Update on Libya and a Tearful Good-bye

By Jay Holmes

This week, Zimbabwean Dictator Robert Mugabe, a long time friend of Qaddafi’s, stated to the international press that Moammar  Qaddafi is now his guest in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwean opposition leaders claim that they have verified Momo’s presence. Mugabe’s people claim that Moammar flew out of his enclave at Sirte, but it’s just as likely that he flew out of an airstrip on the Algerian border.

The fact is that it is unlikely that anything other than shrapnel is flying out of Sirte without NATO’s acquiescence. It has not been confirmed by NATO authorities that Qaddafi or any of his principal family members are in Zimbabwe. If he is, I can only extend my condolences to the people of Zimbabwe for having to suffer yet another undeserved indignity. However, it is entirely possible that this is simply a rumor spread by Mugabe in an attempt to slacken the search for his buddy, Qaddafi, in Libya.

In honor of great work on the part of NATO and the Libyan rebels, I would like to repost this open letter I wrote to Qaddafi as a parting shot gift.

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My Open Dear John Letter to Qaddafi

By Holmes**

My Dearest Momo,

Perhaps you are surprised that I would write you now, but after all these years, I hate to see us break up this way. The lack of closure is emotionally draining for both of us. After all, my relationship with you has lasted even longer than my marriage thus far.

I was so young and impetuous when we first met. I know that some of the things that I have said and done may have hurt your feelings. Please accept that my friends and I always acted with sincerity and the best of intentions. I hope you can understand that some of the things you did were really hurtful to me and to many of my close friends, as well.

I am sitting here listening to Carol King sing Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, and it brings me so many fond memories of our long and often exciting friendship. All those years. . . . So many cute hats, none of which ever fit you. . . . Those charming outfits. . . . That lovely fireworks display on a romantic spring night in 1986. . . . These  memories all come flooding back to me as I sit here and laugh cry.

Seeing you in such painful difficulties these days has made me re-evaluate our long connection. I want this to all end for us on the best possible note. Although I know you have not always loved me, I am sure you have never questioned my sincerity or passion. It’s all been very real for me.

Based on my deeper understanding of our heart-felt connection, I am offering you a gift. . . . A gift from my heart. . . . In fact, in your honor, I have decided to offer this special gift to any deserving person in the world. . . . the Seventy-Two Virgins Golden Retirement Plan. In fact, out of my deep respect for you, I will ask potential retirees in the future to plan in advance by donating a small portion of their plunder to my special fund, so that I may be able to help as many needy souls as possible.

Because of all the years of joy you have brought me, I am offering this gift to you free of any of your normal financial arrangements. Unlike your other so-called friends, Gordon Brown and Silvio Berlusconi, I won’t take a penny from you. Yes Momo, I know about that gas pipeline you built to Silvio’s house, and look at how he has repaid you! But I forgive you. And I want you to know that my friendship with Markus Wolf* in no way detracted from all we have been to each other. “Mischa” never meant a thing to me.

My dear friend, stop struggling and give yourself the rest you deserve. Those seventy-two virgins will keep you happy for eternity. I know how picky you are about your meals so I have also arranged for a lovely, doting Ukrainian nurse to be your celestial mommy. Just stop for a moment and think of your future, Momo. Imagine being young again, imagine being attractive this time, imagine four exhausted recent virgins by your side, and your mommy’s voice entering that lovely silk tent. . . .”Ooo, Momo darling. . . . come to lunch Dear. Mommy made you your favorite lamb goulash. . . .”

Please come and visit soon so that we can implement your overdue, well-deserved gift. I want to finally repay you for our long years of friendship. Come what may, never forget that we had Paris in the spring, Rome in the fall, and those wonderful picnics on the Algerian border. Thank you for a lifetime of wonderful memories.


Holmes, CEO, Celestial After-Care, Inc.

*Markus Wolf was the despised director of the foreign intelligence branch of the East German Stasi (secret police).

