By Jay Holmes
Since we last discussed Moammar Qaddafi and his unhappy subjects, events in Libya have proceeded without many surprises. It has been obvious from the onset of the Libyan Civil War that the rebels’ ability to dethrone Uncle Momo and his pet hyenas would depend on outside intervention.
The majority of outside assistance to the rebels has come from the U.K., France, Canada, Italy and the United States. While a variety of Western nations have been loud in denouncing Uncle Momo, few have been willing to invest much military hardware and manpower to help the rebels.
There are two forces driving the reluctance of Arab League members and some Western governments. The first factor is the simple fact that if someone else is willing to pay the bill, most countries won’t be motivated to help. The second factor is the lack of confidence in the Libyan rebel coalition government.
Removing Qaddafi has never been the challenging aspect of intervening in Libya. With limited commitments in manpower, hardware and ordnance, the coalition of Western forces has been able to reach its original goal with ease. It has kept Qaddafi’s vastly superior forces from defeating and slaughtering the Libyan rebels.
The rebels have, of course, always wanted the Western coalition to do more to help them defeat Qaddafi. In the last couple of months, the Western coalition has stepped up air operations and broadened its range of targets. By using air power to eliminate Qaddafi’s air force, many of his armored vehicles, and his key communications, command and control locations, the coalition has created the conditions that have allowed the rebels to capture key cities. The Western coalition has kept Tripoli isolated from air and sea access, and at the time of this writing, the rebels are close to cutting off Tripoli from land routes.
During the rebels’ slow push toward Tripoli, a few particularly interesting events have occurred. On July 28, former Qaddafi favorite and later rebel commander, General Abdul Fattah Younes, was summoned to appear before four rebel council judges in Benghazi. That evening, leader Mustapha Jalil announced that Younes had been “released on his own recognizance,” and that he and two other rebel officers were later attacked and murdered by unknown assailants.
As the head of Qaddafi’s infamous Interior Ministry Brigade, Younis oversaw the brutal torture and murder of dissidents in Libya. If we are to find a suspect based on motive, then we can assume that about three-quarters of the people in Libya, along with plenty of folks outside of Libya, are the prime suspects. Count me in that group.
The two things that would have stopped me from killing Younes, had the opportunity arisen, would have been the fact that killing him was going to cause trouble for the anti-Qaddafi rebels, and the fact that someone else would kill him for me soon enough. Someone did. I was at home with my wife the night that Younes received his 72 virgin bonus.
Younes was a member of the large Obedi tribe, and after his killing, a mob of armed Obedis showed up in Benghazi wanting to start a revolution within a revolution. Fortunately, they were routed within a few hours.
On August 8, rebel leader Mustapha Jalil announced that the rebel cabinet had been dissolved, and that new cabinet members would be selected by the rebel council. The move was seen as an attempt to placate the Obedi tribe and their supporters. The move left the rebels in a state of temporary flux, but it appears to have worked. The threatened split within the coalition did not occur.
The fact that the large Obedi tribe did not organize itself and drop out of the rebel coalition is important. It stands as evidence that a post-Qaddafi Libya will not be completely controlled by tribal loyalties. Qaddafi has, of course, maintained that, without his benevolent guidance, Libya would fall into tribal warfare and would end up becoming a radical Islamic, anti-West terrorist state. If nothing else, we can always count on Uncle Momo to add a little humorous absurdity to any political conversation. The notion of the great terrorist pioneer Uncle Momo trying to convince Western nations to protect him in order to prevent terrorism gives us one of the few laughs we have had concerning Libya in the last four decades. Thanks, Momo.
One other recent, great Qaddafi family comedy act performance was provided by Uncle Momo’s son, Saif Al-Islam Qaddafi. You remember Saif. He is the hard-drinking, free-spending London playboy who was going to lead Libya into a new modern age of democracy. Since the start of the rebellion in Libya, Saif has repeatedly warned us that, without the services of the beloved Qaddafi family, Al-Qaeda and other Islamic terrorists would take over in Libya.
Saif (a.k.a. Hugh Heffner, Jr.) has recently taken stock of his life (bombs frequently falling in your neighborhood will do that to you). After careful consideration, he has remembered that he has actually always been a radical, anti-Western Islamic fundamentalist, and that he never really liked the London club scene. In a recent interview conducted by his own journalists, Saif appeared in traditional Bedouin garb, and while fingering his Islamic prayer beads, he explained that Islamic fundamentalist groups were forming an alliance with the Qaddafis and would soon be rescuing Libya from rebel threats.
The sight of Saif the Latter Day Islamic is one of the more amusing images of the Libyan rebellion. Thanks, Saif. I had bet two friends that you would eventually put your hand-tailored silk suits away and provide us with a hilarious portrait of yourself in one fashion or another. I had suspected that you would dress up in an outlandish military uniform decked out with more brass and metals than Herman Goering and Napoleon Bonaparte combined. You outdid yourself Saif. It’s in your blood. I now get a free dinner at my favorite restaurant in London whenever I am next in the UK.
For the folks closer to the stage (innocent Libyans), the last few months have not been quite as humorous. The Qaddafi thugs have maintained a tight control on Tripoli proper and have been quick to squelch any dissent. In recent days, signs of a falling regime have become more evident. In suburbs of Tripoli and nearby towns where journalists could not find an anti-Qaddafi resident a few short weeks ago, the locals are now claiming that their neighborhoods are “100% against Qaddafi.” For people close to Tripoli to risk speaking against Qaddafi, they would need to be very convinced that he is on his way out.
As we predicted, South Africa did offer Qaddafi safe asylum, but even when South African President Jacob Zuma traveled to Libya to present an African Union peace plan to Qaddafi, Qaddafi declined to leave Libya.
Since Qaddafi declined Zuma’s offer, the International Court of Justice has issued warrants for Momo and his family members. Later, Russian Czar Vladimir Putin offered to mediate, but only the Russians (a few of them) took that offer seriously. Qaddafi did not. He assumes that Putin is a lot like him and should never be trusted. The clown prince of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, had supposedly also offered asylum to his dear friend Qaddafi, but Hugo’s cancer treatment may have interrupted any momentum for a Qaddafi departure to Venezuela.
It seems that Qaddafi is determined to fight to the death. With increasing assistance from the West in the form of air strikes and covert operations, it appears that the rebels are preparing to help Uncle Momo take that long-deserved vacation in the sky. If the Western coalition continues it’s current level of operations against Qaddafi’s diminishing forces, and the rebels can continue to cooperate amongst themselves, we may see him gone within sixty days.
The popular bet is that a post-Qaddafi Libya will be chaotic, and that Libya may slip into some sort of Islamic feudalism. I am going to vote against the popular view and predict that Libya is ready to form a functioning nation state. It will not be without corruption and problems, but it will be better than anything it has had previously.