An article in UK’s Telegraph regarding the current situation of rebel fighters refusing to either go home or disarm, carries the questionable headline “As lawlessness spreads, are the rebel ‘good guys’ turning bad?” This rather pre-supposes the notion that the rebels were ever the “good guys” to begin with, rather than a rag-tag bunch of extremists, known terrorists and some fighters who genuinely believed in the cause of deposing Col. Gaddafi.
It suited western ambitions to send in NATO to support the rebel fighters, despite western governments knowing full well that the rebel ranks were swelled with members of the banned Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) which contained previously wanted terrorists that had fought against the west in Iraq.
One can still only speculate as to the real reason that Sarkozy, Cameron and Obama chose to put their weight behind supporting the rebels and it surely had nothing to do with protecting civilians as the NATO bombardment of Sirte, home to many civilians, proved. Obviously the prospect of lucrative reconstruction and oil contracts played their part, but it is more likely that the west had a vested interest in taking control of the country to prevent the Russians and Chinese gaining a firmer foothold.
Gaddafi’s plan to link the price of oil to gold and to nationalise the Libyan oil industry made him a genuine threat, as did his efforts to unite Africa with a telecommunications program which would have saved the continent billions. It was a travesty to bomb the man made river in Libya, a project which was acclaimed as a masterpiece.
Whatever the west’s primary motivation was they were prepared to hold hands with the an element of the rebel fighters whom they had previously sent back to Libya knowing they would be tortured in Gaddafi prisons. What deals were struck between LIFG leader Abdel Hakim Belhadj and the west?
The first indication of disunity in the rebel ranks was the murder of Col. Younes, a rebel commander who was called back to Benghazi by the National Transitional Council and killed en-route. Belhadj is suspected of involvement in his murder.
Details of rebel atrocities have been played down for months but came to center stage as videos of the murder of Gaddafi went viral. With Gaddafi in his grave many are now beginning to rue the revolution they supported. Former rebel fighters are now experiencing the wrath of other rebel fighters who they fought alongside and fail to understand the reason, believing that as comrades in arms they should not have turned on each other.
The Australian reports of one disillusioned rebel fighter who described the actions of rebel militia as “Mafia.” He said
“This is just like the mafia in Colombia or Russia. Gaddafi was horrible, but I never knew of him capturing the relative of somebody if they could not find the person they wanted. They would have just kept looking. And I never heard of them threatening to take children.”
Rebel fighters from Misrata present a particular problem as they take their revenge against citizens of Tawergha and others. A student remarked
“The Misrata rebels probably need five years of therapy. They need a lot of help.”
Lawlessness prevails as the NTC fails to assume any real authority over armed rebels “fanning out across the country as a law unto themselves.”
Looting, arson, beatings, and killings prevail. An in joke in Tripoli is
“When they said Libya Free, they meant the cars, the refrigerators and the flat-screen television sets.”
A teenage rebel, part of a group that decided to take over a building, told the man it was stolen from along with his money “We have sacrificed for this revolution and you haven’t, and now we will take what we want.”
Clashes break out with regularity between different groups of anti-Gaddafi fighters as local tensions surface. Earlier this week an armed battle took place at the entrance to a Tripoli hospital with no regard to the safety of doctors or civilians. A rebel supporter who witnessed a relative being hauled off to prison and threatened with torture said
“Can you believe this? We have hundreds of little Gaddafis now.”
The outcome was predictable. What was less predictable is the media reporting these events as surprising, but then again for the most part they only reported from one side of the civil war, NATO’s side.