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September 21, 2012 7:18 PM   Subscribe

"Fierce fighting broke out on Friday night after crowds trying to storm the Benghazi base of a militia blamed for the death of US ambassador Chris Stevens came under fire", reports Chris Stephen in The Guardian.

Al Jazeera describes the scene: "Chanting "Libya, Libya," hundreds of demonstrators entered the compound, pulling down militia flags and torching a vehicle inside the headquarters, Ansar al-Sharia's main base in Benghazi - once the base of forces of former leader Muammar Gaddafi. The crowd waved swords and even a meat cleaver, crying "No more al-Qaeda!" and "The blood we shed for freedom shall not go in vain!"

The BBC reports that "... earlier, some 30,000 protesters marched through Benghazi calling for an end to the armed groups and a return to the rule of law."
posted by mhoye (52 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, it's going to be an interesting ride amongst the various factions until the Lybian state has a monopoly on the use of force. At the moment they really, really don't.
"Militias continue to arrest people and hold an estimated 4,000 detainees in secret and unofficial detention facilities despite some progress in bringing these facilities under central control. Some have been held without charge for a year.

Abuse of detainees, particularly those recently arrested, continues. During its most recent visit an Amnesty International mission found evidence of beatings and other abuse - in some cases amounting to torture - in 12 of the 15 detention centres where it was able to interview detainees in private.

Common methods of torture reported include suspension in contorted positions and prolonged beatings with various objects including metal bars and chains, electric cables, wooden sticks, plastic hoses, water pipes, and rifle-butts; and electric shocks.

Amnesty International has detailed information on at least 20 cases of death in custody as a result of torture by militias since late August 2011."
posted by jaduncan at 7:28 PM on September 21, 2012


*Libyan. Damn you, perfidious fingers.
posted by jaduncan at 7:30 PM on September 21, 2012


This would be the beginning of a popular forced-demobilization movement. NPR reports that most of the militias are simply disbanding - some keeping their individual weapons, others abandoning them in place as crowds backed by armed government forces storm into their "secret" bases. It looks like this was very well organized...

...and Libya's founding myth now features the USA as the good guys, like Lafayette and Comte de Grasse. That notion boggles the mind.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:37 PM on September 21, 2012 [12 favorites]


Rare views of people, instead of the ideologues. I wish circumstances let me be glad to see a pushback against the terrorists, but the best I can do is muster up relief.
posted by mule98J at 7:37 PM on September 21, 2012


Good to hear. Lots of signal/noise coming out of Libya, etc. right now.
posted by vrakatar at 7:38 PM on September 21, 2012


Remember how Yugoslavia was run by a strongman, and then wasn't? I hope this doesn't end up like that.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:38 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


...and Libya's founding myth now features the USA as the good guys, like Lafayette and Comte de Grasse. That notion boggles the mind.

I am really surprised this concept is not getting more airplay. Five years ago the idea of people storming a militia compound for attacking the United States, the idea of people putting on a pro-America protest was laughable in any non-Israel area of the Middle East. And in Libya? Only in a fictional universe. I really can't believe this is happening. Wise commentators would be making noise about the lessons there are here for future diplomatic policy setting in the Middle East.
posted by schroedinger at 7:51 PM on September 21, 2012 [27 favorites]


Seems like they have hated us forever and now we are BFFs. It is like one of those rom-coms where they fight and fight and talk about how much they hate eachother, then one rainy night they are all like "you are the worst", "no you are the worst" and then they start making out. Then the next day they are all like making salad together and watching movies and eating popcorn on the couch and laughing.

Shit, this is happening too fast, it is freaking me out. Libya, you are great but I'm not ready for this.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:59 PM on September 21, 2012 [11 favorites]


Wise commentators would be making noise about the lessons there are here for future diplomatic policy setting in the Middle East.

The problem is you can't do that without giving President Obama some credit for that. And what "wise commentator" of foreign policy would ever do THAT?
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:59 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Five years ago the idea of people storming a militia compound for attacking the United States, the idea of people putting on a pro-America protest was laughable in any non-Israel area of the Middle East. And in Libya? Only in a fictional universe. I really can't believe this is happening.

