[Marxism] Franklin Lamb's first glimpse of Tripoli sans Gadhafi

Fred Feldman ffeldman at verizon.net
Wed Aug 24 08:04:53 MDT 2011

Whither Gaddafi and Libya?
The Strange Calm Over Tripoli

By FRANKLIN LAMB | CounterPunch | August 22, 2011

Tripoli - The large gold framed portrait of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi that
adorned the wall behind the reception desk of my hotel since it opened many
years ago has vanished. Also gone are the 72 green flags that flew on the
white poles which have also been removed. It's not polite to inquire of the
skeleton staff about who removed these items because the act of removal
could become very serious offenses depending on the final outcome here.
But, my friend Ismail, manning the front desk, just grinned at me when I
commented on the hotel's fine new mirror that hangs in the leader's space.

Looking over the skyline of Tripoli at 7:30 a.m. 8/22/11 from the 26th floor
of the Corinthia Hotel it seems that it's just about over for the Qaddafi

All night one heard in central Tripoli mainly celebratory gunfire from areas
like the nearby newly renamed "Martyrs Square" (formerly 'Green Square') but
so many questions are on most people minds this morning.  Some ask, are the
Qaddafi forces opening a trap for the rebel forces allowing them to come in
quickly and easily and then when they are gathered in public celebrations
and seek rest, counter attack?

The claim of the NTC representative this morning that the rebels control 95
per cent of Tripoli seems farfetched. This is a very spread out city and its
clear rebel forces are not deployed everywhere.

A column of 22 camouflaged painted military vehicles full of government
fighters slowly passed by our hotel at 8:10 this morning and turned right
into the seaside compound which includes the Bab al Bahar Hotel ("gate to
the sea"), and on its edge, the unoccupied JW Marriott, from which witnesses
said the sniper who shot me in my right leg yesterday morning was perched.
My doctor gave me the bullet as a souvenir and I will be fine although the
damned thing hurts. An arriving hotel worker just reported seeing government
forces assembling in Tripoli's neighborhoods over the past several hours.

On the other side of my hotel I can see rebel pickups filled with fighters
and new tricolor Libyan flags driving very slowly towards Green (Martyr's)
Square. I am thinking what would happen if they make a wrong turn.

Reports of Saif and Mohammad Qaddafi's capture supports the idea that the
government here wildly exaggerated its solid support and that the public
largely believed them. Already among the few staff and some kids who come
early to jump the hotel fence and use the swimming pool, and their trademark
chants of "Allah, Mohammad, Muammar, Libya wa bass" have ended their chants
and now support for ousting "the leader" is widespread. Most hotel staff at
my hotel appear crestfallen.

The outpouring of support for Qaddafi's departure by the same crowds who
seemed to adore him at Green Square the past five months I have been
monitoring them is surprising but perhaps reveals why all powerful despots
are often more form than substance and can collapse quickly under certain

The questions being asked here this morning by student friends include what
happened to the resistance to NATO and its supported rebels, where are the
"65,000 professional soldiers waiting to repel "NATO's rebels" from entering
Tripoli, mentioned just last night by Government spokesman, Musa Ibrahim,
was there ever a real Libyan army of thousands ready to defend Tripoli, what
will the transition be like, will there be tribal conflicts for power, will
Libya have to pay for all the infrastructure damage, will NATO countries,
given the widespread hostility to NATO killing  so many civilians be granted
oil contracts, will the US get another military base (Wheelus was closed by
Qaddafi on June 1970), will the new government recognize Israel as NATO  is
said to be  demanding, will the National Transition Council fulfill its
pledges for a just, quick transition with early elections, and on and on.

Yesterday morning, as I embarked on a bike tour of Tripoli, there were signs
that something incongruous was happening. Security guards, normally about 20
outside the hotel were nowhere to be seen. Also, no staff came to work.
Ismail and the IT guy slept at the hotel-and the British lady "Miss
Lorraine" who is in charge of hotel Hospitality lives at the hotel and was
understandably and visibly upset.

As I left the hotel close to 7:30 a.m. by bicycle yesterday morning I was
surprised to see one woman standing alone on the street in front of the
hotel. I was more surprised when she lit up with a broad smile as she chimed
"Hello Mr. Lamb!"

She is Marianne, who works with Lorraine somewhere in the bowels of this
claimed "7 Star Hotel" I had spoken with her on the phone but we never met
personally.  When I asked her why she was standing in the empty street,  she
replied, "I need to find a ride to the port!" That seemed odd, given what is
happening here, so I asked her why. "My two week vacation starts today and I
need to get a boat to Malta".  I was shocked, "Sweetheart, please, for sure
there is no boat to Malta now and it's dangerous for you to go to the Port."
"But, my boyfriend is waiting for me in Malta" she wailed. "Ok, but if you
find a ride call my room and I will pay half and come with you to the Port".
Marianne agreed. I never saw her again.

The UN delegation left yesterday after their five day "fact finding
mission." Not sure what facts they found because they mainly stayed in the
hotel waiting and waiting, like most other foreigners here do, for a
promised appointment with a government official or someone. Their leader, a
stellar Palestinian lady from Nazarath in Occupied Palestine, convinced NATO
to let some foreigners make use of empty UN plane seats so this hotel was
essentially emptied of guests.

There has been no sign of Colonel Gaddafi. A strange calm has spread over

Franklin Lamb is in Tripoli.  He can be reached c/o fplamb at gmail.com.

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