Crimes Against Libya – Redux

I’m always impressed by the mainstream’s ability to completely ignore the lies and illegality of the Washington leadership, and the case of Libya has exemplified that sort of willful ignorance. We know the rap sheet by heart at this point: waging a war without the consent of Congress and in violation of the War Powers Resolution, claiming it was humanitarian intervention even as much worse crimes were being committed by our clients, abandoning the UN mandate to protect civilians choosing instead to change the regime and kill civilians in the process, making Gadhafi out to be a monster despite having supported him merely a year earlier, supporting incompetent rebels who committed crimes and had ties to terrorism, etc.

But this is all a little too recent. Since American jingoes feel so comfortable bringing up crimes Gadhafi allegedly committed more than two decades ago, let us go back a bit and review some facts that I have not seen brought up since the war began.

Despite his own Executive Order banning the assassination of foreign leaders, President Reagan bombed Libya in 1986 in an attempt to assassinate Gadhafi (and his family).

One well-informed Air Force intelligence officer says, ”There’s no question they were looking for Qaddafi. It was briefed that way. They were going to kill him.” An Air Force pilot involved in highly classified special operations acknowledges that ”the assassination was the big thing.”

Senior Air Force officers confidently predicted prior to the raid that the nine aircraft assigned to the special mission had a 95 percent ”P.K.” – probable kill. Each of the nine F-111’s carried four 2,000-pound bombs. The young pilots and weapons-systems officers, who sit side-by-side in the cockpit, were provided with reconnaissance photographs separately depicting, according to one Air Force intelligence officer, ”where Qaddafi was and where his family was.”

The mission was the first combat assignment for most of the fliers. Qaddafi’s home and his camouflaged Bedouin tent, where he often worked throughout the night, were inside the grounds of El-Azziziya. The notion of targeting Qaddafi’s family, according to an involved N.S.C. aide, originated with several senior C.I.A. officers, who claimed that in Bedouin culture Qaddafi would be diminished as a leader if he could not protect his home. One aide recalls a C.I.A. briefing in which it was argued that ”if you really get at Qaddafi’s house – and by extension, his family – you’ve destroyed an important connection for the people in terms of loyalty.”

Again, the same blatant criminality and disrespect for the rule of law that we’ve seen the Obama administration and Congressional leaders partake in for the 2011 bombing of a non-threatening country.

And as for Gadhafi’s crimes of killing civilians? Well, as William Blum wrote in Killing Hope (the figures also appear here):

The bombs dropped on Libya took the lives of a reported 40 to 100 people, all civilians but one, and wounded another hundred or so. The French Embassy, located in a residential district, was destroyed. The dead included Qaddafi’s young adopted daughter and a teenage girl visiting from London; all of Qaddafi’s other seven children as well as his wife were hospitalized, suffering from shock and various injuries.

It was not claimed by the United States that any of the people killed or wounded had any connection to the Berlin Bombing. Like the mideast terrorists who threw hand grenades at al El Al ticket counter to kill Israelis simply because they were Israelis, and those who planted a bomb on PanAm flight 103 in order to kill Americans simply because they were Americans, the bombing of Libya was an attempt to kill Libyans simply because they were Libyans.

Not everyone was blind to the illegality, though…

Subsequently, two of Qaddafi’s children filed suit in the United States to stop President Reagan from launching more “assassination attempts” on their family. The suit, which was rejected in court, alleged that Reagan and other top officials, in ordering the raids, had violated an executive order that bars attempted assassinations of foreign government leaders. Another suit filed in Washington was in behalf of 65 people killed or injured by the bombing. Meanwhile, the US Navy was awarding 158 medals to the pilots who dropped 500 pound and 2,000 pound bombs in the dark of night upon sleeping people.

We knew Obama thinks of himself as Reagan-like, but come on…

The ability of Americans to actively pretend like the crimes of the American leadership – this time around and last – simply don’t exist is really an amazing phenomenon. It is nationalism‘s most notable achievement in the modern world.

The NYT Applauds Obama Doctrine, Regurgitates Propaganda

And now for today’s extreme war propaganda from the paper of record, the New York Times.

It would be premature to call the war in Libya a complete success for United States interests. But the arrival of victorious rebels on the shores of Tripoli last week gave President Obama’s senior advisers a chance to claim a key victory for an Obama doctrine for the Middle East that had been roundly criticized in recent months as leading from behind.

