Libya’s Bloody Monday


Far exceeding the retaliatory efforts of other besieged regimes across the Middle East, Libyan strongman Muammar el-Qaddafi responded to an internal uprising on Monday with deadly force. After the bloodbath, in trademark bizarreness, Qaddafi briefly appeared on state television via helicopter and, under the umbrage of an over-sized umbrella, told the people not to believe rumors that he had absconded to Venezuela. With unrest expected to continue and many regime officials siding with the protesters, the eccentric dictator’s days appear to be numbered. There is concern, however, that without a central leader, tribal and regional divisions will make it difficult for the country to remain cohesive, and will possibly lead to a civil war.

After more than 40 years in control of Libya and with a long history of brutal repression, measured restraint in the face of a popular uprising is the last thing one would expect from Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi. Reports, in fact, paint a chilling picture. Sunday, after intense fighting in the east, a mass protest broke out in the western city of Tripoli, which is the nation’s capital. By all accounts, the response was swift and merciless. Special forces and mercenaries shot freely on the streets and at protesters. Witnesses reported explosives being dropped from airplanes, while helicopters overhead sprayed protesters on the ground with bullets.

A Libyan official from the U.N., Omar al Dabashi, told the BBC, “The information that we are getting is that the regime is killing whomever goes out on the streets. He [Qaddafi] has clearly declared a genocide against his own people.” It is not the first time such an accusation has been made.

The death toll from the incident is difficult to determine given the chaos and the oppressiveness of the Libyan regime. Foreign journalists have not been allowed in the country, phone services have been disrupted, and the Internet has been largely inaccessible. Much of the information gathered comes from phone conversations and is difficult to corroborate. The Wall Street Journal confirmed with Human Rights Watch that at least 233 have been killed since protests began, but some believe the actual death toll is far higher. Countless others have been injured. A doctor at the Tripoli Central Hospital told the Journal that his facility was so overrun with patients, many with severe gunshot wounds, that newcomers had to be turned away.

Before the regime’s crackdown, momentum appeared to be on the Libyan people’s side. After protesters had overtaken most of Benghazi, the country’s second-largest city, the government withdrew into strategic locations. Benghazi is in the east of Libya, where much of the anti-Qaddafi movement was fomented and where large areas were taken over by anti-regime forces, before opposition manifested in Tripoli. Residents of Benghazi reported that regime forces fired rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns into the streets.

Scores of government and military officials resigned after the government’s brutal response to the uprising. Although regime forces (including, witnesses say, foreign mercenaries) did use deadly force, some elements have demonstrated a reluctance to fire on their compatriots. At least two fighter jet pilots abandoned their mission to bomb Benghazi and instead flew to Malta, local sources reported. The Libyan delegation to the UN, based in New York, also defected and called on Qaddafi to step down and leave the country. Libya’s representative to the Arab League resigned and a general was reportedly put under house arrest for defying Qaddafi’s orders. In the city of Baida, witnesses reported that the local police turned on military forces after the latter allegedly opened fire on protesters.

Monday night, Qaddafi’s son, Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, issued a conciliatory, but foreboding statement to the opposition on state television. Yes, the response was harsh, but if the Qaddafi regime was brought down, a civil war would ensue and “rivers of blood” would flow, he warned. Although this was certainly intended to frighten demonstrators into submission, the remark is not without a modicum of truth.

Libya, which is primarily a Sunni Muslim country, has a strong tribal tradition that has remained intact throughout the modern era. Qaddafi’s regime, which came to power in a military coup when Qaddafi was 27, has kept the country rather artificially unified for the last forty years. Before the overthrow of King Idris in 1969, power had been concentrated in the east, where the monarchy was located. Under Qaddafi, power shifted to the west. Tripoli was made the capital city, and spoils from Libya’s oil industry were circulated predominantly in the west, despite the fact that many of the major oil fields lie in the east. A strong rift deepened between the east and Qaddafi, and it is no surprise that the uprising emanated from this region.

But in the west, and in Tripoli, support is still palpable for Qaddafi. Pro-regime supporters, no doubt fond of Qaddafi’s oil-funded largess, were broadcast on state television waving flags and pictures of the dictator. Much of the military is also still loyal to the Qaddafi regime. If a civil war-type conflict does emerge in Libya, it will likely divide east and west, and control over the OPEC country’s oil resources, the country’s chief export, will be no inconsequential factor in that battle.

