The situation in Libya, in whose sands the much-vaunted NATO machine has been stalled for seven months and not only has failed to defeat the Bedouins but has decided to pull out by mid-October, has undermined the faith of the West in its ability to overthrow Muammar Gadhafi jointly with the rebels and bring “others” to their knees.
In fact, it is reminiscent of what happened 100 years ago to the Italian colonizers, who also coveted the “Libyan pie,” which they needed more than 20 years to take possession of (1911-1933). The Libyans will never forget the grim statistics of that Italian colonial war: 4329 people were executed between just 1923 and 1929, and 141,766 were driven from their homes or killed (not counting those who fell in battle).
The national liberation movement in Libya was harshly suppressed, but it demonstrated the Bedouins’ determination to resist and their passion for freedom and independence. Even then, a confrontation line was drawn in the Libyan Desert between external forces on supremacy in North Africa and the patriotic forces led by Omar al-Mukhtar after World War I in Cyrenaica. The Italian colonizers were strongly supported by other European powers, including France and Britain. The Russian press of the time worked aggressively to expose it. The Military Herald, for example, stressed in 1928 that Italy’s “great” military campaigns in Tripolitania and Cyrenaica to “strengthen” the local population were actually attempts to prove to Rome’s Western allies that it could “control” its colonies.
The outcome of the Italians’ bloody 20-year war in Libya was disastrous: the country was not just occupied, it was devastated. Its population at the start of 1931 was 700,000—800,000 less than its population in 1911; 250,000 were in exile, and 550,000 were victims of the aggression).
It took the Libyans decades to return to normal life after receiving their independence in 1951. Libya was one of the most prosperous countries in North Africa before the rebellion by Gadhafi’s opponents and the NATO bombing began, and Gadhafi, “a Bedouin of the Libyan desert” as he called himself, was not just a charismatic national leader, he also the originated the so-called “Third World Theory, which provides for government by the people, i.e., popular control of politics and economics without traditional government institutions such as a party, parliament, etc.”
Now, abandoned by virtually all political and military allies, Gadhafi and his supporters are almost single-handedly fighting their Libyan political opponents and a NATO force that has laid waste to almost all of its major cities and infrastructure and made refugees of its surviving inhabitants. NATO aircraft, which had struck more than 30,000 targets by October, and 17 naval vessels, which have blockaded about 2000 km of the Mediterranean coast, produced a wave of criticism but have not changed the situation. Fighting is ongoing in all of Libya’s cities; Berber tribes have formed self-defense units in oases; and no one knows the location of Gadhafi himself, who occasionally issues statements through private television stations. Tripoli, Benghazi and Sabha, the capitals of the country’s three major regions appear to be getting organized; their representatives have joined the central government and are making arrangements with local leaders. However…
Towns and oases everywhere are without water and electricity. Residents are unable to leave their villages; many are dying; tensions are increasing; and discontent with the actions of NATO and the rebels is growing. As a result, no post-Gadhafi government has yet been established.
In fact, the war in Libya is at a stalemate, as acknowledged by the heads of state of Libya’s neighbors—Chadian President Idris Déby for one. “The time has come for Africa and the international community to come to the table and bring peace through dialogue,” he said.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has expressed concern over the “unacceptably large number of civilian casualties as a result of the conflict in Libya” for which “there can be no military solution.”
US Congressman Dennis Kucinich stated it even more dramatically in a letter he sent to the UN Secretary-General in August. The lawmaker, who is famous for his antiwar statements, asked, “To whom is NATO accountable? How can they continue to cause the deaths of innocent civilians under the color of international law and not be held accountable?”
A group of members of the European Parliament who visited Libya in August also condemned NATO’s actions. They were able to meet with members of Libya’s ruling elite, including Bashir Saleh, Gadhafi’s Chief of Staff, and the influential Sheikh Ali, head of the Warfalla tribe. According to Michel Skarbonshi, one of the trip participants, the Western coalition’s operation is obviously a complete failure. “We have to be realists: Gadhafi controls 70% of Libya. It’s a dead end for the West. We need to negotiate an end to the crisis in order to prevent the country from tearing apart.”
To achieve that, British experts drew up a secret plan of action in the event Libya’s government changes. It was coordinated with members of the Transitional National Council (TNC), and the Times published it in August.
The plan places great hopes on an internal coup by members of the Jamahiriya’s security forces. It describes three scenarios: the capture of Tripoli by rebel forces (that has happened, but street fighting continues); a leadership change caused by increased international pressure and the death of Gadhafi family members; and Gadhafi’s overthrow as a result of the uprising and the large-scale defection of his supporters to the opposition. The report’s drafters assumed that the only reason people have not yet revolted is that they fear reprisals.
We believe that the main point has been missed in the Libyan drama—the opposition has no one of Gadhafi’s stature. For example, Abdessalam Jalloud suddenly appeared at the height of the Libyan drama. He was once the second most powerful man in the Jamahiriya, a former prime minister and a member of the revolutionary leadership who defended the interests of Libyan businessmen. He was long considered a successor to the throne, but he fell out of favor in the 1990s because of disagreements with Gadhafi concerning the use of funds (Jalloud was against distributing half of oil revenues to all Libyans). He spent 10 years under house arrest and had no involvement in politics. Jalloud turned up in Tunisia this past spring and then traveled to Italy, but the rebels did not invite him to join them.
Also out there somewhere are former members of the Revolutionary Leadership Council (Abu Bakr Younes Jaber, who was responsible for the military, al-Huwaildi al-Hmaidi (social affairs) and Mustafa Mohammed Harrubi (intelligence), but they were in Gadhafi’s shadow and did not stand out as politicians. Other nobodies include former Foreign Minister Abdurrahman Shalgham, who later became Libya’s representative to the UN and went over to the rebels, and many others. Gaddafi stands head and shoulders above his other known associates, and that is acknowledged both in Libya and in the West.
People who have been in Libya or worked there agree that no one ever knew where Gadhafi slept, where he went or where he spent time. And to this day, only Gadhafi knows his travel route and plans; he has excellent intuition. Now, as the satirists say, “Nobody writes the Colonel and nobody hears the Colonel.” To that we might add: “Nobody wants the Colonel, but nobody can bump off the Colonel.”
The Libyan drama is obviously at its apogee. But everything is just getting started; and if NATO should decide to send troops in, things would not go as they did 100 years ago for the Italians. Perhaps they are not yet getting the gallows ready for Gadhafi, as was done for Omar Mukhtar, but I suppose it is certain that he is on the verge of eternity, of immortality. Life has prepared Muammar Gadhafi to play the role of a second Omar Mukhtar, although against his will. By a combination of circumstances…
Source: New Eastern Outlook