Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

As Libya Burns

After days of nothing but unconfirmed yet compelling twitter messages of the dramatic events in Libya the mainstream media is finally catching up with the horrible reality.  Libya is ablaze and the regime of Muammar al-Gaddafi now hangs by a slender thread, but only at the cost of hundreds of lives.

We are finally getting the confirmation that has been delayed by an almost complete media blackout in Libya since the insurrection began:

CAIRO – The son of the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, warned in a nationally televised address early on Monday that continued anti-government protests could lead to a civil war.

The son, Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, said the army continued to support his father, although he acknowledged that protesters had seized some military bases, as well as tanks and weapons.

David D Kirkpatrick – Qaddafi’s Son Warns of Civil War as Libyan Protests Widen NYT 20 Feb 11

Yes, tanks and weapons and about half of the country, as was accurately reported days ago.  And now Tripoli itself is in turmoil.  Curiously these dramatic events have been reported by eyewitnesses and retweeted widely for almost five days but have been virtually unremarked in the media.  

While this may have begun as a peaceful revolution modelled on those in Tunisia and Egypt it is not shaping up that way:

“But I don’t think anyone’s ready to go home. To be honest with you now, I don’t think these people are after Gaddafi. More than anything else now, they’re after blood.”

Live Blog – Libya AJE 20 Feb 11

With a death toll already reckoned in hundreds it seems the most incredible unconfirmed reports we had may have been understated.  Libya is burning and scores have been shot and killed in numerous incidents over five days of brutal conflict.  The breathless tweets of this weekend accurately described the shape and scope of this revolt:

In the first sign of serious unrest in the capital, thousands of protesters clashed with Gaddafi supporters. Gunfire rang out in the night and police used tear gas to disperse demonstrators, some of whom threw stones at Gaddafi billboards.

Human Rights Watch said at least 223 people have been killed in five days of violence. Most were in Benghazi, cradle of the uprising and a region where Gaddafi’s grip has always been weaker than elsewhere in the oil-rich desert nation.

Habib al-Obaidi, a surgeon at the Al-Jalae hospital, said the bodies of 50 people, mostly shot dead, were brought there on Sunday afternoon. Two hundred wounded had arrived, he said.

“One of the victims was obliterated after being hit by an RPG (rocket propelled grenade) to the abdomen,” he said.

Members of an army unit known as the “Thunderbolt” squad had brought wounded comrades to the hospital, he said. The soldiers said they had defected to the cause of the protesters and had fought and defeated Gaddafi’s elite guards.

Libyan protesters brave bullets to close in on Gaddafi Reuters 20 Feb 11

The revolution was tweeted, and no other media chose to cover it except for the Human Rights Watch confirmed death tolls which were revised upwards daily.  While one has to exercise caution, to be sure, it is equally impossible to ignore a story of this magnitude even though broadcast merely in sketchy fragments of text.


  1. Will the long-term autocrats in other Arab nations turn away from violent repression and try to negotiate a resolution to their own people’s unrest?  Or will they double down on the bloodshed, hoping to crush the revolution before it sweeps them aside?

    No doubt the answer varies for each nation now simmering with revolt:  Egypt’s way?  Libya’s?  Some other direction?  

  2. Shaun Appleby

    @AJELive: Hundreds of #Libyans are being rushed into #Tripoli Medical Center from Green Square with gunshot wounds to the head #Libya

  3. virginislandsguy

    Reported February 20:

    11:54 pm: Further reports suggest the 500,000-strong Tuareg tribe in south Libya has heeded the call from the million-strong Warfala tribe to join the uprising.  Protesters in Ghat and Ubary, home to Libyan Tuareg clans are reportedly attacking government buildings and police stations.

    That’s 1.5 million people out of a total population of 6.4 M. I believe this is significant. The factoid is this chart showing the demographic pyramid of Libya. It appears about 90% of the population was born after the revolution.

