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PARIS, THE NEW NORMAL? — Diana Johnstone files an in-depth report from Paris on the political reaction to the Charlie Hebdo shootings; The Treachery of the Black Political Class: Margaret Kimberley charts the rise and fall of the Congressional Black Caucus; The New Great Game: Pepe Escobar assays the game-changing new alliance between Russia and Turkey; Will the Frackers Go Bust? Joshua Frank reports on how the collapse of global oil prices might spell the end of the fracking frenzy in the Bakken Shale; The Future of the Giraffe: Ecologist Monica Bond reports from Tanzania on the frantic efforts to save one of the world’s most iconic species. Plus: Jeffrey St. Clair on Satire in the Service of Power; Chris Floyd on the Age of Terrorism and Absurdity; Mike Whitney on the Drop Dead Fed; John Wight on the rampant racism of Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper;” John Walsh on Hillary Clinton and Lee Ballinger on the Gift of Anger.
“This was always a civil war, and the victors are not merciful”

Payback Time in Libya

by PATRICK COCKBURN

The detention of 7,000 people in prisons and camps by the anti-Gaddafi forces is not surprising. The conflict in Libya was always much more of a civil war between Libyans than foreign governments pretended or the foreign media reported.

The winning anti-Gaddafi militia are not proving merciful. Often they have had relatives killed in the fighting or imprisoned by the old regime who they want to avenge. Sometimes they come from tribes and towns traditionally hostile to neighboring tribes and towns. Gaddafi supporters are being hunted down. According to one person in Gaddafi’s home town of Sirte, they are facing a “continuing reign of terror”.

“There is a deep and spreading frenzy, particularly among some of the youth militia and the Islamists, to hunt down anyone associated with the former regime,” this person said.

The National Transitional Council, whose control is largely theoretical, is not in a position to stop this purge because many of its members are themselves frightened of being accused of links with the old regime.

Some groups are particularly vulnerable. The then-rebels were convinced earlier this year that many of those they were fighting were mercenaries recruited in Central or West Africa. But when these alleged “mercenaries” were arrested in Tripoli, many turned out to be black migrant laborers without identity papers.

According to Amnesty International, some of those who were put on television by the rebels as mercenaries were later quietly freed because they were migrant workers. Others faced mob justice before they were able to prove their identities.

The international media were overwhelmingly hostile to Gaddafi’s regime and tended to highlight atrocities committed by it and disregard or underplay human rights violations carried out by his opponents. An example of this occurred when eight or nine bodies of Libyan soldiers were found who appeared to have been executed. The rebels claimed they had been shot by Gaddafi’s men because they tried to change sides. But Amnesty located a film of the soldiers being captured alive by the rebels and it was presumably the rebels who killed them.

The purge of Gaddafi supporters is made more dangerous by the infighting between the militias, and between them and the politicians. Association with the old regime can be used to discredit an opponent. There may also be self-interest since death squads are reported to be taking their property.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq.