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Friday, March 11, 2011

Who ARE the Rebels?


I applaud the job that the world's press, in particular, Al Jazeera, is doing in Libya.

But I'm suspicious of reports where any one word is so overused.

'Rebels.'

Even Al Jazeera leaves this major question unanswered:

Who ARE the 'Rebels' ?

My dear wife says, 'They can't report who the rebels are or else Gaddafi will kill them.' Point taken but she's missed my point. Any popular uprising has roots, beginnings, stirrings in a subset of the population that wants something more.
We hear constantly, 'rebels' this, rebels that. 'The Rebels are in control of Bengazi. The Rebels are advancing, the Rebels are retreating.'

We see pickup trucks screaming along the major highway linking Libya's coastal cities.

Again and again we see the same pickup truck, screaming along the highway, gun in the back.

Who are they? Is 'Rebels' code for 'insurgents' as in 'paid by another national force'?

I'm not for a moment arguing that it is unnatural to conceive of a popular uprising against Gaddafi. I fully believe the unrest in Libya began with a populist movement.

The resistance has gathered some clout. It feels military. Some people have training. Who is this resistance force comprised of? Libya's poor? Oil workers of Libya's east, those that haven't had access to the rich margins generated by Libya's light sweet crude? Western infiltrators? Israeli or Iranian spies? It is certain that spies and agitators are everywhere amidst such chaos.

But who are the majority of the Rebels? Colonel Gaddafi's kept everyone in fear for so long, why have they waited until now to revolt? Is it because rising oil prices have become a temptation, impossible to ignore? Are these Libyans feeling empowered by the popular revolution in Egypt?

Or are other powers at work, fomenting revolt beneath an oppressive dictator, knowing the idea of revolt would be accepted by the world media as the root cause?

Another question: Why would Gaddafi bomb his own oil depots? Does he believe that it will make it harder for the men in the pickup trucks to get more gas? Are the Gaddafi's just lashing out at any and everything man-made? If they had any sense they would NOT destroy any oil-exporting facilities. Therein lies the possibility to retain the helm of the spigot! Even Gaddafi knows this.

Gaddafi aside, this conflict has more players than we're being led to realize by the press. Just as missions have been flown to rescue Western passport holders, I'm sure many missions, have been flown by all parties.

Like most of the world I believe Gaddafi, and his sons, are acting like cornered madmen. They may still have to go.

But who, and also what, is to replace them? There is no political infrastructure in Libya. There is no organized dissent, and no mean to return to.The West has seemed anxious to take advantage of turmoil in Egypt and elsewhere, to foment the anti-Gaddafi sentiment, which is decades old, into a case for intervention. Iraq, Afghanistan, now Libya? Is this about human rights? Or is it oil, and oil pipelines? As the picture becomes clearer to those that consider intervention, it's clear that the Western appetite for punishment is not as big as we thought.

Is oil the primary interest in Libya? Human rights abuses are occurring the world over. Could it fears of Libya returning as a hotbed for terrorism? So far most of the real terrorist threats to US interests have come from Saudi Arabia.

Let's accept the fact that it's oil. Getting oil out of a place like Libya requires a kid glove touch. The place is big, inhospitable. Furthermore it's a short distance from Europe, as well as the poorest parts of Africa. Least of all does the US want to get embroiled in a mess, where its own intervention could destroy the chance to purchase Libya's valuable resources.

Upheavals in Egypt may have been too much for Western oil interests to pass up. The beginnings of a popular uprising in Libya may have been all that was needed to trigger efforts to supply, advise, and abet 'rebels', thus intervening, in ways unseen by the press.

Why does the West automatically interpret any uprising against a dictatorship or strongman like Gaddafi as motivated by yearnings for democracy? We're talking about power and wealth, and control. Democracy in Libya may be a long way from where the country is now - I seriously doubt that the factions currently battling government forces, could maintain their unity, should they manage to unseat the dictator.

Their irreconcilable differences will at that moment become apparent, and the real motivation for all this fighting will become immediately clear. Let those that want a democracy attack Tripoli, others will hang onto the oil rich ports of Bengazi, Ras Lanuf, Ajdabiya, and Brega. Thats where the money is, where the oil is. And that's where the focus of the world's attention is too.

To be sure, American forces, of a kind, are already there too. We've been there for years, ready to foment unrest against the dictator. But what's the plan to replace him? How will US interests prevail against people who live there? Will we with the stroke of a pen create a new East Libya, and set up another strongman to take Gaddafi's place?

So I ask my question again: who are we talking to on the ground? Which of the 'rebel' leaders can stand to take our questions? Let us see their credentials.

For once it seems that the West is pausing midstream, cognizant that the other shore may not be the promised land. Could Gaddafi be the one that US oil interests need most of all? Is all our posturing "Gaddafi must step down', just that, posturing?

Aren't we for once, afraid that the thing we've hoped for, might actually happen, and that worse chaos will ensue in its place?

So I ask. Rebels step forward. Identify yourselves, you who would lead the new Libya. Your group must have leaders, you who have been systematically repressed for decades, you who have paid your dues, and not only recently seized a carbine to seek power.

Gaddafi strikes back. We knew he would. And perhaps that's what our Washington wants most of all. Perhaps the madman of Tripoli will restore sanity to Libya. Perhaps our State Department thinks that the 'Rebels' will be more sympathetic to Israel. Perhaps a new Arab world, one that is willing to sell oil to its repressors, and will be Israel friendly, is emerging.

Wishful thinking, alas, Washington seems as usual, to be seeing the world through bipolar glasses. Libya is far too complex for such categorizations. Our enemy's enemy may not turn out to be our friend, but a worse foe in the end. Who cares what Washington says or wants for a moment, what this American wants to see is an end to the doubletalk.

So while I demand of the press that the 'Rebels' be identified, I also demand a clear admission of Western motives in the region.

Come on Washington, tell us. Are you there for human rights or are you there for oil?

Come on Rebels, tell us, who are the guys in the pickup trucks? Who is your leader?

Now the 'Rebels' have some diplomatic representatives pleading for a no-fly--zone. These men look decidedly like they are working for somebody else. Why do I say this?

Their suits are way too good.

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