All Hell Breaks Loose in Libya

Over the weekend, all hell broke loose in Libya, in worrying ways that suggest that the government is entering new depths of paralysis and incompetence, and the terrorist cells based in Benghazi are making a play for genuine power.

The assassination of a militant secularist nationalist in Benghazi just after the assassination of of a militant leftist secularist in Tunis raised the question of whether the extremist Libyan and Tunisian devotees of political Islam coorinated the attacks so as to foment turmoil that might form a path whereby they could take over the country.

It seems obvious that the Libyan government needs to swallow its pride and get outside help in accelerating the training of new security forces.

What were probably extremist fundamentalist terror cells bombed the courthouse in Benghazi, in front of which crowds gathered on Feb. 17, 2011, to kick off the revolution, was bombed and partially destroyed. Another bomb was set off Sunday evening in Benghazi, as well. Aljazeera English reports:

Some 1200 hardened prisoners escaped from Kuwayfia Prison.

One of the young lawyers who organized the first revolutionary committee in Benghazi in February, 2011, Abdel Salam al-Mismari (al-Musmari) was assassinated. He was a vocal critic of militia power in post-Gaddafi Libya, as well as of Muslim Brotherhood power. He opposed the exclusion law that barred people from politics who had worked for Gaddafi.

[USG Open Source Center]: ‘ Tripoli Al-Watan Online in Arabic on 27 July carries a 50-word report saying that [the first transitional prime minister of post-Gaddafi Libya] “Dr Mahmud Jibril’s house in the Al-Siyahiyah area, Tripoli, came under an RPG attack, seriously wounding his doorkeeper.” ‘

A guerrilla attack on a hospital in Benghazi in which the assailants were searching for a patient allowed 18 inmates of the associated insane asylum to escape.

Angry about al-Mismari’s assassination, youth in Tripoli, Benghazi, Sabratha and elsewhere invaded and closed headquarters of the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood.

Prime Minister Ali Zeidan’s reaction to all this mayhem was to reshuffle his cabinet.

Euronews reports:

And no, these problems of transition would not justify having kept the totalitarian and murderous dictatorship of Muammar Gaddafi in place. In fact, many of the extremist fundamentalists were provoked to a life of violence by his oppression.

I have a bad feeling about this.

24 Responses

  1. Dear Professor Cole

    How curious to hear you echo the words of the saintly Mr Blair who commented recently about Islamists who are unable to run a modern economy.

    Sounds like it is time for Africom, or at least a demi brigade of La Legion Etrangere.

    ps there might be a “not” missing in the following sentence from the final paragraph “And no, these problems of transition would justify having kept the totalitarian and murderous dictatorship of Muammar Gaddafi in place.”

    • I didn’t say that Libyans can’t run themselves. I said that the current government is clearly not doing a very good job with security. That a post-revolutionary state would need help with security training is not an ethnic matter but universal.

      The EU has committed to train some 5000 Libyan troops. I just fear it is not enough and not being done quickly enough.

      • Sir, you say “need help with security training” and “train some 5000 Libyan troops.” One wonders what the course syllabi of these “trainings” consists of. Going by what is taught at the School of the Americas and by various CIA employees and “rogue former employees” and the entire large post-national “security” business, the content will not start with an oath to support and defend any kind of “constitution” that makes even a nod toward any kind of “democracy” that fits with what our foggy-minded “patriots” intuit when the hear the word.

        And which tribes will be “trained?” What tradition of citizen-soldiery will be drawn on? It would never happen that the people who will be directing and funding the “training” (and inevitable indoctrination, unless the goal is to just give a bunch of angry males some combat and crowd-crushing skills and turn them loose to do whatever) would be at all interested in creating a new crop of Janissaries, now would it?

        Our apologists/loyalists/obscurantists here and elsewhere would have the rest of us believe that one should never project future conduct from the uncovered past behavior (of the people who constitute the action arm of the CIA and related organizations, or the officers and contractors whose personal tics and psychoses cause them to gravitate to positions running sh_t like the School of the Americas).

