[Marxism] Juan Cole: The Great Tripoli Uprising (the text)
ffeldman at verizon.net
Sun Aug 21 13:53:47 MDT 2011
Anyone who wants to read Cole's sources should use the URL. Since there
has been a lot of discussion o Libya and a new wave may be beginning as
circumstances change, I decided to make this available for everyone.
The Great Tripoli Uprising
Posted on 08/21/2011 by Juan
As dawn broke Sunday in Libya, revolutionaries were telling Aljazeera
Arabic that much of the capital was being taken over by supporters of
the February 17 Youth revolt. Some areas, such as the suburb of Tajoura
to the east and districts in the eastrn part of the city such as Suq
al-Juma, Arada, the Mitiga airport, Ben Ashour, Fashloum, and Dahra,
were in whole or in part under the control of the revolutionaries.
Those who were expecting a long, hard slog of fighters from the Western
Mountain region and from Misrata toward the capital over-estimated
dictator Muammar Qaddafi’s popularity in his own capital, and did not
reckon with the severe shortages of ammunition and fuel afflicting his
demoralized security forces, whether the regular army or mercenaries.
Nor did they take into account the steady NATO attrition of his armor
and other heavy weapons.
This development, with the capital creating its own nationalist mythos
of revolutionary participation, is the very best thing that could have
happened. Instead of being liberated (and somewhat subjected) from the
outside by Berber or Cyrenaican revolutionaries, Tripoli enters the
Second Republic with its own uprising to its name, as a full equal able
to gain seats on the Transitional National Council once the Qaddafis and
their henchmen are out of the way. There will be no East/West divide. My
hopes for a government of national unity as the last phase of the
revolution before parliamentary elections now seem more plausible than
ever. Tellingly, Tunisia and Egypt both recognized the TNC as Libya’s
legitimate government through the night, as the Tripoli uprising
unfolded. Regional powers can see the new Libya being born.
The underground network of revolutionaries in the capital, who had been
violently repressed by Qaddafi’s security forces last March, appear to
have planned the uprising on hearing of the fall of Zawiya and Zlitan.
It is Ramadan, so people in Tripoli are fasting during the day, breaking
their fast at sunset. Immediately after they ate their meal, the callers
to prayer or muezzins mounted the minarets of the mosques and began
calling out, “Allahu Akbar,” (God is most Great), as a signal to begin
the uprising. (Intrestingly, this tactic is similar to that used by the
Green movement for democracy in Iran in 2009).
Working class districts in the east were the first to rise up.
Apparently revolutionaries have been smuggling in weapons to the capital
and finding a way to practice with them. Tajoura, a few kilometers from
Tripoli to the east, mounted a successful attack on the Qaddafi forces
in the working class suburb, driving them off. At one point the
government troops fired rockets at the protesting crowds, killing 122
persons. But it was a futile piece of barbarity, followed by complete
defeat of Qaddafi forces. Eyewitness Asil al-Tajuri told Aljazeera
Arabic by telephone that the revolutionaries in Tajoura captured 6
government troops, and that they freed 500 prisoners from the Hamidiya
penitentiary. The Tajoura popular forces also captured the Muitiqa
military base in the suburb and stormed the residence of Mansur Daw, the
head of security forces in Tripoli.
The revolt in the eastern working-class district of Suq al-Juma appears
to have begun before the others, on Saturday. All through Saturday
Qaddafi security forces attempted to put it down, but they failed and in
the end had to flee.
Tripoli Districts controlled by Revolutionaries early Sunday morning
Qaddafi released an audio address in which he made his usual
fantasy-land observations, said real Libyans liked to kiss pictures of
his head, and called the revolutionaries rats and agents of imperial
France. It was an incoherent, rambling, disgraceful performance, and was
likely among the last such.
At one point an Aljazeera Arabic correspondent was able to get the
frequency of the security forces and we overheard them fretting that
they were running low on ammunition and fuel for their riposte to the
For a map of the fighting, see here.
By 8 am Sunday morning Libya time, fighters from Nalut and elsewhere in
the Western Mountain region had begun coming into Tripoli to give aid to
the people who made the uprising. The revolutionaries’ advance into the
capital is entitled “Operation Mermaid Dawn.”
One way or another, it seems clear that the Libyan Revolution has
entered its last phase, and that this phase could well end abruptly in
the next days. If Qaddafi’s own capital is so eager to be rid of him,
his support is much thinner than many observers had assumed. His troops
in Zawiya and elsewhere are increasingly refusing to engage in hand to
hand combat, running away when the revolutionaries show up, and at most
sitting in a truck and bombarding the revolutionaries from a distance
(but thereby making themselves targets of NATO war planes and
helicopters). The esprit de corps of the revolutionaries is, in
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