OK so what the bloody hell’s going on in Libya? My personal thoughts are that fella Gaddafi has been beaten half to death with the ugly stick – good grief, it’s like he wears two sanitary pads under his eyes and what’s with the facial hair? Did he eat a mud pie then dip his chin in it? But looks aside, further reading suggests he is likely to be beaten to full death by more than a stick given that there’s a good old fashioned bounty on his head – of two million dollars! I’m thinking if I become a successful bounty hunter in Libya I could almost fund my feature film. But all that aside, what on Earth is going on over there and why are people suffering so terribly?
Background Libya has a long history of colonization since it’s indigenous Berber tribes inhabited this chunk of the Sahara Desert on Africa’s North-East coast . It was Italy – in control from 1911 – who united the lands and named the colony Libya. In World War II Libya saw much fighting and when the capital, Tripoli fell, it came under Allied administration. In 1949, the UN voted that Libya should become independent and in 1951 it became the United Kingdom of Libya. In 1958, oil was discovered and the poor downtrodden country was transformed. Then came Gaddafi…
Gaddafi’s Libya (Jamahiriya) In 1969, at the age of 27 he chucked the king out with a military coup and lead a revolution that saw Libya descend into an anti-western, anti-Israeli, Islamic republic with socialist beliefs. Gaddafi abolished the Libyan constitution of 1951, adopted laws based on his own ideals (the ‘Green Book’) and placed his family in control of the economy. He used oil wealth to fund wars, acquire chemical and nuclear weapons and sponsor acts of terror, including the 1986 bombing of a disco in Berlin, for which the US (under Reagan) responded with bombs. Gaddafi went on to implement extensive surveillance to unearth likely dissidents and see them hanged or mutilated. The executions were broadcast on Libyan telly, often with him presiding. His Government took control of the media and deliberately kept the military weak for fear of a coup. He would send hit men abroad to assassinate dissidents who had left the country to cry for freedom. While a large section of the popultaion lives in poverty, Gaddafi and his family live in luxury, invest in Hollywood films and host parties featuring guests such as Beyonce, Usher, Lionel Ritchie and Maria Carey. He has invested almost ten million euros in a giant telescope while many children suffer from malnutrition and anaemia. He wears notoriously lairy and hideous clothes and employs only female body guards. Dirty, dirty old man.
Lockerbie On the 21st December 1988, Pan Am flight 103 from London to New York exploded over the town of Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 259 people on board and 11 on the ground. Investigations revealed that a bomb had been placed in a suitcase and set to explode over the ocean. A flight delay meant the bomb exploded over land, leaving a trail of evidence that eventually lead to two Libyan men being indicted for murder. Gaddafi refused to hand over the men which lead to a series of UN approved sanctions. To have the sanctions lifted, Gaddafi finally gave up the two men in 1999 and in 2003, formally admitted responsibility for the bombing and agreed to compensate the victims’ families to the tune of $2.7 billion. In 2009 the Libyan intelligence officer who was charged and gaoled for the crime in Scotland was released on compassionate grounds when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He returned home to Libya to a hero’s welcome and is now comatose in his home in Tripoli as looters steal his medicines. Oh poor bugger.
Uprising Anyway, Libya’s been headlining the news this year because the people of Libya finally decided they have had enough of Colonel Cockhead. On the 15th of February 2011, a peaceful protest against Gadaffi’s Government and the arrest of a Human Rights lawyer were met with military force in Benghazi. 38 people were injured. This sparked a series of violent protests in which people called for greater freedom and an end to Gaddafi’s regime. They took arms and set fire to police and security buildings. The protests continued over days and a “Day of Rage” was planned across the Libyan state for February the 17th. Government buildings were torched. Libyan security forces fired live ammunition into the protesting masses but for the most part were overwhelmed. They withdrew, and it is alleged that many military and security forces defected to join the protesting rebels.
Organised Rebellion Protesters and rebels (many of whom are teachers, lawyers, oil workers and students) were joined by defecting military personnel and an army of volunteers who united to protect against Government attack, guard oil flow and collect weapons. This has helped form the National Transitional Council (NTC), a political body with the aim to consolidate rebel forces and to give them a political stance. The NTC have renamed the State of Libya the Libyan Republic and are said to be preparing for democratic elections and a new draft of the constitution. They have started up a newspaper and taken control of radio stations. A pizza service has delivered 8,000 pizzas to fighters each day. Lucky they’re getting all that exercise.
