[Marxism] NYT: "Tribql [sic] rifts threaten to undermine Libya uprising"

Fred Feldman ffeldman at verizon.net
Sun Aug 14 09:52:01 MDT 2011


Introductory comment to NYT article:
T make sense of this article, which is confusing and probably intended 
it is necessary to abstract from the relentless effort to portray all 
conflicts iin Libya today as "tribal" in nature and rooted in time 
immemorial. This serves to "orientalize" the conflict, portraying it as 
alien and incomprehensible to "normal" people like ourselves.

Nonetheless, it is clear that Libya is not united against the Gadhafi 
regime today, whatever may have been the case in the first days of 
popular movement in various parts of the country including Tripoli. 
Gadhafi's position seems to have been reinforced and even, to a certain 
extent, stabilized since the US bombing began. Notice ffor instance, 
that despite many reports that the oil-producing center of Brega had 
fallen to the opposition (including by Juan Cole, who has sacrificed his 
critical capacities to the NATO cause, the city and its environs are 
still being fought over. The opposition has few consolidated gains show 
for going on five months of NATO bombing. (Cole insists that the only 
reason the regime and its army have not surrendered is that Gadhafi is 
insane, but I think we can set that aside.)

Note that the reporters attribute the defeat of the protests to 
government forces firing on unarmed crowds. But hat happened to the 
famous bombings of Tripoli neighborhoods, which was presented as a key 
element justifying the NATO actions. No mention.

The truth is there is nothing unusual about repressive governments 
opening fire on unarmed protests. This hapened at Kent State and Jackson 
State universities during the anti-Vietnam War movement. It also was a 
common response of cops and troops to Black rebellions of the 1960s and 
later. And similar events have taken place in many countries. Nothing 
unique about the Gadhafi or Assad regimes in this respect.

But why such sour reporting about a group that used to be America's and 
Western Europe's sweethearts..

One obvious reason is disappointment at the rebel failure to make major 
advances, and their obvious incapacity to take Tripoli from Gadhafi's 
forces. As in Iraq, neither bombing nor sanctions aimed at the people 
nor even the existence of an organized opposition on the ground have 
been able to topple the regime. Washington and the other NATO powers 
face a choice between a massive escalation, possibly with NATO (mainly 
US and British) troops taking over the ground war, or a cease-fire and 
possible negotiated deal.

IFrom either standpoint, I think Washington and NATO are also pressing 
the opposition to dissolve groups that are incompatible with NATO 
discipline (Islamist and other independent or undisciplined militias and 
youth considered unreliable by NATO standards..

The assassinated General Younes apparently met his end while trying to 
pursue these goals (create a "professional" army and disarm the rest of 
the opposition base).

Only the decisive and rapid end of the NATO bombing and lifting of all 
sanctions can open a road away fromt threatened breakdown and/or 
disintegration of Libya .
Fred Feldman

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/14/world/africa/14libya.html

August 13, 2011
Tribal Rifts Threaten to Undermine Libya Uprising
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK and C. J. CHIVERS

OLI, Libya — Saddled with infighting and undermined by the occasionally 
ruthless and undisciplined behavior of its fighters, the six-month-old 
rebel uprising against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi is showing signs of 
sliding from a struggle to overthrow an autocrat into a murkier contest 
between factions and tribes.

The increase in discord and factionalism is undermining the effort to 
overthrow Colonel Qaddafi, and it comes immediately after recognition of 
the rebel government by the Western powers, including the United States, 
potentially giving the rebels access to billions of dollars in frozen 
Libyan assets, and the chance to purchase more modern weaponry.

The infighting could also erode support for the rebels among members of 
the NATO alliance, which faces a September deadline for renewing its air 
campaign amid growing unease about the war’s costs and direction. That 
air support has been a factor in every significant rebel military goal, 
including fighting on Saturday in which rebel forces were challenging 
pro-Qaddafi forces in or near three critical towns: Brega, an oil port 
in the east, Zawiya, on the outskirts of Tripoli, and Gharyan, an 
important gateway to southern Libya. There were also clashes a few miles 
from the main border crossing into neighboring Tunisia, residents told 
Reuters.

While the rebels have sought to maintain a clean image and to portray 
themselves as fighting to establish a secular democracy, several recent 
acts of revenge have cast their ranks in a less favorable light. They 
have also raised the possibility that any rebel victory over Colonel 
Qaddafi could disintegrate into the sort of tribal tensions that have 
plagued Libya for centuries.

In recent weeks, rebel fighters in Libya’s western mountains and around 
the coastal city of Misurata have lashed out at civilians because their 
tribes supported Colonel Qaddafi, looting mountain villages and emptying 
a civilian neighborhood. In the rebels’ provisional capital, Benghazi, 
renegade fighters assassinated their top military commander, Gen. Abdul 
Fattah Younes, apparently in revenge for his previous role as Colonel 
Qaddafi’s security chief.

In response, the chief of General Younes’s powerful tribe threatened to 
retaliate against those responsible, setting off a crisis in the rebels’ 
governing council, whose members were dismissed en masse last week.

The rebels’ Western backers have become alarmed at the growing rift 
between supporters of a group of rebels who have coalesced into a 
relatively unified army and the others who effectively remain a civilian 
band of militia fighters.

In the short term, the retaliation can serve to fortify Colonel 
Qaddafi’s power by reinforcing the fear that a rebel victory would bring 
reprisals against the many who participated in the colonel’s political 
machine and enjoyed his patronage. More broadly, the moral clarity of 
six months ago, when Colonel Qaddafi’s forces were bearing down on 
Benghazi and he was threatening to wipe out anyone who dared oppose him 
there, has been muddied.

In an interview, Jeffrey D. Feltman, assistant secretary of state for 
Near Eastern affairs, said that concerns about the rebels might be 
overblown. He acknowledged that there were some “disturbing reports” 
from Benghazi and the rebel front lines but credited the rebels’ 
governing Transitional National Council with swift steps to address the 
concerns. He noted that the rebel leadership — itself a heterodox mix of 
recent defectors and their former longtime foes — had ordered an end to 
abuses against loyalist tribes in the mountains, and he characterized 
the shake-up of the council as a move to establish a level of 
transparency and accountability without precedent in Libya.

After some initial gunfire by fighters from the family of General 
Younes, the council appeared to have persuaded his tribe, the Obeidi, to 
put their faith in an investigation by the rebel authorities, Mr. 
Feltman said. “They were able to avert a real cycle of violence,” he 
said. “I would give them a passing grade, given where they are starting 
from.” He added, “They have made commitments to us that you would never 
get out of Qaddafi.”

Still, questions remain about the rebel leadership’s control over its 
fighters. “I think that is a question they are asking themselves,” Mr. 
Feltman said, noting recent moves by the council to rein in various 
freewheeling rebel militias, which often are formed along town, 
neighborhood or tribal lines.

But an Obama administration official, who was not authorized to speak 
publicly on the subject, acknowledged some doubts. “I think the jury is 
out on how unified the command will be,” the official said.

Just two weeks before the mysterious assassination of General Younes 
raised those questions, the United States formally recognized the 
rebels’ Transitional National Council as Libya’s legitimate government, 
potentially allowing it to tap about $3.5 billion in liquid assets and, 
over the long term, the rest of the $30 billion of the Qaddafi 
government’s frozen investments.

United States officials say that rebel leaders have pledged to allocate 
the money in a way that is “transparent” and “inclusive,” and that the 
United States is encouraging its use for health care, electricity and 
other services in rebel-held territory. But some funds could also be 
used to buy weapons for the poorly trained and equipped rebel forces.

Libya before the revolt was in many ways a social tinderbox. The 
country, a former Italian colony long dominated by rural Bedouin tribes, 
had little experience of national unity before Colonel Qaddafi came to 
power 42 years ago. Many Libyans relied on tribal connections more than 
civil law for justice and security.

Colonel Qaddafi’s centralized state and oil economy deepened many 
divisions, rewarding or punishing both individuals and tribes primarily 
on the basis of their loyalty to the government.

