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Libya’s Turmoil Rages: Should World Powers Intervene?

March 4, 2011 at 3:45 PM EDT

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, as Moammar Gadhafi turns up his — the firepower on protesting Libyans, opposition leaders again appeal for American and international help and an attack on his headquarters.

MUSTAFA ABDEL JALIL, Head of Libyan National Council (through translator): I didn’t speak directly to Hillary Clinton, but the Libyan people need the international community to protect our civilians by a no-fly zone. Our brothers who are besieged in the west are asking for an airstrike on Al Aziziya camp.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, should the U.S. use military force to help the Libyan opposition?

For that, we get two views. Omar Turbi is a Libyan-American human rights activist and businessman. And retired Lieutenant General David Deptula commanded the no-fly zones over Iraq during the 1990s. His last assignment was as a deputy chief of staff of the Air Force. He’s now with a defense technology company.

Gentlemen, thank you both for being with us.

LT. GEN. DAVID DEPTULA (RET.), U.S. Air Force: Thank you. Good to be here.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mr. Turbi, to you first.

We just have heard one comment that U.S. help is needed, but how clear is it that the rebels want the United States or anybody on the outside to help them?

OMAR TURBI, Human Rights Activist/Businessman: Well, I do appreciate the opportunity to be here.

The U.S. government, the world community has come to help the Libyan people. And that’s very much appreciated by the Libyan people and I’m sure people in the region there.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean help through helping the refugees?

OMAR TURBI: Help through swift decisions at the U.N. The way that we have been handling it, I think it’s been — I’m pretty satisfied with that level, but I think we need to keep the momentum going forward.

They are not rebels that are fighting for — in Libya. They are pro-democracy activists that started out demonstrating on the street. And they ended up being victims of airplane bombardment, tank mortars, guns, everything you can think of.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But you’re saying they need more. Are you — and you are saying it should be military assistance?


JUDY WOODRUFF: You’re not?

OMAR TURBI: The Libyan — the Libyan — the opposition, the new government that is emerging on the ground in Benghazi, they are all calling for no military intervention, as far as supplying them with arms and so forth.

But they — what they would like to see is the implementation of a no-fly zone in Libya. That is very important.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, well, let’s talk about that.

General Deptula, is that something the U.S. should do?

LT. GEN. DAVID DEPTULA: Well, first, I think, before we address the how, a couple of high-order, first-order questions need to be answered, you know, why, what.

What are the overarching strategic objectives? What is the authorizing body to allow for the potential use of force in this kind of an operation? What are the rules of engagement? What, in fact, is the desired end state, where?

JUDY WOODRUFF: End state, meaning the end.

LT. GEN. DAVID DEPTULA: Right. What is the desired end state of this proposed military action?

Because, if you are going to impose a no-fly zone, you have to be prepared to seize air dominance over the entire airspace, which isn’t just a matter of shooting down Gadhafi’s aircraft when they fly, but taking care of the threats, such as the surface-to-air missile threat and the entire integrated air defense system that exists in that region.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, that would be the part of setting up a no-fly zone, wouldn’t it?

LT. GEN. DAVID DEPTULA: Well, it may be, but, again, I go back to, what is it that we are trying to achieve? There are a variety of different rationales. There’s a humanitarian relief, humanitarian assistance option.

There is a support to the — those seeking independence. Another set of options may be developed to accomplish those ends. There is the determination as to whether to actively remove the Gadhafi regime. So which one of those objectives are we trying to achieve? And only then would we determine what is the optimal series of effects that one wants to accomplish, of which a no-fly zone may be one, but it may not be the immediate desired solution.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Mr. Turbi, Omar Turbi, is it clear at this point, I mean, this — the objective that General Deptula is asking, you know, what would be the point of the no-fly zone? How — what would — what goal would it be trying to accomplish?

OMAR TURBI: You know, instead of debating and over-debating what we should do, here’s a movement that advocates our values in North Africa.


If we call for democracy, and if we’re calling for freedom of people in that region, this is the time to act. April 2006, the U.N. passed a doctrine, and then everybody rallied behind it. That’s the “responsibility to protect” doctrine. We can’t be advocating that, voting for it, and then at this time saying, oh, we’re not going to go and do this.

JUDY WOODRUFF: This is the doctrine to protect.

Does that answer the question, General Deptula?

LT. GEN. DAVID DEPTULA: Well, again, what are the authorizing authorities to enable the community of nations who want to stop this heinous behavior on the part of Gadhafi?

JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean on the ground in Libya, or do you mean…

LT. GEN. DAVID DEPTULA: Well, no, in terms of achieving the outcomes of preventing Gadhafi from attacking his people.

