[Marxism] NYT: "Qaddafi gave us dignity, ' a captured loyalist says

Fred Feldman ffeldman at verizon.net
Tue Aug 30 08:34:54 MDT 2011

August 29, 2011

Qaddafi 'Gave Us Dignity,' a Captured Loyalist Says By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
TRIPOLI, Libya - Faraj Mohamed cast his eyes across the hospital room with
the furtive anxiety Tripoli residents used to display when they spoke ill of
Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. 

"I myself would die a thousand times for Qaddafi, even now," said Mr.
Mohamed, a 20-year-old soldier, lying in a hospital as a prisoner of the
rebels who ousted the Libyan leader. "I love him because he gave us dignity,
and he is a symbol for the patriotism of the country." 

A week after rebels breached Colonel Qaddafi's Tripoli stronghold, Mr.
Mohamed offered a bracing reminder of the obstacles confronting the new
provisional government still taking shape. Surt, Mr. Mohamed's hometown as
well as Colonel Qaddafi's, remains under the control of forces loyal to the
ousted Libyan leader, and so do Sabha in the south and Bani Walid in the
central west. 

At moments when his guards were out of earshot, Mr. Mohamed expressed the
special combination of allegiance to Colonel Qaddafi and fear of chaos
without him that still inspired fighters to rally around his lost cause,
even after his authority had collapsed. 

As Mr. Mohamed spoke of defending the Libyan leader, Colonel Qaddafi had
vanished into hiding, while his wife Safiya, daughter Aisha and sons
Mohammed and Hannibal fled to Algeria on Monday. The spouses of Colonel
Qaddafi's children and their offspring arrived there as well. 

But Mr. Mohamed said he fought on, fearful of a future without Colonel

"This war will happen again, and Libya will experience the same thing that
is happening in Egypt," Mr. Mohamed warned, repeating the series of imagined
woes that Colonel Qaddafi's supporters said had followed the ouster of that
country's strongman, Hosni Mubarak: "Murder and killing and stealing and

"What is happening now is because of the rebels, not Qaddafi," Mr. Mohamed

Mr. Mohamed, his leg in a cast and a wound on his back, lay with five other
captives in a prison unit of the Mitiga air base hospital, with an armed
guard in the hall. Libya's provisional government calls them prisoners of
war, but Mr. Mohamed was the only one who admitted to fighting for Colonel
Qaddafi. Two fellow patients said they were migrant workers, from Niger and
Somalia, who had been falsely accused of being mercenaries. Another patient,
a Libyan, said he had simply been shot in the street. "I am innocent," he
said. Another was handcuffed to his bedrail. 

All said they were well treated. During recent visits, hospital staff
members brought them special meals just before sunset to break the daylong
Ramadan fast, though the seriously sick are not typically expected to keep
the fast. 

When the rebel captors entered, Mr. Mohamed often abruptly switched the tone
of his comments. "Now I think that all Libya is more united," he volunteered
at one point, temporarily contradicting his previous statements for the
benefit of his captors. 

In another apparent attempt to mollify his captors, he at times blamed
Colonel Qaddafi's propaganda for his plight. Until he was captured, he said,
he had believed the reports on state- run television that the rebels were
foreigners, bearded Islamic radicals, or bloodthirsty monsters who ripped
out the hearts of Qaddafi loyalists. 

"I didn't watch Al Jazeera or Al Arabiya," he maintained, referring to the
two pan-Arab satellite news networks. "I didn't know the rebels were

Equally uncertain was his claim that in his four months of service, he had
not harmed or killed anyone. 

But other comments echoed more widespread sentiments among those who support
the Brother Leader, as Colonel Qaddafi liked to be called. Many remember
that when Colonel Qaddafi took power in 1969 Libya was a poor and almost
entirely undeveloped nation of Bedouin herders whose oil wealth appeared to
enrich mainly the foreign companies that exploited it. Riding the tide of
soaring oil prices over the following decades, he pursued development
programs that - though hobbled by corruption and inefficiency - helped turn
Libya into a primarily urban country. 

Its citizens lacked basic freedoms, but thanks to oil wealth, they believed
they enjoyed a relatively higher standard of living than their regional

Mr. Mohamed, a sixth-grade dropout and son of a doorman, said Colonel
Qaddafi had brought Libyans self-respect by kicking out foreign
colonialists; under Colonel Qaddafi, Libyans celebrated a national holiday
every year on the day the United States evacuated the air base that included
the hospital where Mr. Mohamed was held. 

Then there was the special patronage - buildings, roads, schools, hospitals,
jobs - lavished on Colonel Qaddafi's two former hometowns, Surt and Sabha.
Surt flourished as Colonel Qaddafi's favorite place to hold conferences, Mr.
Mohamed said of the Mediterranean port city that is his hometown as well. 

"Surt really loves Qaddafi," he said. "And they will fight for him." 

But he also professed a high-minded fear that without Colonel Qaddafi's
strong hand to preserve order, the rebels would drag Libya into chaos, a
faint echo of the justification used by many Middle Eastern dictators who
portray their iron-fisted rule as a bulwark against lawlessness. 

In a Tripoli neighborhood supportive of Colonel Qaddafi, Mr. Mohamed
recalled, he met residents who "said they were scared the rebels would rape
the women and kill the men." Residents of some loyalist neighborhoods fought
for the colonel even after rebels were inside his compound. 

Having worked a series of low-paying odd jobs since childhood, Mr. Mohamed
said, he was drawn to the promise of a soldier's training and paycheck as
well. He said he had seen a television commercial promising a good salary
and training for young men who enlisted in Colonel Qaddafi's defense. So he
signed up. 

He was shipped to Tripoli with barely a lesson on cleaning his Kalashnikov.
Mr. Mohamed said he was housed in a large barracks and provided insufficient
food and water, so he and his fellow soldiers turned to their neighbors for

Even so, he stayed loyal, he said. Other soldiers shed their uniforms and
quietly slipped away after Colonel Qaddafi's compound fell. But Mr. Mohamed
fought on until the next day, when his militia was in a battle. 

His comrades turned to flee, and so did Mr. Mohamed, he said, until rebels
shot him in the foot. 

"For God's sake, don't kill me!" he said he pleaded. 

A moment after recalling that scene, though, his quixotic courage returned.
"I would sacrifice myself, I would sacrifice my family," he said. "I would
sell myself for Qaddafi." 

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