The uprising initially broke out across the country, even driving the 
police from the streets of the capital, Tripoli. But Colonel Qaddafi and 
one of his sons, Seif al-Islam, immediately vowed to stamp out the 
“rats” they held responsible, predicting from the first nights that the 
rebellion would become “a civil war.” Then militias commanded by two 
other Qaddafi sons, Muatassim and Khamis, re-established control of the 
capital by firing live ammunition into unarmed crowds, as the 
International Criminal Court attested, the first steps toward fulfilling 
the Qaddafis’ prophecy of a civil war pitting east against west.

Many supporters of the rebels now speak of exacting their own revenge 
against Colonel Qaddafi’s clan.

Outside Tripoli, the Qaddafi stronghold, about 500 civilian refugees 
from the rebel advance have gathered in a makeshift camp that formerly 
housed Chinese construction workers. “If you love Qaddafi in Yafran, 
they will kill you,” said Abdel Kareem Omar, 25, a dental student from a 
village of the Mashaashia tribe near that rebel city in the western 
mountains.

“The rebels stole our furniture, our food, our animals and burned our 
homes,” he said, vowing that he, too, would take up arms. “To protect my 
people,” he said.

In a recent conversation with two journalists, one man in the western 
mountains said his neighbors often spoke of capturing Seif al-Islam 
el-Qaddafi alive, so they could chop off his fingers. And low-level 
rebel leaders talk openly of forbidding Colonel Qaddafi’s supporters 
from returning to their homes in rebel-held ground.

Bands of rebel fighters hunted people suspected of being Qaddafi 
loyalists around Benghazi for months before the killing of General 
Younes. And on the front lines, rebels in the coastal city of Misurata 
have vowed to take revenge on the black-skinned Libyans from Tawergha, 
accusing them of committing atrocities and driving them out of their 
neighborhood.

In the mountains in western Libya, local men have ransacked and burned 
homes in at least five villages or cities where residents had supported 
Colonel Qaddafi or his troops. Many of the victims were members of the 
pro-Qaddafi Mashaashia tribe, which the rebels openly loathe.

The fear holding together the pro-Qaddafi side is palpable. Asked in an 
unguarded moment about his plans, Musa Ibrahim, a member of Colonel 
Qaddafi’s tribe and a spokesman for his government, blurted out, “If I 
am alive, you mean?”

The rebel leadership in Benghazi continues to insist that it can 
reconcile the differences among Libyan factions and tribes. The 
governing council calls itself “transitional,” and it has pledged to 
form a new broadly representative unity government based in Tripoli if 
Colonel Qaddafi leaves power.

Part of the challenge facing the rebels is the pervasive reach of the 
Qaddafi political machine.

“In a dictatorship that lasts 42 years, it is almost inevitable that 
almost everyone to some extent needed to participate in the ‘revolution’ 
— how else could you raise a family, have a job, etc.?” Diederik 
Vandewalle, a Libya expert at Dartmouth College wrote in an e-mail. 
“That in a sense is the real tragedy of the way the Qaddafi system 
implicated everyone. And so it leaves virtually everyone open to 
retribution.”

Members of the tribes close to Colonel Qaddafi — like his own tribe, the 
Qaddafa, or the larger Maghraha, and small tribes associated with them — 
may face the greatest danger from “tribal revenge,” George Joffe, a 
Libya expert at the University of Cambridge, wrote in another e-mail. 
“And, of course, the longer this struggle continues, the more likely and 
bitter that will become.”

David D. Kirkpatrick reported from Tripoli, and C. J. Chivers from 
Zintan, Libya.









http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/14/world/africa/14libya.html

August 13, 2011
Tribal Rifts Threaten to Undermine Libya Uprising
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK and C. J. CHIVERS

TRIPOLI, Libya — Saddled with infighting and undermined by the 
occasionally ruthless and undisciplined behavior of its fighters, the 
six-month-old rebel uprising against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi is showing 
signs of sliding from a struggle to overthrow an autocrat into a murkier 
contest between factions and tribes.

The increase in discord and factionalism is undermining the effort to 
overthrow Colonel Qaddafi, and it comes immediately after recognition of 
the rebel government by the Western powers, including the United States, 
potentially giving the rebels access to billions of dollars in frozen 
Libyan assets, and the chance to purchase more modern weaponry.

