[Marxism] The gang that couldn't shoot straight

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Jul 21 11:19:43 MDT 2011

(Reading between the lines on this, it would appear that unlike 
the Nicaraguan contras, UNITA or other such formations, the Libyan 
rebels are muddling their way through without much assistance from 
the CIA. This one and the article beneath it about France being 
okay with Qaddafi remaining in Libya leads to the conclusion that 
the West might be winding down its involvement with what was 
basically a doomed enterprise from the start, even as it continues 
to hedge its bets by making Libya's bank holdings available to the 
rebels. My guess is that those billions will mostly go down a 
sinkhole the way it does in Afghanistan. Qaddafi's military was 
far too powerful and far too organized for what amounted to 
weekend militias to defeat. One hopes that if--as I suspect--some 
kind of "government of national unity" between Qaddafi and the 
Benghazi "notables" emerges, the grass roots of the movement might 
reconstitute itself on a different bases, one much more like that 
in Syria, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain. It was a terrible 
mistake to launch an armed struggle against overwhelming odds.)

NY Times July 20, 2011
Problems With Logistics, Coordination and Rivalries Hamper Libya’s 

KIKLA, Libya — Ahmad Harari, a Libyan rebel fighting to overthrow 
Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, recounted how he was almost killed last week.

He was part of a small group of fighters assigned to defend a 
front-line position in Qawalish, a village in Libya’s arid western 
highlands. Then Colonel Qaddafi’s military attacked, rushing 
forward in pickup trucks.

Mr. Harari said he had only 18 cartridges for his rifle, roughly 
the same amount of ammunition carried by everyone in his group. 
Within minutes he ran out.

“Every man lost all of his bullets and tried to escape,” he said. 
A friend was captured, killed and mutilated, he said, but the 
others managed to get away.

While the Libyan rebels have carved out an enclave in the west, 
the dearth of ammunition in Mr. Harari’s group points to one of 
the continuing drains on their military strength — an absence of 
coordination, even on matters as basic as making sure that ample 
ammunition is provided to the front-line fighters.

As Libya’s uprising-turned-desert-war enters its sixth month, the 
rebels in the mountains have assembled into small bands of local 
fighters. These groups — often named for the towns the fighters 
come from — have demonstrated both an eagerness to fight and a 
willingness to work with almost anyone who can help them reach 
their goal of ousting the Qaddafi family from power.

But coordination between them, as well as logistical help from 
their higher commands and foreign supporters, has not developed in 
important ways. In eastern Libya, the rebel authorities talk of 
making a national army; here in the west, the state of official 
disorganization makes the prospects for such a force unlikely in 
the near term.

Interviews with dozens of rebels present a portrait of a guerrilla 
force that acts less like a coherent structure than a network of 
pickup fighting clubs.

Groups share common goals but are undermined by local rivalries. 
Orders from the senior regional command are followed arbitrarily, 
including, in Qawalish, orders not to loot. Information flows only 
partly up and down the chain of command.

Many fighters say they suspect others of hoarding weapons and 
ammunition, and withholding essential supplies. And when they 
fight, the different groups can move haphazardly about the 
battlefield, each according to its own will, while the senior 
commanders — many of them former officers in Colonel Qaddafi’s 
army — remain far back, out of harm and sight.

Some former pro-Qaddafi officers have declined to participate in 
the fighting, the rank-and-file rebels say, making the chief value 
of these defectors their political significance, not how they can 
influence the direction of a bitter, village-by-village ground war.

One fighter from Gharyan, one of the cities held by Colonel 
Qaddafi’s forces that is now in the rebels’ sights, described the 
Gharyani fighters’ request to a defector, an air force colonel, to 
lead them to reclaim their homes.

“We asked him to be our commander,” said the fighter, Ziad, who 
requested that his last name be withheld to protect his family. 
“He said, ‘No, the only thing I know is office jobs.’ And we don’t 
have a commander yet.”

The rebels in the mountains cut across many boundaries, and often 
the composition of their units breaks through distinctions in 
class, ethnicity and tribe. Side by side in fighting groups are 
university students and their professors, laborers and 
accountants, lawyers and petroleum engineers. In one group, an air 
traffic controller worked beside a lecturer from Gharyan 
University’s faculty of law.

Few of these men claim to have had any military experience before 
taking up arms this year.

Considering their circumstances and backgrounds, their tactical 
success has been remarkable. The impoverished population began the 
war with few arms with which to fight a conventional force, yet 
the rebels, aided by NATO air power, have chased Colonel Qaddafi’s 
soldiers from much of Libya’s highlands.

Many villages on the high plateau today are independent of Colonel 
Qaddafi’s rule. Some, like Jadu, are also safe enough that 
families who had fled the fighting have returned.

But there is also a strong sense among these men that what is 
behind them, from a military perspective, was not as challenging 
as what lies ahead, and that their low level of organization may 
add to the difficulties.

Politically and socially, many of the villages captured thus far 
were strongly anti-Qaddafi. But many of the towns and cities on 
the roads to Tripoli, the capital, have split loyalties. A few 
tilt in favor of the Qaddafi clan.

