Estimates of the death toll in the Libyan government’s assault on a pro-democracy uprising have reached as high as 1,000. After losing control of several eastern cities, Libyan forces have launched a sustained assault in western parts of the country including the capital, Tripoli. Libyan troops are attacking protesters with the reported help of mercenaries flown in from foreign countries. In a rambling speech aired on state television, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi vowed to fight to his “last drop of blood” rather than leave the country.
Muammar Gaddafi: “Muammar Gaddafi is not occupying a position to resign from the same way other presidents did. Gaddafi is not a president; he is a leader of a revolution.”
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has also called on his supporters to attack protesters in the streets. Hours after the speech, the U.N. Security Council issued a statement urging the Libyan government to end its attacks. Libya’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Ibrahim al-Dabashi, who has defected from Gaddafi’s regime, criticized the measure, saying it does not go far enough. Dabashi also repeated his call on the regime to stop killing innocent protesters.
Ibrahim al-Dabashi: “I cannot confirm that there are aerial attacks, but now the attack is on the ground. I want to be accurate. I want to set the reality. And once again, I call on the regime to stop killing the Libyan people.”
The Obama administration has condemned the attacks but refused to reintroduce sanctions against the Libyan government. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the violence on Tuesday.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “We are obviously watching developments in Libya with grave concern. We have joined with the international community in strongly condemning the violence in Libya, and we believe that the government of Libya bears responsibility for what is occurring and must take actions to end the violence.”
In Yemen, two protesters were killed and 10 more were wounded outside in the capital city of Sana’a late Tuesday night. Pro-government supporters are said to have indiscriminately fired into a crowd of demonstrators. As in Egypt, there has been speculation plainclothes police officers and others backed by the government have been used to break up opposition protests.
The U.S.-backed monarchy in Bahrain has released at least 50 political prisoners following over a week of protests. The move came as the Bahraini capital of Manama saw its largest pro-democracy rally to date, with tens of thousands packing the central Pearl Roundabout. After a deadly crackdown last week, a Bahraini police officer was among those to join the protest.
Abu Noah: “We decided that our job is to protect the people and not to beat them up. The weapons that have been used against the people are weapons of shame. The weapons should be used to protect the people and not be used against them. That is why we have decided to be with the people.”
Bahrain is a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, hosting the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. New details continue to emerge on the U.S. government’s support for human rights abuses under the Bahraini government. According to the New York Times, the Navy rejected an offer from a Bahraini human rights activist to report on the repression of protests. The activist’s contact in the U.S. government was then ordered to stop all communication with Bahraini Shiites who have campaigned against discrimination by the ruling Sunni family. Prominent Bahraini human rights activist, Nabeel Rajab, has also revealed the military pressured two U.S. senators not to host him or even meet with him during a trip to Washington, D.C.
The Obama administration has reportedly launched a review of military aid and potential weapons sales to allied governments facing a wave of popular revolt. U.S. law prohibits aid to military or security units that engage in human rights abuses. According to the Wall Street Journal, the review could force the cutoff of aid to specific military units that have attacked civilian protesters and even delay multi-billion-dollar arms deals to Gulf states. In October, the White House finalized a $60 billion deal to sell advanced military aircraft to Saudi Arabia, the largest-ever single arms deal in U.S. history. The six Gulf Cooperation Council countries—Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait, as well as Jordan—are expected to spend some $70 billion on their militaries this year.
The struggle to defend workers’ collective bargaining rights continues in Wisconsin while spreading to Ohio and Indiana. On Tuesday, thousands rallied at the State Capitol in Columbus, Ohio, against Senate Bill Five, which would require public sector workers to abandon collective bargaining, fund a larger share of health insurance premiums, and switch to a so-called “merit-based” pay system. In a scene mirroring that unfolding in the Wisconsin State Capitol over the past week, an estimated crowd of up to 15,000 packed a state courthouse in Columbus, banging drums and chanting, “Kill the bill.” Meanwhile in Indiana, Democrats in the state’s Senate took a page from their counterparts in Wisconsin, fleeing the state to deny Republicans quorum, required for a vote on the bill. The move came in response to a so-called “right to work” measure from Republicans that would remove union membership as a condition of employment. Speaking to NPR’s Diane Rehm, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels could not explain how stripping workers’ collective bargaining rights would help reduce state deficits. Daniels ultimately acknowledged the chief aim of the measures is to undermine union influence.