The recent 'Obama's Libya decision' piece from Michael Lewis (Vanity Fair I think?) had me all RAH RAH BARACK but then I realized, y'know, he's just a dude who really wanted to be president so fuck him; but this is an astonishing story and I'm weirdly proud of our leaders today.

Oh,

and proud of the 30,000 goddamn citizens who stormed the headquarters of a heavily-armed fucking militia explicitly telling murderous extremist lunatics to fuck off. HOLY SHIT those people are awesome.
posted by waxbanks at 8:02 PM on September 21, 2012 [31 favorites]


(and once again: I miss Christopher Hitchens)
posted by waxbanks at 8:02 PM on September 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


From Fox News:
Other signs mourned the killing of Stevens, reading, "The ambassador was Libya's friend" and "Libya lost a friend." Military helicopters and fighter jets flew overhead, and police mingled in the crowd, buoyed by the support of the protesters.
The whole thing weirds me out and makes my day.

My father-in-law is watching Fox News and Hannity is driving me completely cr...oh wait, he turned on F for Fake instead. All is forgiven!
posted by waxbanks at 8:06 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hope this works out. At least the initial news is very cheering.
posted by Forktine at 8:12 PM on September 21, 2012


The recent 'Obama's Libya decision' piece from Michael Lewis (Vanity Fair I think?) had me all RAH RAH BARACK but then I realized, y'know, he's just a dude who really wanted to be president so fuck him;

I don't know, that piece said there was absolutely no political benefit for initiating military action. Obama went and did it anyway because it was the right thing to do.

Everything I've read about Stevens indicates he was beloved by the country. There was a lot of goodwill towards the US for their assistance, but Stevens was instrumental in establishing deep, meaningful ties between America and Libya. His willingness to completely embed himself in the culture went a long way towards dispelling fears about foreign incursion into their space. It makes you wonder what Afghanistan and Iraq could have been if handled differently.*

Would someone be able to explain what made Syria different that we didn't go for a two-fer? Maybe because our forces are already stressed thin? But it seems to be that is another ideal situation for the US to completely redefine what "Western intervention" means in the region, and with another one of our most hostile enemies there. As it is credit for helping the revolution is going to the extreme Islamist groups and countries funding the rebels' efforts.


*Though granted, the situations were a lot different--no popular movements arising within the country for us to bolster. And in the case of Iraq there was no feasible reason for us to be invading in the first place. So it is possible the ghost of colonialism could not have been avoided
posted by schroedinger at 8:15 PM on September 21, 2012


Remember how Yugoslavia was run by a strongman, and then wasn't? I hope this doesn't end up like that.
I don't if they're actually comparable. Inter-regional tension began even before Tito's death, and most of the struggle in the 1980s took place in a purely social and political setting. It was only when another "strongman"--Milosevic--tried to impose himself that war broke out.
posted by Jehan at 8:22 PM on September 21, 2012


The Lewis piece really drove home the sheer multitude of reasons that Obama had NOT to intervene in Libya. Biden, Clinton and most of his inner circle were against it, because he had everything to lose, very little to gain, and every possible excuse to either not intervene or use an ineffective display of force (i.e. a no-fly zone)

Its not emphasized enough just how big of a humanitarian disaster Qaddafi would have been.

It was probably the same calculus, albeit with a different result, that went through Clinton's mind in 1994.

It was certainly away from Bush's simple arithmetic in 2001.
posted by cacofonie at 8:57 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


waxbanks: "(and once again: I miss Christopher Hitchens)"

me too.
posted by lazaruslong at 9:26 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Would someone be able to explain what made Syria different that we didn't go for a two-fer?

