Belmont Club

Farce and Tragedy

Maybe the feared government spending cuts have started already. US citizens arriving on a ferry from Libya may have been stuck in Tripoli because the State Department chartered too small a ship to safely put to sea. At 68 meters in length, the US-charted Dolores is less than half of the length of a Burke Class destroyer (154 meters) and a Russian tycoon’s private yacht (164 m).

President Obama has been under intense criticism for his muted response to the bloodshed in Libya, with speculation that Colonel Gaddafi had intimidated the White House into silence by blocking the evacuation of U.S. citizens.

And last night, while the Dolores remained stranded, the president enjoyed a White House pop concert in celebration of Black History month.

Tony Munoz Editor of shipping magazine The Maritime Executive said: ‘I don’t understand why this vessel didn’t leave earlier – The Maria Dolores is a new vessel built for Mediterranean seas.

‘I can only imagine the captain was refusing to sail because he felt the vessel was not capable enough of taking the sea on.

Speaking to MailOnline, Mr Munoz said that there was no comparison between the 68 metre Dolores and the 204 metre Hellenic Spirit, used by the Greek government to evacuate its citizens from Benghazi.

‘The U.S. needed to charter a bigger boat like the Greeks’ he said.

The administration may have taken a low profile out of concern for a potential hostage taking situation, but now with the official Americans safe in Malta they are now swinging into action. They are considering sanctions.

USA Today reports the government will impose “unilateral sanctions” on Libya, but it doesn’t know what they will be yet. The spokesman further said that whatever sanctions were finally adopted would “make it clear that the regime has to stop its abuse, it has to stop the bloodshed.” Responding to criticisms about the size of the boat it had chartered, a spokesman said the question was now “moot”.

Greece and Turkey had been able to evacuate citizens earlier by using bigger boats that could better handle choppy seas, but Crowley said any questions about why the U.S. did not send a larger boat are now moot.

“It is very difficult to know at this point how many Americans still remain,” Crowley said. “They are getting out through a variety of means. Companies are also chartering transportation to evacuate workers. Some Americans are included in these movements.”

The British have sent a destroyer, HMS York, to seas off the Libyan coast, where a Chinese warship will join them, and two Iranian warships will be in the vicinity. Meanwhile, the USS Enterprise and USS Kearsarge were sailing away from the Med and were in the Northern Arabian Sea.

In the meantime, Khadaffi, nothing dismayed, announced that he would “open up the arsenals” amid reports that he was taking human shields, which may include patients kidnapped from the local hospitals. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation quoted the Duck of Death as saying:

Addressing hundreds of cheering supporters from the old city ramparts looking over Tripoli’s Green Square, Mr Gaddafi, wearing a winter jacket and a hunter’s cap that covered his ears, said when necessary he would open Libya’s arsenals of guns to the tribes.

“We can crush any enemy. We can crush it with the people’s will. The people are armed and when necessary, we will open arsenals to arm all the Libyan people and all Libyan tribes,” he said.

Blowing kisses to supporters and then shaking both fists in the air in a dramatic performance, he urged his supporters to fight for their country.

“Get ready to fight for Libya! Get ready to fight for dignity! Get ready to fight for petroleum! …. Respond to them, put them to shame … we can triumph over the enemies,” he said.

“We will fight them and we will beat them.”

One thing in the arsenals that Khadaffi is about to open is about 9.5 tons of mustard gas, 1,000 tons of uranium yellowcake and various and sundry precursor chemicals which US officials now worry may be used if things rage out of control, according to the Wall Street Journal.  But without a known military option, the administration probably can only hope that Khadaffi will quake in fear once sanctions are announced. Stronger medicine is out, as the NYT reports, because a “no fly zone” would require a Security Council Resolution. But some defectors believe that the Duck of Death is now acting like a complete madman and may already be far beyond the reach of reason. Whether sanctions or the threat thereof will have a deterrent effect on him, remains to be seen.

Libya’s deputy UN ambassador said that thousands of people have been killed in the country’s unrest and that Mr Gaddafi may kill himself rather than be caught by his opponents.

“There are already thousands of people who have been killed, we expect more,” said the diplomat, Ibrahim Dabbashi, who has turned against the Gaddafi regime.

Mr Dabbashi told reporters Mr Gaddafi is “psychologically unstable” and that “Gaddafi has the choice between being killed or commit suicide”.

“He might seek to send some of his family members abroad but I believe he prefers to die in Libya because of his narcissistic character – he wants to act like a hero,” he said.

Mr Dabbashi said “the dictator regime in Tripoli is in its last moments”.

The Libyan envoy said the international community had to “send a clear message” to Mr Gaddafi to halt the violence.

“Otherwise I think he will continue his killings and today you will have thousands of people killed in Tripoli. It is time to stop this,” he said.

Khadaffi is almost certainly in his “last moments”. The only question is, how many will share those final moments with him. Below is video taken from the fantail of the USS Enterprise, showing her at 20 knots. She was last reported sailing away from the Mediterranean sea.

[youtube wHk2UNp4bhw]

When President Obama referred to Motown as the “soundtrack of the civil rights era” at the White House bash he might have reflected that it was also the perfect accompaniment to his shopworn diplomacy. Too bad the Four Tops weren’t around to sing this classic from the old days, which perfectly captures how much things have changed even though it tries to look the same.

Now it’s the same old song
But with a different meaning
Since you been gone
It’s the same old song
But with a different meaning
Since you been gone

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