But is that what the desired end state is? Or is it to get rid of Gadhafi and to allow a set of the democratic movement to then replace him?

JUDY WOODRUFF: How would you answer that question?

OMAR TURBI: We’re faced — right now, we’re faced with tremendous human catastrophe that’s going on as we speak. This man Gadhafi is totally unpredictable. We don’t know what he is going to do from one day to the next.

And I can assure you of one thing. It could be a missile from the east to — from the west to the east that might kill 100,000 people in the next few days.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you are saying, initially, the objective would simply be to — to protect the people on the ground now who are — whose lives are at risk?

OMAR TURBI: And, you know, as a matter of fact, there are many Libyans that are advocating a strike. I mean, I’m not one of them, to be honest with you. But there are many of them. And, in Washington, there are people that are not — you know, in and outside of the government advocating a strike, direct surgical strike against Gadhafi’s command and control center.

It’s a four-mile-square area. That’s where he is at. He can’t leave that place. And that’s where he is holding hostages, ministers and his whole entire government and the whole government resides. It sounds like…

JUDY WOODRUFF: And that would be an additional part of the mission, if that were done.


LT. GEN. DAVID DEPTULA: Well, but, again, what is it that this community of nations who believe in the altruistic objectives of those seeking democracy inside of Libya — but there has to be agreement and authorization from an international body to do this.

I mean — and, clearly, the United States shouldn’t do this unilaterally on their own.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, that was going to be my next question. Is this something the U.S. could, should do on its own? Is it necessarily going to have to be something that the U.N., the European Union, Arab states are involved in?

LT. GEN. DAVID DEPTULA: Well, clearly, the Arab states in the North African countries are the ones who have their — live in the immediate region are — they’re the ones who are most affected. And, you know, they are the ones who have the biggest vested interest here.

OMAR TURBI: When was the last time you have seen an Arab country come to the rescue of another country in a disaster like this?

We’re talking about something that has not happened in our lifetime, totally unprecedented, a regime that built and has the designs and the infrastructure for the last 40 years not to fight armies outside the country, but to kill its own people.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You are saying the rationale exists right now?

OMAR TURBI: Absolutely.

LT. GEN. DAVID DEPTULA: See, there is — I think will you find no argument that what Gadhafi is doing is heinous in the context of violations of international law and — and denying the liberties of the people who are seeking it.

However, the question is, what is the most effective way to deal with the situation? And before you have a clearly defined end state, you don’t…

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you answer that question?

LT. GEN. DAVID DEPTULA: … you don’t want to jump into…

JUDY WOODRUFF: How — I mean, how do you go about answering that question?

LT. GEN. DAVID DEPTULA: I think, isn’t that why we have a United Nations, to sit down and determine what actions need to be taken to prevent despotic leaders like Gadhafi from injuring his own people?

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, presumably…

LT. GEN. DAVID DEPTULA: I mean, so are the — those bodies need to meet and act. Organization of Africa Unity, I believe, is ginned up and very concerned.


But there needs to be some sort of definition of the optimal way to accomplish the desired outcome.

OMAR TURBI: You want the honest truth? What I hear here is, do nothing, please.

LT. GEN. DAVID DEPTULA: Oh, absolutely not.

OMAR TURBI: That’s what I hear. African Union is not…

LT. GEN. DAVID DEPTULA: What are the objectives?

OMAR TURBI: The African Union has no say in this. They are not going to do anything about it. They have really no — no way of affecting it or influencing it.

I thought that this doctrine, the responsibility to protect, already gives us unilateral, without even having to go to the U.N., to go protect from genocides, from regimes killing their own people. I mean, we could go. We don’t even need to go to the U.N. to do this. We go and do that.

And that’s — let me tell you one thing. No one in the world, whether we just go and bomb the heck out of Gadhafi and get him out of there, or implement a non-fly zone, is going to have — shed a tear on Gadhafi.

He has no friends. Nobody cares about him. The whole world voted unanimously, 100 percent, everywhere you go.

LT. GEN. DAVID DEPTULA: Well, I would disagree. I think China and Russia have opposed the use of force in terms of the discussions at the U.N.

But, again, my perspective and position is not that action shouldn’t be taken. It’s how to best accomplish the desired outcome, which is to get Gadhafi to cease and desist. But we need to do that, because we also have to recognize that we’re risking, in the case of U.S. involvement and that of the coalition nations, the sons and daughters who are involved in executing these operations.

So, what are the national security interests of the member nations that are involved here?

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, gentlemen, we are going to have to leave it there. It is something being discussed and it’s something we’re going to be watching in the days to come.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Omar Turbi, General David Deptula, thank you both.

LT. GEN. DAVID DEPTULA: Thanks very much. Appreciate it.

OMAR TURBI: Thank you very much.