The main thing is that Russia has Syria's back in the UN Security Council, really. We churned through months of Kofi Annan as special envoy along with UN-sponsored observers who barely avoided getting shot themselves. Now we've got Lakhdar Brahimi and the cycle is starting all over again. Whereas in Libya the Security Council authorized a no-fly zone, which empowered the NATO coalition to use air power to, among other things, save Benghazi, and then give the rebels cover for their own advances. We may yet see more aggressive action on Syria, but I doubt Russia will ever authorize a Libyan level of intervention, and they have a permanent seat with a veto, so it's just a reality.
posted by dhartung at 10:50 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


the US needs to establish Stevens scholarships for poor students all over the Muslim world but particularly in Libya, or Stevens clinics, Stevens driving schools for women, Stevens safe Birthing clinics and Stevens Food Kitchen using (gulp) seed capital & ongoing "contributions" from countries routinely making profits in the Middle East, from other allied embassies, travel organisations, etc., on a pro-rata basis.
posted by Wilder at 11:00 PM on September 21, 2012 [7 favorites]


But I thought Russia resisted Libya as well? Or is it they would fight for Syria more?
posted by schroedinger at 11:23 PM on September 21, 2012




This is making my eyes well up. Count me in among those for whom this is hard to process.

Back when Gaddafi was still in power, my country did not do a whole lot to make sure that the rebels and the civilians in their cities could keep their lives. I think Finland should have been up there with the Norwegian pilots, destroying Gaddafi's artillery.

Well, I'd like to make personal amends by doing what I can to make sure we don't forget what has happened here. The Libyans who died defending Stevens's embassy, and the Libyans who are now storming the bases of these thugs, and marching on the streets telling them to get out. This is heroism and sacrifice that I won't forget, and I don't want anyone else to forget, and I want Libyans to know that we won't forget.

In case I'm sounding weirdly grandiose here, let me argue that outside recognition of this sort is not exactly a small thing. My grandmother was driven out of her childhood home by Stalin, and all of her generation went through hell defending the country. In the fucked up business that was WW2, we ended up on the opposite side from the US and the UK, but we were pretty aware of where the actual sympathies of the people there lie, and when all the killing and dying was over, we'd have friends among them. And we did. And this recognition and friendship has done us well in the decades after the war where so many other countries in Eastern Europe kept on suffering, and have still not quite recovered.

What Libyans have done here is the sort of thing I will be telling my kids about if I have some one day. And I want them to know that.
posted by Anything at 2:21 AM on September 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think that if the Libyan intervention turned out to be a disaster, more people would remember that it was mainly started by France and the UK. It was but a year ago.
posted by ersatz at 4:19 AM on September 22, 2012


If this story has you feeling optimistic about humanity and that scares or confuses you, just go read the Yahoo comments... problem solved!
posted by Huck500 at 5:58 AM on September 22, 2012


This was the one mistake.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:52 AM on September 22, 2012




But I thought Russia resisted Libya as well? Or is it they would fight for Syria more?

It's complicated, but largely has to do with the Arab League prevailing upon Russia and China to abstain on the no-fly zone resolution. Russia, however, has a naval base in Tartus, Syria that they are keen to keep, at least symbolically. The general trend of Gaddafi's regime had been away from Russia and towards the West, while the opposite is true of Assad's regime.
posted by dhartung at 8:49 AM on September 22, 2012


Would someone be able to explain what made Syria different that we didn't go for a two-fer?

Our success in Libya was reliant upon the Gaddafi regime's military incompetence and general unpreparedness. The regime had been more worried about a coup than widescale rebellion of the sort that broke out. Any hope that the FSA could take over the Syrian military, even with NATO air support, seems very unrealistic.

Security Council issues aside, intervention in Syria would be a lot more challenging and a lot messier, with even fewer indications of a positive outcome.
posted by lullaby at 10:06 AM on September 22, 2012






Russia, however, has a naval base in Tartus, Syria that they are keen to keep, at least symbolically. The general trend of Gaddafi's regime had been away from Russia and towards the West, while the opposite is true of Assad's regime.

