The fight for Libya

Hana El-Gallal, a law professor from Benghazi, writes:

The global community must act to stop Gaddafi and his forces reaching Benghazi. If he gets here, he will kill everyone. We in Benghazi, in what is left of Free Libya, have a very simple message for the Security Council. Please, do something. We are desperate for your help and you must do it now. It is the time to act and if you don’t there will be genocide. We are called rebels, but we are not rebels. We are a people that simply wants the same freedoms and liberties enjoyed by the people in the West. For 42 years, one man and his family have denied the people of Libya their dignity.

Whenever he gets to Benghazi, he will deny us our lives too.

Days ago, a no-fly zone could have been imposed and that would have helped. It would still help, but now it may be too late. Even so, it is not too late to help to stop him reaching us.

There are soldiers here, willing to fight for us, but we have no weapons. We are walking around gathering up what we can use to defend ourselves. I am a mother, not a member of al-Qa’ida; not a mujahideen. But when Gaddafi gets to Benghazi, I will have to be a fighter, not only to defend myself and my family, but also to defend the dignity of a people who have told the tyrant that has raped our country to go.

The world needs to know this will not happen unless we get help. We are a brave people and we will fight. But we will also lose without the help of the rest of the world. And if the international community does not act, it will remain of the conscience of the people that did nothing. China, with your riches; America, with your power; Europe, with your history – you will all be guilty of standing aside and letting Gaddafi massacre his innocent people. We did not want to fight, but we were forced to, and now, in our moment of need, we are calling for the world to come together and defend us from this evil man. It has been said the Libyan people do not want foreign troops on our soil, but which country does? Now it is too late for these arguments. Libya is not Iraq: it is full of desperate people and if the international community decides to send its armies, they will be greeted with joy; a joy that will replace what is now a growing sense of hopelessness.

We pray that our brothers and sisters can hold Ajdabiya. Gaddafi says that he has taken the town, but we know that our friends are still fighting for their lives, even if we know in our hearts that they won’t be able to hold on forever without assistance. And when Ajdabiya falls, there is then nothing to stop Gaddafi and his thugs reaching us here in Benghazi. We are all so frightened of what he will do when he gets here. We are all going to die.

We are all desperately waiting for the UN, or Nato, or the EU or anyone to act. Even the Arab League has called for action – what more of an invitation do people want? It the first time that the Arab League has called for action against one of its members: we have heard the call, but God knows that we have to see the action. We all know intervening in the affairs of another state is a controversial act. The world was sick when it released that inaction led to the deaths of thousands in Rwanda; the world said “never again”. That was only 15 years ago and, without urgent action, what happened in Rwanda will be repeated on the streets of Benghazi, maybe as soon as tomorrow.

We have all heard the speeches of Gaddafi and his sons: does the international community really believe that we are al-Qa’ida and on drugs? It will know that answer soon enough when, after Gaddafi reaches Benghazi, the pictures of our murdered children are shown around the world.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Egypt’s military has begun shipping arms over the border to Libyan rebels with Washington’s knowledge, U.S. and Libyan rebel officials said.

The shipments—mostly small arms such as assault rifles and ammunition—appear to be the first confirmed case of an outside government arming the rebel fighters. Those fighters have been losing ground for days in the face of a steady westward advance by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

The Egyptian shipments are the strongest indication to date that some Arab countries are heeding Western calls to take a lead in efforts to intervene on behalf of pro-democracy rebels in their fight against Mr. Gadhafi in Libya. Washington and other Western countries have long voiced frustration with Arab states’ unwillingness to help resolve crises in their own region, even as they criticized Western powers for attempting to do so.

The Independent reports:

Even as the votes to take on the Libyan regime were cast last night, the battle for Benghazi had begun. Col Gaddafi’s warplanes carried out several strikes on the city as artillery volleys started to come in from units approaching from several directions.

The skies above were lit up by constant streams of anti-aircraft fire. Rebel fighters, buoyed by reports that the vote in New York had gone for military action, began to stream towards the western gates of the city.

Even as the violence flared they believed that, at last – a month to the day after Libya’s revolution began – their only realistic hope of avoiding defeat at the hands of the regime had finally come true. But there is a fierce battle ahead. The firefights took place with the constant background sound of mosques in the city playing chants of “Allah hu Akhbar” at high decibel through loudspeakers. The chant was taken up by the rebel fighters, the Shabbab, as they traded fire. Many of the exchanges were chaotic with heavy calibre guns used at random. Flames appeared in parts of the city with black smoke blending into the night sky.

Down below, however, Benghazi was a bright target for the warplanes. No attempt had been made to dim the lights in any of the public buildings in the centre and residential areas also lit up as people came out to windows and balconies to watch the action with some women ululating. The mood of the rebel fighters, who had suffered repeated defeats in recent weeks and had been forced to withdraw from town after town was buoyant. As he manned his anti-aircraft gun, Selim Astersi shouted: “The devil Gaddafi wants to come into Benghazi, we shall throw him back. Tonight we shall prove ourselves. We shall avenge all those he killed.”

