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

Weekend Edition
December 09, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nasty As They Wanna Be
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Second Gilded Age: Overcoming the Rule of Billionaires and Militarists
Andrew Levine
Trump’s Chumps: Victims of the Old Bait and Switch
Erin McCarley
American Nazis and the Fight for US History
Lewis Lapham
Hostile Takeover
Joshua Frank
This Week at CounterPunch: More Hollow Smears and Baseless Accusations
Paul Street
The Democrats Do Their Job, Again
Vijay Prashad
The Cuban Revolution: Defying Imperialism From Its Backyard
Michael Hudson - Sharmini Peries
Orwellian Economics
Mark Ames
The Anonymous Blacklist Promoted by the Washington Post Has Apparent Ties to Ukrainian Fascism and CIA Spying
Yoav Litvin
Resist or Conform: Lessons in Fortitude and Weakness From the Israeli Left
Conn Hallinan
India & Pakistan: the Unthinkable
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Nativism on the Left – A Realer Smith
Joshua Sperber
Trump in the Age of Identity Politics
Brandy Baker
Jill Stein Sees Russia From Her House
Katheryne Schulz
Report from Santiago de Cuba: Celebrating Fidel’s Rebellious Life
Nelson Valdes
Fidel and the Good People
Norman Solomon
McCarthy’s Smiling Ghost: Democrats Point the Finger at Russia
Renee Parsons
The Snowflake Nation and Trump on Immigration
Margaret Kimberley
Black Fear of Trump
Michael J. Sainato
A Pruitt Running Through It: Trump Kills Nearly Useless EPA With Nomination of Oil Industry Hack
Ron Jacobs
Surviving Hate and Death—The AIDS Crisis in 1980s USA
David Swanson
Virginia’s Constitution Needs Improving
Louis Proyect
Narcos and the Story of Colombia’s Unhappiness
Paul Atwood
War Has Been, is, and Will be the American Way of Life…Unless?
John Wight
Syria and the Bodyguard of Lies
Richard Hardigan
Anti-Semitism Awareness Act: Senate Bill Criminalizes Criticism of Israel
Kathy Kelly
See How We Live
David Macaray
Trump Picks his Secretary of Labor. Ho-Hum.
Howard Lisnoff
Interview with a Political Organizer
Yves Engler
BDS and Anti-Semitism
Martha Durkee-Neuman
Millennial Organizers Want to See An Intersectional Understanding Of Gun Violence
Adam Parsons
Home Truths About the Climate Emergency
Brian Cloughley
The Decline and Fall of Britain
Eamonn Fingleton
U.S. China Policy: Is Obama Schizoid?
Graham Peebles
Worldwide Air Pollution is Making us Ill
Joseph Natoli
Fake News is Subjective?
Andre Vltchek
Tough-Talking Philippine President Duterte
Binoy Kampmark
Total Surveillance: Snooping in the United Kingdom
Guillermo R. Gil
Vivirse la película: Willful Opposition to the Fiscal Control Board in Puerto Rico
Patrick Bond
South Africa’s Junk Credit Rating was Avoided, But at the Cost of Junk Analysis
Clancy Sigal
Investigate the Protesters! A Trial Balloon Filled With Poison Gas
Charles R. Larson
Review:  Helon Habila’s The Chibok Girls: the Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria
December 08, 2016
John W. Whitehead
Power to the People: John Lennon’s Legacy Lives On
Mike Whitney
Rolling Back the Empire: Washington’s Proxy-Army Faces Decisive Defeat in Aleppo
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail