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:
May 25, 2016
Eric Draitser
Obama in Hiroshima: A Case Study in Hypocrisy
Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
Does Venezuela’s Crisis Prove Socialism Doesn’t Work?
Dan Arel
The Socialist Revolution Beyond Sanders and the Democratic Party
Marc Estrin
Cocky-Doody Politics and World Affairs
Sam Husseini
Layers of Islamophobia: Do Liberals Care That Hillary Returned “Muslim Money”?
Susan Babbitt
Invisible in Life, Invisible in Death: How Information Becomes Useless
Mel Gurtov
Hillary’s Cowgirl Diplomacy?
Kathy Kelly
Hammering for Peace
Dick Reavis
The Impeachment of Donald Trump
Wahid Azal
Behind the Politics of a Current Brouhaha in Iran: an Ex-President Ayatollah’s Daughter and the Baha’is
Jesse Jackson
Obama Must Recommit to Eliminating Nuclear Arms
Colin Todhunter
From the Green Revolution to GMOs: Living in the Shadow of Global Agribusiness
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey as Terror: the Role of Ankara in the Brexit Referendum
Dave Lindorff
72-Year-Old Fringe Left Candidate Wins Presidency in Austrian Run-Off Election
May 24, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
The Financial Invasion of Greece
Jonathan Cook
Religious Zealots Ready for Takeover of Israeli Army
Ted Rall
Why I Am #NeverHillary
Mari Jo Buhle – Paul Buhle
Television Meets History
Robert Hunziker
Troika Heat-Seeking Missile Destroys Greece
Judy Gumbo
May Day Road Trip: 1968 – 2016
Colin Todhunter
Cheerleader for US Aggression, Pushing the World to the Nuclear Brink
Jeremy Brecher
This is What Insurgency Looks Like
Jonathan Latham
Unsafe at Any Dose: Chemical Safety Failures from DDT to Glyphosate to BPA
Binoy Kampmark
Suing Russia: Litigating over MH17
Dave Lindorff
Europe, the US and the Politics of Pissing and Being Pissed
Matt Peppe
Cashing In at the Race Track While Facing Charges of “Abusive” Lending Practices
Gilbert Mercier
If Bernie Sanders Is Real, He Will Run as an Independent
Peter Bohmer
A Year Later! The Struggle for Justice Continues!
Dave Welsh
Police Chief Fired in Victory for the Frisco 500
May 23, 2016
Conn Hallinan
European Union: a House Divided
Paul Buhle
Labor’s Sell-Out and the Sanders Campaign
Uri Avnery
Israeli Weimar: It Can Happen Here
John Stauber
Why Bernie was Busted From the Beginning
James Bovard
Obama’s Biggest Corruption Charade
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
Indian Point Nuclear Plant: It Doesn’t Take a Meltdown to Harm Local Residents
Desiree Hellegers
“Energy Without Injury”: From Redwood Summer to Break Free via Occupy Wall Street
Lawrence Davidson
The Unraveling of Zionism?
Patrick Cockburn
Why Visa Waivers are Dangerous for Turks
Robert Koehler
Rethinking Criminal Justice
Lawrence Wittner
The Return of Democratic Socialism
Ha-Joon Chang
What Britain Forgot: Making Things Matters
John V. Walsh
Only Donald Trump Raises Five “Fundamental and Urgent” Foreign Policy Questions: Stephen F. Cohen Bemoans MSM’s Dismissal of Trump’s Queries
Andrew Stewart
The Occupation of the American Mind: a Film That Palestinians Deserve
Nyla Ali Khan
The Vulnerable Repositories of Honor in Kashmir
Weekend Edition
May 20, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Hillary Clinton and Political Violence
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail