Libya Under Missile Attack
GUY RAZ, Host:
The United States and its allies at this hour are engaged in Libya.
BARACK OBAMA: Today, I authorize the Armed Forces of the United States to begin a limited military action in Libya in support of an international effort to protect Libyan civilians. An action has now begun.
RAZ: We'll start today with NPR's Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman who is in the studio with me. Tom, what do we know about the military campaign at this point?
TOM BOWMAN: Well, as you say, it started with the French taking on Libyan troops around Benghazi, the last rebel stronghold in the east and it was followed quickly by cruise missiles being fired by warships, British and U.S. warships in the Mediterranean, 110 cruise missiles, each have 1,000-pound warhead, taking out the radar sites, the missiles sites of Moammar Gadhafi so they can implement that no-fly zone. They wouldn't be able to fly safely through Libya without being targeted by these missiles.
RAZ: How could Moammar Gahhafi respond to this? I mean, this is a pretty big campaign now, more than 25 countries involved and presumably will get bigger over the coming days. I mean, how could he respond to these attacks?
BOWMAN: And two years we had the Lockerbie bombing, which Libyan agents took part in more than - nearly 200 people were killed in that bombing over Scotland. So there's concern particularly about terrorism. Also, he has a good amount of mustard agent, mustard that he could use either against rebels or against civilians. He - western hostages, he could play that card as well. So there were a lot of concerns here about what he could do now that he's cornered.
RAZ: Tom, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was not too keen on imposing a fly zone. Of course you remember just a few weeks ago at a congressional hearing he said, let me be clear, this is a military intervention. It seemed like he was also staking out his position here.
BOWMAN: Now, Gadhafi isn't overthrown, you could chop the country in half. You get a Benghazi on one side with the rebels, Tripoli with Gadhafi on the other. And then there's going to be a question of what do you do now? Do you arm the rebels? Do you send ground troops in? U.S. has said no ground troops. But, again, this could go on for a long time.
RAZ: That's NPR's Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman who's following the latest on this story. We'll be hearing from Tom in the coming hours. Tom, thanks.
BOWMAN: You're welcome.
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