Administration officials say that even though the NATO intervention in Libya, emphasizing airstrikes to protect civilians, cannot be applied uniformly in other hotspots like Syria, the conflict may, in some important ways, become a model for how the United States wields force in other countries where its interests are threatened.

A model, eh? So the model for the Obama administration’s approach for the Middle East is to go to war in open disregard for and in violation of domestic US lawalmost immediately abandon the restrictions of the United Nations mandate to protect civilians in order to initiate regime change, give support and bring to power a rag-tag group of rebel militias and neighborhood gangs with at least some direct ties to al Qaeda and who have committed serious war crimes, all to culminate in massive benefits to oil corporations? Some model, although I’d dispute the novelty ascribed to it by the Times. Also, there is exactly zero mention anywhere in the article how exactly committing multiple war crimes and killing lots of civilians fits into this Doctrine.

The article goes on to praise Obama’s “Libya action” for establishing “two principles for when the United States could apply military force to advance its diplomatic interests even though its national security is not threatened directly.”

During that speech, Mr. Obama said that America had the responsibility to stop what he characterized as a looming genocide in the Libyan city of Benghazi (Principle 1). But at the same time, he said, when the safety of Americans is not directly threatened but where action can be justified — in the case of genocide, say — the United States will act only on the condition that it is not acting alone (Principle 2).

As I’ve said over and over, these are both nonsense. Even if we accept the notion that there was a looming genocide in Benghazi (which is debatable, to put it generously), there is a simple litmus test to determine whether or not the protection of civilians was the actual reason for war. Has the US consistently supported comparable atrocities in many other countries, and do we now engage in foreign policy that predictably leads to the deaths of comparable numbers of civilians? Do we also totally ignore much worse atrocities if they don’t happen to be strategically important? The answer to all of those questions is yes, which excludes the possibility that civilian casualties motivated our intervention. Furthermore, this charge of “responsibility” to protect always comes up. “Would you just let it happen!?” they ask incredulously. Whatever legitimacy the United States government has, it is derived by the consent of the American people. That is American Government 101 that we all learn in elementary school. That legitimacy simply does not carry over to the Libyan people. They certainly didn’t vote for King Obama.They didn’t get a say in whether they’d be better off or not with the rebels instead of Gadhafi.

On the second “Principle” of not going it alone. We had the support of an allied coalition and the UN. The world was with us. Well, yes this is true. But only if you use Washington’s definition of “the world” which does not include the American people or any other major nations who disagree.

The article then says Syria is different because there isn’t a regional or international consensus on Syria (nor was there on Libya) and that a US intervention could cause regional instability and an Iraq-like descent into chaos (so too with Libya). Not quite, New York Times, not quite.

Ah, so refreshing that the New York Times is ably continuing to do its job (that is, bolster the twisted rationales of the powerful war advocates).

Juan Cole’s Conveniently Partisan Intervention Issues

“The Libyan Revolution has largely succeeded,” Middle East scholar Prof. Juan Cole says in his recent article about Libya, rapturously recommended by “progressive” anti-revolutionary MSNBC Obama shill Rachel Maddow, who had him on her show last night. This was before the rebels had actually broken into Gadhafi’s compound or controlled much of anything.

“Muammar Qaddafi was in hiding as I went to press, and three of his sons were in custody. Saif al-Islam Qaddafi had apparently been the de facto ruler of the country in recent years, so his capture signaled a checkmate.” Oops. It turns out they never had Saif al-Islam, and Mohamed escaped. Pish. Details! Cole seems to believe anything the rebels claim — after all, UN Amb. Susan Rice told CNN today, despite blatant rebel lies, the Transitional National Council is “credible and responsible.” Or maybe it’s more faith-based, as with France’s philosopher-idiot-cum-military strategist Bernard-Henri Lévy, who believed the assassination of TNC leader and “former” Gadhafi man Gen. Abdel Fattah Younes by the rebel council itself was committed by Gadhafi plants despite all evidence. Checkmate indeed.

I’m not sure how Prof. Cole slipped into our antiwar band in the years after 9/11. The man thinks US-EU interventions in the Balkans were good — in Libya, he said, we should “replicate the successes in Kosovo and not the failures in Iraq.” Presumably the difference is the party affiliation of the president in charge of each operation.

