In the most aggressive bombing since allied forces started to enforce the no-fly zone, air strikes rained down on Libya overnight and into the morning, bombing contested cities as well as several targets in Tripoli. But Muammar Qaddafi's forces don't seem to be intimidated. Government loyalists used snipers against residents in rebel-held Misurata in the west, while keeping their grip on Ajdabiya, a crossroads town in the East. Allied warplanes kept Qaddafi out of Misurata for most of the day yesterday. But by nightfall, the attacks resumed, in one occasion firing a shell that landed twenty yards from the door of a hospital. In fact, Qaddafi's forces seem to be toying with the coalition's air power. In Misurata today, the New York Times said Qaddafi seemed to be engaged in "a cat-and-mouse contest" with the allies. About 45 minutes after warplanes circled overhead, Qaddafi forces pulled back their tanks.
Politicians defended the campaign thus far. France's foreign minister noted that it has lasted only five days (today is the sixth). Hillary Clinton, who helped convince Obama to back the no-fly zone, tried to put doubters in their place.
“I know that the nightly news cannot cover a humanitarian crisis that thankfully did not happen, but it is important to remember that many, many Libyans are safer today because the international community took action.”
After dodging questions about the endgame in Libya during his trip to Latin America, President Obama faces mounting questions. In one case, from a source who should know better. Donald Rumsfeld, architect of two ongoing wars in the Middle East, step on down! Rumsfeld told Politico that Obama is relying too heavily on the international forces.
“You decide what it is you want to do and then you get other countries to assist you in doing that,” he said, “And, in this case, it looks like just the opposite was done, that the coalition is trying to determine the mission and it’s confused. If peoples’ lives are at risk and you’re using military forces, you need to have a rather clear understanding as to who’s in charge and who’s making the decisions.”
Rumsfeld, of course, is famous for his detailed planning on what to do after U.S. forces took control of Iraq.
Update: French fighter jets shot down a Libyan warplane this morning. In the first challenge to the allies' no-fly zone, Qaddafi sent up the warplane over Misurata about 130 miles east of Tripoli before the fighter jet quickly took it down. The incident also marks the first time coalition forces have shot down one of Qaddafi's warplanes.
Libyan state television showed mangled bodies it claimed were victims of the Tripoli air strikes. But opposition forces have accused Qaddafi loyalists of taking bodies from the morgue and pretending they are civilian casualties. General Carter F. Ham told ABC News that Qaddafi's men are advancing to Misurata dressed as civilians, which would complicate the coalition's efforts. Qaddafi is apparently aware that the U.S. expects to transfer leadership of the allies in the coming days and is waiting it out.