Friday, February 25, 2011
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi addresses his supporters in Tripoli's Green Square in this still image taken from video broadcast on February 25, 2011. Gaddafi on Friday vowed defiantly to triumph over his enemies, urging his supporters to protect Libya and its petroleum interests. REUTERS/Libya TV via Reuters TV (LIBYA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. LIBYA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN LIBYA. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
THE NEW YORKER
A daily look at war, sports, and everything in between, by Amy Davidson.
War and Confusion
FEBRUARY 25, 2011
BATTLE FOR LIBYA
Posted by Amy Davidson
“Life without green banners hoisted is useless,” Muammar Qaddafi said today, as he stood on the ramparts in Tripoli’s old city, wearing a fur-lined hat and looking down at Green Square. He is acting as though he believes those words—as if he does not much value life. He was speaking to a crowd of his supporters, who were, indeed, hoisting green banners, but elsewhere in Tripoli people were being killed in the street.
“They just started shooting people. People are being killed by snipers but I don’t know how many are dead,” Ali, a man in Tripoli who spoke to Reuters by phone, said. There is a battle going on for the capital, as there is for much of the country. Qaddafi said that Libyans would defeat all foreigners, as they had defeated the Italians; does he understand that it is Libyans, who now are trying to defeat him? He may not care: “Dance and sing! Joy and rejoice!” he said. (A good part of Libya seems to either be singing or shooting at the moment—dangerous combination.) And: “Libya will become a hell.”
The country is certainly in a state of purgatory, with some making what might be gestures toward redemption. A war is going on. There are reports that soldiers and airmen have helped seize a base, as well as oil installations. The weapons that have traded hands seem to include tanks. Al Jazeera cited various reports from Misurata, another city under rebel—that word seems to have displaced “protester”—control. Its residents were variously described as giddy and chanting, and fearful at their isolation, since nearby towns were still in Qaddafi’s hands.
Meanwhile, Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, said that the American embassy in Tripoli “has been shuttered”; to the extent that Libya’s own embassies in other countries are open, it is not clear if they still represent Qaddafi’s regime, or Libya abstractly, or anyone. The Times noted that “government officials seemed not to understand that many of its foreign embassies had gone over to the rebels or shut down, insisting for two days that the journalists invited into the country could go to embassies for visas.” In the absence of much press coverage, there were still videos taken by people inside Libya, and posted on YouTube and elsewhere, that suggested the violence and disorder. News outlets, from Al Jazeera to Andrew Sullivan and beyond, have collected several. Some are panoramic; one is shot from the corner of a window; one, on the Times Lede blog, though not the most dramatic in terms of action, gives a sense of the cost of all this, as a man bends over someone who has been wounded. And the Guardian has a video compendium.http://www.guardian.co.uk/video
How is it going to end? Seif al-Islam Qaddafi, Muammar’s son, laid out some non-options for CNNTurk:
We have plans A, B and C. Plan A is to live and die in Libya. Plan B is to live and die in Libya. Plan C is to live and die in Libya.
The disturbing thought is that the shape of the endgame, and its toll, is still something this family will help determine. But perhaps less and less so: even as Qaddafi offered cash to Libyans, Swiss Bank officials froze accounts associated with his regime. There were calls from various corners of the international community for investigations and sanctions. (The United States has already declared some.) And Qaddafi’s Libya is shrinking. Al Jazeera reported that “Friday prayers in Benghazi have seen thousands and thousands on the streets. All the banners are for the benefit of the capital, [they are saying] ‘We’re with you, Tripoli.’ ” Those may not have been green banners, but they were hoisted, and their message was clear.