**Note by Piper Bayard:

Holmes, a man with experience in intelligence and covert operations, has a long and involved past with Moammar Qaddafi (“Uncle Momo”) so these events in Libya are especially moving for him. During the Cold War, Qaddafi allowed the Soviets, the East Germans, and the other Warsaw Pact countries to use Libya as a giant terrorist training camp. Sometimes there were upwards of 30 camps operating at the same time for the purpose of training terrorist groups to attack Israel and Western nations. Qaddafi even cooperated with the Irish Republican Army for a while, until the IRA decided he was too filthy even for them.

Holmes and many of his friends spent decades intimately involved in fighting the Soviets, the East Germans, and the various terrorist organizations they sponsored. The stories of their sacrifices will never be told, but they were numerous and deeply personal.

In 1986, Qaddafi was blown away (pun intended) that his vaunted, high-tech Soviet Air Defense System proved useless against a rather limited air attack by less than two dozen aircraft from the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy. Rumors circulated that clandestine operations had simultaneously been carried out against military assets in Libya. In addition, Qaddafi’s Syrian allies had sent their best naval unit to the Gulf of Sidra with the intention of guaranteeing damage to the U.S. 6th fleet. That Syrian ship exploded shortly after casting off from its dock in Libya. Both Syria and Libya were left unenthusiastic about the prospects of any future engagements with the U.S. 6th fleet, despite the best cheerleading the Soviets could bring to bear.


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.

We. Are. At. War.

By Piper Bayard

My heart is heavy today thinking about our soldiers killed when our enemies brought down their Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan last week. Seventeen Navy SEALs, five conventional forces, three Air Force forward air controllers, five Army helicopter crew members, and eight Afghan military personnel. I did not know them, but I know others of their ilk. To a person, they are the most honorable, high-minded people I’ve ever met. To lose these devoted men to an enemy attack is not only a tragedy for their families and friends, it is a tragedy for every American.

The Current Administration is busy sending ever more Special Forces to Afghanistan, while pulling out “regular” troops. They are doing this as a way to cook the personnel books for the upcoming election. The theory is that one Special Forces soldier is the equivalent of two “regular” troops. The Current Administration wants to be able to win votes by saying, “We have reduced our forces in Afghanistan.” That doesn’t mean we have achieved half of our as-yet-to-be-defined goal in that country. It means that much of the American public wants Afghanistan to go away, and politicians are in the business of making people think they are getting what they want.

This completely ignores the fact that there is no such thing as a “regular” soldier. Each and every job in the military is important, from the supply clerks stateside to the deployed infantry, artillery, medics, and cooks, every soldier is important to the functioning of the whole. Special Forces are trained as Special Forces. They have a specific function. They aren’t a distillation of our military; they are one part of a diversely trained, functioning military. Therefore, to “reduce our presence in Afghanistan” and try to fill the gap with Special Forces is the same as saying, “Your left leg is really strong so we’re going to cut off your right leg.”

This is my Two Cents. I’m calling out our Current Administration for putting its political interests above the interests of our nation, and above the interests of the men and women who serve our country.

We are at war. Our enemies are Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. I would ask you, Current Administration, what is our specific goal? It hardly takes a student of military history to know that a war can’t be completed if there is no defined goal, and I and others have yet to hear one. And no. While “protecting the American people” is a politician’s answer, it is not a specific military goal.

Also, every Al-Qaeda and Taliban dollar comes from opium or oil—either the opium poppies grown in Afghanistan, or the oil dollars coming in from their sympathizers. If we cut off their funding, we eliminate their relevance on the planet.

I would ask you, Current Administration, what are you doing to eliminate the opium production in Afghanistan? I know you engage people to encourage farmers to grow soybeans instead of poppies. But is it just an option you give them? Or do you destroy the existing poppy fields? Do you have buyers for those soybeans? Do you take on the drug lords as the full allies of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban?

And more, what are we doing to eliminate our dependence on Middle Eastern oil? We only get around 20% of our oil from the Middle East (U.S. Energy Information Administration). Surely we can cut back our usage and develop alternative fuels by that much. We’re hardly on a petroleum shoestring in this country.

Current Administration, you are telling us to buy, buy, buy, spend, spend, spend, and the war is something happening “over there.” We don’t need to look back past World War II to see that, when you transmit that message, you are not behaving like an Administration at war.

