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Göttdammerung in Libya: Shades of Hitler as Gaddafi Promises to Die as a Martyr

“Muammar Gaddafi is not the president, he is the leader of the revolution. He has nothing to lose. Revolution means sacrifice until the very end of your life”

“I am a fighter, a revolutionary from tents … I will die as a martyr at the end… I have not yet ordered the use of force, not yet ordered one bullet to be fired … when i do, everything will burn.”

Muammar Gaddafi on Libyan State TV 22 February 2011


Libya’s brutal dictator of over 40 years Muammar Gaddafi has cast the die in favor of destroying his country in order to save his regime. In a speech that conjures up visions of Hitler in 1945 a rambling madman blaming external enemies and equating him with the nation while demonizing his own people who have risen up in revolt against him.

Gaddafi Speech

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2011/02/201122216458913596.html

The speech was surreal as it was translated with Gaddafi standing in the remains of his home that was bombed by the United States in 1986.  Alone at a podium without the usual crowd of adoring sycophants delivered a rambling narcissistic speech that bordered on the absurd while at the same time making credible threats against the protestors and anyone who opposes him which were already being backed up by Mercenaries and pro-Gaddafi thugs using heavy weapons and helicopter gunships. So far at least 300 people have been killed with unconfirmed reports that many more have died in opposing Gaddafi.  With the eastern part of the country now in rebel hands with the support of military units it remains to be seen how Gaddafi sends his loyalists and mercenaries against the still fragile control of his opponents.

His speech appeared to be devoid of reality when he stated that “I haven’t even started giving the orders to use bullets” but then said that “any use of force against authority of state will be sentenced to death”

He has promised harsh retribution and made a very pointed reference to the Chinese suppression of the 1990 Tiananmen Square protests promising to “fight to the last drop of blood” stating:

“When Tiananmen Square happened, tanks were sent in to deal with them. It’s not a joke. Do whatever it takes to stay united… People in front of tanks were crushed. The unity of China is more important than those people in Tiananmen Square.”

His remarks about his opponents were even more macabre and almost seemed to be snatched out of the Bizzaro World of delusions and contradictions. Some of those comments are

“They are a group that are sick, taking hallucinatory drugs… They were given drugs, like in Tunisia, are just imitating… We won’t lose victory from these greasy rats and cats…. They should be given a lesson and stop taking drugs. They’re not good for you, for your heart. Don’t destroy the country… Shame on you, you gangsters. Surrender, give up all weapons, or they’ll have massacres, drugged kids with machine guns… tonight and tomorrow, youth, all of you, not those who are rats on drugs–form committees for security.”

Speaking of the protestors he claimed that “They are just imitating Egypt and Tunisia” and that they “want to turn Libya into an Islamic state” even going so far as the say “They are turning Libya into an (Islamic) emirate of Zawahri and Bin Laden, a new Afghanistan.”

His megalomania and narcissism was on display as he spoke of Libya’s newfound prominence in the news “Libya wants glory, Libya wants to be at the pinnacle, at the pinnacle of the world.”

Gaddafi cajoled his supporters into taking action against his opponents in a display of self adulation by speaking of himself in the third person:

If you love Muammar Gaddafi you will go out and secure Libya’s streets”

“You men and women who love Gaddafi …get out of your homes and fill the streets,” he said. “Leave your homes and attack them in their lairs … Starting tomorrow the cordons will be lifted, go out and fight them.”

“If weapons are not handed over… we will announce the holy march, I will call on millions from one desert to another to cleanse Libya house by house…”

Göttdammerung on the Streets of Tripoli (ABC News)

This is a tremendously dangerous situation for the Middle East as well as the world economy.  If this escalates into a full blown civil war between Gaddafi’s tribe and its dwindling number of allies and the other Libyan tribes that Gaddafi has previously been able to rely on to secure his power there could be great destruction in Libya.  It is believed that many of the larger tribes are now supporting Gaddafi’s overthrow even tribes that are historic rivals in tribal politics. Even more than the military, tribal support is of the utmost importance in the success of any revolt against him.

Libya at one time had WMD and it cannot be ruled out that Gaddafi has not clandestinely acquired some types of chemical agents which could be used against his own people. Additionally Libyan agents loyal to Gaddafi could undertake terrorist attacks on countries that he believes are against him as well as Libyan dissidents abroad. Other anti-Western regimes in the region and the world have much to fear as what happens in Libya could happen in them, the Syrians and Iranians have to be watching this with concern as well as their South American ally Hugo Chavez.