Diane Rehm: “I still am totally in the dark as to how bargaining and the bargaining power of unions and taking that away is going to affect the budget process.”
Gov. Mitch Daniels: “Well, if my newspaper is correct, he’s not talking about that. He’s talking about narrowing the scope down to wages and, you know, that…”
Diane Rehm: “But they’ve already conceded wages.”
Gov. Mitch Daniels: “Well, you know, this is—I think he’s trying to fix a structural problem, which I’ve demonstrated or discussed to you already, Diane. The problem comes from the, you know, forced expropriation, whether they like it or not, of money from—that started with the taxpayer, from the salaries of government workers, circulated back into a political machine that is the most powerful out there. And if you’re worried about special interest power and special interest pressure in America, that’s—the government unions is where you ought to start.”
Pro-labor Protests in have also spread to Idaho this week. Hundreds of people have rallied in Boise and 10 other cities against a plan to fire more than 750 teachers and restrict their rights to collective bargaining.
A Republican state legislator in Georgia has introduced a measure that would make abortion the legal equivalent of murder and force the criminal investigation of women who suffer miscarriages. The bill, HB 1, from House Republican Bobby Franklin, would classify the removal of a fetus under any circumstance other than during a live birth or to remove a dead fetus as “prenatal murder.” Doctors and hospitals would be forced to report miscarriages to authorities, who would then have to investigate if the miscarriage occurs without medical attention.
Four U.S. hostages have been killed by pirates off the coast of Somalia. The victims’ boat was hijacked on Friday, and negotiations had been underway with the U.S. Navy. U.S. Department of State Spokesperson P.J. Crowley condemned the attack.
State Department Spokesperson P.J. Crowley: “This deplorable act firmly underscores the need for a continued international effort toward confronting shared security challenge posed by the piracy in the waters off the Horn of Africa. Our deepest sympathies go out to the victims’ families at this time; we will honor their memory by continuing to strengthen international partnerships in order to bring these Maritime criminals to justice.”
In Belgium, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman came under protest Tuesday when a demonstrator attempted a citizens’ arrest.
Protester: “Mr. Lieberman, this is a citizen’s arrest. You are charged with the crime of apartheid. Please come with me to the nearest police station. Free Palestine! Free Palestine! Apartheid is a crime! Israel is an apartheid state, is a criminal state!”
Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has won Chicago’s mayoral election with a majority of the votes, avoiding a runoff vote. Emanuel was briefly disqualified last month after he was ruled ineligible for not residing in Chicago long enough. He’ll replace retiring Mayor Richard Daley. On Tuesday, Emanuel celebrated his victory with a crowd of supporters.
Rahm Emanuel: “We’re known as a cold place in the middle of the winter that’s down in your bone. But I can tell you something, having been on every 110 El stops, on 110 platforms, when it’s 20 below with the wind chill. Because of the people of Chicago, this is the warmest place in America. Now, I want you to remember, let’s continue to work together to make sure Chicago remains the greatest city on earth.”
The FBI is facing a class action lawsuit over the spying on members of a California mosque. On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Council on American-Islamic Relations accused the FBI of violating the constitutional rights of hundreds of members of a mosque in the town of Irvine. Former government informant Craig Monteilh has acknowledged he posed as a Muslim convert to lure mosque members to work out with him at local gyms. Monteilh says FBI agents would then press him to obtain information on his workout partners in the hopes of one day pressuring them to become informants. According to the suit, FBI agents instructed Monteilh to collect email addresses, phone numbers and other personal information of mosque members, telling him that Islam is “a threat to national security.”