    Libya Demographics

  4. spacemanspiff

    Most people who Twitter do it from phones which is why it’s such a valuable tool.

    You know what they say (at least here): The best camera is the one you have on you at the moment. A bit of background on how Shaun is keeping up to date with all the info that is pouring in from Lybia. Let attempt to explain how hashtags work.

    Hashtags are when you put a # sign in front of a specific word.

    For example #Lybia.

    This then works like a link. When you hit on the #hashtag it links to a a new window where everybody who uses the same #hashtag is displayed. So in a sense everybody gets (puts) all the information in the same place making it easy to access in an organized and orderly fashioned. It updates itself by scrolling down from most recent to oldest tweets. The more important tweets that utilize the specific #hashtag are displayed on the top of the page. It’s hard to explain how Twitter works because there is nothing like it. Hope I didn’t confuse anybody even more.  

  5. HappyinVT

    for his side.  He called the protesters thieves and drunks.  He warned of civil war ~ has he not been paying attention?  The army can use “all available means” to subdue the protesters.  It’s like his goal was to goad the protesters into more and bigger action.

    I’ve heard this morning that several senior cabinet members have quit, including the Amb. to the Arab League and the Justice Minister.  It seems, as with Egypt, the future of Libya and Gaddafi lies in the military’s response.

  6. Jjc2008

    I am always so torn by, confused by, troubled by foreign policy.   I think it is such a gray area.  It’s why it is the one area when considering a presidential candidate, it is not a make or break issue for my choice because, imo, in the end, the presidents almost always end up being more the same (with the exception that some are so much better in speaking to the world, as Obama is, as Bill C was, that they can help with inspiring (for the record, I believe Hillary too would have been inspiring as she was when she addressed the UN with “women’s rights are human rights” in the 90s.  

    As I watch some on the left still trash Hillary for relationships with Israel, I shake my head.  I just believe none of this is simplistic.  As I read about Libya, my heart breaks.  We all know and have known for years that Gaddafi is a despot.

    We knew for years that Saddam was also a despot.  

    We knew the Shah of Iran was a despot.

    In the end, in many ways, we always end up in a damned of we do, damned if we don’t situation.  Is it our obligation to rid the world of all despots?  When I was a young kid, I believed it was.  Like all children, I saw most things in good vs evil.   We were good, they were evil.  It was such a heartbreaking eye opener when I realized how complicit my own government was in pillaging the poor, propping dictators.  I remember being so happy when the Shah was tumbled by his own people.  But now, in retrospect, it is more like they went from our despot to theirs.  And I guess that is their right.

    Should Gaddafi be toppled?  Of course.  The only difference between him and Mubarak is that we propped the latter.  But if we helped the Egyptians topple Mubarak would it have been welcomed?  If we help the Libyans topple Gaddafi would we be rescuers or invaders?   I do not know.

    I don’t even pretend to know the answer.  Just thinking out loud.

    But on the home front, we, as fellow citizens have every right to support our sisters and brothers in WI or wherever our own elected officials are trying to become despots.  Of that, I am sure. I see know gray area.  Maybe our best bet is to lead by example.

  7. Stipes

    but my knowledge of that country’s internal dynamics was very limited.

    There are now two examples which can be held up for review:

    Peaceful demonstrations and a regime’s acquiescence to popular demands, or all out war.

    Methinks that this is going to give other despots pause to think.

  8. HappyinVT

    7:45pm: The defected pilots reportedly tell Maltese officials they were based in Tripoli and ordered to attack protesters on the ground in Benghazi.  After seeing their fellow pilots begin the airstrikes, they diverted course toward Malta. If substantiated, this would appear to confirm the use of airstrikes against civilian protesters in cities around the country.

    There were reports that the Ambassador to the UK had resigned; Al Jazeera has spoken to him and he has not, although he has been asked to report to the British Foreign Office.  The Ambassador to Bangladesh has confirmed he has resigned.  And, apparently, the Ambassador to Indonesia has also resigned.