Not to be overlooked, like most countries in the region, Libya has an aggressive and troublesome Islamist movement. An outgrowth of the anti-Qaddafi east, the Islamist movement began to pose serious challenges to the Qaddafi regime in the 1990s. In 1996, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group attempted to assassinate the autocrat. That same year, the government cracked down on the opposition movement by massacring over a thousand jailed protesters, many of whom were Islamists and eastern political prisoners, according to information obtained by Human Rights Watch.

Still, there is a glimmer of hope in the terrible scene. After anti-regime success in Benghazi, opposition leader Fathi Terbil called for a secular interim government to be instituted. Broadcasting over an online stream referred to as Free Libya Radio, Terbil also was keen to point out that protesters had “liberated” the city; they did not “overtake” it. If indeed a productive democracy can be erected in Libya, it would be a vast improvement for both the people of Libya and the international community. Although in recent years the Qaddafi regime has become less hostile and reclusive (it abandoned its nuclear weapons program after the 2003 invasion of Iraq and is no longer listed as a state sponsor of terror), it still provokes anti-Americanism and anti-Israelism.

Whatever the outcome, the U.S. does not appear remotely interested in influencing the situation in Libya. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, joining the compendium of Western wallflowers, released a short letter of condemnation on the regime’s use of deadly force, but did not demand that the dictator step down. Calls for protests continue, and the world can only hope Libyans are up to the task of creating a peaceful resolution alone.

  • http://www.currentlocaltimes.com/ localtimezone

    They are using machine guns and missles on the people…disgusting, the whole world should be outraged!

    • BS77

      Hezbollah and Hamas have been using missiles, bullets and bombs against the Israeli people for decades. Disgusting! The whole world should be outraged.

      • tanstaafl

        True that.

      • Taim

        Israel and America have been using missiles, bullets and bombs against the Palestinian, Iraqi, Afghani, Lebanese, South American people for decades. Disgusting! The whole world should be outraged.

        • USMCSniper

          There is a right to use weapons for self defense and retalliation you twit!

          • MixMChess

            Beat me to the punch!

        • Fred Dawes

          For over 50 years all so called palestinan PEOPLE HAVE had the right to go home to Israel and live in total peace under Law but for over 50 years the muslim have wanted one thing the mass murder of all jews.
          Yes my boys have been using weapons against drug dealers and murdering pigs in so called mexico and south america and to stop evil from mass murder here, why is it that when a free people stand up against evil that fools always hate freedom and life and always pick evil and hell? by the way the hispanic monkeys drug dealers will win under monkeys like obama, and at that point 100,000 million Americans will stand up and remove evil from this nation called the USA The sad part is million's will be murdered by monkeys.

  • scum

    Notice how FPM was quick to buy into rumors that Gadaffi had fled to Venezuala. So much for the FPM gossip mill.

    • Gary from Jersey

      Read the damned story again. Or even once. Or better yet, keep doing what you're doing so the rest of us can be reminded of what a sanctimoneous fool you are.

  • antileft

    Herr Tavarish Moammer, collonello for life, eternity and posternity, appeared for about 1 minute on something akin to the national tv, and in his deeper than the deepest address praised the weather-namely, it was raining! I am disgusted-he forgot to mention the snows on Kilimanjaro and the speed of his fighter pilots defecting to Malta! Which means: a)the Russian planes actually managed to fly b)not necessarily all of the pilots fared the same ! His days on this planet are numbered, his days on the other one just beginning! Or as the song goes- another one bites the dust !

  • http://www.jobster.lk Shaddy

    Do I have your permission to launch on Gaddafi?

  • Greg

    Our current administration is an embarrassment to the human race and should be humiliated by their responses to the uprisings around the world. This is what happens when junior senators are speaking for and attempting to run the the most powerful country in the world. They would be better off to sit down and shut their mouth.

  • BS77

    Like the Libyans shooting defenseless people in the streets, the Somali pirates, it was just learned, EXECUTED their captives, four decent American citizens after stealing the American couple's yacht in International waters……It's time for someone with brass balls to launch against these vermin pirates….and destroy ALL their boats, their weapons, their fancy homes, their rotten sea side pirate dens. ti's shake and bake time. Will our nation do it? Doesn't seem likely .

