Obama to speak about Libya at 5:15 ET

Here’s your open thread for live reaction. Jay Carney claimed earlier today that he’d been silent thus far because of, um, a “scheduling issue,” but obviously there are strategic concerns at work. The fact that he’s speaking up now, before Americans in Libya are fully out of harm’s way, means either that the silence has started to do him real political damage or that Qaddafi’s grip has become so weak that there’s no longer much of a risk that he’ll start taking hostages. There’s some reason to believe that the latter is true: The Journal claims that cities have begun to fall to protesters in western Libya too, and two Libyan military pilots went so far this morning as to bail out and let their jet crash rather than fire on the demonstrators below.

So momentum is with the opposition. But not everywhere:

“Samir,” 27, a medical student in Tripoli, says he opposes Gaddafi but that, like many others, he does not dare to venture out into the streets for fear of shoot-on-sight orders, which he believes have been issued to the dictator’s militias. “No one is going out today — the only people outside are Gaddafi supporters, who are celebrating. Actually, I have no idea what they’re celebrating,” he says, using the deadpan black humor he says he developed as a political activist.

“Most people of Tripoli are locked away in their homes,” Samir continues. “People are scared. There’s a shortage of food, but what can you do? Militias have been sent out to roam the streets in cars, and they’ll shoot anyone they see walking around. This is what Gaddafi is doing to try and stay in power: kill as many people as he needs to. It’s going to be a massacre. It’ll either happen in the streets, or they’ll come to people’s homes. It’s going to be a massacre if the international community doesn’t step in and do something about it.”

Demonstrators in Tripoli confirm to the Journal that the streets are lethally dangerous right now. Meanwhile, a French doctor in Benghazi, the heart of the uprising, claims that 2,000 people have been killed in that city alone. Quote:

The forces of suppression included police and military, but particularly mercenaries from Chad and Nigeria, trained in the remote Sahara and very well equipped and armed. We saw them go past in 4x4s, armed to the teeth, it was very impressive. It is impossible to know how many there were, some said 5000, others 50,000. They were killing machines. When the son of Gaddafi promised rivers of blood, he knew he could do it. From Darnah to Tobruk, they have committed a full-scale massacre – we are talking of more than a thousand deaths.

A reader e-mailed us the clip below of what purports to be Libyan soldiers and/or citizens who’ve rebelled against the regime; note that their hands are bound behind them, proof that these aren’t combat deaths but executions. Please observe your official content warning before watching. As for O’s presser, Carney assured the world this afternoon that he “strongly condemns” the violence. We’d better get more than that from him this afternoon when he strolls to the podium or it’ll be read as a sign that we don’t plan to do much of anything to try to get Qaddafi to ease off. Expect, at least, a call for international and even unilateral sanctions; if he goes a step further and follows McCain’s and Palin’s lead in suggesting a no-fly zone, I’ll be shocked.

Here’s an extended analysis from CNN about the hostage-taking worries that have driven Obama’s silence thus far. A ferry was scheduled to evacuate Americans to Malta this afternoon, but at last check the weather was holding it up. And while there are more pressing humanitarian concerns to worry about right now, needless to say you should probably get ready to pay more for gas for a good long while going forward.