        And they would reassure us, with pats on the head, that all the myriad dare we call them “anti-democratic” actions of Our Great Nation’s (and others’ too) power-projection critters must each be taken as sui generis, and no indication of the real, long-term, consistent nature of a large, rough and grasping Hydra of a beast.

        I would want a whole lot more clarity about the who, what, when, where, how and why part of all this “training,” before just swallowing the bait and hook that our rulers, here and there, dangle: “Trust us, we are just trying to “stabilize” a dangerous situation. All that’s needed is a competent national army and national police force, and we can give them just what the doctor ordered.” Which doctor? Duvalier? Mengele? No interest at all, we are mythologized into believing and imagining, in advancing the already massive clout of the business class, especially the ones in the military and state-security, for whom the degree of opulence and influence of their current lives, and the “comfort” of their retirements, depend on how much they can steal and on preserving their privileges and the status quo or fertilizing the killing fields to allow their kind to root and prosper.

        There’s a reason the “honest graft” pronouncement of George Washington Plunkitt resonates so deeply: “I seen my opportunities and I took ’em.” link to He’s just one pig on the porch at the Animal Farm, and Yasser Arafat, link to, and a bunch of Israeli pols, link to, and J. Edgar Hoover and the Dulles Boys and any number of past, current and “developing” “leaders” are sitting up there with them, smoking cigars and snifting fine brandy and laughing at how stupid the rest of us four-leggers are…

        If you have a prescription for how to “train” the monopoly-on-force troops and cops and spies in some way that will eventually produce a civil, productive, sustainable, comity-driven society with a minimum of corruption and incentives to personal greed and the eventual turning of the cycle of wealth concentration, collapse or revolution, please lay it out there. It would have to include some kind of Strange Attractor impelling movement toward that Golden Rule thing, it would seem. It would be an incredibly hard sell, to the people who have the power and presence and accumulated wealth to actually, you know, write the syllabus and hire and dispatch the “trainers” and then try to hold the leashes of the dogs they have trained, thinking they have ensured some kind of overt or covert obeisance and obedience, but not having to really care, since they are totally and completely and, with a waft of a pen, “legally,” insulated from the consequences…

    • Criticizing the security efforts of the Libyan government, which isn’t Islamist, is a statement that Islamists can’t run an economy?

      • “raised the question of whether the extremist Libyan and Tunisian devotees of political Islam coorinated the attacks so as to foment turmoil that might form a path whereby they could take over the country.”

        This is a reference to the overthrow mechansim of a weak Kerensky like government by the Bolshevik like armed factions.

    • The US have inserted those Islamists in power in LIbya despite them losing the election. I suggest you ask your US policy makers to stop toying with the Arabs and Libyan people and let them find their way to democracy with US “help”. The US policy in the region is despicable to say the least, but hey, who cares, as long the oil is running and the US can have an excuse to keep its Army working through new wars in North Africa, everything else is not important. Who cares how many Innocent Libyans die in the process.

  2. This was all predicted by those of us against this illegal aggression by the West upon Libya. I guess it didn’t come up at Power’s recent hearing that she was a primary supporter of yet another US foreign policy mistake.

    • It would have been recognised from both sides of the debate that libya was likely to experience problems after the removal of gaddafi.

      The reason why it received support would have been due to the belief that the alternative scenario of gaddafi staying in power would be worse and that libyans themselves would overall see it as a good move.

      Polls from libya so indicate that this is the case.

      link to

      • Apparently Libyans (non-Greens) (Who knows how many?) are now saying Gaddafi was right about the Islamists’ attempts to take over Libya and North Africa. Things have gotten much worse along all lines–security, economic, political and social–since he was assassinated. I did not support Gaddafi but I have to recognize his merits in building infrastructure such as Great Man Made River (bombed by NATO 2011; not yet repaired?), paying for students’ University costs abroad, building schools, keeping foreigners from gaining a controlling interest in oil, etc. Nothing comparable has been achieved since. Moreover since the US & Nato’s humanitarian military bombed entire cities to rubble in Libya, I hardly think they are appropriate to train troops. Why did the West dethrone Gaddafi or worse? Because the CIA had been trying to get rid of him for decades; the attempted coup of 1996 led by Hifter backed by the CIA which involved alliances with Islamists & the release of prisoners preceded this last attempt. JTMcPhee’s comments are right on track and very perceptive.