The infighting could also erode support for the rebels among members of 
the NATO alliance, which faces a September deadline for renewing its air 
campaign amid growing unease about the war’s costs and direction. That 
air support has been a factor in every significant rebel military goal, 
including fighting on Saturday in which rebel forces were challenging 
pro-Qaddafi forces in or near three critical towns: Brega, an oil port 
in the east, Zawiya, on the outskirts of Tripoli, and Gharyan, an 
important gateway to southern Libya. There were also clashes a few miles 
from the main border crossing into neighboring Tunisia, residents told 
Reuters.

While the rebels have sought to maintain a clean image and to portray 
themselves as fighting to establish a secular democracy, several recent 
acts of revenge have cast their ranks in a less favorable light. They 
have also raised the possibility that any rebel victory over Colonel 
Qaddafi could disintegrate into the sort of tribal tensions that have 
plagued Libya for centuries.

In recent weeks, rebel fighters in Libya’s western mountains and around 
the coastal city of Misurata have lashed out at civilians because their 
tribes supported Colonel Qaddafi, looting mountain villages and emptying 
a civilian neighborhood. In the rebels’ provisional capital, Benghazi, 
renegade fighters assassinated their top military commander, Gen. Abdul 
Fattah Younes, apparently in revenge for his previous role as Colonel 
Qaddafi’s security chief.

In response, the chief of General Younes’s powerful tribe threatened to 
retaliate against those responsible, setting off a crisis in the rebels’ 
governing council, whose members were dismissed en masse last week.

The rebels’ Western backers have become alarmed at the growing rift 
between supporters of a group of rebels who have coalesced into a 
relatively unified army and the others who effectively remain a civilian 
band of militia fighters.

In the short term, the retaliation can serve to fortify Colonel 
Qaddafi’s power by reinforcing the fear that a rebel victory would bring 
reprisals against the many who participated in the colonel’s political 
machine and enjoyed his patronage. More broadly, the moral clarity of 
six months ago, when Colonel Qaddafi’s forces were bearing down on 
Benghazi and he was threatening to wipe out anyone who dared oppose him 
there, has been muddied.

In an interview, Jeffrey D. Feltman, assistant secretary of state for 
Near Eastern affairs, said that concerns about the rebels might be 
overblown. He acknowledged that there were some “disturbing reports” 
from Benghazi and the rebel front lines but credited the rebels’ 
governing Transitional National Council with swift steps to address the 
concerns. He noted that the rebel leadership — itself a heterodox mix of 
recent defectors and their former longtime foes — had ordered an end to 
abuses against loyalist tribes in the mountains, and he characterized 
the shake-up of the council as a move to establish a level of 
transparency and accountability without precedent in Libya.

After some initial gunfire by fighters from the family of General 
Younes, the council appeared to have persuaded his tribe, the Obeidi, to 
put their faith in an investigation by the rebel authorities, Mr. 
Feltman said. “They were able to avert a real cycle of violence,” he 
said. “I would give them a passing grade, given where they are starting 
from.” He added, “They have made commitments to us that you would never 
get out of Qaddafi.”

Still, questions remain about the rebel leadership’s control over its 
fighters. “I think that is a question they are asking themselves,” Mr. 
Feltman said, noting recent moves by the council to rein in various 
freewheeling rebel militias, which often are formed along town, 
neighborhood or tribal lines.

But an Obama administration official, who was not authorized to speak 
publicly on the subject, acknowledged some doubts. “I think the jury is 
out on how unified the command will be,” the official said.

Just two weeks before the mysterious assassination of General Younes 
raised those questions, the United States formally recognized the 
rebels’ Transitional National Council as Libya’s legitimate government, 
potentially allowing it to tap about $3.5 billion in liquid assets and, 
over the long term, the rest of the $30 billion of the Qaddafi 
government’s frozen investments.

United States officials say that rebel leaders have pledged to allocate 
the money in a way that is “transparent” and “inclusive,” and that the 
United States is encouraging its use for health care, electricity and 
other services in rebel-held territory. But some funds could also be 
used to buy weapons for the poorly trained and equipped rebel forces.

