Hope for the Libyan Rebels

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.

13 comments on “Hope for the Libyan Rebels

  1. I hope you’re right and Libya comes out of this as a functioning nation state. Love your commentary on Uncle Momo and Saif. Great post that breaks it down for some of us that don’t regularly follow the whims of Momo and son.

    • J H says:

      Hello Tam. I am glad you enjoyed the post. “Functioning” is relative. If it’s better than their Qaddafi era and they don’t export mayhem and murder then I will be happy for them and us.

  2. Texanne says:

    Like Tamerietherton, I hope you are right, but with a strong streak of skepticism. Look what happened when we took out Hussein (the one in Iraq)–and we were there, in large, armed numbers to try to keep order.

    Order doesn’t happen in a death-loving culture. Order, fairness, honesty in government are fragile, increasingly rare occurrences in every culture these days. Maybe we’ve been living in one of those golden moments, in which peace, freedom, and justice were relatively prevalent but which is now ending. It isn’t just the middle east, though that’s always the right place to start looking for Ugly. Look all over the televised world: our leaders are lazy idiots or wily saboteurs, our children are violent twits, our corporations are mafia and so are our labor unions, leaving shareholders and workers with our pockets turned out and our flak jackets hanging by the front door.

    If the Libyans can create something civilized from something horrific, my hat’s off to them. But I’ll keep it clapped firmly on my noggin till I see the proof, and it verified and sustained.

    I appreciate your analysis, and hope your forecast is true. It would be happy for Libyans to get themselves a chance for good lives and a relief for us to have one less Ugly Spot in the world.

    • J H says:

      Hi Texanne. I am not certain that life will improve in Libya or for the rest of us that share a planet with Libya, but based on their gains in education over the last few decades, I think there is a good chance that they will create a better country for themselves.

      In the case of Iraq, our troop strength was miniscule compared to the size and population of Iraq, and we entered Iraq determined not to run their country for them. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have used the quaint (and outrageously expensive) “you guys are in charge and we’re just here to help approach.” I have always considered that policy to be very unwise.

      In Iraq, no rebel movement had gained traction. In Libya, the rebels have managed to scrape together a coalition, and they are attempting to transcend tribal rivalries. On the eve of the rebellion, Libya was a little more cosmopolitan than Iraq. The average Libyan has a broader view of the world than the average Iraqi does. Only time will tell if their collective “enlightenment index” will be enough to overcome their worst instincts.

      “Order, fairness, honesty in government are fragile.” I agree. They do not occur randomly in nature. They all must be consciously created.

      On any given day, I can’t see any progress in terms of integrity in US and European corporations, but when I compare them to corporations fifty years ago, I can see clear improvement. Perhaps we are just becoming more aware of the lack of integrity in corporations.

      Libya might or might not improve, but if it does, it will represent a giant step forward in social progress in Africa. A Libya that is not at odds with the world would be a welcome change in the geopolitical landscape.

      • Texanne says:

        “In Iraq, no rebel movement had gained traction. In Libya, the rebels have managed to scrape together a coalition, and they are attempting to transcend tribal rivalries.”

        Important difference. Democracy, like education or physical fitness, can’t be gifted. It can only be earned. That’s been one of our big mistakes, thinking we could fly in on our winged steeds and bestow democracy to a culture that hates it.

        One man, one vote, one time. Isn’t that the way it goes?

        Still, I hope you’re right.

  3. Gene Lempp says:

    Once Qaddafi is gone, who will pitch a tent at international meetings? He is (was) a despot, a tyrant, with political Alzheimer’s, but a colorful character all the same. Interesting analysis of what the future may hold, of course, the West will want to be paid back for their assistance and how and where Libyan independence and Western political influence meet will be the place where the future is spawned. However, there are enough semi-democratic governments in Africa that Libya may manage to avoid being drawn into the Islamic trap.

    Great post, Holmes.

  4. J H says:

    Thanks Gene. As for the “West” being paid back, I think it will be energy companies that receive any pay back. The tax payers will likely see gasoline prices continue to climb as workers struggle with the consequences of our increasing debt.

    Putin’s offer to mediate was based on his dream of having Russian energy corporations supplant Western energy companies in Libya. It won’t happen. The rebels may use Russia as a lever against Western corporations, but they would much rather deal with BP, Exxon, etc than trust the Kremlin.

    China will attempt to outbid Western corporations for the Libyan energy reserves and construction contracts. It will be interesting to see if Western corporations can keep them out of that particular arena.

    The Islamic fascist gangs have been trying to gain ground in Libya for two decades, but in Libya, they will not be the only armed party when the rebellion is over. They will not easily be able to use their usual “armed minority” methods to take over.

    Iran will do all it can to prop up an Islamic fascist gang in Libya, but Iran’s Mediterranean messenger boy in Syria (Assad) is busy this week, and Iran is working overtime to keep freedom and democracy at bay in Syria, Yemen, and the Gaza strip.

    We shall see,

  5. I had a distant relative who lived in Libya in the late 1980s. Thirty years later, so little has changed. Even the names are the same. Like you, I have more faith in the people than the politicians.

  6. I doubt it will take 60 days. Ghadafi doesn’t have enough gasoline to keep fighting that long.

  7. Now that the Libyans free themselves, let’s pray that they don’t go back to the way they are. Funny thing about these things. They go back to the way they were within a decade or less. Another dictator another woe.

  8. J H says:

    Hi Marilag. Democracy is not a natural state of being. It’s not easy to build and maintain. I hope that the people of Libya can create a better nation for themselves.

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