Monday, August 29, 2011

Libya: The Colonel's Missing, So are Lots of Prisoners

First, the good news:
  • Folks in Libya who wanted the country's boss out, got help
    • A military coalition operating under a United Nations mandate
  • Rebels have taken much of Libya's capital city
  • Colonel Muammar Abu Minyar al-Qadhafi (Qaddafi? Gaddafi?) is missing
Now the bad news:
  • Colonel Muammar Abu Minyar al-Qadhafi (Qaddafi? Gaddafi?) is missing
    • So are many of his troops
  • About 50,000 of Qadhafi / Qaddafi / Gaddafi's prisoners are missing
It wouldn't be so bad if the colonel was 'missing and presumed dead.' As it is, there's a good chance that Libya's boss may have gathered his remaining loyal troops and gone into hiding. Which could mean trouble for Libya - particularly if Qadhafi / Qaddafi / Gaddafi's 'I am a victim of the big bad West' line is swallowed by regional governments.

Even if they don't really believe it, I suspect that a lot of the old-school autocrats would love to blame all their woes on Yankee imperialism. That's so much easier, in a way, than admitting that incompetent leadership might be a factor. And that's almost another topic.

Evil is Not Nice

Even allowing for exaggeration on the part of the rebels, what's showing up in Libya is - unpleasant. Some of the details are so grotesquely nasty, that they almost seem like something from an off-color comedy.

Like the Libyan colonel's family torturing a nanny.

Actually, taking a page from the sort of 'tolerance' I had to learn about in college, that torture could be explained as a biased Western view of a non-western culture's cherished customs:
"...And they found the horribly scarred Shwygar Mullah, the Ethiopian maid who cared for the children of Gadhafi son Hannibal. Mullah told CNN that Hannibal Gadhafi's wife Aline twice expressed her displeasure with her work by scalding her with boiling water -- then refused to get her medical attention, leaving her scalp and face covered in a mosaic of scars and raw wounds.

"Her offense: Failing to beat a daughter who refused to stop crying...."
Somehow, though, I don't think we'll hear much about poor, maligned Colonel Qadhafi / Qaddafi / Gaddafi and his misunderstood family. It's not the '60s anymore: and I think a lot of folks have realized that.

Those missing prisoners may be alive, for now: squirreled away in hidden lockups, and left there. The trick now will be for the rebels to find them before food, water, or air runs out.

Other prisoners aren't missing, they're just unidentifiable. The colonels' enforcers killed quite a few, and burned the bodies.

If these stories were just that - stories, with no supporting evidence: I might discount them as possible propaganda. As it is, we've got what's left of prisoner flambé, a badly scarred nanny, and a few survivors with bullet holes in their skin to back up their accounts.

The trouble is, Libya's colonel and his family being a bad lot - doesn't guarantee that whoever winds up in charge next will be a distinct improvement.

Even so, I think Libya will be better off without the colonel.

And Now, the News

I've taken excerpts from a few recent news and op-ed pieces about Libya:
"Qaddafi Forces Killed Detainees, Survivors Say"
Associated Press, via (August 28, 2011)

"Retreating loyalists of Muammar Qaddafi killed scores of detainees and arbitrarily shot civilians over the past week, as rebel forces extended their control over the Libyan capital, survivors and a human rights group said Sunday.

"In one case, Qaddafi fighters opened fire and hurled grenades at more than 120 civilians huddling in a hangar used as a makeshift lockup near a military base, said Mabrouk Abdullah, 45, who escaped with a bullet wound in his side. Some 50 charred corpses were still scattered across the hangar on Sunday.

"New York-based Human Rights Watch said the evidence it has collected so far "strongly suggests that Qaddafi government forces went on a spate of arbitrary killing as Tripoli was falling." The justice minister in the rebels' interim government, Mohammed al-Alagi, said the allegations would be investigated and leaders of Qaddafi's military units put on trial...."

"Charred bodies, nanny's scars left behind by fleeing Gadhafis"
CNN (August 28, 2011)

"Horrifying glimpses of the brutality underpinning the rule of Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi emerged Sunday with news of a warehouse full of charred corpses and a nanny to Gadhafi's grandchildren tortured.

"Meanwhile, rebel forces who have driven Gadhafi and his family into hiding advanced toward his hometown. And CNN has found Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, the man convicted of blowing up a Pan Am jet in 1988, comatose on what his family says is his deathbed.

"On the eastern side of Tripoli, troops commanded by Gadhafi's son Khamis killed an estimated 150 captive civilians as they retreated last week, hurling grenades and spraying bullets into the building full of men they had promised to release, a survivor said...."

"In Libya, bastions of Kadafi loyalists remain"
Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times (August 28, 2011)

"They are quiet now, absent from the airwaves that they long dominated, gone from the streets that were once theirs.

"Their longtime leader is on the run, his compound ransacked, his once-ubiquitous image now employed on doormats.

"But the supporters of Moammar Kadafi are still out there in working-class neighborhoods such as Abu Salim, a loyalist bastion subdued only last week after intense battles that left its roads littered with shell casings, its buildings riddled with bullets and many of its men dead or in custody...."

"Libya rebels fear for Gaddafi prisoners"
BBC News Africa (August 28, 2011)

"Libyan rebels say they are concerned over the fate of thousands of prisoners held in Tripoli by the Gaddafi regime.

"Rebel military spokesman Col Ahmed Omar Bani said almost 50,000 people arrested in recent months were unaccounted for.

"The rebels believe they may be being held in underground bunkers, which have since been abandoned.

"Rights groups have seen evidence that dozens of people have been massacred near prisons, but Col Bani did not accuse anyone of killing the prisoners.

" 'The number of people arrested over the past months is estimated at between 57,000 and 60,000,' he said in a news conference in Benghazi.

" 'Between 10,000 and 11,000 prisoners have been freed up until now... so where are the others?'

"The colonel appealed for anyone with information to come forward, and said it would be 'catastrophic' if they had been killed...."

"Analysis: Why Gaddafi's crack troops melted away"
Shashank Joshi Associate fellow, Royal United Services Institute, BBC News Africa (August 22, 2011)

"When one Libyan opposition activist reflected on the rebel advances into the city of Zawiya last week, he mused that 'Eid could be a massive celebration indeed'. He was wrong - the jubilation came much earlier....

"...Why did battle-hardened Libyan soldiers, fed on a diet of anti-rebel propaganda and willing to fight in the face of overwhelming Nato air power, melt away so suddenly?

"The answer can only be speculative at this stage, but there are a few possibilities.

"First, there was an element of retreat rather than a rout. Tripoli is unevenly pacified and the euphoria of Green Square obscures the continuing fighting in several suburbs....

"...Second, where soldiers did lay down their arms, the much-maligned National Transitional Council (NTC) deserves some credit....

"...Third, Nato's relentless pounding of armour and artillery east of Zawiya greatly softened up government units, breaking down much of the resistance that would otherwise have slowed the rebel path...."

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.