Muammar Gaddafi has held the hand of both Barack Obama and George W. Bush. Literally and figuratively, some might say. He’s shown himself to be quite the tyrannical despot, or despotic tyrant—whatever you like better. But after seizing power in Libya 40 years ago, his grip is slipping away.
- Today marks day six of the Libyan protests … or what we know about them. Media access in Libya has been so strictly limited that every report has to be met with some skepticism. The precision and accuracy of each story is hard to gauge. There sure as hell won’t be any Al Jazeera footage like there was in Tarhir Square. The Internet has been cut and TV signals are being jammed. Many Libyans have gone to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube (warning: graphic) to relay information.
- The protests broke out in the eastern city of Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, inspired by the events in Egypt and Tunisia. As the protests grew, texts were sent out over the Libyana mobile network urging “nationalist youths” to defend the country’s “national symbols.” Translation: Gaddafi wants thugs to deal with the protestors. This has led to more than 200—again, an estimate—civilian deaths. Civilians have been killed at funerals, which just leads to more funerals. Tanks have run people over. Snipers shoot from rooftops and helicopters. There have been reports of machine guns and mercenaries, too.
- Despite Gaddafi’s uncivil, unreasonable, and completely inhumane tactics, it’s being reported that Benghazi has fallen to the anti-government supporters. It appears that many government forces in Benghazi have turned against Gaddafi. Then, late yesterday, reports surfaced that protests began in Tripoli, the western and capital city of Libya. It was heavily tweeted that Gaddafi ordered mercenaries to rape Libyan women. And again, reports say that there have been clashes between pro- and anti-government forces, and “witnesses said tear gas and live ammunition were used against anti-government protesters.”
- This morning, Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, Muammar Gaddafi’s son and heir apparent, released a rambling statement over statewide airwaves, warning civilians, “We will fight until the last man, until the last woman, until the last bullet.”
The younger Mr. Qaddafi blamed Islamic radicals and Libyans in exile for the uprising. He offered a vague package of reforms in his televised speech, potentially including a new flag, national anthem, and confederate structure. But his main theme was to threaten Libyans with the prospect of civil war over its oil resources which would break up the country, deprive residents of food and education, and even invite a Western takeover.
“Libya is made up of tribes and clans and loyalties,” he said. “There will be civil war.”
Recalling Libya’s colonial past, he warned, “The West and Europe and the United States will not accept the establishment of an Islamic emirate in Libya.”
The fact that he’s even using language like “last women” or “last bullet” tells you everything you need to know. The Libyan protests have been the region’s bloodiest thus far. Unfortunately, it’s probably only going to get worse.
And there’s one more thing to remember during all of this. There’s a reason Gaddafi was able to rule for so many years: oil. Even though Libya-U.S. relations haven’t always been smooth, there’s still always been a relationship. As Jeff Neumann just wrote:
Just as in Egypt and Tunisia and elsewhere around the world, wealthy countries are all too eager to overlook suppression of basic human rights in favor of “economic liberalization” in the countries they’ve invested in. So, to answer the question of who’s been propping up Qaddafi the answer is simple: we have.
—Photo via Wikimedia Commons