Horror Gaddafi saw to it that his supporters responded with vicious retribution to which only the desperate and mentally ill could resort. Writers, reporters and other prominent opposition have – according to Amnesty International – disappeared, possibly tortured and killed. Paramedics were reportedly attacked while helping injured protesters, injured rebels were refused medical treatment and soldiers who refused to open fire on protesters were themselves shot down. Mercenaries were hired to perpetrate the worst of the violence. It is estimated that up to 700 people were killed in February, before the rebels took up arms. Since armed conflict began in earnest, the casualties are countless and the tactics “horrifying”. It is possible that tens of thousands have been imprisoned for their dissidence, in hideous conditions. Other reports state that Gaddafi forces have been given viagra and encouraged to commit rape, including the rape of children.* Gaddafi took every measure to ensure the media portrayed things his way, shut down internet connection and banned international journalists. Reports of events have come largely via mobile phone cameras, social media and you-tube.
International Intervention On 17th March 2011, the UN – lead by the UK, France and Lebanon – saw fit to intervene. With their Security Council Resolution 1973 in hand, they demanded an immediate cease fire, set up a “no-fly zone” over Libya, upped sanctions and vowed to employ any measures – short of occupation – to protect civilians. The UN has not yet armed anti-Gaddafi forces, but it would be legal to do so should it be deemed necessary. Gaddafi’s government agreed to the cease fire, but were clearly telling porky pies as they headed into other regions with guns blazing. So, on the 19th March, France blew the crap out of a few pro-Gaddafi vehicles as they threatened a rebel stronghold. Then the US and Britain said, Rightio then, here’s your no-fly zone arsehole and blew up his airfields. With that, the Libyan civil war became everyone’s business. As a result, Gaddafi and his supporters failed in their attempts to take rebel central Benghazi, and the battle continues.
The Evil Bastard Falls Further help from NATO forces in the form of logistical support and air strikes stopped the advance of Gaddafi troops and allowed the NTC to take almost complete control of Libya. They scored further victories and the rebels advanced into the capital, Tripoli. They moved toward the military barracks that encompassed the Gaddafi residence and in mid-August, the large family was forced to abandon its compound (in armoured mercs if you please) and head for the Algerian border. And with that, 42 years of unbelievably insane dictatorship and repression of the people came to an end, leaving behind a large celebration and a complete shambles. It seems some of the Gaddafi family are now safely in Algeria, though not his Arseholiness himself. So where the bloody hell is he?
The Latest So the search for Gaddafi continues. Rumours abound as to his whereabouts: he is in Tripoli, he is being harboured in South Africa, he is in Italy, Venezuala, the Libyan city of Sirte – the last of his strongholds…and there are other rumours – that his sons are killed, that he too is dead, that he is planning suicide, that he still believes he will return to power, that my mum is a leaping pink star fish and pigs will fly you DICKHEAD. Anyway, whatever happens, if he is found alive in Libya, he – and his family – will be brought to trial by the UN for crimes against humanity and atrocities of war. And the future of Libya? Well there’s the biggest question mark of all. Some say there is no rebel leader that has support across the board and there could still be rebel in-fighting before democracy can begin (sheesh). The good news is that they have their rich oil fields to assist financially with recovery, but with nearly half a century of lunacy, corruption, suppression and inherent fear with the added madness of a vicious six month war, I suspect the emotional fallout will be felt for generations.
Truly Loopy The extent of Gaddafi’s madness will be magnified in weeks and months and years to come, as more and more horror stories and bizarre behaviour reports are forthcoming. Like how he allegedly raped five of his bodyguards and how he accused Al Qaeda of putting hallucinogens in the rebels’ Necafe (oh Nestle are you ever immune?). How he tearfully claimed his 4 year old adopted daughter died in the 1989 US bombing when actually she probably lived, became a doctor and lived in Tripoli; how he planned to abolish Switzerland and how his speeches could go for 7 hours…
Anyway, I’ve had enough of him now. Flush him out, stick him in the docks and let justice be done. And let the Libyan people rise to their challenge, and their potential.
*these reports have not been verified so PLEASE let them be fabricated. And please note that the recent events in Libya are so new, and the censorship on reportage so tight, that much detail is sketchy, potentially biased and unconfirmed. But bloody hell, if those images I saw on SBS news this week are any indication, plenty of this horror is all too real. And my thoughts are it is best to believe, predict and expect the worst because what if there are people to be saved?
Slightly Trashy End Notes
Kim Cattrall (Samantha from Sex and the City) was booked to fly on Pan Am flight 103 but changed flights to finish her gift shopping.
Rap and Hip Hop music played a large role in encouraging dissidents and gee-ing up rebels. Several anti-Gaddafi Hip Hop songs were written and posted on you-tube a few weeks before the uprising.
**Update for Friday 21st October 2011: Muammar Gaddafi has been captured and shot dead in his home town of Sirte, Libya. He was hiding in a drain – a poignant end for a man who once called his countrymen ‘rats’. President Obama says that this event, “marks the end of a long and painful chapter for the people of Libya.”