Our nation is not behaving like a nation at war.

I challenge you, Current Administration, to step up and accept responsibility for the fact that we are, indeed, at war. Send whatever troops, equipment, and ordnance are necessary to root out our enemies. Stop cooking the personnel books for your election image.

I challenge you, Current Administration, to ruthlessly destroy the poppy fields and the drug lords of Afghanistan without apology, and to commit to long-term, Marshall Plan style reconstruction in Afghanistan, as we did with Japan and Germany. Fill the vacuum left behind by the elimination of the criminal enterprise with viable options people can actually eat and sell on the open market, and prevent a re-infestation of criminal, extremist vermin.

I challenge you, Current Administration, to not allow oil from any Middle Eastern countries to be marketed in America, unless those countries openly, consistently, and unapologetically stand as our steadfast allies against Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and all Islamic extremists.

And I challenge us as Americans to behave as a nation at war and reduce our gasoline consumption, as our grandparents did in WWII. If we cut our oil consumption by 20% and wholeheartedly develop alternatives, we will need nothing from the Middle East.

Take a moment and imagine how different our Middle Eastern policy would be if those countries were no more relevant to us than Easter Island. Isn’t that worth a few bicycle rides? A bit of car-pooling and public transportation?

If our Current Administration and we, as a nation, accept responsibility for the fact that we are at war, . . . if we develop the WWII mindset that each and every one of us is responsible for the war effort, . . . Al-Qaeda and the Taliban will dry up and shrivel into footnotes in our children’s history books. America’s strength has always been in her independence. I call on us all to remember who we are.

In the meantime, my thoughts and prayers are with our deployed troops, and with the families, friends, and commanders of the fallen. May our country step up and do them justice.

What’s your Two Cents about our Current Administration replacing our “regular” soldiers with half as many Special Forces?

Click here to learn more about the men our enemies killed last week.

All the best to all of you for a week of independence.

Yemen Update: Saleh’s Sojourn to Saudi and What It Means

By Jay Holmes

Last week, a rocket hit Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s personal mosque at his home in Yemen. It killed three of Saleh’s bodyguards and his personal Imam. Saleh and others were wounded and flown to Saudi Arabia for treatment.

The hospitals in Yemen could have handled the medical treatment with less delay. Saleh’s decision to be flown to Saudi Arabia is an indication that he believes he would not be safe in a hospital in Yemen. On that point, Saleh and I agree. Naturally, many of us are wondering about the significance of this attack.

The first step in making a guess about the impact of Saleh leaving Yemen is to venture a guess as to who might have ordered the attack. Instinctively, we might wish to assume that Al Qaeda type gangs of Islamic terrorists are behind the attack. Given how often that’s true, it’s a reasonable instinctive answer. In this particular case, though, I believe it to be the wrong answer.

Many of Yemen’s power elites have been hedging their political bets. For three decades, they have been able to “double down” on Saleh with confidence, but some of them have evidently lost their confidence in Saleh’s chances for staying in power. In the view of many powerful Yemenis, Saleh is no longer a safe bet.

Last week, an artillery attack was conducted against the home of powerful Yemeni businessman/politician Hamid Ahmar. Hamid and his brother are the leaders of the Hashid tribal confederation. I believe that the brothers were moving the confederation away from supporting president Saleh, and that Saleh is likely responsible for the attack on Hamid Ahmar. Saleh needed Ahmar dead, and he needed him dead fast. That opened the door for a quick and sloppy attempt. The attack on Saleh was likely retribution by the Ahmads. Both groups deny any involvement in attacking each other, and I don’t for a second believe either of them.

Saleh’s current host, the house of Saud, has openly encouraged Saleh to sign an agreement for a transitional government. In this case, transition means, “Adios Saleh. Don’t come back.” When the House of Saud makes a political move, it moves deliberately. It is unlikely that the Saudis will back down from wanting Saleh gone. They won’t kill him while he’s in their hands, but at this point, they wouldn’t mind him having an accident somewhere else.

