Libya: Self-Righteous Bullies Run Wild


November 19, 2012: The government admits that it has not yet arrested anyone responsible for the September 11th attack in Benghazi that killed the American ambassador. Some suspects are known but remain unquestioned by the security forces. Despite popular protests after the attack that drove some Islamic terrorists from the city, those responsible for killing the ambassador are protected by powerful Islamic radical militias and the Libyan government has more pressing problems with feuding pro-government militias and armed anti-government groups (mostly supporters of the late dictator Kaddafi). Meanwhile a team of American special operations troops are recruiting Libyans to be part of a government counter-terrorism commando force. The Arabic speaking Americans will select and train several hundred suitable candidates. It’s unclear if the training will take place in Libya or somewhere else. The government needs some way to deal with a possible coup attempt by Islamic radicals. These groups, which include some al Qaeda affiliates are angry and mystified at not receiving a majority of the votes in recent elections. They blame America and Israel and, as usual, accuse Libyans who oppose them of not being proper Moslems. This could get ugly and most Libyans know it.

The government is still dealing with about 100,000 internal refugees, driven from their homes by factional fighting. Some 40 percent of the refugees are from Bani Walid, the last town to openly support Kaddafi. Bani Walid was taken by pro-government militias late last month and is still a lawless and dangerous place. Anti-Kaddafi militiamen still roam the town looking for Kaddafi supporters and stuff to steal. This West Libyan town (170 kilometers southeast of Tripoli) originally had a population of about 100,000. This town was always pro-Kaddafi and the last refuge of pro-Kaddafi militias (who had been misbehaving even after the Kaddafi government was overthrown last year). There are still some small groups of armed Kaddafi supporters around Bani Walid and the unrest down there is expected to last for a while, although this chaos should be gone by the end of the year. This may change if some of the other pro-Kaddafi towns in the interior try to defy the new government.

The 42 years of Kaddafi rule left its mark. Kaddafi was a clever and manipulative dictator. He portrayed himself as a populist servant of the people but he was a dictator, and in the end that’s what got him overthrown and killed. Most Libyans grew up under Kaddafi’s erratic and autocratic rule and have little knowledge or experience with democracy. To many Libyans, being a self-righteous bully seems like a proper way to conduct yourself. After all, it worked for Kaddafi. Old habits are hard to get away from.

November 16, 2012: Egyptian border guards caught Libyan smugglers trying to bring 35 anti-tank guided missiles into Egypt. There are still a lot of Kaddafi era weapons lying about, often hidden by looters waiting to find a buyer, or someone to use the stuff on.

November 4, 2012: In Benghazi a car bomb went off outside a police station wounding three policemen. In Tripoli rival militias fought each other, leaving at least five dead.

November 3, 2012: In Tripoli dozens of armed men, identifying themselves as former rebels against Kaddafi, blocked access to the national assembly building. The situation was defused without violence after a day or two when representatives of the armed men met with government leaders.

November 1, 2012: In Tripoli a new government was accepted by the legislature. This was the second attempt, as the first government selected was turned down and armed threats were made. There are still some militias threatening violence, but not enough of them this time to stop the government selection process.




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