Friday, 2 September 2011

The Autumn of the Colonel.

Escape to Hell.

There is no sign of the Colonel, with his family safely in Algeria, after Tripoli was seized by Berber rebels from the West and not from the East which has since led to the National Transitional Council taking seat in Tripoli. The Berbers had been suppressed under Gaddafi and in the end the Berbers sought revenge against the regime. The disparate militias which comprise the rebels will no doubt hold onto territory and barter for political power. The rumours of his whereabouts continue, some say the Colonel is hauled up in a flat in Tripoli, the labyrinthine tunnels under Libyan soil, somewhere in Algeria, the Libyan desert or in his hometown of Sirte. There is talk at NATO of putting a bounty out on Gaddafi, probably around the size of that put on Osama bin Laden. Days ago NATO thought that there were around 8,000 pro-Gaddafi troops hiding in South Tripoli, waiting to engage the militias in urban warfare. It is difficult to say what will happen next, but we shouldn't rule out the possibility of a guerrilla war. NATO would prefer to see him liquidated while the National Council claim to want to see a trial as do the leaders behind the intervention.

Since the intervention began there have been some 8,000 bombing raids in which NATO has dropped 30,000 bombs, almost 200 bombs a day for 6 months and NATO has suffered no casualties whilst an estimated 60,000 Libyans have been killed. NATO even bombed the irrigation system which supplies northern Libya with the majority of its water, though there are reports that the Gaddafi loyalists have cut-off the water supply. The fact that Tripoli is reliant on imported water has not been raised much in the mainstream media. A city of 2 million requires a ready-source of drinkable water, it is difficult to assess where this is on the priority of the National Council let alone the Western powers behind them. There has been much more coverage of the release of Libyan assets and speculation about the next moves made by the still-at-large Colonel. There has been very little coverage of the exemption of Libyan banks from economic sanctions. There is plenty of praise for David Cameron in his role in the intervention, little mention of the way the British and the Americans crushed an attempt to indict Gaddafi for war crimes in March.
Now there are ominous signs of war crimes and racist violence in the wake of the regime's collapse. It should be kept in mind it was Gaddafi who put together death squads comprised of thugs imported from Chad, Niger and even Serbia. So the rebels have reasonable grounds to suspect migrants, but that certainly does not justify killing people on mass in such a fashion. All the while Libya is a major route for people looking to pass through to the coast and travel to the European mainland in search of a better life. The new regime has a promise to uphold to the EU regarding a strict blockade to illegal immigration from Africa to Europe. The Italians will be eager to sink any boats coming their way and Italian fishermen are essentially allowed to kill anyone who climbs aboard their boats. The days when Gaddafi once sent an Egyptian submarine to sink the QEII as it sailed in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the establishment of Israel. An order which was only countered when Sadat intervened and had the sub return to the base in Alexandria. Consequently, Sadat described Gaddafi as "100% sick in the head and possessed by the devil."

Colonel Gaddafi may still have the support of around 54 clans of the Warfalla tribe, the largest tribe in the country, which played a key role in the expulsion of Italian colonists after being neutral when the Italians first seized the country. No doubt the tipping point was the genocide committed by the Italians in which over 500,000 Libyans died between 1911 and 1941, at least 65,000 died in concentration camps in the Sirte desert. The grievances were never acknowledged, let alone resolved, as the country was seized by a intensely conservative monarchy with links to the old imperial powers. The monarchy soon gave the US and UK military bases in Libya. The discovery of oil in 1960 transformed Libya into one of the richest countries in Africa, which enabled programmes of modernisation and unification of society. These programmes were restricted by the conservative attitudes of the monarchy. Incidentally, the rebel flag of Benghazi is the old monarchy flag which is also a Senoussi flag and that might hint at a specific tribal affiliation of the TNC. It was Gaddafi who overthrew King Idris in 1969 and seized the state apparatus.

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