Anyway, it seems obvious that the regime will fall, or already has as I write. And this is certainly a good thing. Gadhafi was a terrible fiend who strangled Libyan society with his bizarre Islamo-socialist philosophy, the undermining of any natural social alliances that could challenge him, and everything else your typical dictator does. This brings me to the first two items on Prof. Cole’s “nyah-nyah” list of “Top Ten Myths About Libya.”

“1. Qaddafi was a progressive in his domestic policies… 2. Qaddafi was a progressive in his foreign policy.”

No, this is either ignorance of those of us who oppose intervention or an attempt to paint us as reflexively pro-Gadhafi. The man is a cretin, and no number of stunning enameled Africa broaches would change my opinion of him. Real antiwar opponents of this stupid intervention can skip this. So we’re left with 8 of 10 pro-war points.

“3. It was only natural that Qaddafi sent his military against the protesters and revolutionaries; any country would have done the same. No, it wouldn’t, and this is the argument of a moral cretin.”

Cole goes on to note that Egypt and Tunisia’s officer corps refused to fire on peaceful protesters. This is true to an extent — many hundreds were killed in Egypt, though it was not quite a systematic slaughter and did not use military-caliber weapons as Gadhafi’s men did. In Libya, as many as 1,000 protesters were killed in the first week of the Libya uprising — an absolute horror since repeated in Syria. I’d say this bullet point has some merit, but it still doesn’t make a full argument for intervention. After all, thousands more were killed since NATO began bombing Libya.

None of this would be an issue, of course, if the same governments now agitating against Gadhafi hadn’t armed him in the first place. If statists have taught me anything, it’s that they love to defuse crises brought about by previous interventions with further, bigger interventions. As with the economy, so it goes in foreign policy.

“4. There was a long stalemate in the fighting between the revolutionaries and the Qaddafi military. There was not.”

True, while the gains ebbed and flowed maddeningly, the fighting was constant. This seems a minor point and does not make any case for intervention; the length of a fight is irrelevant to opposing or supporting it.

“5. The Libyan Revolution was a civil war. It was not, if by that is meant a fight between two big groups within the body politic.”

This is pretty disingenuous. Cole notes a few of what he deems to be “genuine” pro-Gadhafi civilians fighting rebels, but we can’t know the extent of this. In fact, we saw plenty of evidence that the Gadhafi regime, for whatever reason, did enjoy some popular support — a dictator, after all, must not just frighten but also please various segments of the ruled, or no amount of weaponry will keep him in power. So this could still very easily still be classified as a civil war. Which again, does not undermine opposition to foreign interference in it.

“6. Libya is not a real country and could have been partitioned between east and west.”

Prof. Cole’s comment on this is to say that all modern nation-states are artificial in some way. This is also true. And after a civil war, they often split along historic ethnic/cultural lines. Point? Who knows. The fewer big states to be ruled by evil dictators, the better. Let East and West split, and North and South and any other traditional voluntary social structures that emerge within Libyan territory. Would Cole support a Tripoli-based TNC’s crushing of locally emerging alternative examples of governance? It’s a real question.

“7. There had to be NATO infantry brigades on the ground for the revolution to succeed.”

That’s not the view of the pro-revolution, anti-intervention crowd. We are as sure that a revolution could have succeeded in Libya as we are it can in Yemen and Syria and anywhere else people are fed up and realize they don’t have to take it anymore. A system can come crashing down if you can convince enough people. No bombs can prevent that — that’s not cheesy romanticism, that’s just a fact. Fear and favor, not force itself, is what really keeps regimes intact.

No, not only didn’t Libyans need Western ground troops, they didn’t need NATO bombs. There’s no reason why we should expect a rebel rush across physical territory should be considered a bigger coup than the slow, steady undermining of a horrible regime that completes one goal before moving onto the next. I personally advocated solidifying the gains in Benghazi and other breakaway areas first and choking off Gadhafi from his oil supply, among other things.

The obsession with taking Tripoli is actually detailed in Prof. Cole’s point #6. “This generation of young Libyans, who waged the revolution, have mostly been through state schools and have a strong allegiance to the idea of Libya. Throughout the revolution, the people of Benghazi insisted that Tripoli was and would remain the capital.” How stupid. Nationalism surely killed many of these cats.

