"U.S. still awaiting Libya's permission to evacuate Americans," blared the headline for a page A6 story in today's Washington Post.
"The United States has been unable to get Libya's permission to evacuate American citizens from the country, State Department officials said Tuesday, prompting the administration to temper its response to the Libyan crackdown," Post staffers Mary Beth Sheridan and Colum Lynch noted.
Gee, you'd think that should be front-page news, and it's difficult to imagine this not being front-page news had it happened under President George W. Bush's watch.
Since that article's publication, the State Department has chartered a ferry to evacuate American citizens from the country. From a story filed by Sheridan and Lynch at 11:15 a.m. EST today:
A ferry chartered by the United States was docked off the coast of Libya Wednesday and available to evacuate American citizens, the U.S. Embassy said.
The ferry was expected to depart for Malta at 3 p.m. local time (8 a.m. in Washington), the embassy said, but there was no information about whether it had actually done so.
As of Tuesday, the State Department had been unable to get Libya's permission to fly American citizens out of the country, officials said, prompting the U.S. government to temper its response to the Libyan crackdown.
Of course, that concern hasn't stopped other heads of state from speaking out against Libya's dictator Muammar Qadhafi. In their print edition story this morning, Sheridan and Lynch noted that "German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Gaddafi's speech 'amounted to him declaring war on his own people.'"
It seems, however, the Post is in excuse-making mode for the Obama/Clinton State Department.
In a February 22 article, Sheridan and colleague Scott Wilson lamented that the "U.S. struggles with little leverage to restrain Libyan government":
As Libya's government brutally cracked down on demonstrators Monday, the Obama administration confronted a cold truth: It had almost none of the leverage it has exercised in recent days to help defuse other crises in the region.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned the violence in Libya on Monday evening, and said the United States is "working urgently with friends" around the world to pressure the government of Moammar Gaddafi. "Now is the time to stop this unacceptable bloodshed," she said in a statement.
But current and former officials said that American appeals are likely to have little effect on Gaddafi, a mercurial autocrat who for decades was regarded as a nemesis of U.S. presidents.
Although the United States has been able to leverage its deep ties with Egypt's armed forces, it has no significant military-to-military relationship with Libya. It also has little economic leverage: For the past fiscal year, U.S. aid to Libya has been less than $1 million, and most of that has gone toward helping the country's disarmament program.