Obama Explains Libya Intervention: Text of Speech

He says the U.S. response halted a slaughter but provides no estimate of when the conflict might end.

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President Barack Obama declared Monday night that the United States intervened in Libya to prevent a slaughter of civilians that would "been a betrayal of who we are." Without ever calling it a "war," and without providing details on its costs, he gave a detailed explanation of how the military intervention served the national interests of the United States and its allies.

The full text of the speech, as delivered:

Good evening. Tonight I'd like to update the American people on the international effort that we have led in Libya -- what we have done, what we plan to do, and why this matters to us.

I want to begin by paying tribute to our men and women in uniform who, once again, have acted with courage, professionalism and patriotism. They have moved with incredible speed and strength. Because of them and our dedicated diplomats, a coalition has been forged and countless lives have been saved. Meanwhile, as we speak, our troops are supporting our ally Japan, leaving Iraq to its people, stopping the Taliban's momentum in Afghanistan, and going after al-Qaida around the globe. As commander-in-chief, I am grateful to our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and their families, as are all Americans.

For generations, the United States of America has played a unique role as an anchor of global security and advocate for human freedom. Mindful of the risks and costs of military action, we are naturally reluctant to use force to solve the world's many challenges. But when our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act. That is what happened in Libya over the course of these last six weeks.

Libya sits directly between Tunisia and Egypt -- two nations that inspired the world when their people rose up to take control of their own destiny. For more than four decades, the Libyan people have been ruled by a tyrant: Muammar Qaddafi. He has denied his people freedom, exploited their wealth, murdered opponents at home and abroad, and terrorized innocent people around the world -- including Americans who were killed by Libyan agents.

Last month, Qaddafi's grip of fear appeared to give way to the promise of freedom. In cities and towns across the country, Libyans took to the streets to claim their basic human rights. As one Libyan said, "For the first time we finally have hope that our nightmare of 40 years will soon be over."

Faced with this opposition, Qaddafi began attacking his people. As president, my immediate concern was the safety of our citizens, so we evacuated our Embassy and all Americans who sought our assistance. We then took a series of swift steps in a matter of days to answer Qaddafi's aggression. We froze more than $33 billion of the Qaddafi regime's assets.

Joining with other nations at the United Nations Security Council, we broadened our sanctions, imposed an arms embargo and enabled Qaddafi and those around him to be held accountable for their crimes. I made it clear that Qaddafi had lost the confidence of his people and the legitimacy to lead, and I said that he needed to step down from power.

In the face of the world's condemnation, Qaddafi chose to escalate his attacks, launching a military campaign against the Libyan people. Innocent people were targeted for killing. Hospitals and ambulances were attacked. Journalists were arrested, sexually assaulted and killed. Supplies of food and fuel were choked off. The water for hundreds of thousands of people in Misratah was shut off. Cities and towns were shelled, mosques destroyed and apartment buildings reduced to rubble. Military jets and helicopter gunships were unleashed upon people who had no means to defend themselves against assault from the air.

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