Sunday, April 3, 2011

Standing There on Freedom's Shore, Part 1

Let's see... first, we have an excerpt from Libyan rebels fight to control Brega, dated April 3, 2011:

Pro-democracy forces fought with troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi for the third straight day in and around the key oil town of Brega on Sunday, as foreign air strikes continued to rain down on the government's soldiers.

Hundreds of rebels retreated east of Brega under artillery fire earlier in the day before regrouping and firing back with their own rockets. Black smoke rose from the west side of the town, and some rebels suggested that better-trained fighters, possibly defected army troops, were still battling Gaddafi's soldiers inside.

Rebels had managed to advance to a walled university campus near the town's western edge where fighting has swirled since opposition troops first reached the area one month ago. But despite air strikes on Gaddafi's forces that rebels reported hearing on Saturday night, they seemed unable to move further.

Air strikes on Gaddafi's forces... I thought this was a UN-mandated no-fly zone, not an intervention to topple Gaddafi. Oh, I forgot - change we can believe in! And, we knew this was going to happen. From A Family at War, dated April 1, 2011:

The resilience of Colonel Moammar el Gadaffi's regime after ten days of aerial bombardment combined with the military weakness of the opposition groups has prompted Britain, France and the United States to step up involvement in the war. With few signs of the regime's early collapse, the need for a quick resolution is dominating the coalition's tactics. The first public sign of that was US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's view – expressed at the London Conference on Libya on 29 March – that United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 would allow the arming of opposition forces.

Opposition fighters loudly complain that their armoury – rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and technicals (light rocket launchers mounted on pickup trucks) – leaves them hopelessly outgunned by the mortars, long-range artillery and heavy missile launchers used by Gadaffi's trained armed forces. Just as important is the dearth of trained soldiers on the opposition side: only in Misurata, which is precariously positioned between Gadaffi's strongholds of Sirte and Tripoli, has the opposition mounted a coherent defence against loyalist attacks.

Already Britain and the USA have sent in intelligence and special forces operatives to help to target the bombs better and make more accurate assessments of the regime's firepower. Also on the agenda, we hear, is an assessment of Islamist involvement with the Libyan rebels, following words of encouragement from Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

This has been a charade all along. Ever since the beginning, this "no-fly zone" was cover for a strategic air offensive designed to destroy the Gaddafi regime's ability to wage war. The rebel forces, with western help, are advancing against a guy that nobody will stick up for. And, the rebel forces include Islamic terrorists that we are supposedly at war with elsewhere in the world.

Now, where in the Balkans have we seen this pattern before?

Skipping down:

Gadaffi's personality will not allow him to admit defeat, especially against what he sees as an unholy alliance of Islamist insurrectionists and their naïve Western backers. His game plan looks to be a fight to the death, in the belief that the collapse of his regime will mean a huge power vacuum into which a mass of feuding tribal leaders, nationalists, reformers and jihadists will be sucked.

The analysis of Gadaffi's analysis may not be far off the mark.

Skipping down again (I have eliminated some bold-face used to highlight names, but reproduced a link):

This explains why the rebels' initial advances were so quickly driven back by Gadaffi's well-equipped elite brigades, led by his most capable military son, Captain Khamis, and his rehabilitated footballer son, Es Saadi. They are backed by ruthless militias, many recruited from marginalised, often black, southern Libyans and from African conflicts in which the Colonel has meddled for decades. Gadaffi has also armed his small Gadaffa tribe and larger 'tribes', including the Maghariha. Loyalist Col. Hassan Ishkal has set up militias, as have Ahmed Ibrahim’s Revolutionary Committees (AC Vol 50 No 19).

Faced with such organisation, the opposition saw that it needed to build up military power quickly, partly by winning over defectors. The most important of these is General Abdel Fatah Younis, a leader of the 1969 coup against King Idris. He was Interior Minister until 22 February, when he moved to Benghazi as Commander-in-Chief of Libya Hurra (Free Libya).

Younis was not trusted, however, and Col. Khalifa Belqasim Haftar was appointed Commander, with Younis downgraded to Chief-of-Staff. Haftar had defected from the Libyan army during the 1980s war with Chad and joined the opposition in exile.

Less comforting for Libya Hurra's Western allies are the links between some oppositionists and Islamist movements. In a 29 March hearing at the US Senate, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, US Admiral James Stavridis, said that intelligence agencies had picked up 'flickers' of an Al Qaida presence among Libyan opposition fighters, as well as links to Hizbollah.

Wow! Al Qaeda and Hezbollah!

