libya

Casualties

The city was still blanketed in early-morning drowsiness. The sun, an orange glint on the eastern horizon, shone through broad-leafed trees. A stooped man in a gray uniform swept discarded candy wrappers and crushed soda cans into a container.

I imagined it was like the start of every other day on Capitol Hill, though I wasn't sure. I had never been there before at dawn.

Some of our small group had spent all night on the east steps of the Capitol. Others arrived at various hours throughout the night to take part in a round-the-clock vigil during the days preceding the second contra aid vote in the House of Representatives.

There was less attention than usual paid to a group of Christians praying for the people of Nicaragua and lifting up the names of the victims of the contra war. As the president had hoped, America's attention was focused elsewhere. It was April 15--the day after the U.S. air strike on Libya.

We were told that the attack was intended to put an end to terrorism. But even the president himself seemed not to believe his words. During the night huge dump trucks were parked across the entrance roads to the Capitol. The orange and white trucks dotted our view and stood as a last line of defense against potential retaliatory suicide-bombing missions on the Capitol by angry Libyans. As the usual flood of tour buses began to enter the Capitol plaza, German shepherds were guided out of police wagons bearing the K-9 insignia and set loose to sniff at luggage compartments for bombs.

No one in the vicinity seemed assured that the air strike had put an end to terrorism. In fact, a world that was already terrifying suddenly seemed several degrees more so.

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An Eye For An Eye

On April 14 the United I States finally "did something" about terrorism by unleashing a massive bombing raid against Libya. It was certainly the popular thing to do--at least initially. Polls showed as much as 77 percent of the U.S. public approving the attack, and the applause was universal from the mass media. In the early hours after the raid, network news anchors even downplayed and undercut reports by their own correspondents who happened, inconveniently, to actually be in Tripoli and actually see U.S.-inflicted civilian damage and casualties.

Everybody wanted to feel good about this one. But one of the very few prominent voices of dissent, Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.), rose the next day on the floor of the Senate and said, "Take another look at those bleeding children before you delight over the precision of the rockets, my colleagues. Tell them you're not sure the policy will work, but it sure did feel good."

Strangely enough, the rest of the world didn't see things America's way. Of all the world's governments, only Britain, Canada, and Israel approved of the attack. And across Europe, including in Britain, the peace movement took to the streets for several days of massive protest demonstrations. European politicians noted that U.S. attacks against Qaddafi would only shore up his popularity and lead to more violence. And their constituents in the streets made the point that an assault by a superpower against a tiny Third World country was a violation of international law, a dangerous provocation of the Soviet Union, and simply a moral outrage. Foreigners seemed more able to notice the inevitable "collateral damage" to homes and families in Tripoli and Benghazi.

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