Monday, June 6, 2011
Free Libya New Libya
By Khaled Abdallah
From the outside looking in, the situation in Libya looks like any other war-torn African nation rife with civil war and division along tribal/cultural/ethnic lines. Images of raggedy desert soldiers using make-shift weapons and homemade tanks conjure up memories of conflicts in the Ivory Coast, Liberia, and many more. Factor in the child soldiers in Libya along with foreign involvement from NATO and the United States supporting the rebellion and one can’t help but think they are experiencing a strong case of déjà vu. Thankfully for the Libyans, and everyone wishing for freedom all over the world, the situation could not be more different.
This is not a civil war. That term is thrown around in news and in print with such certainty that it seems almost fact. But this is not the Ivory Coast, where a presidential candidate is barred from running because of his lineage and decides a coup is the only option. It is not Sudan, where British-drawn borders ignored ethnic, tribal, and religious lines that led to years of unrest and humanitarian crises. This is simply the natural progression of a freedom movement that started in Tunisia, skipped on in to Egypt, and made a u-turn right back in to Libya. There was brutality in Tunisia in Egypt from police forces and government thugs but no military intervention. Both dictators felt internal and external pressure to resign and did so in a relatively peaceful manner. There was no hiring of foreign mercenaries, no carpet-bombing of resistance controlled cities, and no government ordered rape of civilian women, all of which we have seen in Libya.
This is not a military coup. It seems redundant to state that but it should be obvious from the new reports and images coming out of the country. These rebels or freedom fighters (the preferred term) are not uniformed soldiers and most if not all lack formal military training. This is a leaderless revolution (at least in its initial stages) and not a single minded power-grab by any means. A military coup would not have civilian engineers building rocket and missile launchers in truck beds.
The child soldiers fight by their own accord. We hear countless stories of children in Africa by rebel fighters kidnapped, drugged, and brainwashed by “rebels” to fight for their ill-conceived cause. We see it in pop culture in movies like Blood Diamond where these children become so indoctrinated that they are willing to kill their own families. In Libya, much like in Palestine, these child soldiers take roles more befitting men two or three times their age and showcase levels of bravery that I can barely imagine, all by choice. War forces children to grow up and accept responsibilities that no child should ever have to. The root cause of this particular theft is one man’s refusal to leave power and he will be responsible for robbing an entire generation of Libyan children of their youth.
This is not Afghanistan, or even Iraq. There is another post by Khaled M on this site that goes in to much greater detail than I will on this particular topic but it still needs to be mentioned. The foreign involvement is not happening because a rogue government sponsored a terrorist attack on U.S. Citizens (which Gaddafi of course did, but that’s a topic for another day) or because an American President has a personal vendetta against an insane dictator. I know I’m not making a particularly strong case here but the main reason that sets Libya apart from the others is that Libyans actually want/need foreign intervention. The current situation is more similar to the situation in Bosnia, minus the ethnic cleansing and religious divisions, but it is my sincere hope that it does not escalate to anywhere the level of death and barbarism we saw there. Both situations called for no-fly zones and airstrikes enforced and enacted by NATO but hopefully the situation in Libya doesn’t worsen to the point where a peace-keeping ground force is necessary.
There are those who feel that foreign or United States’ involvement in Libya will just lead to another quagmire like many others we have gotten ourselves stuck in. They claim that the US is after Libya’s resources and is seeking to serve its own self-interest. What they fail to realize is that, as I mentioned earlier, the Libyan people begged for foreign involvement but only to level the playing field. The Libyans don’t need outside help to build a government and there will be no Halliburton-like entity swooping in to monopolize contracts for rebuilding infrastructure or maintaining oil wells. There has been a level of ingenuity and organization in this revolution that stands in direct contrast to the stereotypical African or Middle-Eastern coup. There is no radical religious element or greed for natural resources that powers this engine of freedom. It is powered by the blood of a people who have been marginalized, oppressed, and brutalized for 42 years by a man who claims to “live in their hearts”. It is powered by the sweat of a people living in one of the richest countries Africa but experiencing a 30% unemployment rate because that money only flows in to one man’s pockets. And it is powered by the tears of mothers and children who will never see their fathers and sons because they all desire to simply be free. Pray for Libya, pray for a swift victory, and pray for the people to experience the peace and freedom that we take for granted every day.
Written By: Khaled Abdallah