“8. The United States led the charge to war. There is no evidence for this allegation whatsoever.”

Cole says Glenn Greenwald claimed the Europeans would never have gone to war without US “plumping” for intervention. I don’t disagree with Cole — the French and Brits were looking to lead a charge to distract their plebes from problems at home, and France especially was looking to separate itself from its recent cuddling up to Arab dictators. Not that that was a new thing. This, of course, is no argument for intervention. It could actually be seen as one against it: civilized people do not bomb aspirin factories to distract from stained dresses.

Cole said on the Maddow show that despite the large fingerprint of foreign intervention, the Arab “ownership” of the fall of Gadhafi is legitimate. Really? A rebel force that he argues could not have ever successfully fought Gadhafi regime somehow “own” their recent success? This is a rape of logic. In fact, it fits the characterization made by Arab revolutionaries and us Western antiwar activists that it subverts Arab ownership of their recent accomplishments. It’s fitting to recall yesterday, as I watched CNN, the two white men nodding in agreement that Libyans could never have won their freedom if not for the help of white countries. It’s in insult and it’s untrue, as we have other current examples of ongoing revolutions making progress despite Western involvement. Or does Prof. Cole prefer not to notice Egypt, Yemen, and Tunisia at this inconvenient moment?

In March, Cole made the case on Antiwar Radio that the Libya intervention could be a template for subsequent attacks on the governments of Yemen and Bahrain — but of course we know that the US doesn’t attack useful allies like Bahrain, though it has since turned its back on Yemen’s Saleh when it was no longer convenient to be his friend. Don’t worry, the US continues to support, arm, fund the Yemeni regime. Cole also predicted Gadhafi would invade Tunisia for some reason. Mkay.

“9. Qaddafi would not have killed or imprisoned large numbers of dissidents…”

Cole disagrees, citing a list of cities threatened by the dictator. Ah, the Benghazi Massacre myth, my favorite. It’s simple. That Gadhafi speech all the officials refer to, like the purposely mistranslated Ahmadinejad comment on “wiping Israel off the map,” is more or less purposely misconstrued. Muammar’s threat to “exterminate the rats” obviously referred to rebel fighters — indeed, he talked at length about “freeing” the civilians of Benghazi. Unless he was being cute, he probably didn’t mean “from this mortal coil.” But we can’t know, obviously. That’s why the best policy is to stay out of things that don’t concern us. The “knowledge problem” is real.

Cole goes on to cite the shelling of Misrata — a terrible crime against humanity — as proof that Gadhafi meant to kill the civilians of rebellious cities. But the one to two thousand allegedly killed in those attacks are not the hundreds of thousands we were warned against in Benghazi. And as I said already, many thousands of people have been killed across Libya anyhow, by all sides — 30,000 were reported dead by the end of April alone. As we don’t have crystal balls, we don’t really know what might have happened in an alternate reality in which Western militaries did not intervene. But that won’t stop Libya intervention proponents from saying we do.

“10. This was a war for Libya’s oil. That is daft… just a conspiracy theory.”

This is a bit of a smear tactic, though funnily is usually used by right-wing proponents of war against those wacky peacenut lefties who think everything is a conspiracy to kill for profit. Oil alone is never the reason for any war. Many interests come together to make war possible — international conflict is not something you blunder into, it’s purposeful and requires a massive movement of resources. It’s been widely noted that European and American oil companies have been looking to shake up the distribution of oil rights in Libya. Nothing like a successful regime change to get that process going, and the Europeans Cole credits with being the main pushers of the war — mostly France and the UK — could see their para-state oil companies win big over Italy’s Eni; Italy was reluctant at first to join in the action maybe precisely because they stood to lose the most. And that is the New York Times‘ take, not mine. The US also had its issues with Gadhafi and his irrationality on oil, as WikiLeaks disclosed this year.

So, war for oil? Not totally. But because wars have many catalysts, oil could certainly have sweetened the deal, paired with the political profit mentioned above. Indeed, previously troubled Sarkozy now has even the opposition eating out of his manly, warlike hands.

Professor of economics Chris Coyne wrote a book entitled After War: The Political Economy of Exporting Democracy, describing why occupations do not work. It’s not because of this or that mistake; it is the nature of intervention. We can’t know local conditions better than the locals. We see this in every single occupation in history — if you think it was American occupation that fixed Germany and Japan, you’re misinformed and should read Coyne’s book.