  9. HappyinVT

    9:19pm: Qatar’s prime minister contacts Amr Moussa, Arab League secretary-general, and calls for an extraordinary meeting of the league. The meeting will be held tomorrow morning, we understand.

  10. Shaun Appleby

    From the medical relief convoy arriving yesterday:

    CAIRO: Ten Egyptians were shot to death in the Libyan city of Tobruk on Monday, near the eastern border, an Egyptian doctor heading to Libya told AFP, citing a witness.

    Seif Abdel Latif, a member of the Egyptian doctors’s syndicate said he was trying to head to Libya with an aid convoy but Egyptian border guards stopped him from entering Libya.

    He said the guards only allowed medical supplies and two doctors into Libya, where violent clashes have resulted in up to 400 deaths according to the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (IFHR). Human Rights Watch has cited a death toll of 233.

    “We saw a group of Egyptians, who come from the (Nile Delta province of) Sharqiya, escaping Libya on board three buses and they said that 10 Egyptians had been killed by machine-gun fire in Tobruk,” he said.Ten Egyptians killed in Libya: Report Times of India 21 Feb 11

    I’m guessing public opinion in Egypt will be pretty intolerant of this kind of news.

  11. HappyinVT

    9:24pm: BBC reports Libya’s ambassador to India has resigned. If confirmed, he will be the seventh ambassador to quit their posts in protest at the violent crackdown against civilian demonstrators – and may signal the beginning of a collapse in Libya’s diplomatic corps.

    Also the Libyan minister for immigration (hate to have that job about now) is in Boston.  He says the ambassadors shouldn’t quit but do their jobs “independent of the regime.”

  12. HappyinVT

    More than 600 people have died in the violent clashes that swept Libya since the demonstrations to unseat longtime leader Moammer Gadhafi began last week, various media sources reported on Monday.

    According to Human Rights Watch, at least 250 of those died on Monday alone after the violence spread from the eastern city of Benghazi to the capital of Tripoli.


    Adel Mohamed Saleh, a witness who called himself a political activist, said the bombings had initially targeted a funeral procession.

    “What we are witnessing today is unimaginable. Warplanes and helicopters are indiscriminately bombing one area after another. There are many, many dead,” A [sic]

    “Our people are dying. It is the policy of scorched earth.” he said. “Every 20 minutes they are bombing.”

    Asked if the attacks were still happening he said: “It is continuing, it is continuing. Anyone who moves, even if they are in their car they will hit you.”

    The protesters were reportedly heading to the army base to obtain ammunition of their own, but witnesses said the air force bombed the demonstrators before they could get there.

  13. HappyinVT

    9:41pm: Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Hosam Zaki says the Egyptian army has been ordered to facilitate the evacuation of all Egyptians from Libya.  Some 100 buses, full of Egyptians, are on their way to the Libya-Egypt border – where the army has set up relief tents.

    The ministry is “deeply concerned” by Saif Gaddafi’s speech last night, which they say accused Egyptians of being behind Libya’s violence

    9:39pm: Italy – which has the closest ties to Libya of any European country – will launch a ‘repatriation plan’ tomorrow, with planes taking off in the morning.

    9:35pm: Earlier reports confirmed – an anti-Gaddafi protester managed to scale the Libyan embassy in London and replaced the state flag with that of the protesters.

  14. Shaun Appleby

    But citizen action throughout the virtual world has helped publicise this story, retweeting and reposting these unconfirmed but dramatic events over the last few days.

    I really appreciate the leeway and collaboration (well done, Happy) afforded by the readers here to post these unqualified messages on a public forum and hopefully get the message out during the inexplicable ‘news shadow’ that only ended yesterday while hundreds were clearly dying halfway around the world.  The Moose has done its part as well for the cause.  Thanks to you all.

    And the mainstream media (I’m looking at you, Al Jazeera) is just going to have to lift its game in future or become even further trivial and irrelevant.

