Updated 03/19/11 – 5:40 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk and Congresswoman Judy Biggert voiced their support Saturday for U.S. military involvement in enforcing a no-fly zone in Libya.
Kirk, the freshman Republican senator from Illinois, said he believes an international military effort against Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi will tilt momentum back to the rebels.
As WBBM Newsradio 780’s John Cody reports, the senator said it’s important to understand how much international support there is for an end to the Qaddafi regime.
LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s John Cody Reports
“If he is allowed to consolidate power, he will be a terrorist-supporting, utterly ruthless dictator killing thousands of people, who actively hates France, Britain and the U.S.,” Kirk said.
Biggert, a Hinsdale Republican, said she also agrees with President Barack Obama’s decision to launch strikes on Libyan air defenses.
“That was the president’s decision I think for him to do that at this time was the right thing to do,” Biggert said.
But as CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, many anti-war protesters who marched in downtown Chicago on Saturday to mark the 8th anniversary of the war in Iraq said the U.S. shouldn’t get involved in another war.
“We’re already involved in wars that have been going on for 8 and 9 years. Enough is enough. It’s time to pull all troops out. Our economy can’t handle more wars,” protester Ronald Schupp said.
But to Libyan American Ahmed Aduib, it’s not about dollars and cents but about saving tens of thousands of people from certain death.
“If the U.N. and U.S. didn’t get involved, it would be a complete massacre,” Aduib said. “He is going to massacre our people, but the people stand strong and that’s what my message is.”
Kirk said the U.S. will support British strike fighters flying to Libya from air bases in Italy, but will not and should not send ground troops into Libya, where he believes Qaddafi is on his way out.
The U.S. launched cruise missiles against Libyan air defenses on Saturday as part of the international military effort in Libya.
Kirk said it’s not just the West going after Qaddafi. He said the Arab League – including Qatar, which has sent in air units – has joined the efforts.
“The United Nations – even with the acquiescence of Russia and China, that abstained in the Security Council – shows a substantial amount of behind-the-scenes support to toppling Qaddafi,” he said.
One of the organizers at Saturday’s rally on Michigan Avenue said he believes U.S. intervention in Libya “will make it worse.”
Andy Thayer, of the Chicago Coalition Against War and Racism, said “It will give Qaddafi a credibility he doesn’t deserve,” adding that U.S. intervention would allow Qaddafi to say he’s standing up to American imperialism.
The Pentagon launched 50-100 cruise missiles around 1 p.m. Chicago time on Saturday, after French fighter jets flew sorties over Benghazi.
The operation, dubbed “Odyssey Dawn,” has two goals: prevent further attacks on civilians by Qaddafi’s forces, and develop the ability to establish a no-fly zone by going after Qaddafi’s integrated air defenses.
A French fighter jet fired Saturday on a Libyan military vehicle, the first reported offensive action against Qaddafi’s forces, a French defense official said.
The target was confirmed as a military vehicle, but it was not clear what kind. No hostile fire on the French jet has been reported.
It was the first reported offensive military action against Qaddafi’s troops, since the U.N. Security Council approved a resolution on Thursday, authorizing operations to protect civilians in Libya.
President Barack Obama said it was not an outcome that the U.S. or its allies sought, but that Qaddafi has ignored the will of the international community to refrain from waging violence against his own people.
A senior military official has told CBS News that the U.S. will be on the “leading edge” of coalition efforts to enforce the U.N. resolution.