This is why intervening in what we don’t know enough about is ill-informed and reckless. As in medicine, the main principle of foreign relations should be “First, do no harm.”

Given we still don’t know the plan for post-overthrow Libya — there are rumblings about occupation — the case in favor of humanitarian intervention is far from a closed. And Cole’s little list does little to advocate in its favor.

Blowback from Benghazi?

It’s not new (McClathcy, for example, reported on it quite well back in May), but it’s interesting to read first hand how in US diplomatic cables from 2008, the US embassy in Tripoli sent cables back to Washington describing “a reportedly deliberate GOL [Government of Libya] policy to keep the east poor as a means by which to limit the potential political threat to Qadhafi’s regime” and how it had “helped fuel the perception among many young eastern Libyan men that they have nothing to lose by participating in extremist violence at home and in Iraq.”

In Iraq, that is, for the insurgency fighting against American troops. The east is of course where Benghazi is, the rebel stronghold and the origin of the most powerful faction within the rebel groups and the Transitional National Council.

Citing conversations with relatives, [redacted] said the unemployed, disenfranchised young men of eastern Libya “have nothing to lose” and are therefore “willing to sacrifice themselves” for something greater than themselves by engaging in [sic] extremism in the name of religion. “Their lives mean nothing and they know it, so they seek to give meaning to their existence through their deaths”, he said.

So this is the type of people the US and NATO have entrusted with the government in the North African country. It is an interesting contradiction in US foreign policy right now. More interesting still is the cable’s hint at what the east Libyan young men (who now make up the rebel groups) might think of US boots on the ground in Libya.

[redacted] said he was struck by the level sentiment against Coalition forces in Iraq, and by the obvious pride the dinner guests took in the fact that two of their native sons had “struck a blow” against “occupying Crusader forces in Iraq”. He emphasized that the dinner was one of the relatively few occasions in Libya in which he felt uncomfortable by dint of having U.S. citizenship. In [redacted] view, eastern Libyans are not necessarily anti-American, but are strongly opposed to a U.S. military presence in Iraq or any other Muslim country.

There is a relatively strong possibility that there will be some US or NATO ground troops sent to Libya if and when Gadhafi falls and the rebels take over. As I wrote in my piece today:

“Western powers are concerned that tribal, ethnic and political divisions among the diverse armed groups opposed to Gaddafi could lead to the kind of blood-letting seen in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. ‘You will recall that after Baghdad fell, all of a sudden the Saddam Fedayeen [armed insurgents] materialized,’ Harlman Ullman, senior adviser to the Atlantic Council in Washington, told al-Jazeera.”

“The US and NATO have also expressed doubts that their rebel proxies in Libya will be responsible about the security of Libya’s weapons stockpiles. Apparently recognizing the fractured, amateurish nature of the rebel council, Western leaders have concerns that dangerous weapons will get into the hands of one or another faction, or even that the Benghazi-based rebels who head the Transitional National Council will not properly secure them.”

The potential for things to go seriously awry is probably too dangerous a political liability for the Obama administration to just peace out (so to speak…). There is a near certainty, at least, that the rebels will be receiving our economic, military, and diplomatic support (read: control) and Western oil corporations are already pouncing on their chance to use them for business deals. In this sense, US policy is rather consistent in that almost every major foreign policy decision vis-à-vis the Muslim-majority Middle East and Central Asia has exacerbated the very grievances people in that region have developed toward the United States. They do not want to be occupied or controlled through subservient US-supported client states. Our coercive interventions there are a lot of things, but one thing they are not is necessary. These are wars of choice, not just blunder.

I’m sure there were plenty of folks back in the 1980s who warned against supporting the mujihadeen against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Whoever they were, they were right. That adventure sure came back to bite us in the ass. Picking and choosing which party of gangs, militias or governments to get behind at any particular time has a long history of ruin and unintended consequences. I’m just wondering how long it will take for the consensus to come around on the rebels in Libya; how long before that comes back to bite us.

Update: I mentioned some possible ground troops and provided links for further exploration. Here is Spencer Ackerman on the possibility of troops on the ground.

