We have built an impressive bonfire in readiness for tonight’s celebrations. This morning we checked its interior for sleeping hedgehogs before sprinking kerosene. No need to apply any to ‘Werrity’, for the guy is stuffed with old newspapers many of which feature his famous namesake. It was whilst we were doing this that Albert commented that were Guy Fawkes alive today he would not lack for volunteers!
My old pal is somewhat vexed by the news that the Border Agency have for some while decided not to check in detail the passports of incoming visitors to these shores, a slight omission compunded by the fact that, for the first time in a century, there are no warships guarding our coastlines. Short of a welcome mat there is little more we can do to invite every terrorist on the globe to join us.
Why no frigates or destroyers protecting our shores? Sadly our total fleet has been reduced to 19, despite pledges by Mr Cameron that “a 40-ship Navy was the absolute minimum”. Of the 19 survivors, eleven have been deployed in the Mediterranean as part of our Libyan mission. Some are now heading back but right now what is known as Emergency Fleet Ready Escorts has, er, no escorts available.
Given that the cost of the bombing of Libya by the RAF has cost the equivalent of ten frigates it is all very odd. Of course the theory is that we have performed a great humanitarian deed in gaining the Libyan people their freedom. This was Cameron’s equivalent to Thatcher’s Falklands, was it not. No it wasn’t and we have not ‘won freedom’, we have merely displaced one tyrant to make way for another.
Right now Libya is anything but free. In towns such as Sirte, now reduced to rubble, and Bani Walid, where Gaddafi hid after his Tripoli palace was over-run, local people are enraged by mass looting and summary executions by rebel fighters. Rebel fighters are still carrying out house-to-house searches for alleged Gaddafi supporters and reports speak of mass hangings. Even doctors and nurses who treated injured Gaddafi fighters are being rounded up and, at best, cast into a prison in Zawiyah, in “appalling conditions”.
But this is merely the prelude to what is to come. Abdel Hakim Belhaj is the most powerful military figure and is threatening to ignite a whole new conflict over his Islamic extremism. Indeed, many former rebel fighters are now talking openly about a new revolution if the country’s political leaders on the National Transitional Council give in to pressure from Belhaj, head of the Militrat Council, to turn Libya into a fundamentalist Islamic state, modelled along the lines of the old Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
The more moderate military leader, Abdel Fattah Younis, was assassinated just weeks ago and many suspect that associates of Belhaj did the deed. With Younis gone, Belhaj is all-powerful. He has received messages of support from Ayman al-Zawahri, the new Al Qaeda leader, and the courthouse in Benghazi now flies the terror network’s flag. Reports speak of armed gangs to be seen everywhere, each parading the Al Qaeda flag and chanting Islamic slogans.
Belhaj was the driving force behind last week’s announcement that Libya will introduce Sharia law, a brutal form of justice that includes flogging and executions for those accused of ‘crimes’ such as adultery, homosexuality and theft. It will allow Libyan men to take multiple wives and give males custody of children, while women will have no right to divorce. Belhaj demands brutal punishment for anyone who critices Islam or refuses to pray.
It will be Belhaj’s second attempt at taking over Libya. In the Eighties he launched an uprising against Gaddafi which failed. He fled to Afghanistan and fought in the Soviet-Afghan war. He then returned to his native Libya and formed the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. He again fled but was captured by British and US intelligence in Malaysia and was handed over to Gaddafi.
At the very least Libya now faces renewed civil war for Belhaj is hated by many of the secular elements of the evolution. One, named Kharyee, said yesterday that ”If he becomes boss, we will make another revolution. He wants to take over but we will kill him before he can do that”. But resistance will be difficult for Belhaj’s links with the Taliban have earned him powerful friends
The only possible conclusion is that, as in Iraq, we went to war on the assumption that removing a dictator automatically opened the door to human rights and the rule of law.Those of us with an understanding of these countries knew that it wouldn’t be like that. The land is now awash with weapons and hostilities are breaking out between the Warfalla and Obeidi tribes, the Berbers in the western mountains, the Magariha, Misrata and coastal Kargala Tawajeer tribes. All came together to fight Gaddafi, now their old emnities are resurfacing. The scene is set perfectly for one all powerful figure to assume control.
That man will be Belhaj. He is committed to jihad – the overthrow by Holy War of Christian states and the creation of an Islamic world. No, Mr Cameron, this was not a Falklands style triumph!
TEST YOURSELF WITH THE WEEKEND QUIZ!
1. Deva was a Roman city now known as what? 2. Spanning 30 years on the charts, how is Tony Fitzgerald better known? 3. What does a kleptomaniac do? 4. What is the popular name for the anaesthetic nitrous oxide? 5. Who was the first woman to be awarded the Order of Merit? 6. The doomed ship Titanic was registered in which English city? 7. In which year did Marc Bolan die? 8..What is made up of the minor arcana and the major arcana? 9. The Romanian dictator Ceausescu was executed on which day in 1989? 10. In ” The Life and Death of Peter Sellers”, who played his wife Britt Ekland?