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Friday, January 13, 2012

The Current Situation in Libya

I have been planning forever to do a follow up diary on Libya. If you have been following me here you know that no sooner than the Libyan revolution was moving into the clean-up phase of the military campaign, that I found my focus dramatically driven to downtown Los Angeles. Even the death of Mummar Qaddafi became a footnote to events.

I had already done all that I knew to support their revolution from afar, and while, in the age of the Internet, not all politics is local, most of it still is. Occupy Los Angeles became my new beat. Anyway, it seemed that the longer I waited to do this diary, the better and more solid the news became. Then today an interview with Ali Ahmida came out and it is absolutely the best summation I've heard on the current situation in Libya. More about that below the fold.

I never entirely lost track of events in Libya and mostly I have been very pleased with what is happening and the progress they have been making.

Even the question of the armed militias that is the big bugaboo that most commentators of the left and right, not to mention the present Libya government and the TNC, seem to worry so much about, doesn't bother me that much. Certainly it can be a major problem if they start fighting among themselves, and that is why everyone wants them gone. You beat Qaddafi. Good. Thanks. Go home. Get a regular job.

On the other hand, they made this revolution, they truly are a people's army and many of them say they are not ready to lay down their arms until they can be sure they get the government they have been fighting for. I support that position, as long as they don't start fighting among themselves.

So I have had a close ear to the ground, as have most Libya watchers, for signs of conflict. I saw a tweet "Gun fire, not celebratory, many areas of Tripoli" in mid November, but could find no corroboration. There was another incident, not widely publicize, on December 11, between a Zintan militias and the Libyan army over control of the Tripoli airport in which four people were killed and this more recent incident in Tripoli in which five people were killed. I heard three different stories about that. One said someone from Tawergha assaulted someone from Misrata, was arrested by the Tripoli brigade, then the Misrata brigade tried to take custody and a fight broke out. Another story also called it a fight between those two brigades but for a different reason. And the third story was that it was simply a robbery gone wrong and the robbers shot it out with the Tripoli brigade.

That is all I've heard about since October, nine people killed in inter-militias fighting in this country of 7 million in this immediate post military phase. I think that is pretty damn good; which is to say I think it compares very favorably with the number of people killed in inter-gang warfare in Los Angeles in the same period. So I don't worry too much about the militias because the militias, they call themselves brigades, seem to be handling things very well to this point.

I also think their decision to accept air support from NATO, and consequently, my support for that decision, has been proven correct. According to a recent NY Times study spotlighted on Democracy Now, NATO killed between 40 and 70 civilians in its Libyan campaign. Those sources tried to make the most of that, describing the deaths of some of those in passionate detail, but I think that is remarkable. The number could be double that and my conclusions would still be the same. 30,000 Libyans died in that war. The vast majority were killed by Qaddafi's forces, many while in his custody. Certainly, NATO killed thousands of Qaddafi soldiers, but those soldiers were killing other Libyans, mostly civilians, so by doing that they almost certainly saved many Libyan lives and shortened the war.

So there were no massive civilian causalities from NATO bombs as the anti-interventionists predicted, and there were no NATO boots on the ground, as the anti-interventionists predicted.

I know, I know. There may have been spooks. There was a CIA station there even before Feb17, I'm sure they never left. Special forces? A lot of speculation but very short on proof. Even Qaddafi claimed to have captured 17 foreign special forces in Sirte, video to follow. It never showed up. Besides that's not what the anti-interventions were talking about in the beginning. That just became their fall back position because the Marines never made it back to the shores of Tripoli.

Libya just had $87 billion unfrozen by the EU and oil production is already coming back on line, so I think their financial problems will quickly be resolved. Not many countries can say that these days.

Another thing that is becoming clear now is just how little real support Qaddafi had. While there was that one sneak attack against an oil terminal while Qaddafi was still alive, there has been nothing since. The guerilla war by Qaddafi supporters against the revolution has simply failed to materialize, and while wavers of the green flag still have had some freedom to demonstrate openly, as this video illustrates, there just haven't been very many of them.

And I was personally very please to find that my mention of Racism in Libya at the end of my recent diary on Occupy Nigeria led to a new round that that article being retweeted among Libyans.

So I think things are shaping up nicely in Libya. I don't even worry about the Islamic Brotherhood or other Islamic forces coming to power, not in Libya or anywhere else in MENA. That is part of democracy and maybe that is something they have to go through so that they can grow out of it. How long will we have to suffer the Republicans?

Still there is all the minutia of building a new revolutionary Libya, and for more on that, I turn the floor over to Ali Ahmida.

Today my worlds come together. At 10:30am I go back to Africa. There is an Occupy Nigeria protest in Hollywood organized by Nigerians of Southern California. Then at 1:00pm there is a Southern California Occupy Meet Up in Long Beach. It'll be a busy day.

Current Political Situation in Libya: An Interview with Ali Ahmida

Libya is back in the news with increasing tensions among various militia groups and political factions struggling for power, sometimes through street battles.

Three months have passed since the regime of Muammar Qaddafi was dislodged in Libya. So what is happening in Libya today? What forces are in play, and what has become of the revolutionary militias? And what about the issue of outside influence in today's Libya, given the crucial role played by NATO forces as well as governments such as Qatar in bringing an end to Qaddafi's autocracy.

Khalil Bendib spoke with University of New England political science professor Ali Ahmida, who just returned from Libya.
Current Political Situation in Libya: An Interview with Ali Ahmida by Jadaliyya
Click here for a list of my other blogs on Libya

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