A Problem of Legitimacy: The US Role in Libya

The Libyan rebels have apparently achieved control of almost all of Gadhafi’s last stronghold in the capital Tripoli, although some scattered fighting is still sporadically cropping up. While the whereabouts of Gadhafi are still unknown, the consensus seems to be that there is an effective fall of the regime, or will be very soon. The chairman of the National Transitional Council has announced as much. The mainstream media is depicting the rebel celebrations in the center of Tripoli as a jubilent  liberation and a victory for the rebels, already being “exploited by American war advocates to delegitimize domestic objections to the war.” But as Noah Shachtman at Wired reminds us, after 19,751 NATO sorties, this is largely a US-NATO victory:

The operation was massive, at one point involving 13,000 troops from 18 countries. Italian Reaper drones and other intelligence aircraft told the rebels where pro-government forces were, and what the Gadhafi-ites were saying. Plus, the drones did some damage of their own; U.S. Predators struck 92 times since late April. Apache gunships, launched from the carrier HMS Ocean, took out Gadhafi checkpoints, to “encourage rebel fighters in the east to move forward,” according to the Independent. Qatari Mirage jets helped enforce the no-fly zone, while a half-dozen Norwegian F-16s dropped 542 bombs in 2,000 hours of flight time. The frigate HMS Sutherland was one of several ships blocking suspicious vessels from possibly resupplying the regime. B-1 bombers flew all the way from South Dakota to get in on the action, destroying 100 targets in one 24 hour stretch. Then there were the more than 220 Tomahawks.

More than just a military triumph, the US-NATO also lays claims of victory over the intentions of this war. That is, regime change. The US has done it again, managing to hold out long enough for everybody to forget that this war was waged in violation of the law. The US-NATO almost immediately abandoned their stated goals of protecting civilians from Gadhafi’s attacks, switching to ousting him.

Stephen Walt warns against another “Mission Accomplished” gaffe, and as I lay out in my piece today, there is indeed a strong likelihood that (1) the rebel council proves incompetent at laying any foundations for a just and humane government and (2) there will be pressure for costly US support and even ground troops/occupation.

As for the first point, just consider the words of one of the most interventionist (and influential) members of Congress:

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) who has been an active supporter of the TNC throughout the Libya war, called on the Obama administration to increase its contacts and support for the TNC, now that they appear to be on the verge of taking power. He laid out a long list of tasks for the TNC if they are able to secure and hold Tripoli.

“In particular, we must support the new Libyan authorities to ensure they are able to prevent acts of retribution, initiate a credible process of national reconciliation, secure weapons depots and critical infrastructure, protect vulnerable populations, establish security and rule of law in Tripoli and throughout Libya, and begin the broadest possible outreach across Libyan society for an inclusive and transparent political transition,” Lieberman said in a statement Sunday evening.

Senators McCain and Graham issued similar statements. Again, especially after the Obama administration and virtually everyone who counts in Washington, formally recognized the TNC as the official and legitimate government of Libya, it is still unclear to what extent the Libyan population supports the rebels. I can think of at least a few obstructions in the way of the rebels gaining legitimacy.

The rebel group is not a cohesive assemblage, but made of disparate factions. The main rebel group, based in Benghazi in the country’s east, consists of former government ministers who have defected, and longstanding opposition figures, representing a range of political views including Arab nationalists, Islamists, secularists, socialists and businessmen. Their military forces are a hodge-podge of armed groups, former soldiers and freelance militias, including amateur neighborhood gangs and former members of an Islamist guerrilla group crushed by Gaddafi in the 1990s.

An example of their divisions made headlines at the end of July, when rebel military commander Abdel Fattah Younis was assassinated by his fellow comrades on suspicion of being disloyal and having perhaps been responsible for an inadequate rebel performance in the east. More than division, the rebels have accumulated a record of extrajudicial executions, suppression of free speech, beatings, and thievery, which have their Western enablers worried about their ability to run a just and humane country.

And such a task will be monumental. The economy is ruined, infrastructure has been bombed and destroyed, communications are disrupted, public services are damaged and heavily armed gangs loyal only to themselves are likely to remain at large. Political tasks, like a significant refugee problem and a looming division of the country between eastern and western tribes, are also complicated undertakings, to say the least.

But also, what legitimacy has the US in Libya? The actions of the Obama administration were not approved by Congress, so that excludes any real legitimacy for it here at home. But the US conduct in the war (which includes war crimes) also leads to questions about what right they have to choose sides in Libya now.