Qaddafi fires back with promise of "a long war"

Muammar Qaddafi AP/Graphics Bank

TRIPOLI - The U.S. and its allies may have fired missiles and bombs at Libya, but Muammar Qaddafi has fired back with defiance and threats.

Both sides are evaluating where they stand after a night of destruction.

When the weapons coming at you are cruise missiles fired from hundreds of miles out at sea, and when the only real defense is antiquated anti-aircraft artillery shooting at an enemy it can't see - let alone hit - you resort to the only weapons you have, says CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips.

For the Qaddafi regime, that is people and words.

The leader himself hasn't been seen in days, but Muammar Qaddafi did call in to the state TV channel: "So the Mediterranean and North Africa will become now a real war zone because of this aggression and irresponsible act. And now all countries' interests in the region will be in danger starting from now."

His threatening words were run over a shot of the monument in front of a building destroyed during the 1986 U.S. bombing of Tripoli.

"Interference in our affairs has no justification," he said. "We are better than you because of our will. We are going to fight, we are going to fight for every square of our land. We will go as martyrs. We are dreamers, we will not give the land away."

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Although the military operations bore the colors of a coalition, Qaddafi singled out the U.S. as the aggressor, rebel forces in Benghazi as traitors, and Libya as a target of "foreign colonialism."

"Benghazi will not let them take their honor," he said. "We will not allow them to come and take over Benghazi like you dream. People of Benghazi will rise and will wave the green flag. The conflict is between the Libyan people and the United States."

Vowing that Libyans will fight to the death as martyrs but ultimately be victorious, Qaddafi proclaimed, "This is the best moment in our life. We are going to be victorious in every town in Libya. We will fight, we will target any traitor who is co-operating with the Americans or Christian crusade."

He called the international coalition serving to enforce United Nations Resolution 1973 the "New Crusade."

"All nations are against this foreign intervention," he said. "If you want a long war, we will be ready.

"You were defeated in Somalia, you were defeated in Vietnam, you were defeated in Iraq, Iran and so on. You will be defeated, and there is no way back for you."

"You can't do anything in Afghanistan. Bin Laden defeated you - this weak man - you have used all your resources and now you are ready to leave. The same in Libya. You will not leave victorious."

The people also assembled - or were assembled - at potential target sites, including the fortified Qaddafi family compound in Tripoli.

Call them human shields; call them enthusiastic supporters come to be with their leader. The effect is the same.

Their presence would make targeting Qaddafi himself politically extremely difficult. And there is no indication that was the intention.

The Libyans admitted military targets were hit - but claimed about 50 civilians were killed as well. They showed wounded people in hospitals who they said were victims of the attack, but whose support for the regime was remarkably undiminished.

A government minister supplied an early official response: "Honestly I cannot give you names of the locations, but they hit civilian buildings and all inhabitants of them are civilians."

The bombing has reshaped the battlefield here. IF it has eliminated Qaddafi's air defenses - and that is not clear yet - then it has begun to take the military advantage away from his forces.

IF attacks also are successful against his tanks and troops on the ground, then the balance starts to shift more toward the anti-Qaddafi, rebel forces.

It is still far from clear, though, whether they are in a position to take advantage of the support they're getting from their new-found allies.

And, it's been said before about Muammar Qaddafi - that which doesn't kill him makes him stronger.

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