Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Libya. Now.

I mentioned last week that Ghaddafi had been awfully quiet lately. Well, apparently his mouth is run out of patience. On Sunday he announced that … “Palestinian refugees should capitalize on the wave of popular revolts in the Middle East by massing peacefully on the borders of Israel until it gives in to their demands”

Ghaddafi has always had an interesting take on the Israel/Palestine situation, and although he’s not a fan of the Israeli government, he’s made it clear that he’s pretty Ok with the Israelis as a people (this was even before one of his sons started dating an Israeli model), and he has a much bigger problem with theocrats like the Saudis and the Iranians.

In this case, however, as much as he means what he says (which I think he does) he is also probably hoping that his recommendation will be taken seriously as a way in which to direct attention towards anything other than Libya.

I should’ve seen the signs. The fact that he’s making public pronouncements again usually means that something has set him off - the situation has changed.

When the list of Middle East “days of rage” first got posted last month the Libyan date for uprising was February 30. That made sense to me, as that was probably the only day of the year that such a thing would be likely in my opinion. That was later revised to Feb 17 by someone who knows how to look at a calendar.

Of course, there have already been some small protests, particularly in some coastal regions, but I wasn’t particularly expecting to see all that much happen. If there’s one guy who knows how to keep things locked down it is our dear Colonel.

(Full disclosure. Frankly, I’ve always been fascinated by Ghaddafi. Yes, he’s a dictator. Yes, he was an enthusiastic sponsor of terrorism throughout the world’s during the 1960s and 70s. Yes, he is directly or indirectly responsible for the deaths of thousands of people both domestically and abroad. Yes, he has a tendency to say things that come across as crazy (though much of it isn’t really as crazy as it sounds). Yes, he did hire Doc Brown to build an a nuclear bomb back in the early ‘80s. I’m not saying that what Qaddafi has done in the past is morally acceptable, but when it comes to being a ruthless dictator, would you rather be known for your crazy outfits and your all-female bodyguard squad, or for butchering almost a quarter of your population or eating your political opponents? Say what you will about the guy, he has style.

That being said, when the rubber hits the road I’m going to throw my lot in with the Libyan people, and not that guy.

So, anyway, here’s what I was working towards – protests are already underway in Libya.

The protests kicked off early in the coastal town of Bengazi two days early, and the hammer-down by the government forces has already begun. The guardian UK is doing an outstanding job of keeping a protest roundup running. I highly recommend them as a way to keep abreast of the situation.

So what’s the score in Libya?

Right now, the capital is quiet except for some staged pro-Ghaddafi rallies. Protests are mostly in Benghazi and Tripoli.

The message that struck me most this morning was the tweet that said, “don’t show up with less than 100 people.”

Every single person protesting on the streets of Libya knows full well that they may not live to see tomorrow. The regime is ruthless. 15 years ago they massacred 1200 political prisoners in three hours because they were protesting for better prison conditions.

The bravery of the people in the streets of Bengazi cannot be overstated. These people are prepared to die, they may even be expecting to.

This, to me, is the wild card. There is an old Persian saying – You cannot leap a chasm with two jumps. If these people are not successful then, like Iran, the regime will spend the next several years eradicating everyone connected to the protests.

Please contact your political representatives today and ask them to bring pressure to bear on Ghaddafi - We may not have leverage with Iran, but we do have some influence with Libya. Please contact as many national news agencies as possible and let them know that the only thing that can keep the people on the streets of Libya alive is if their own voices are heard.

Ghaddafi is not stupid. He is proud of his stature in the African and Arab worlds and he wants to be seen as a reformer. This is the time for him to prove it. If we don’t see some public movement from him on this within the next day or so he plans on playing this grim situation out to the bitter end.

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