Truth be told, some foreign observers, and certainly this one, having been based in Tripoli the past nearly eight weeks, have not taken very seriously occasional media predictions that Tripoli might soon be invaded by “NATO rebels” — though not by NATO country forces putting their boots on the ground.
The reasons include observations that the Libyan population is increasingly expressing anger over members of their families and tribes being killed by NATO sorties claiming to be “protecting civilians.”
It is said by many here that tens of thousands are ready to repulse invaders who try to enter Tripoli. Support for Colonel Kaddafi appears to reflect even Western polls such as the one referred to by the UK Guardian recently that Libya’s leader Colonel Gadaffi’s popularity had perhaps doubled during the current conflict. This morning’s Rasmussen poll claims that support for NATO-US involvement has plummeted to just 20 per cent among the American public due to among other reasons, NATO killing of civilians. It is even lower in several other NATO countries.
Until quite recently, life appeared fairly normal except for the scarcity of benzene for vehicles and some luxury food items and also some necessities such as baby formula, some medicines and reliable phone service. Earlier piles of household trash that began accumulating at some street corners around Tripoli in early March when up to 400,000 foreign workers fled West to Tunisia and East to Egypt began being cleared a couple of weeks ago as the municipality of Tripoli reorganized its severely and instantly depleted work force.
Except for the recent increase in NATO bombing sorties Tripoli has been a fairly pleasant place to be.
On 8/17/11 things abruptly changed and no one knows for sure in which direction daily life is now headed. Starting just before noon, much, if not most of Tripoli was without power. At my hotel, one of only two in Tripoli with even sporadic Internet these days (even though parts of Tripoli regularly experiences South Beirut Lebanon type sudden cuts that can last for hours or days) the services abruptly stopped for all staff and guests. Initially some guests were stuck in the elevator and a few appeared to panic. Our hotel rooms, which for security reasons have windows which don’t open began to heat up fast, laptop batteries quickly died, the weak Internet vanished, and this observer, like others, was faced with the prospect of walking down and up eighteen floors to keep appointments in the street level reception area. Two of my Libyan friends, who work in one of the hotel restaurants called my room to ask me if I wanted them to walk up some lunch. Profoundly touched by their thoughtfulness which seems typical of Libyans, I reminded them that I was fasting for Ramadan and in any case would not think of accepting their kind offer. Not long after the hotel emergency generator kicked in and the elevator began working but no power anywhere else inside the hotel.
At nearby Green Square, crowds began to gather by 2 p.m. and rally against “NATO rebels” and I was told thousands of Libyan citizens were ready to move to the edges of town, man check points, and support army units and repulse any advances from Al Zawieh to the West, Gheryan and several villages from the South or Brega and closer villages from the East.
Prices at the local “Medina” ( street market covering several blocks selling a large variety of goods and vegetables) adjacent to my hotel jumped up again according to two sisters who have become my friends and who shop with their mother every morning in preparation for cooking the daily ‘Iftar” meal which breaks the Ramadan fast at sunset. Over the past six months basic food prices have largely leveled off under government warnings to merchants not to even dream about trying to price gouge.
Some people are leaving Tripoli but it’s hard to estimate how many. Most people I have asked say they will stay and they do not think “NATO rebels” can enter this well-armed and apparently well-organized city of still around 1.5 million people.
A delayed UN fact finding delegation, led by a spectular Palestinian woman from Nazareth in occupied Palestine named “Juliette”, finally arrived by plane after the UN demanded NATO allow their plane to land at Tripoli airport. The UN group, staying at our hotel, had been blocked from the main road between Tripoli and Tunisia. As of the morning of August 18, people are trapped in Tripoli from departing to Tunisia and no one is entering from Tunisia.
Libyan students at Tripoli’s Al Fatah University and even some government officials have told this observer that they have vowed to dig in and wage a “Stalingrad Defense” of Tripoli against the advancing “NATO rebels.” Certainly the neighborhoods are very heavily armed.
Some, including this observer, lack the heart to remind these dear students that at Stalingrad, the Russian citizens were holding out for the arrival of the Red Army that did indeed save many of them in the end. One does not sense that a Red Army is en route to lift the threatened siege of Tripoli. But maybe Tripoli’s defenders will not need a Red Army to lift a siege of Tripoli.
This week, a Libyan law student who for weeks has been helping man a neighborhood defense committee checkpoint near Airport Road left me the following note:
“Franklin, you asked me how we will defend our capitol Tripoli if NATO bombs a path so rebel forces can arrive here and try to enter our neighborhoods. We discuss this often among ourselves during the night. This is what we have to say to answer your question.
“It is not private information that our defense will be from every buildings on every main street, square or roundabout. We can and will keep for as long as possible every meter that NATO forces try to take. Every apartment building, factory, warehouse, street corner, intersection, home or office building is waiting and supplied with guns of different types, RPGs and mortars. Snipers and specially trained small 5-6 man units are ready. Our defense will be a house to house battle. From every floor and from hole in the floor we will fight NATO rebels. Also from the sewers we will fight and every basement. If NATO enters a front door we will fight them for every room in the house and from the piles of debris created from them bombing us.
“Dear friend Lamb. Libyans are a good and a proud people. You and I have spoken about Omar Muktar and our defeat of the Italians that cost us more than one-third of our relatives who fell in battle. Do you know my friend that during the Ottoman Empire centuries of colonization which was the only Arab or Muslim country to rebel again them? It was Libya. Only Libya. Led by her tribes. We stood up against the Turks and fought two 20 year wars against them. Do NATO and Obama believe they can defeat us? Your friend, Mohammad.”