From the Saudi point of view, any tribal confederation coming to power in Yemen is better than mayhem in Yemen because they are convinced that mayhem in Yemen will eventually be co-opted by an Al Qaeda type gang or by Iran. Which tribal chief pulls the strings in Yemen is not critical to the Saudis; they are confidant that they can work with any of them. What they don’t wish to deal with on their doorstep is chaos.

If the Ahmar family can bring the Hamid tribal confederation to a workable agreement on a new architecture for power in Yemen, then Saleh will have too little support left in Yemen to do anything.

To compare this to an American situation, for academic purposes think of The Paul Castellano/John Gotti mafia business arrangement. Castellano was a confident New York Capo and Gotti was his most important captain. Once Gotti convinced Sammy “the bull” Gravano and his crew to back him against Castellano, Castellano was a goner.

If Castellano had survived the hit in Manhattan on December 18, 1985 he still would not have held power as long as Gotti’s alliances were in effect. Other families would not pay for Castellano’s honor with their own families’ blood and money in a war to suppress the upstart John Gotti.

While I don’t foresee Saleh and his driver ending up dead on a Manhattan sidewalk, the same dynamic applies. The key to Saleh’s future has slipped from his hand. It is now in the hands of Hamid Ahmar and his brother. The Hashid confederation will decide the future of President Saleh. The Saudis have likely sent their best insurance salesman to Saleh’s quarters to sell him a guaranty of safety and comfort in Saudi Arabia. Saleh will hold out as long as he can for a “better” deal.

The Hashids are needed in order for foreign investors to safely finance the proposed new gas industrial development in Yemen. The project could make a very large dent in the 70% unemployment in Yemen. In fact, a well-run gas project could transform the Yemeni economy for decades.

China won’t admit it, but it is in silent agreement with the West about the Hashids bringing stability to Yemen. China and India would both like to buy gas from facilities in Oman and Yemen.

Iran, on the other hand, would like to see the Hashids fail. It will pretend that is for ideological reasons, but it is for financial and political reasons. Natural gas facilities in Oman and Yemen will make a natural gas depot in Iran far less valuable and will effectively reduce Iran’s bargaining position in world markets.

And what does any of this mean to us? I take it as good news. The Hashids have lost money and blood in the chaos. They want their profits and their sleep back. They want the natural gas project to happen. They cannot prosper under any radicals of any stripes. They want a functioning republican government that aggravates the masses less than the current one does and that continues to ignore the local matters in Hashid-controlled areas so that they can take their cut from the gas project.

So, that’s my guess. What’s your guess?

Protests in Yemen: Life on the Spice Trade Route

By Jay Holmes

The spice trade has dried up, and the 24,000,000 well-armed people in “The South” suffer an unemployment rate of close to 70%. The fragile economy relies on Yemen’s very limited oil supplies, and these are expected to dry up by 2017. Yemen has natural gas reserves, and, since its access to the Indian Ocean is outside the Straits of Hormuz or any other choke points, Yemen is well placed to develop liquefied petroleum gas exports. However, in keeping with strong, regional traditions Yemen is plagued by rampant corruption that sucks any efficiency from economic development. This is one facet of Yemeni life that fuels the recent protests.

Yemen is the only republican government in the region. Two houses of government share legislative power with a president. Everyone over the age of 18 is allowed to vote, including women and non-Muslims, though only Muslims can hold office. The president and the legislators pick a prime minister, who then acts as head of government operations while the president remains the Head of State. Ali Abdullah Saleh is the current president, and he has been since 1990.

Yemen was previously two countries, North Yemen and South Yemen. Prior to its unification in 1990, Ali Saleh was the leader of North Yemen from 1978 until 1990.

Beneath this seemingly manageable government organization lies a reality of tribal competition and outright warfare. In the North, the Houthi tribes are usually at war with Yemeni government forces, or anyone else unfortunate enough to wonder into their neighborhood. There is currently a truce between the Houthis and the government, but no one expects it to last much longer. If the Houthis have anything in common with Yemeni President Saleh, it’s a strong instinct for opportunism, and Saleh’s government is fragile now.

