Libya trembles on the verge of civil war. I say “trembles” because so far, only Qaddafi’s goons have done much shooting, and it’s not a “war” until the targets start returning fire. Qaddafi’s troops have picked off protesters with sniper rifles, run them down with cars full of gunmen, and blasted them to pieces with heavy weapons, mortars, and anti-aircraft guns. When protesters gather to bury their dead, the army opens fire on the funerals. No one seems able to provide an exact death toll, but rumors say it has risen into the hundreds, with local hospitals overwhelmed by casualties. A Libyan doctor told the BBC that “a real massacre” had occurred.
There are reports of security forces who sympathized with the protesters being handcuffed and executed with shots to the head. At least one army unit apparently chose to side with the protesters against Qaddafi’s militia, chasing them from a security compound, according to a Fox News report.
The action is no longer confined to the rebellious city of Benghazi, as “major clashes” have no occurred in the capitol of Tripoli. When anti-Qaddafi protesters spilled into the central Green Square and outnumbered the Qaddafi stooges, government snipers began evening up the odds with high-powered rounds. Other Libyan cities report security offices under siege, and one of the major regional tribes has declared itself against Qaddafi, after decades of nursing its resentments in silence. Benghazi, the epicenter of the original protests and second largest city in the nation, is now said to be under the control of anti-government forces.
Foreign governments are pulling their people out of Libya, while foreign oil companies, including BP, are shutting down operations, causing global oil prices to begin climbing.
The whereabouts of Libya’s besieged dictator are uncertain. State television has been running file footage of him waving to adoring crowds, which is usually a good sign that the dictator has already checked into a hotel in France. His son, Seif al-Islam Qaddafi, gave a shell-shocked television speech in which he vowed Qaddafi loyalists would “fight to the last man, the last woman, the last bullet.” According to a STRATFOR analysis, the resistance intensified after this speech, with “protesters in Tripoli reportedly rejected the young Libyan leader and began chanting slogans against Seif al-Islam’s address.”
Has President Obama called for Qaddafi to step down, the way he eventually pressured Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak to do? You wish. The White House has been silent, except for a broad statement expressing “deep concern” about “reports of violence in Bahrain, Libya, and Yemen.” He also made it clear “the United States condemns the use of violence by governments against peaceful protesters.” I’m glad the President cleared that up! Like most of the world, I was anxious to know whether the United States approved of violence by governments against peaceful protesters. Obama didn’t throw Iran into his blanket condemnation, but I’m sure he’s deeply concerned about their brutal crackdown, too.
As the L.A. Times pointed out in a surprisingly snarky piece, the President tossed off these remarks while touring an Intel semiconductor manufacturing facility in Oregon. “Wow, these quad-core CPUs are awesome. What’s that? Oh, yes, of course, we condemn blowing protesters away with sniper rifles. Everyone should just chill out.” A few hundred more murders, and Qaddafi might just earn the kind of personal, direct criticism Obama has leveled against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. The current media action line is that Obama was somehow crucial in getting Mubarak to resign his office. If that’s true, then why hasn’t he deployed the same mystical powers against Qaddafi? If he can knock tyrants off their thirty-year perches with the sort of Keystone Kops routine the White House unleashed on Egypt, then isn’t his refusal to unleash his irresistible condemnation against Qaddafi a tacit endorsement of the dictator’s continued rule?
You can’t have it both ways, media. If you’re still high-fiving Obama for knocking Mubarak down, then you have to ask him why the far more brutal crackdown in Libya hasn’t unleashed the regime-destroying wrath of this White House. Sending out State Department flacks to express “grave concerns” is just a half-hearted effort to make it look like Obama hasn’t fallen asleep at the wheel. There isn’t a mass grave in the world that isn’t covered with a thin layer of “grave concerns.”
I hate to admit it, but I’m starting to think the Nobel Committee was a bit premature in handing Obama that Peace Price a couple of years ago.