Waiting for the Endgame in Libya
Since this observer is not privy to any secrets around here and would not share them if he were, it’s fair enough to engage in frank discussions with former colleagues in Congress and new cyber acquaintances who work on the Hill.
I got an ear full this week from sources familiar with John Kerry’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee activities about President Obama’s semi-private views on what is happening in Libya and the President’s doubts about NATO’s role in bombing this unlucky country.
Contrary to some Washington speculation that Obama’s new Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta (some Congressional staffers who know him well good naturely refer to his as “Leon the Lite”) is in charge of overseeing NATO while Obama faces a slew of political and economic problems, the reality is different. President Obama said to be “hands on” and is closely following NATO’s use of “ all necessary measures to protect civilians.” NATO bombing here, including this morning’s 5 a.m. seven bomb drop near my hotel, has become a cruel hoax for the people of Libya and all who reject the claimed right of NATO to” destroy as a necessity to save & protect.”
Unlike his two predecessors in the Oval office and also “VP Joe,” Obama disapproves of officials using colorful language that might offend voters. But he did reportedly tell his friend who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee recently that “We have stepped into a pot of s— and we need to get out of it!”
Part of Obama’s growing concern is said to be about his prospects for re-election. The Democratic National Committee sent Senator Kerry and the White House a “for your eyes only” memo on the President’s re-election prospects amid approval ratings which continue to slide amidst economic uncertainties and doubts about the Obama stewardship generally.
According to Congressional sources working on the Libya crisis, some Obama advisors see Libya as becoming another Iraq if NATO continues forbidding its rebels from negotiating with the Gaddafi government or if “the leader” is killed.
Assassinating Gaddafi is widely believed here to be the only reason NATO continues to re-bomb, some as many as five times, the so-called “command and control center“ sites that these days could be just about anywhere in Tripoli.
Yesterday, at precisely noon, this observer was meeting with two officials at the Foreign Ministry. One is in charge of the American Bureau, and we were discussing a range of subjects. Suddenly within a five minute period four NATO bombs exploded very loudly and close to the Foreign Ministry. I eyed the massively thick conference table we were sitting at and even considered scrambling under it—just in case — as my interlocutors quickly exited the room —without even saying ‘goodbye.’ They seemed surprised, maybe amused also, when they returned to continue the meeting and I was still sitting at the table reading my notes. “Have we all become NATO targets?” one asked, “private homes, our universities, hospitals all are legitimate targets now according to NATO?”
Obama and some of his advisors like Senator John Kerry are said to be wondering the same thing that some Libyan officials are. One staffer volunteered to me this week:
“Both the CIA and Pentagon told our committee that green lighting NATO to bomb Libya would be really quick and not even very dirty. Now it’s become a potentially endless nightmare.”
NATO insiders have advised Congressional staffers recently that the apparent eternal US armed “coalition of the willing” cannot afford another humiliation from its point of view, given Iraq and Afghanistan, so NATO has no plans to stop the bombing until one of three events occur. Those three in order of NATO preference are: Gaddafi is killed, Gaddafi “surrenders” or Gaddafi flees Libya.
President Obama is being advised by some members of the Foreign Relations Committee among others to “just pull NATO’s god-damned plug and get this mess behind us!”
The much disparaged NATO weekly “Carman and Roland show” live from Brussels and Naples, billed as “NATO’s Media Conferences to inform the public” adds to the concerns of some in Washington. In a long overdue turnaround from last February, when the main stream media here parroted those who for years had been working on toppling Gaddafi about his alleged killing Libyans, CNN just this morning aired a downright balanced report about how NATO’s claims that it is protecting Libyan civilians are dubi’ous and in fact the main cause of civilians being slaughtered here in NATO sorties, now nearly 20,000 with more than 8,000 bombing sites.
It appears from talking with many people here, including the media, that virtually no one but the script writers for the “Carman & Roland show” believe NATO bombings have anything to do with fulfilling the original objectives of UN Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973.
Carmen told reporters following her and Roland’s 8/16/11 briefing show that NATO expects no problem with an expected un extension next month when NATO’s June renewal expires. She may know what she is talking about because NATO has reportedly been intensively lobbying the White House to bar Gaddafi’s government from the coming UN debate. The Libyan government, which is keeping statistics on NATO-caused civilian deaths may not even be able to present its facts to the UN meeting next month. The reason is because Secretary of State Clinton has refused to grant Libya’s UN ambassador a visa. Clinton, according to committee staffers mentioned above, plans to arrange at the last minute for the National Transitional Council to represent the views of those being bombed by NATO.
Kerry’s committee staff is fairly confident that the rebels will not oppose an extension of NATO bombing of their country. Indeed their political and financial futures depend on NATO doing just that.
Yet, the White House has been advised by Committee staffers that NATO has become the main danger to civilians in Libya and that a political solution can be reached if Obama orders a ceasefire.
The President is said to be thinking about doing just that.
[DS added the videos.]
Franklin Lamb – Tripoli Cannot be Conquered
108morris108 on Aug 18, 2011
Franklin Lamb – It’s Gaddafi or NATO! – August 19
108morris108 on Aug 19, 2011
With more and more bombs falling on Tripoli – Franklin leaves us thinking the noose is tightening – and only through the continuation of NATOs War Crimes.
Franklin Lamb – It is NATO’s War Not the Rebels War
108morris108 on Aug 20, 2011
Services are diminishing in Tripoli – and we suffered from a poor internet connection. August 20 Update