Intertribal grievances have become a visible factor, too — which 
could make the fighting fiercer and more widespread.

And tactically, the approaches to some of the cities lie across 
the open desert, where the rebels could find themselves more 
vulnerable to the Qaddafi garrisons’ artillery and mortar fire.

Moreover, as Colonel Qaddafi’s forces have suffered attrition, 
they have seemed to rely more on land mines to defend their 
positions, a menace that could drive up rebel losses when they 
move forward.

With the holy month of Ramadan set to begin in early August, and 
daytime desert temperatures often climbing above 100 degrees, the 
pace of fighting has slowed. The duties of many groups are often 
as simple as rotating through daylong shifts watching over the front.

But these shifts offer insights into the weakness of the rebel 

Rebels from Yafran standing duty at the front line on Monday said 
that their fighting group had fewer rifles than men, and when they 
were assigned to front-line duties they were issued a rifle for 
one day that they had to return to their base the next. They are 
also issued little ammunition.

And tellingly, in more than two weeks of interviews with fighters, 
not one said he had seen the rifles and machine guns France has 
said it supplied to the rebels in the spring. Each man said his 
rifle had been scavenged from the battlefield. Many wondered who 
among their leaders had kept or withheld the guns.

The shortages are a drag on the rebels’ strength. Before the 
recent battle for Kikla, the rebels said they had more than 200 
fighters, but only 89 military rifles and limited ammunition. “We 
have belief,” said Ibrahim Suraya, the leader of the local 
civilian council. “This is our gun.”

The mountains are awash with bravado, and many fighters echo such 
statements. God is with us, they say. Victory or death, others 
add. Still, others wonder why there is enough ammunition to fire 
in long bursts at funerals in the cities, but not enough for battle.

Jamal Akhmad, a 52-year-old petroleum engineer waiting with 
younger men for the next battle, was looking for more than 
slogans. He spoke calmly and without bitterness as he shared a 
front-line soldier’s view. His complaint was as old as revolution 
and war.

“People get comfortable, sitting in their chairs, and they forget 
about the people,” he said. “Even this is true of our own committee.”


NY Times July 20, 2011
France Says Qaddafi Can Stay in Libya if He Relinquishes Power

PARIS — Foreign Minister Alain Juppé of France said Wednesday that 
the Libyan leader Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi could remain in Libya so 
long as he completely gave up power, as part of a larger political 
deal, including a cease-fire, on the future of the country.

Also, President Nicolas Sarkozy met with rebel leaders from the 
Libyan port city of Misurata, who were seeking further aid and 
arms for their fight to oust Colonel Qaddafi.

Mr. Sarkozy was publicly noncommittal on the request, but one of 
the rebels, Suleiman Fortia, said later that France had been 
helpful “in many domains” and that it could help them get weapons 
from Arab countries.

Mr. Juppé said that countries leading the fight against Colonel 
Qaddafi were discussing options for a political settlement.

“One of the scenarios effectively envisaged is that he stays in 
Libya on one condition, which I repeat: that he very clearly steps 
aside from Libyan political life,” Mr. Juppé said on the French 
television channel LCI. “A cease-fire comes about by a formal and 
clear commitment by Qaddafi to give up his civil and military 

In Washington, an Obama administration spokesman did not disagree 
with Mr. Juppé’s remarks on Colonel Qaddafi. “He needs  to remove 
himself from power — and then it’s up to the Libyan people to 
decide,” the spokesman, Jay Carney, told reporters when asked 
about the French position.

Western officials who met last Friday in Istanbul agreed that they 
must devise a set of negotiating principles. They have agreed that 
military pressure will be maintained until Colonel Qaddafi agrees 
to a cease-fire and to give up all power. Then some form of 
national reconciliation government should be established to create 
a new Libyan leadership, which is supposed to be responsible for 
what happens next to Colonel Qaddafi.

The colonel’s calculations are complicated by a warrant for his 
arrest on war-crimes charges issued by the International Criminal 
Court in The Hague. Some members of the anti-Qaddafi coalition are 
more willing than others for the colonel and his family to remain 
in Libya, but the colonel is also bound to see the circumstances 
of the former Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, as a warning. Mr. 
Mubarak gave up all power but was later arrested, with his sons, 
by the transitional, military-led government. The Misurata 
delegation — Mr. Fortia, who is the city’s representative on the 
rebel National Transitional Council; three men described as rebel 
military leaders in the city, Gen. Ramadan Zarmuh, Col. Ahmed 
Hashem and Col. Brahim Betal Mal; and two other members of 
Misurata’s “city council” — said that Mr. Sarkozy had been supportive.

“To get help, there must be coordination,” Mr. Fortia said later 
at a news conference. “France helps us in many domains.”

The members of the delegation said that in Misurata alone more 
than 1,500 people had been killed and 5,000 had been wounded since 
the war began.

The Misurata group described Tripoli as “a surrounded city, and 
there are revolutionaries inside the city.” Mr. Fortia added, 
“We’re 150 kilometers away from Tripoli, and with a little bit of 
help from some friends, we will be in Tripoli very soon.”

Romain Parlier contributed reporting.

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