terms of accomplishing Kadhafi’s leaving.”

“We put in place strong international sanctions. We’ve frozen his assets. We will continue to ply a whole range of pressure on him,” he added.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers have complained that Obama should have secured explicit US Congress approval before launching the operation, and worried about what they have described as a costly, open-ended intervention.

Congressional staffers briefed Tuesday by Obama aides on the conflict said the administration had brushed off requests for an estimated price tag, amid outsider guesses placing it in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

But the US public seemed behind Obama — for now — with 47 percent approving of military action against Kadhafi’s forces, versus 37 disapproving, according to a national opinion poll this week by the Gallup organization.

Still, in a possible sign of political trouble to come, 44 percent of independent voters who often make the difference in US elections disapproved of the operation, versus 38 percent, according to Gallup.

The survey, which had an error margin of plus or minus four percentage points, came as Obama’s handling of the crisis drew heavy fire from some of his Republican foes as well as from inside his Democratic party.

Democratic Representatives Barbara Lee, Mike Honda, Lynn Woolsey and Raul Grijalva accused Obama of “rushing to war with a limited understanding of the situation on the ground and no exit strategy or plan.”

“We will fight in Congress to ensure the United States does not become embroiled in yet another destabilizing military quagmire in Libya with no clear exit plan or diplomatic strategy for peace,” they said in a joint statement.

The lawmakers said the US Congress, to which the US Constitution reserves the right to declare war, should have approved the operations — but stopped well short of Democratic Representative Dennis Kucinich’s declaration that failure to secure that green light was an impeachable offense.

Kucinich on Tuesday branded Iraq and Afghanistan “unwinnable quagmires” and said he would seek to starve the Libya operation of money, accusing Obama of “plunging the United States into yet another war we cannot afford.”

There was no sign of any serious support for impeaching Obama even among his Republican foes, who griped that Obama had acted too timidly yet without congressional approval.

And some aides played off Kucinich’s comments by circulating a 2007 video of Vice President Joe Biden, then a senator, telling a television interviewer that George W. Bush should be impeached if he attacked Iran absent a clear threat or approval from congress.

“The president has no constitutional authority to take this nation to war,” Biden said, “unless we’re attacked or unless there is proof that we are about to be attacked. And if he does — if he does — I would move to impeach him.”

© AFP — Published at Activist Post with license

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