        • Apparently Libyans (non-Greens) (Who knows how many?) are now saying Gaddafi was right about the Islamists’ attempts to take over Libya and North Africa.

          Really? What LIbyans are those? Links?

          Moreover since the US & Nato’s humanitarian military bombed entire cities to rubble in Libya

          Yeah, no. That never happened. There were no cities in Libya subjected to major aerial bombardment – although some suffered significant damage from ground forces. You might remember the ground if you try hard enough to recall who else, besides NATO, was involved in the overthrow of Gadhaffi.

          Because the CIA had been trying to get rid of him for decades

          Except, of course, for the years leading up to Arab Spring, when George Bush was welcoming him back into the international community, Haliburton was signing drilling deals with his government, and John McCain was tweeting about what an “interesting man” he was while visiting one of his estates.

          Maybe this will jog your memory: link to

        • “Moreover since the US & Nato’s humanitarian military bombed entire cities to rubble in Libya,…”

          Where did you get that information? Which cities were bombed to rubble in Libya? There was no sustained US and NATO bombing campaign that reduced entire cities to rubble in Libya.

    • This – where “this” is “post-revolutionary instability” – was predicted by those of us who supported this completely legal, UN-authorized Protective Mission as well, since anyone with even the vaguest knowledge about world history knows that the achievement of complete stability immediately after a revolution is an impossibility, and the only people who pretend that it is a meaningful measure of whether a revolution was a mistake are the dishonest and the ignorant.

      Also, good job writing the Libyan people out of their own history. Again. Yeah, Samantha Power, she’s the person most responsible for the overthrow of Moammar Gadhaffi.

    • Indeed. Also waiting for her observation on the massacres in Egypt. Who is “shooting its own people” there?

  3. Why do you insist to call them devotees of Political Islam and then conclude that they are not capable of handling a country or its economy? Were they ever given the chance to do so? I remember at the first days of Islamic revolution in Iran the phrase was “fundamentalists” and they were always shown in a way to be incapable of running a country. 35 years have passed and the Islamic establishment is running its own business. there might be economic problems. but who doesn’t have? the SUPERPOWER had it as well the European countries.
    The fact is that it is the meddling of Western countries with their cloches about economy, human rights and democracy in the Arab world that is creating this mess. The Islamists, fundamentalists or what so ever you call them were never given the chance to govern. the best example is Morsi in Egypt. The fact is this : The Western mentality and way of thinking cannot tolerate Muslims rule themselves without looking at West or using their VALUES! that’s why they began meddling, directly or through their proxies and the mess will go on and on and on.

    • “The fact is” is one of those placeholder statements that means “I’m about to say something I can’t support with facts,” like “Everyone knows,” or Josef Stalin’s favorite, “It is well know that…”

      Personally, my favorite is “We hold these truths to be self-evident.”

    • “35 years have passed and the Islamic establishment is running its own business”
      And all along carrying, with dignity the 900lb gorilla on their back.

  4. I had an Egyptian friend in Libya, all hrough the conflict, but don’t know what’s happening there know.

    The ‘Terrorist’ label is applied to many parties with a wide spectrum of agendas, these days, and it depends on whose perspective you are looking from as to whether they are terrorists or not.

    Are they local people?
    Are they from outside?
    If so, where?

    Are they the same brand of Taliban shipped in, that Gates predicted peace with within twelve months, almost twelve months ago, that are also suspected of agitation within both Syria and Yemen?

    Are they Colombians that Erik Prince has been training in the U.A.E., picking up experience before the push into Iran?