  15. It definitely makes this feel more like a civil war rather than protests. Stories of military base takeovers by protesters sound dangerous. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s much the outside world can do besides apply pressure on the regime. If they are using aircraft against citizens then a no-fly policy enforced by the Italian and Egyptian air forces might be a good idea. Unfortunately, there’s that word again, it’s highly unlikely something like that could be coordinated in time to do any good.

  16. HappyinVT

    brought up before the Security Counsel.  Presumably that would happen tomorrow.  The no-fly zone would happen via the UN as well ~ issues include enforcement.

  17. Shaun Appleby

    Of dead Libyan protesters which I just can’t link to in good conscience, unbelievably brutal and confirmation of the use of heavy weapons and excessive military force against the people.  Trust me, you don’t want to see them.

  18. HappyinVT

    As the carnage and horror coming out of Libya continues to dominate our timelines, top Muslim cleric Youssef Al Qaradawi issued a fatwa (religious edict) calling for anyone who can pull the trigger, to kill Colonel Muammar Qaddafi and end the suffering of Libyans.

    This is the same guy who just returned to Egypt after exile.

  19. HappyinVT

    12:03am: Al Jazeera’s Anita McNaught, reporting from Istanbul, says a plane sent earlier today to pick up some of the 25,000 Turkish workers in Libya had to turn back after approaching the country – because there was no-one left in air control facilities

    And Saif Gaddafi says that they aren’t bombing cities while Libya’s deputy FM blames Al Jazeera for inciting strife.  Have we not been here once before?

  20. Shaun Appleby

    Are almost completely shut down as reported by AJE just now.  The EU nations are now scrambling to evacuate their expatriates but it is too late, Libyan airspace is closed to civilian traffic and the word ‘humanitarian’ isn’t in the regime’s vocabulary as should be plain to see to anyone.

    Shame on all of the European and Western powers for ignoring this, not to mention the news media.  Anybody with an Internet connection could have seen this coming days ago.  What gives?  Surely the CIA and other national intelligence services have better bandwidth than I do.

  21. Shaun Appleby

    From the protester live-blog site set up last Thursday:

    19:50 Heavy fire in Sidi Khalifah, loud voices are saying “Anyone who comes out of their houses, we will shoot them”

    19:17 Enough Gaddafi tweets: “Mercenaries are being released in neighborhoods, Suq Jumaa, and shooting at any group of people gathered

    19:17 Al Jazeera Live interview: Protesters coming from Mesrate being fired at from aircraft while on their way to Tripoli

    BREAKING: HEAVY fire in Sidi Khalifah Libya 17th February 2011 21 Feb 11

    It is sobering to be a virtual eyewitness to tragedy.

  22. Shaun Appleby

    The Stateside punditry weighs in:

    It is time for the United States, NATO, the United Nations and the Arab League to act forcefully to try to prevent the already bloody situation from degenerating into something much worse.

    By acting, I mean a response sufficiently forceful and direct to deter or prevent the Libyan regime from using its military resources to butcher its opponents. I have already seen reports that NATO has sternly warned Libya against further violence against its people. Making that credible could mean the declaration and enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya, presumably by NATO, to prevent the use of military aircraft against the protestors. It could also mean a clear declaration that members of the regime and military will be held individually responsible for any future deaths. The U.S. should call for an urgent, immediate Security Council meeting and push for a strong resolution condeming Libya’s use of violence and authorizing targeted sanctions against the regime. Such steps could stand a chance of reversing the course of a rapidly deteriorating situation. An effective international response could not only save many Libyan lives, it might also send a powerful warning to other Arab leaders who might contemplate following suit against their own protest movements.

    Marc Lynch – Intervening in the Libyan tragedy Foreign Policy 21 Feb 11

    You said it brother.  But for my money we should have had the whole thing ready to rock and roll days ago.

  23. HappyinVT

    LIBYA, 6:07 p.m. ET, 1:07 a.m. local: A formerly pro-government newspaper in Libya is reporting that African mercenaries are shooting at unarmed civilians in Tajouraa, 25 miles east of Tripoli. The newspaper Quryna’s perspective has changed since protests in Libya began.

  24. Shaun Appleby

    Former Foreign Security of Great Britain now calling for immediate Security Council emergency meeting tonight to declare enforced no-fly zone effective immediately.

    For what it’s worth if the Egyptians acted unilaterally at this point they would have my unequivocal support.  They are virtually the only power with the resources to do so at short notice and everyone finally seems pretty clear that an even more terrible tragedy is imminent.

  25. spacemanspiff

    We are living in a critical time in history right now. Zimbabwe is growing restless. It’s ripple effect and even with my limited knowledge on the subject it’s obvious this is the tip of the iceberg. It’s impossible to have a revolution without bloodshed. Some tyrants will go down swinging. I admire these heroes and wish I had half their courage. Let’s hope the world’s “superpowers” are up to the challenge. For all the talk about Obama I think it’s important to know what Europe is going to do. I hope everybody does the right thing.  

  26. HappyinVT

    I just accidentally ran into a picture of a guy with about half his skull (including most of his forehead missing) and his brains laying  several inches away.

    I need to step away.

  27. HappyinVT

    In a highly significant development, the leadership of the large and powerful Warfala tribe announced that it was now siding with the opposition against Qaddafi. About a million Libyans belong to this extended kinship group. Since cultivating tribal loyalties was one of the ways Qaddafi had remained in power, this major tribal defection underlines his loss of authority. It was further underlined when Arab Warfala leaders managed to convince their Berber counterparts in the southern Tuareg tribe, who are 500,000 strong, to join in opposing Qaddafi.

    Because Libya is an oil state that exports 1.7 million barrels a day, its fate has more immediate implications for the international economy than unrest in non-oil states such as Tunisia. On Sunday, the eastern Zuwayya tribe threatened to halt petroleum exports in protest of the brutality of the regime in Benghazi, a city of over 600,000.

    I am watching Aljazeera Arabic, which is calling people in Tripoli on the telephone and asking them what is going on in the capital. The replies are poignant in their raw emotion, bordering on hysteria. The residents are alleging that the Qaddafi regime has scrambled fighter jets to strafe civilian crowds, has deployed heavy artillery against them, and has occupied the streets with armored vehicles and strategically-placed snipers. One man is shouting that “the gates of Hell have opened” in the capital and that “this is Halabja!” (where Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein ordered helicopter gunships to hit a Kurdish city with sarin gas, killing 5000 in 1988).

  28. fogiv

    through suez canal.

    Two Iranian warships entered the Suez Canal on Tuesday on their way to the Mediterranean Sea, Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency reported, citing canal officials.

    They are the first such ships to sail through the Suez since the Islamic republic’s 1979 revolution.

    The move, which comes four days after Egypt’s post-Hosni Mubarak government gave the green light to the passage, puts Egypt’s new military regime in a prickly position with its Israeli neighbor.

  29. HappyinVT

    5.17pm Al Jazeera’s Cal Perry reports from Malta that the Italian navy is monitoring a Libyan naval vessel stalled in waters just off the coast of Malta. There are possible allegations that the vessel may have defected. More details are being sought.

    The hunk of junk I was stationed on was “dead in the water” on several occasions; I hope this one is “stalled” because they quit the regime.

  30. HappyinVT

    In 1930, under Mussolini’s governor of Libya, Rodolfo Graziani, some 80,000 Libyans were removed to concentration camps, where 55% of the inmates perished. In 1933-1940, Italo Balbo championed aerial warfare as the best means to deal with uppity colonial populations. Between 1912 and 1943, half of all Libyans were killed, starved or chased from the country by the Italian colonial regime.