Khalid Ibrahimi stopped his truck, carrying five fighters in the back, to ask: “Is it true that they have voted [at the UN] yes ? That is what we needed my brothers, we have got help at last.” At just after 1am local time, two explosions echoed through the waterfront followed by machine-gun fire. Shabaab fighters claimed infiltrators had come into the city but it seemed more likely that some ammunition had detonated.

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5 thoughts on “The fight for Libya

  1. DE Teodoru

    Let’s cut Obama some slack! It all took so long because Gaddafi had to be managed into realizing that he can’t bluff on this one so he’ll do exactly what he did when negotiating with the British over his nuclear stocks. Obama is no GW Bush microcephalic with a VP like Cheney who wants to take the whole world with him when he goes. I predict that Gaddafi is a bit of a blowheart and will negotiate acceptabe terms that will benifit Libyans. Afterall, he can afford it. This has been a path he was dragged onto by Britain, his negotiating partner, in quiet diplomacy kicking and screaming but moving along anyway. He may stay in place but he will be a figure head and the oil wealth will be better distributed. Obama proved to be less of a klutz than Hillary– who in her SecState post has proven maladroit and utterly incompetent, totally overwhelmed. So look for a change for the better in Libya that will look more like spontaneous generation rather than an obstetrical product of the UN Security Council. There’s a lot that can be done in Libya that doesn’t look revolutionary while, in fact, it meets the needs of its people better than past. Not quite a morality tale, but it might work because nobody wants an air war over the oil wells. Gaddafi ain’t Saddam. He’s like a Rodeo Road Barebanks LA inhabitant: a movie star, not an ideologue. That will make for quite a show of determination but lots of change beneath it that will be in the end NOT a bloodbath. I pray and I hope you all do too. An evolution is always surer than a revolution!

  2. Vince J.

    Once more and yet again Pepe Escobar’s article in Asian Times on line is a blast!

    “The Club Med war
    By Pepe Escobar”

  3. Christopher Hoare

    Hana El Gallal is correct to equate the Qaddhafi tyranny with the Rwanda massacre and to call the international community to task for letting proposals for preventive measures to creep along at a snail’s pace. The need to create a safe and just world for all people clearly has many enemies in the world’s leadership. That means measures must be taken that cuts them out of the issue.
    Responsibility to Protect (R2P) requires a standing UN reaction force composed of contingents from ALL UN member states and under the sole direction of a ‘council of wise men’ such as the measures for overseeing the implementation of UN 1973/2011 (Requests that the UN Secretary General creates a group of up to eight experts to oversee the implementation of the Resolution. ) The need is to act without allowing action to be blocked by manipulation in the UN Security Council — the voices there are those of the ’eminences gris’ who create all these disasters.
    With an effective R2P in place we could see a world without Idi Amins; without Mugabes; without Gbagbas; without Qaddhafis; without Saddam Husseins; without Pol Pots; without the threat of any future psychopaths taking over a government anywhere in the world. There can only be one reason for opposing such a development — the desire of the powerful to gain their own dictatorships.

  4. Dieter Heymann

    I have called Libya a shotgun marriage of Tripolitania (Tr) and Cyrenaica (Cy) (the third part in the South is so thinly populated that it hardly counts as a separate entity). It is therefore useful to consider the well known shotgun marriage of The Netherlands and Belgium following the final defeat of Napoleon’s France. What the two cases have in common is that the people of the two nations did not want to live together in a single state. A major difference is that religion did play a significant role in the Dutch-Belgian conflict. Eventually two new kingdoms, Belgium and The Netherlands were formed and they never went to war against one another again. In fact, the two were allies during WW2.
    For the time being it is irrelevant that Kadaffi is a tyrant. It is also irrelevant why he has declared a cease fire. I have argued and still do that the very first meaningful step toward the resolution of this civil war is a cease fire because no meaningful negotiations can be held while killing goes on.
    The countries that ensured the passage of the recent UN resolution on Libya must, I repeat must now rein in their aggressive language vs. Kadaffi and do their utmost best to make a real cease fire stick. What the US, France, and Britain, who accuse Kadaffi of fighting with mercenaries, must avert at all price now is to become the air- and, hopefully never, land-mercenaries of the insurgents.
    Only then can the very difficult negotiations under the chairmanship of a neutral country (is there still one?) begin. The ultimate will be a two-state solution of Tr and Cy both of which must be allowed to choose their forms of governance and their leaders.
    With regards to R2P I have come to the sad conclusion that the size of our armed forces, the size of our budget for the armed forces, State Department, snoops abroad, and the size and power of the MIC is to a substantial degree due to the existence of the UN. The concept of R2P is a prescription for more mischief and more pussyfooting of US Presidents around our constitution. Why don’t you advocates of the UN and R2P make life easier for our nation with a constitutional amendment that states: “the President as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces can declare war. Our country need not be threatened or attacked by the enemy. The President does not need Congressional approval. ” because that is already a consequence of this unholy alliance called UN.

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