Saleh is a Shia Muslim and is ruling in a Sunni majority country, but the breakdown of loyalties is far more complex. There are multiple sects of both Sunni and Shia Muslims, and the sect alignments are reinforced by tribal lines. However, there is no reason to believe that the current protests in Yemen have anything to do with Sunni vs. Shia. It appears to be more a case of Young vs. Old driving unemployment protests, and Nearly Everyone vs. Saleh the Imbecile driving the growing Saleh Drop Dead movement. Yemen has a young population, and the youth in Yemen are likely no more impressed with Saudi, Omani, or Iranian propaganda efforts than they are with President Saleh.

Saleh is truly a self-made man. His formal education ended prior to 8th grade and did not resume until he received his unimpressive military training. His instincts and management style seem to resemble those of a post WWII Sicilian mayor. But, unlike the stable mafia mayors of Sicily in the fifties and sixties, Saleh presides over a community that lacks a sense of unity. In Yemen, Them vs. Us management techniques are hampered by the day-to-day Us vs. Each Other and Anyone Who Shows Up reality of rural Yemen.

To understand the protesters in Yemen today, it’s handy to look at a few high points in the Saleh Circus history. While Saddam Hussein was still warden of Iraq, Yemeni President Saleh simultaneously claimed strong fraternal ties and undying loyalty to both Iraq and its enemy, Iran. No, I’m not making this up. The usually humorless Iranian government tolerated the farce because, when your only other “friend” in the world is the oil-less Assad mob in Syria, anyone even pretending to be friendly is tolerable.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, Saleh proudly entered the Guinness Book of Records under the Monumental Miscalculation category. To the quiet and curious amusement of realists on planet Earth, Ali Saleh backed Saddam Hussein. In response to this idiotic move, Saudi Arabia responded by sending home the nearly 900,000 Yemenis that were in Saudi Arabia doing what Yemenis can rarely do at home—earning wages without committing felonies. Many of those ex-wage earners and their hungry adult children are likely enjoying the protests in Yemen this week.

In 2000, an Al-Qaeda kamikaze boat attack bombed the USS Cole while it was fueling in Aden, Yemen, killing 17 American sailors and wounding 29 more. In another bout with Reality Deficit Disorder, Saleh claimed in 2005 that he single-handedly stopped the occupation of Aden by the United States Navy at the time the USS Cole was attacked by standing fast against the crews of eight US warships. If there had been any US warships in Aden besides the badly damaged USS Cole at the time, the claim might not have been quite so ridiculous.

Just in case anyone might question Saleh’s highly developed talent for absurdity, he also fervently supports Iran’s right to produce nuclear weapons. . . .Those nuclear weapons that the Iranian mullahs claim they are not producing.

Saudi Arabia has all but given up on Yemen as a neighbor and is constructing expensive border barriers to staunch the flow of smuggled goods, Yemenis, and Al-Qaeda visitors via Yemen.

In a sense, Saleh’s dilemma is that Yemen has outgrown him. Many Yemenis have become more aware of the world outside of Yemen, and they are not enjoying the comparison.

Saleh responded to the recent protests with moderate rhetoric and promises of a new constitution. As the protests persisted, Saleh claimed that he would step down as long as he received a guarantee against any prosecution.

As ridiculous as Ali Saleh often is, I would be surprised to see him risk his life by remaining in Yemen after a change in government. Saleh has burned his bridges with Saudi Arabia, the Gulf emirates, and Iraq. Perhaps he can finally use his one real talent by moving to Detroit, USA or Sheffield, England and opening a comedy club. Both places could use a bit of his illicit cash.

Saleh’s only supporters at the moment are his frantic pals from Iran. The Iranian government wants to maintain access to Yemeni ports for the trans-shipment of weapons and trouble to East Africa and other locations. The Iranians are calculating that no other Yemeni would be crazy enough to ally with them, so they are desperate to keep Saleh from leaving office.

The Yemeni police also stand between the Yemeni people and reform. So far, the Yemeni police have been willing to respond with gunfire, even though their loyalty to Saleh is somewhat questionable.

