FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Libyans Wait for the Next Chapter

by PATRICK COCKBURN

Tripoli

Freedom from fear has not yet reached the people of Tripoli. Streets are empty and shops shuttered. For miles there is nobody to be seen in the city, aside from militiamen dressed in T-shirts, shorts and an occasional item of uniform, manning barricades made out of old chairs, assorted rubbish and shrubs in pots taken from outside shops.

Nobody quite knows who is in charge in the Libyan capital, unlike in the Nafusa mountains to the south. It was from here that the best organized rebels advanced to take the city last weekend. Every town has a military officer in charge and there appears to be a functioning administration.

But on the coast road north of Zawiyah the militiamen look less confident as they wave through the few passing cars and trucks. The drivers expect the road to be empty, and one driving the wrong way round a roundabout crashed into the pick-up in front of us, crumpling the front of the vehicle. Visible signs of damage from Nato bombing are limited, with only a single burned out tank and one shattered building looking like a mangled concrete sandwich.

In Green Square, renamed Martyrs’ Square by the rebels, scene of so many demonstrations lauding Gaddafi’s personality cult and the Green Book, there was nobody apart from a Korean TV correspondent and a cameraman. Suddenly there was a burst of gunfire – but this turned out to be two pick-ups full of jubilant militiamen who felt they should put on a display for the cameras.

“We have about six months to return things to normal,” said a Libyan who works in the oil industry as he watched the militiamen firing into the sky. He pointed out that one reason the city was so empty was that many of those who had the money had fled to Tunisia, and others had moved elsewhere in Libya. With petrol, water and food in short supply, it will be weeks or months before they return.

Will the Transitional National Council be able to impose its authority? A delegation from the TNC landed on Wednesday evening at an improvised airstrip in the Nafusa mountains hurriedly cleared by militiamen. But the TNC has always had uncertain authority in the west of the country. A further problem is that Gaddafi created a Libya free of all the normal institutions; it became notorious for hand-to-mouth organization and with all decisions stemming from the top.

“Everything will be OK if Gaddafi is captured,” said the Libyan oil worker, watching militiamen brandish their weapons for the cameras. He could be right, although the capture of Saddam Hussein did nothing to quell the violence in Iraq – and in some ways it exacerbated it.

One of the reasons so many Libyans so disliked Gaddafi’s rule was his exaggerated personality cult. But at least hostility to him united the opposition, which now lacks a focus.

At the entrance to my hotel rebels have placed a portrait of Gaddafi on the ground so guests are obliged to step on his face. A problem is that his one-man rule was so all embracing that it will be difficult at first to run the country without him.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of Muqtada.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

May 24, 2017
Paul Street
Beyond Neoliberal Identity Politics
Daniel Read
Powder Keg: Manchester Terror Attack Could Lead to Yet Another Resurgence in Nationalist Hate
Robert Fisk
When Peace is a Commodity: Trump in the Middle East
Kenneth Surin
The UK’s Epochal Election
Jeff Berg
Lessons From a Modern Greek Tragedy
Steve Cooper
A Concrete Agenda for Progressives
Michael McKinley
Australia-as-Concierge: the Need for a Change of Occupation
William Hawes
Where Are Your Minds? An Open Letter to Thomas de Maiziere and the CDU
Steve Early
“Corporate Free” Candidates Move Up
Fariborz Saremi
Presidential Elections in Iran and the Outcomes
Dan Bacher
The Dark Heart of California’s Water Politics
Alessandra Bajec
Never Ending Injustice for Pinar Selek
Rob Seimetz
Death By Demigod
Jesse Jackson
Venezuela Needs Helping Hand, Not a Hammer Blow 
Binoy Kampmark
Return to Realpolitik: Trump in Saudi Arabia
Vern Loomis
The NRA: the Dragon in Our Midst
May 23, 2017
John Wight
Manchester Attacks: What Price Hypocrisy?
Patrick Cockburn
A Gathering of Autocrats: Trump Puts US on Sunni Muslim Side of Bitter Sectarian War with Shias
Shamus Cooke
Can Trump Salvage His Presidency in Syria’s War?
Thomas S. Harrington
“Risk”: a Sad Comedown for Laura Poitras
Josh White
Towards the Corbyn Doctrine
Mike Whitney
Rosenstein and Mueller: the Regime Change Tag-Team
Jan Oberg
Trump in Riyadh: an Arab NATO Against Syria and Iran
Susan Babbitt
The Most Dangerous Spy You’ve Never Heard Of: Ana Belén Montes
Rannie Amiri
Al-Awamiya: City of Resistance
Dimitris Konstantakopoulos
The European Left and the Greek Tragedy
Laura Leigh
This Land is Your Land, Except If You’re a Wild Horse Advocate
Hervé Kempf
Macron, Old World President
Michael J. Sainato
Devos Takes Out Her Hatchet
L. Ali Khan
I’m a Human and I’m a Cartoon
May 22, 2017
Diana Johnstone
All Power to the Banks! The Winners-Take-All Regime of Emmanuel Macron
Robert Fisk
Hypocrisy and Condescension: Trump’s Speech to the Middle East
John Grant
Jeff Sessions, Jesus Christ and the Return of Reefer Madness
Nozomi Hayase
Trump and the Resurgence of Colonial Racism
Rev. William Alberts
The Normalizing of Authoritarianism in America
Frank Stricker
Getting Full Employment: the Fake Way and the Right Way 
Jamie Davidson
Red Terror: Anti-Corbynism and Double Standards
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, Sweden, and Continuing Battles
Robert Jensen
Beyond Liberal Pieties: the Radical Challenge for Journalism
Patrick Cockburn
Trump’s Extravagant Saudi Trip Distracts from His Crisis at Home
Angie Beeman
Gig Economy or Odd Jobs: What May Seem Trendy to Privileged City Dwellers and Suburbanites is as Old as Poverty
Colin Todhunter
The Public Or The Agrochemical Industry: Who Does The European Chemicals Agency Serve?
Jerrod A. Laber
Somalia’s Worsening Drought: Blowback From US Policy
Michael J. Sainato
Police Claimed Black Man Who Died in Custody Was Faking It
Clancy Sigal
I’m a Trump Guy, So What?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail