Posts Tagged ‘Rebel Army’
Without question the so-called Arab Spring has brought hope for many oppressed and ill-treated people. Because we were the architects of Gaddafi’s downfall it is perhaps not surprising that our news bulletins are focussed on Libya and the joy of freedom in a country that has suffered greatly. But there are now clear signs that we are not being fed a balanced story.
The ugly underside of the rebel army is proving unconfortable news for those who for many weeks portrayed it as a body of decent citizens prepared to sacrifice everything for the establishment of a safe society, in which the rule of law is administerd in a fair and civilised fashion. The YouTube lynching of Gaddafi, courtesy of a Nato attack on his convoy, was difficult to stomach for many here. The pictures of his captors sodomising the dictator with a knife even more so. But some reasoned that this was an understandable act of revenge, indeed Hilary Clinton made a joke of it until global revulsion caused the US to demand an investigation.
On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported the discovery of 53 bodies, military and civilian, in Sirte, apparently executed – with their hands tied. More revulsion. Yesterday Peter Bouckaert, investigator for HRW, reported evidence that about 500 people, civilians and fighters, have been killed in the last ten days by shooting, shelling and Nato bombing. There has been in Sirte, he reports, a two-month long siege and indiscriminate bombardment of a city of 100,000 which has been reduced to a Grozny-like state of destruction by rebel troops and Nato air and special-forces support.
More and more evidence is emerging of what the rebel army has done on the way to Nato-sponsored victory. Amnesty International has now produced compendious detail of mass abductions, detentions followed by beating and torture, killings and atrocities. African migrants and black Libyans have been subjected to a relentless racist campaign of mass detention, lynchings and atrocities on the usually unfounded basis they were once loyalist mercenaries. Bouckaert reports that he has witnessed rebels this week burning homes in Tawerga so that the towns predominantly black population – accused of backing Gaddafi - are homeless.
Perhaps equally depressing for those of us fed a diet of triumph and good over evil, it becomes ever more evident that if the Nato mission was to save civilian lives, it failed. Estimates of the number of civilians killed over the eight months – as Nato leaders vetoed ceasefires and negotiations – range from 10.000 to 50,000 with 509,000 wounded. Of those, uncounted thousands were civilians, many of whom were killed by Nato bombing.
Now the transitional government is in place but already the Islamist military leaders have made clear that they will not be taking orders from the NTC. The Tripoli commander Abdel Hakim Belhaj – kidnapped by MI6 to be tortured in Libya in 2004 – is unlikely to ever accept the government that has so far emerged.
Small wonder that the councils leaders are now asking Nato to stay on. Amazingly Nata has announced that it will return to take military action against any group opposing the new regime. That hardly sounds like democracy, it does sound suspiciously like domination by foreign powers, powers that are blindly following the only horse in the race that they know will deliver the oil deals they seek.
None of which contradicts the fact that the world is a better place without Gaddafi. But it does suggest that it is time to put away the rose-tinted glasses brigade who suggested that this was another Falklands. It most certainly wasn’t. We have been instrumental in the death of vast numbers of civilians. The number under Gaddafi might have been greater but that we will never know.
It is perhaps only right to remind ourselves that the huge arms depots that we spent so much on destroying from the air were there by courtesy of ourselves and other European arms vendors. In total Libya imported military planes worth £270 million, just under £100 million in guns and £85 million in electronic equipment from the EU between 2005 and 2009. And Gaddafi’s arsenals which escaped destruction now stand largely unguarded. These stockpiles include chemical and biological weapons plus heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles. Into whose hands will these fall?
JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR THE WEEKEND QUIZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
No tears were shed for Muammar Gaddafi when we assembled for hen-cleaning this morning. However, it has to be said that most of us were uneasy about the manner of his death having seen footage of a gloating mob kicking and beating him, not to mention stealing souvenirs from his still-alive body. There can be little doubt that he was then summarily executed, all of which tells us something about those who served in the so-called rebel army. Call us old-fashioned if you will but we believe in a rather more formal form of justice.