Over 200 Yemenis have been killed since the protests began. Saleh has agreed to the Gulf Cooperation Council Proposal to resign in 30 days, and for his vice president to take over for an additional 30 days with elections to be held in 60 days. The protestors, however, are impatient and do not want to wait, as they might see this as a stalling tactic to give the security police a better chance to crush the protests.

Al-Qaeda has attempted to co-opt the protest movement, and Saleh has been willing to use that as a bargaining chip for gaining support from the US. Although Al-Qaeda survives comfortably in the mountainous areas of Yemen, they are not popular with the majority of Yemenis. The US and Saudi Arabia continue to track Al-Qaeda in Yemen. If Al-Qaeda were to grow as a result of the current chaos, it would, in fact, be simpler to deal with in Yemen than in Afghanistan and Pakistan. US carrier groups can operate safely off the coast of Yemen, and the Navy is in a position to deliver strong logistic support for any ongoing patrols there, making operations against Al-Qaeda in Yemen far easier than operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

On the positive side, the Yemenis may not want or need a whole new style of government. They might be willing to accept the same basic structure of government if they could have a little judicial reform, an executive branch separate from the legislative branch, and new governors. That makes a transition in Yemen less difficult than in Libya. Yemen has a real government. It just needs real governors.

For the moment Ali Saleh still holds the microphone.

Related posts:

Who are the Libya Rebels? Part I

Who are the Libyan Rebels? Part II

NATO is not the Neutral Atlantic Treaty Organization

By Jay Holmes

NATO, the dream child of Dwight D. Eisenhower and Winston Churchill, came into existence after WWII for the express purpose of forming an alliance for the mutual defense of its members. The original motive was to defend against any invasion from the USSR. After the fall of the USSR and its reorganization into the spookocracy that is modern Russia, NATO continues to defend the interests of its members. While in theory NATO performs a number of diplomatic services, it is, in reality, a military organization. NATO was never designed to be neutral. It exists on behalf of its members. NATO is the Department of Whoops! Neutrality Isn’t Working.

This week a very “special” person, Libya Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim has made the claim that NATO is “siding with the rebels”. (Please insert the sounds of a large, shocked theater audience here.) Apparently, Khaled Kaim, a.k.a. Stupid, thinks that dressing like a European or North American politician means there is actually a 30% chance that anyone outside of his mother’s knitting circle will take him seriously whenever he steps up to a microphone.

War is a sad business. Regardless of where they live on the Libyan map, it is a tragedy that children are suffering and dying in this conflict—a conflict that Khaled and his bloodsucking pals worked hard to help create. It takes a truly “special” individual to provide humor in the midst of the tragedy in Libya.

Congratulations Khaled, you have accomplished your purpose in life. You made me laugh. You may now die in peace at the time of your choosing or whenever you should decide to step into the kill zone of the next unfair and politically prejudiced NATO bomb. I’m sure that NATO would be willing to help you out by sending an extra one for you if you like. In response to your concerns, I will ask NATO to please print a warning label with an appropriate disclaimer of impartiality on each bomb just to clarify things for anyone not yet clear on the concept of “bomb.”

Apparently, NATO used some of its usual devious tactics to confuse poor Khaled. The US and UK must have equipped those 124 Tomahawk cruise missiles with special Hollywood Model Silencers on their 1000 pound warheads. I can only guess that those silencers looked like giant water bottles. What a dirty trick! Khaled and his pals never even heard the missiles explode. NATO is so sneaky sometimes. Who would have guessed that anyone in the world was taking the side of Saint Moammar Gadhafi’s opponents? I can’t quite get over the shock of this recently uncovered plot.

Thanks for helping us out Khaled. I am nominating you for an Honorary Doctorate in Philosophy from the International Academy for Antisocial Pathologies. If you are selected for the honor, your diploma will be delivered by our special Drone Delivery Service.

Who are the Libyan Rebels? Part II

By Piper Bayard

The rebels in Libya are not a single unified group that shares the same complex agenda. In fact, the only clear, common agenda that they have thus far demonstrated is a desire to boot Papa Gadhafi and all his little Gadhafis from power. On Thursday, in Part I of the answer to the overriding question, “So who are these people, anyway?” we looked at the Libyan National Council, which is the closest thing to leadership that the rebels have presented to the West. Today, we’ll give a glance at the other “teams in the league.”

