President Barack Obama addressed the nation Monday night to discuss the United States’ present and future plans for its military involvement in Libya, actions that a local Libyan citizen characterized as an answered prayer.
Obama said the United States’ de-escalating involvement in the United Nations-sponsored mission was “a supporting role.”
NATO has taken command of both naval and air operations in Libya and will assume full command on Wednesday, according to CNN.com.
Obama said the cost of U.S. military operations in the conflict would be reduced significantly in the future.
Obama’s speech — and America’s involvement in supporting anti-government rebels — was the answer to Homdi Soliman’s prayers.
Soliman is a Libyan citizen and Columbus native who has organized several peaceful demonstrations on Ohio State’s campus to protest against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Soliman said protests have continued in his native country amidst the violence.
“They’re just trying to protect themselves and their families,” Soliman said. “(America’s involvement) has produced a very positive result.”
During demonstrations on the OSU campus that took place on Feb. 21 and 25, Soliman, along with other Libyan citizens based in central Ohio and other supporters, chanted and waved Libyan flags. Their hope was to bring awareness to the growing need for U.S. involvement in Libya.
Soliman said he and fellow demonstrators view the decision to aid Libyan people “as a plus.”
“That’s what we’ve been rallying for,” Soliman said.
Heba BenOmran, a Libyan citizen and Columbus resident, graduated from OSU in 2002 with a degree in Human Ecology with a specialization in Early Childhood Development. BenOmran stood alongside Soliman during the demonstrations on campus.
BenOmran said she believes the U.S. intervened in Libya at precisely the right moment.
“At the day they intervened, they saved Benghazi,” BenOmran said. “It was huge. The people in Libya are truly grateful.”
BenOmran said she is unsure how the conflict will be affected with NATO in control of military operations, but said Libya’s only hope is for the coalition with NATO.
For both Soliman and BenOmran, the struggle to rid their country from Gadhafi’s violence against civilians is far from over.
“In Libya, it is basically the average kid in the street (protesting),” Soliman said. “It’s the college kid, the child, the housewife — that’s who is rising up against Gadhafi.”
Members of both the Democratic and Republican parties have criticized President Obama’s policy on Libya, claiming the unconstitutionality of not seeking Congress’ approval to engage America’s military in the conflict.
“To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and, more profoundly, our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are,” Obama said in his address Monday.
BenOmran said she likes to think that the demonstrations on OSU’s campus helped bring attention to the violence toward civilians in Libya.
“It is really hard to be a Libyan in America while this is going on,” BenOmran said. “Everyone wants to be there to help out as much as possible. This is the most we can do.”
Soliman said he simply wanted a fair fight for loved ones that remain in Libya.
“We weren’t asking for ground troops,” Soliman said. “We just wanted to level the scale. That has happened.”
Soliman and his collective of anti-Gadhafi protestors will demonstrate again on Friday at 200 North High St. from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m.