President Barack Obama used Thursday’s death of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to boast about his role in the dictator’s downfall during a Rose Garden speech to mark what he called “this momentous day.”
“For nearly eight months, many Americans have provided extraordinary service and support of our efforts to protect the Libyan people and to provide them with a chance to determine their own destiny,” the president said.
“Our skilled diplomats have helped to lead an unprecedented global response. Our brave pilots have flown in Libya’s skies. Our sailors have provided support off Libya’s shores. And our leadership in NATO has helped guide our coalition.
“Without putting a single U.S. service member on the ground, we achieved our objectives and our NATO mission will soon come to an end.”
Most observers of the Libyan revolution have said that America actually took a back seat, allowing France and Britain to lead the NATO forces. Some, including former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, said that lack of American involvement dragged out the fighting, leading to more loss of life.
But Obama said the victory for the rebels in Libya “comes at a time when we see the strength of American leadership across the world.
“We’ve taken out al-Qaida leaders and we’ve put them on the path to defeat. We’re winding down the war in Iraq and have begun a transition in Afghanistan. And now working in Libya with friends and allies, we’ve demonstrated what collective action can achieve in the 21st century.”
Obama pledged help to the new Libyan government. “We’re under no illusions. Libya will travel a long and winding road to full democracy. There will be difficult days ahead,” he warned. “But the United States, together with the international community, is committed to the Libyan people. You have won your revolution. And now we will be a partner as you forge a future that provides dignity, freedom, and opportunity.”
He said the world now awaits a stable interim government leading to free and fair elections.
“And we call on our Libyan friends to continue to work with the international community to secure dangerous materials and respect the human rights of all Libyans, including those who have been detained,” he said.
“Today’s events prove once more that the rule of an iron fist inevitably comes to an end,” Obama added. “Across the Arab world, citizens have stood up to claim their rights. Youth are delivering a powerful rebuke to dictatorship. And those leaders who try to deny their dignity will not succeed.”
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