Contenders in Libya

Al-Qaeda continues to attempt to take control of the rebellion in Libya, but they have thus far had little success. My view is that their current strategy is to try to enhance their ties to the Libyan Islamic Front, but serious differences between the two groups and past betrayals by Al-Qaeda complicate that relationship. That doesn’t mean that they won’t work together to seize power from the more urbane, educated, cosmopolitan Libyans that are seeking to form a government.

Iran has high hopes and expectations concerning its own ability to influence events in Libya, but to its surprise, Cyrenaica (eastern Libya) and Tripolitania (western Libya) are not carbon copies of Sadr city in Iraq or the Gaza Strip. If you ever feel frustrated at the tendency of Westerners to view all Islamic nations and their inhabitants as being the same, it should comfort you to know that Islamic populations make the same mistake even more frequently when they view each other and the world outside of Islam.

Iran will not gain influence in Libya unless it does so after a home-grown Islamic radical group comes into power. The Iranian junta can broadcast whatever propaganda it wishes concerning Libya, but it has even less credibility with North Africans than it does with its own citizens. The regime in Tehran is not quite as secure and self-assured as it was a few months ago, and its most urgent need for action is much closer to home than Libya.

Some may be wondering where Western oil companies stand with the various factions in Libya. Who would they like to back? That’s the easiest question to answer today. Unlike mere mortals, Western oil companies will not be forced to limit their futures by choosing sides. They will, instead, take the simple approach of hiring a vast, well-dressed array of professional ass-kissers to attempt to smooch every potentially important buttocks in and near Libya. And with each kiss, they will sign a guarantee that that particular behind is their favorite of all. When you have as many billions as BP or Exxon does there’s no point in choosing sides. You can simply attempt to purchase every key member of every side. The only political question that matters to oil companies is, “How much oil can we pump today?” With gasoline prices in the USA hovering at $4.00/gallon, money is no obstacle for them.

Now, let’s consider a few more of the people directly involved in the rebellion in Libya. The six and a half million people who live in Libya are a diverse group. Unlike many rebellions, the people in Libya are a significant, active force in the Libyan “revolution.” The fact that unemployment in Libya is over 30% may very well be a driving force in the unrest, but the Libyans are not singular in their politics, in their religious zeal, or in their view of the West.

One very interesting tidbit that occurred this week in Libya bares examination. When NATO failed to deliver timely air attacks against Gadhafi’s forces in the Misrata area, a variety of rebels from different areas were anxious to blame Turkey for constraining its NATO allies. This is significant. A variety of Libyans are choosing to blame not NATO as a whole, but Turkey in particular, a country currently lead by a theocratic Islamic party.

This is not a response that Al-Qaeda or its allies would have engineered. Although the desperate and frustrated Libyan rebels are still blaming outsiders for the events within Libya, it’s a pretty strong clue that Al-Qaeda and its clones have not gained control of the average Libyan.

What the Libyan people will tolerate as an outcome to their rebellion is not yet altogether clear. I find myself more hopeful about the future of Libya than many Western “experts.” While I recognize the fervor and well-practiced ruthlessness that Al-Qaeda and other Islamic radical peddlers bring to the fight in Libya, I remain less convinced of their ability to subvert the people of Libya. It is my hope that too many Libyans are a tad too educated and worldly to be easily sold the Islamic Fundamentalist stone-age model of government.

The future of Libya remains uncertain. While that might sound frightening to some, to the US administration and Western governments in general, it should sound like a marvelous opportunity to encourage progress in Libya. Not “progress” as defined solely by oil companies or strictly Western values, but progress that will leave Libyans, their neighbors, and Westerners with a better shared future.

One hopes that Western leaders are hearing better briefings than I can supply, and that they will all act wisely. The West has the greatest financial, military, and diplomatic resources available for influencing events in Libya. How well those resources are used will in large part determine the West’s future relationship with that country.