    • tanstaafl

      The only way to deal with pirates is to wipe out their bases. The current administration is much too PC to stand up for the four Americans who were just murdered on the high seas, I doubt it will muster up the courage to attack Somalia.

  • Theo Prinse

    It is a great shame that the international media exercises no pressure and pay no attention to the silence of the White House forthe last couple of weeks.

    The electoral calculating Keniaan plays a morbid geo-political and geo-military game with the overheated Chinese Central Committee

    The White Hous mohamedan wants to create more islamic regimes and wants to destroy the last drop of secular thought in the Arabic world from Casablanca to AfPak.

    The Chinese may expand their economic sphere of influence in the Arabic world.

    The Kenian does this with Panetta-Gates-Clinton-Rice by mobilizing any kind of social discontent to inflict a crescendo of purposeless, unprepared, deadly naïef uproar or scream for a political change of power … but yeah by whom, by what ?

    And worldwide the media walks along in a mode of embedded mind set conform the policy of the Kenian

  • Theo Prinse

    It is a great shame that the international media exercises no pressure and pay no attention to the silence of the White House forthe last couple of weeks.

    The electoral calculating Keniaan plays a morbid geo-political and geo-military game with the overheated Chinese Central Committee

    The White Hous mohamedan wants to create more islamic regimes and wants to destroy the last drop of secular thought in the Arabic world from Casablanca to AfPak.

    The Chinese may expand their economic sphere of influence in the Arabic world.

    The Kenian does this with Panetta-Gates-Clinton-Rice by mobilizing any kind of social discontent to inflict a crescendo of purposeless, unprepared, deadly naïef uproar or scream for a political change of power … but yeah by whom, by what ?

    And worldwide the media walks along in a mode of embedded mind set conform the policy of the Kenian

  • http://apollospaeks.townhall.com ApolloSpeaks

    THE END OF PAX AMERICANA IN THE MIDDLE EAST

    Iran under the genocidal regime of the nuclear-to-be mullahs is an expansionist power driven by the ideology of imperial restoration and Islamic world peace. From the beginning of its revolution in 1979 which stated the unification of Islam (return of the caliphate) as its goal Iran has targeted Israel and its main ally the United States for defeat and destruction; it has also been the bitter foe of Egypt for making peace with Israel and keeping it for an impressive 30 years. Now the era of hostility between Iran and Egypt seems to be over, signaled by a sudden change of policy by the pro-Islamist military junta on Iran's use of the Suez Canal by its military ships.

    continued

  • http://apollospaeks.townhall.com ApolloSpeaks

    Just days after Hosni Mubarak's departure Iran wasted no time testing the new regime by sending two of its warships into the Red Sea for passage through the Canal. Some reports say that the Syria bound ships entered the Canal this morning; other reports say their journey will start tomorrow. Whatever, this policy change is a dangerous concession to Iran; a gesture of blind appeasement and goodwill; a sign that Egypt is prepared to go radical, to break its peace with Israel, turn against the US and the West and join the growing Axis of Evil Islamist States on the belief that America's days as a world power are numbered and the Pax Americana in the Middle East is near its end. No doubt about it, the successful pro-democracy revolt against Hosni Mubarak is going the way of "democratic" Gaza and setting the stage for a regional catastrophe.

    Click my name to read the rest of this widely linked article.

  • USMCSniper

    Ahhhh… Crazy Old Muamar is just having a post midlife crisis and was letting off a little frustration with the crowd by using the tanks and planes.

  • Daniel

    George Soros is orchestrating the burning of secular Arab world for the purpose of creating chaos against the United States and Obama is fanning the fires his mentor has set.

  • morristhewise

    Gadhafi will not go homeless, the greedy sub-Saharan nation that supplied the mercenaries will be overjoyed to grant him and his wealthy friends political asylum. Millions of Libyans will party for days after winning their freedom, they will be joined by generals loyal to Washington.

  • Fred Dawes

    THE ENEMY IS MASSING For attack.

  • UCSPanther

    What Gadhaffi should have said in his speech: "I will not be stopped by anyone. I will rule this country, or see it burnt to ashes around me".