But the fact remains that the ghastly dictator has gone and Libya is ‘free’. Now comes the tricky part, for the temptation will be for new-age military heroes such as David Cameron to place troops on the ground the moment it becomes apparent that the Islamist fighters, who comprised the bulk of the revolutionary army, begin to exert their new found authority. Most of them were previously in the al-Qaeda-linked Libyan Fighting Group and have made little secret of their desire to see Libya embrace Sharia law as the cornerstone of its new system. There will in due course be a battle royal between them and the secular liberals who long for western-style democracy. Whether the battle becomes one of words or deeds remains to be seen.
Either way, national cohesion will prove problematic; Libya is an enormous country, four times the size of Iraq, and difficulties in communication serve to entrench local sympathies and attitudes. Its people are deeply tribal and several tribes – among them the Warfalla, one of the largest – remain loyal to Gaddafi. Add to all this the fact that many of Libya’s cities are now awash with weapons as a result of arming the citizenry in its fight against the old regime and the further fact that the new government’s divided security apparatus will struggle to exert control over factions which have already made clear that they do not accept the composition of the interim government. Ominously the al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri, the successor to Bin Laden, yesterday promised to champion the “Libyan jihad”.
I found myself nodding when listening to Rees-Mogg on last night’s ‘Question Time”. He welcomed the downfall of Gaddafi but expressed total opposition to further involvement in this or any other war. He made the point that there is no longer a British empire, and we have to end our pretentions of still being a major player on the world stage. He clearly recoiled from suggestions from the audience that we should now move in on Syria and other equally appalling regimes. We haven’t the resources, we haven’t the right.
If Mr Rees-Mogg has read the new book published by Jeremy Paxman he will have realised that he is not alone in his thinking. Paxman’s ‘Empire’ examines what once ruling the world has done to the British. Our imperial history, Paxman claims, is no more than the smell of mothballs in a long-unopened wardrobe. Britain is now in irresistable decline yet we still wear plumed hats, award ourselves Orders of the ‘British Empire’, and have monarchs who drive in golden carriages. Noithing wrong with any of that provided we are not caught up in delusions of grandeur.
Incidentally, ‘Empire’ contains many horrific examples of the way our ancestors behaved during those long-gone glory days. The accounts of our handling and treatment of slaves quickly disperse any notion that at least we were once great in the truest sense of the word. Of course we are far from the only nation with a chequered history, but we do seem to be the only one that imagines deep down that we can still rule the world with a gunboat, always assuming that we still have one.
We were right to help the Libyan people but we would be well advised to step back now. If we escalate our involvement we will almost certainly be drawn into yet another conflict with no end. Do we really want another Iraq or Afghanistan? Is it our responsibility? Instead of focussing on foreign shores, and decidedly dubious, partners David Cameron should perhaps give attention to the horrendous mess into which we have plunged.
It is not of course just our distant shame of Empire that we should prefer to forget. It is a relatively short time since Blair literally embraced Gaddafi and followed that up with a further six visits. Small wonder that, however unfairly, some leading Americans argue that the role we play is a cynical one. As is theirs of course.
So farewell Gaddafi and, if we have any sense, farewell and good wishes to Libya!
CRICKET; WE AREN’T AS GOOD AS WE IMAGINE!
Next to hens, cricket occupies pride of place in many a codger’s heart, and we were delighted by the performance of our one-day international team during the latter part of the summer. I confess that we tended to regard the Indians as a busted flush, a victim of the new Cook-led all conquering England stars.
Now we are suffering a rude awakening. Yesterday India won the third match in the five match series being played in India, and although the England performance was an improvement over the first two thrashings we still had no answer to Dhoni and the rest.
Hindsight is of course a great gift but some of us did question the inclusion as wicket-keeper of Kieswetter, the exclusion of Anderson, and we were unhappy about the growing tendency toward so-called sledging.
There is still every reason for optimism but hopefully our feet are back on the ground. Whilst there we should concentrate on beating our opponents rather than abusing them!