AQIM, which concentrates much of its fire on Algeria, said in February it would do whatever it could to help Libya's rebels; Usama bin Laden's Egyptian right-hand man, Ayman al Zawahiri, has sought to exploit the conflict. As Western intelligence began to look at Sudan's Islamist regime, Khartoum denied any involvement and on 30 March said its aid was purely 'humanitarian'.

Other Islamists are involved: this reflects eastern Libya's long history of Islamist militancy, which was suppressed by Gadaffi in areas such as Dirna, El Bayda and Benghazi. The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) recruited jihadist fighters, who went on to fight in Iraq alongside Islamist forces. More recruits went from Libya than any other Arab country to fight Western forces after the 2003 invasion.

Remnants of the local arm of Al Ikhwan al Muslimoon (Muslim Brothers) have re-emerged. INTC and other sources in Benghazi are reluctant to discuss Islamist influence but we hear that the Brothers are proselytising for a Turkish-style political system of 'Islamist rule with constitutional safeguards (see Egypt Feature)'. One Islamist source said this would become a vital issue after Gadaffi was deposed and Libyans could express their political preferences.

So why are American and European lives being risked and resources being spent to remove from power a guy who was helping us fight against the Islamist terrorists that we are having trouble with everywhere else in the world?

And, funny they should mention Sudan, just a little ways across the desert.

Now, it seems to me that the French are leading the charge in another place, a little ways across the desert in the other direction. From French forces take over Abidjan airport, April 3, 2011:

French forces have taken over the airport in Abidjan as forces loyal to Cote d'Ivoire's presidential rivals continue to battle for control of the West African country's main city.

Reporting the French intervention, state television urged the city's residents to mobilise and protect Laurent Gbagbo, the incumbent president. The channel also accused Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, of wanting to engage in genocide in the West African country.

Skipping down:

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was "concerned and alarmed" about reports that pro-Ouattara forces may have killed civilians in a conversation late on Saturday with Ouattara, who told him his forces were not involved in the Duekoue killings.

Ouattara's government said in a statement that Dozos were not part of its forces and invited international human rights organisations to investigate the killings and rights violations.

[snip]

The victims appeared to have been civilians, Dutton said, who had been "caught up somehow between [the two] warring factions".

According to Caritas, the killings occurred from Sunday 27 to Tuesday 29 March in the 'Carrefour' neighbourhood controlled by fighters loyal to Ouattara. It was not clear who the perpetrators were.

The UN says it is investigating the alleged mass killings. Hundreds of UN peacekeepers are based in the town.

So, UN "peacekeepers" are unable to keep any kind of peace, and can't even prevent a massacre in a town they occupy.

But the UN may not be totally useless here. At least they reported a massacre believed to have been perpetrated by the very forces that France (and the rest of the world) are supporting - in violation of Ivoirian law.

Interesting how Ouattara's forces in Cote d'Ivoire are so well-armed, years after they were supposed to have disarmed in compliance with a peace process. Maybe hanging onto their guns isn't the only rule they broke?

(And, why is Obama so intent on disarming the American people of any kind of firearm, but is meanwhile arming Muslim militants in Africa with military-grade weapons, and even lending them an air force?)

From Ivory Coast: UN presses Ouattara over Duekoue massacre:

I'm walking down the street here in Duekoue and there are bodies all around me. They're being brought out by Red Cross workers, pulling them out of the bushes, they're being wrapped in plastic.

I've seen 30-40 already, and that's just a fraction of what they've collected over the past few days.

They're taking the bodies to a mass grave that they're just digging now nearby.

The situation in the town remains very unstable. It's held now by Alassane Ouattara's forces - we've been talking to a lot of them. They deny any role in these atrocities.

We understand that at a church where thousands of civilians are taking shelter there has been more friction, more instability. The UN is rushing there now to see if they can prevent more trouble.

Now, members of what Religion of Peace threaten people who take refuge in a church? And, what Religion of Peace is a primary ideology of the supporters of "President" Ouattara?

__________

Way back when, European explorers arrived on the coast of Africa. Arriving by sea, it was difficult to make their way to a place called Timbuktu. This journey was on top of a significant journey at sea. Consequently, Timbuktu came to be synonymous with a place that was difficult to get to.

However, that perspective was relative. Just as the sea offered a means of travel for Spanish, English, Portuguese and French explorers, so did the Sahara desert offer a sea of sand that was a means of travel and trade for caravans that crossed it from distant places. Far from being a remote place, when viewed in a broader context Timbuktu was actually a center of travel, much like major European ports. It is a question of viewing the desert as an ocean of sand, connecting places along its "shore".

Fast forward to the Spring of 2011, and peoples all around the shore of the Sahara desert are suddenly gaining their "freedom" from oppressive regimes.

Or, are they?


Just as the Sahara connects these peoples of Africa, I wonder if something else doesn't connect the unrest in their lands.

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