    American pundits speak glibly of “Islamofascism,” thus deeply insulting Muslims by tying their religion to a Western political movement. What they do not know is that Libyan Muslims suffered mightily at the hands of the real fascists. The movement of Omar Mukhtar, the school teacher who turned anti-colonialist revolutionary, was repressed by Italian fascism.

  31. HappyinVT

    or this guy’s lost his mind.

    He’s railing against the US and Britain ~ sounds like he’s reliving some glorious past.  He’s blaming a “small group of people” and Tunisians.  So far, it’s a rambling mess of I don’t know what.

    He should have kept his mouth shut.

  32. HappyinVT

    He thinks of himself as a great orator but he frequently rambles and throws shit out there (that’s obviously a paraphrase).

    The speech is 40 minutes and counting but CNNI broke off.

  33. Stipes

    Maybe we were quite prescient in our conversation last night about China.

    Gaddafi just used this comment as a threat during his address:  “The unity of China was more important than the people of Tiananmen Square.”

    Very weird.

  34. HappyinVT

    10:04pm: “Gaddafi’s No.2” Abdul Fatah Younis, Libyan minister of interior and army general – resigns. More to come.

    10.11pm: Libya’s defected interior minister has urged the Libyan army to join the people and respond to their “legitimate demands” echoing the language used by defecting Egyptian military leaders before the fall of president Hosni Mubarak.

    Guess he didn’t like the speech.

  35. HappyinVT

    12:26am: Libyan government spokesman gives press conference outlining the vision of Gaddafi’s eldest son, Saif al-Islam. Plans for reform include boosting payments to the unemployed. Also announces the formation of a committee to investigate events over the past couple of weeks. He says people “will be shocked by the extent of the distortion committed by Arab and foreign press and media.

    The spokesman goes on to attack “the brothers in Qatar”.


    We used to respect the brothers in Qatar, but they have dedicated Al Jazeera to create lies and provocation on behalf of rich Egyptians who live in Qatar. This is unacceptable to us.

       They were upset because President Gaddafi attacked the US president, who has bases inside Qatar. Their hope was to burn Libya, like they burned Tunisia and Egypt. But Libya is not Tunisia or Egypt – and we will remain strong.

       As for Libyans who live abroad and are provoking Libyans at home to burn their country. We tell you to stop. You and your families are looking from abroad, waiting for instructions and low pay from your bosses.

    It’s like Egypt part 2 with these guys.

  36. HappyinVT

    the Libyan warship that’s been off the coast of Malta has arrived after it refused to fire on Benghazi.  Another warship is reportedly in the area.

    According to a police colonel, the people in the Benghazi area are on “hallucinogenic drugs.”

    Libya’s Deputy Ambassador to the UN says Gaddafi’s speech is [not so subtle] code for his forces to commit genocide.  (Where the Ambassador is seems unclear ~ it was the anti-Gaddafi deputy who came out of the UNSC meeting.)

    • virginislandsguy

      If Mubarak lives to spend his ill-gotten gains and Muammar al-Gaddafi goes the way of Nicolae Ceausescu, then they will think twice about a scorched earth response. Personally, I think the rest of them are all going to go down hard, with a small handful (Syria?) surviving this round.

  37. Shaun Appleby

    Hints that Anonymous is now targeting Afriqiyah Airways as they are used to bring mercenaries into Libya.  Claims that the remaining loyalist army forces are regrouping and preparing to enter Tripoli from the south.  Suggestions that Qaddafi is preparing to destroy his own oilfield infrastructure:

    There’s been virtually no reliable information coming out of Tripoli, but a source close to the Gaddafi regime I did manage to get hold of told me the already terrible situation in Libya will get much worse. Among other things, Gaddafi has ordered security services to start sabotaging oil facilities. They will start by blowing up several oil pipelines, cutting off flow to Mediterranean ports.

    Robert Baer – Gaddafi’s Next Move: Sabotage Oil and Sow Chaos? Time 22 Feb 11

    It’s getting crazy out there.

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