It's not unlike the US's and UK's relationship with Bahrain.
posted by homunculus at 12:42 PM on September 22, 2012






Amazing. This must have been what George W. thought would happen in Iraq. Interesting, the differences.
posted by smoke at 4:39 PM on September 22, 2012


I'm sure that what George W. Bush thought would happen in Iraq involved a lot more monkeys riding unicycles.
posted by Flunkie at 5:43 PM on September 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Protesters at U.S. consulate in Toronto demand government action against anti-Islamic movie
Bangash wants the U.S. to remove the film from YouTube and prosecute Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the California man allegedly behind the film, for public mischief and hate speech.
Talk about not understanding how freedom of speech works.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:16 PM on September 22, 2012


I wish they had spent the first five minutes of the news tonight on this story instead of the latest non-news from the presidential campaign. Then maybe I could get people to believe that the Libya situation is a completely different kettle of fish from the rest protests across MENA and South Asia.
posted by ob1quixote at 7:17 PM on September 22, 2012


In other news: Egypt’s New Leader Spells Out Terms for U.S.-Arab Ties
posted by homunculus at 10:37 AM on September 23, 2012


"Would someone be able to explain what made Syria different that we didn't go for a two-fer?"

There are a lot of reasons, honestly. The intelligence there is much worse, the rebel movement is a lot more fractious, the fighting is almost entirely urban (no tank columns to torch) and the biggest need of the rebels is ground-to-air missiles, which are really handy for using against the West. The best option is sending in a large peace-keeping force from the UN, but that ain't gonna happen. I'd like us to do more, but at least as I understand it, there's not a lot more to do.
posted by klangklangston at 11:41 AM on September 23, 2012




the fighting is almost entirely urban

This. You can't really fight that with anything else but small arms; ruins are actually better for defenders than coherent buildings. It's like Russia vs Chechnia - nasty fighting at less than 150 meter ranges with (if they are taking tips from Chechen doctrine, and I would *lay money* that they are) a typical 4-5 man squad, with one or two guys with an RPG as offensive punch and the guys with AK47s as cover for those RPG guys. It works very, very well pretty much anywhere RPG access can happen.

There's not a lot that would help other than a no-fly zone; the state response to this tends to be to stand off and shoot heavy ordinance into the area where the fighters are before going in. Of course, this further radicalises the population. Rinse and repeat, and then look at what the Russians had to do to Grozny to stop that pattern.

The Syrians can't really go that far and retain Russian support, so a rough stalemate holds.
posted by jaduncan at 1:00 PM on September 23, 2012


Oh, and ironically it's very likely that the Syrian army also took doctrinal lessons from the Russian army side of that conflict. They have quite a deep ongoing relationship, and that makes it makes it comparatively easy to guess a lot of what the Syrian playbook is.
posted by jaduncan at 1:11 PM on September 23, 2012


Peace Be Upon You -- "Dear Muslims, Christians, Hindus, and Jews. You’re living in the age of the Internet. Your religion will be mocked, and the mockery will find its way to you. Get over it."
posted by ericb at 4:16 PM on September 23, 2012




This gives me hope.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:01 AM on September 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Obama's un speech is pretty good.
posted by empath at 9:08 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


So is his speech at the Clinton Global Initiative.

Slavery Footprint
posted by homunculus at 9:57 AM on September 25, 2012


In Arab Spring, Obama Finds a Sharp Test

Mohammed Morsi's interview with Charlie Rose was kind of unsettling. When asked about Iran's nuclear ambitions he just responded that there was one Middle Eastern country that had not signed the non-proliferation treaty: Israel. When asked about Egypt's peace treaty with Israel, he said something to the effect that he would uphold the agreements of past Egyptian leaders even if he didn't agree with them. He reiterated Obama's statement that Egypt and the U.S. are not enemies but they are not allies. It seems that things are changing in the Middle East, and the West is definitely losing "influence."
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:51 AM on September 25, 2012


Israel is the ony country in the Middle East with nukes, and they have no treaty controlling their use or sale in place.
posted by empath at 12:58 PM on September 25, 2012






Some right wing commentators will say any stupid fucking thing and 40% of the country will believe it. I am kind of tired of caring about them.
posted by empath at 6:55 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


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