    Are they Qatari, that also supplied the arms to the Libyan rebels during the conflict, with tact approval from the U.S., so that they could appear to have their hands clean?

    Who knows?
    Nothing is honest anymore.
    Definitely not media or political representation.

  5. Gee, we got a whole large chunk of our government working to “write people out of their own history,” the government, in all its parts, overt and co-, that “we the people” pay for and provide The Troops We Support and all their really cool weapons, and sneaky-petes and jackals out in “the field,” and server banks that are connected to little sockets that let our government, Inc., tap into communications of a private and business and even needle-in-an-infinitely-large-cowpie-stuck-there-often-by-FBI-etc.-provacateurs emails and phone calls and internet traffic that MIGHT be between TERRAists (or of interest to what used to be called “corporate spies”)… There’s a whole long history, 200 years plus, of the US “writing people out of their own history” like, say, maybe, in the case of native Americans, east to west, and in Central and South America, and in Italy and South Korea and Nicaragua and Chile and Iran and Iraq, though it looks like the people who live in what we call Afghanistan are about to kick most of “our” asses out of THEIR country, but not before we f___ed it up worse and piled corruption on body count and took a couple of trillion out of Our Economy into “privatized” hands, oh, and let us not forget Vietnam, my personal favorite! And more recently, even us ordinary Americans, pledging our allegiance to flag and republic, are being written out of our own history, just ask the neos and PNAC and the Kochs the details of that one, us suckers who still believe in that Rule of Law that the government and its friends say made the Libya thing all “legal,” us suckers that still believe that the Constitution actually directs much of anything, any more.

    And I bet that wise scholars of historiography know all the other places where the Great Game has been and is being played by “us,” or the people who pretend to represent “us” and “our” interests, in the supposed service of some noise called “US national interests,” that everybody who is “responsible” knows exactly what they are, except they can’t say what, with even a bit of clarity.

    And this constant recourse to claims that US actions in places like Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya and now Syria are all “legal”: That’s a very interesting assertion, with a whole lot of scholarship that comes to a very different conclusion about the size, shape, placement and effect of the fig leaves our serial administrations have attempted to apply. Say the apologists:

    link to

    Say others: link to

    link to

    And lots more, of course.

    “It’s ok because we say it’s ok.” Where has that theme been heard before? And it’s ok that chaos follows intervention, because that’s what always happens with humans, and if the policies of various players tend to create and exacerbate the theft and oppression that occasion the dissatisfactions and pain that finally lead to revolts, and offer opportunities to “act, for humanitarian reasons,” well hey, that’s just the strict rules of golf in action.

    Like Rumsfeld said, you always have known unknowns, and so, well, there you go! Unlimber ol’ Shock’n’Awe! And keep on building and expanding and remodeling the toppling tower of imperial might…

    • “It’s ok because we say it’s ok.” Where has that theme been heard before? And it’s ok that chaos follows intervention, because that’s what always happens with humans”

      Chaos after an intervention is a terrible thing, but as it has been pointed out before it by itself would not show whether or not the intervention was right or wrong.

      What decides this is the available evidence, as in does the available evidence show that the intervention scenario is better than the alternative.

      In regards to countries like iraq the evidence shows overall harm, the evidence for libya so far shows that most libyans do see the intervention as a good move.

      Again the evidence is what matters

      • That’s arrogating a lot of power of decision, when it comes to deciding whether the projection of power, whether invasion or stand-off or via some “covert” means, is “right or wrong.” What does “the evidence” have to show? A poll or three, with all the weaknesses of such “evidence,” that some plurality or majority of those polled “see the action as a good move?” How long after the action is the litmus test to be applied? Which set of the population gets polled? What are the actual questions, the conduct of the pollers, and all that other stuff? And do we, the suppliers and appliers of force, get to call it an “intervention,” a gentle term that also covers what family members do to a black sheep with a drug or hoarding problem?

        And as Joe asks of others, do you have links showing “that most libyans do see the intervention as a good move”?

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