Libya before the revolt was in many ways a social tinderbox. The 
country, a former Italian colony long dominated by rural Bedouin tribes, 
had little experience of national unity before Colonel Qaddafi came to 
power 42 years ago. Many Libyans relied on tribal connections more than 
civil law for justice and security.

Colonel Qaddafi’s centralized state and oil economy deepened many 
divisions, rewarding or punishing both individuals and tribes primarily 
on the basis of their loyalty to the government.

The uprising initially broke out across the country, even driving the 
police from the streets of the capital, Tripoli. But Colonel Qaddafi and 
one of his sons, Seif al-Islam, immediately vowed to stamp out the 
“rats” they held responsible, predicting from the first nights that the 
rebellion would become “a civil war.” Then militias commanded by two 
other Qaddafi sons, Muatassim and Khamis, re-established control of the 
capital by firing live ammunition into unarmed crowds, as the 
International Criminal Court attested, the first steps toward fulfilling 
the Qaddafis’ prophecy of a civil war pitting east against west.

Many supporters of the rebels now speak of exacting their own revenge 
against Colonel Qaddafi’s clan.

Outside Tripoli, the Qaddafi stronghold, about 500 civilian refugees 
from the rebel advance have gathered in a makeshift camp that formerly 
housed Chinese construction workers. “If you love Qaddafi in Yafran, 
they will kill you,” said Abdel Kareem Omar, 25, a dental student from a 
village of the Mashaashia tribe near that rebel city in the western 
mountains.

“The rebels stole our furniture, our food, our animals and burned our 
homes,” he said, vowing that he, too, would take up arms. “To protect my 
people,” he said.

In a recent conversation with two journalists, one man in the western 
mountains said his neighbors often spoke of capturing Seif al-Islam 
el-Qaddafi alive, so they could chop off his fingers. And low-level 
rebel leaders talk openly of forbidding Colonel Qaddafi’s supporters 
from returning to their homes in rebel-held ground.

Bands of rebel fighters hunted people suspected of being Qaddafi 
loyalists around Benghazi for months before the killing of General 
Younes. And on the front lines, rebels in the coastal city of Misurata 
have vowed to take revenge on the black-skinned Libyans from Tawergha, 
accusing them of committing atrocities and driving them out of their 
neighborhood.

In the mountains in western Libya, local men have ransacked and burned 
homes in at least five villages or cities where residents had supported 
Colonel Qaddafi or his troops. Many of the victims were members of the 
pro-Qaddafi Mashaashia tribe, which the rebels openly loathe.

The fear holding together the pro-Qaddafi side is palpable. Asked in an 
unguarded moment about his plans, Musa Ibrahim, a member of Colonel 
Qaddafi’s tribe and a spokesman for his government, blurted out, “If I 
am alive, you mean?”

The rebel leadership in Benghazi continues to insist that it can 
reconcile the differences among Libyan factions and tribes. The 
governing council calls itself “transitional,” and it has pledged to 
form a new broadly representative unity government based in Tripoli if 
Colonel Qaddafi leaves power.

Part of the challenge facing the rebels is the pervasive reach of the 
Qaddafi political machine.

“In a dictatorship that lasts 42 years, it is almost inevitable that 
almost everyone to some extent needed to participate in the ‘revolution’ 
— how else could you raise a family, have a job, etc.?” Diederik 
Vandewalle, a Libya expert at Dartmouth College wrote in an e-mail. 
“That in a sense is the real tragedy of the way the Qaddafi system 
implicated everyone. And so it leaves virtually everyone open to 
retribution.”

Members of the tribes close to Colonel Qaddafi — like his own tribe, the 
Qaddafa, or the larger Maghraha, and small tribes associated with them — 
may face the greatest danger from “tribal revenge,” George Joffe, a 
Libya expert at the University of Cambridge, wrote in another e-mail. 
“And, of course, the longer this struggle continues, the more likely and 
bitter that will become.”

David D. Kirkpatrick reported from Tripoli, and C. J. Chivers from 
Zintan, Libya.




More information about the Marxism mailing list