All of this impacts the world in many ways particularly in the oil and natural gas prices but also a direct financial impact in Africa where Libya has supplied funding that supports a number of critical African nations.  The east where the protestors have taken control is the home of much of its oil production which oil workers have promised to curtail if Gaddafi continues his attacks on the Libyan people. Robert Baer in Time Magazine http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2052961,00.html reports that Gaddafi has stated that he knows that “he knows he cannot retake Libya with the forces he has. But what he can do is make the rebellious tribes and army officers regret their disloyalty, turning Libya into another Somalia.” He quotes a source that quotes Gaddafi as saying “I have the money and arms to fight for a long time.”  Of the measures Baer’s source reports is that “Gaddafi has ordered security services to start sabotaging oil facilities. They will start by blowing up several oil pipelines, cutting off flow to Mediterranean ports.”  One can only imagine the chaos that this would sow in the country, the region and in the oil markets.

As the flames of protest and revolution gain intensity throughout the region it is important to realize that things will not go back to what they were. We are facing one of the most dangerous situations with a myriad of possible outcomes many of which will bring about more instability, possible terrorism and maybe a regional war or series of wars. Russian Federation President Dmitry Medvedev commented on the situation saying that “this will mean fires for years and the spread of extremism in the future. We need to look this straight in the eyes.”

In the midst of Gaddafi’s macabre Göttdammerung the flames or protest, revolution and possibly even freedom continue to spread and no one knows what country that they will ignite next. Somehow I do not think that this will remain an isolated Middle Eastern phenomenon but will spread. I believe that many nations where peoples are repressed, poverty stricken or feel alienated from their governments will see such movements with very unpredictable consequences. This is beginning to shape up like the post World War One period of the breakup of empires, the post colonial chaos and the fall of the Iron Curtain coupled with a world-wide economic crisis that has the world teetering on the brink of a financial crisis on the order of the Great Depression all wrapped into one.

My we live in interesting times.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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To the Shores of Tripoli: The Flames of Revolution Spread to Libya as Gaddafi Fights Back

Muammar Gaddafi: A Fight to the Finish

The regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is now in a fight to the death against the Libyan people in the streets of the capitol Tripoli.  In the eastern part of the country it appears that the revolutionaries have gained control of major cities including Libya’s second largest city Benghazi.

Gaddafi has ruled his own country with brutal force and exported terrorism throughout the Middle East and Europe for decades. When I served in Germany during the Cold War it was Libyan agents that attacked American servicemen and women and blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie Scotland.

Saif El Islam Gaddafi: Civil War

The Gaddafi regime has turned to brutal force to attempt to curb demonstrations that began in the wake of the successful Tunisian and Egyptian revolts that overthrew Ben Ali in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. Gaddafi is a ruthless animal when it comes to his readiness to violently crush any dissent against his regime and has not hesitated to use political assassination on Libyan dissidents abroad.  However he is survivor who knows how to use money and oil to get his way with governments. He has occasionally reached out to appear in a more moderate and reasonable persona such as when he gave up his Weapons of Mass Destruction to the Americans and British in 2004 and when he paid 271 million dollars to the victims of the Lockerbie attack.

 

Libya is different than Tunisia, Egypt and Bahrain. The rulers of those countries, Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt while dictators they were not psychopaths and ceded power peacefully. Likewise the Bahraini leaders have backed down to opt for negotiations over the heavy handed force that they employed last week. Gaddafi has long viewed himself as the leader of the Arab World and Africa although his stock has fallen in recent years. He will not go peacefully.  His son Saif El Islam a Western Educated Ph.D. went on state television last night and predicted thousands would be killed in a prolonged civil war and said that “Libya is at a crossroads. If we do not agree today on reforms, we will not be mourning 84 people, but thousands of deaths, and rivers of blood will run through Libya…” He further said “We will take up arms… we will fight to the last bullet… We will destroy seditious elements. If everybody is armed, it is civil war, we will kill each other.”

Saif’s threats are being taken seriously. Since the protests broke out Gaddafi’s security forces have launched vicious attacks on protests and even the funerals of those killed. Using heavy weapons, aircraft and helicopter gunships Gaddafi has turned dogs of war against his people, reportedly using mercenaries from other nations to do what native Libyan soldiers and airmen will not do.

Protesters are being joined in some places by Libyan soldiers and elsewhere two Libyan Air Force Colonels defected with their fully armed Mirage F-1 fighter aircraft to Malta stating that they refused to fire on their countrymen. Around the world Libyan diplomats are condemning the regime and even in the country the Justice Minister and many judges in Benghazi have joined the protests. Other reports suggest that Libyan Border Guards and Coastguard personnel have left their posts along the Egyptian frontier. Libya’s Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya’s told reporters on Monday that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has “declared war on the Libyan people and is committing genocide.”

Protests in the city of Tobruk (Reuters Photo)

The situation is escalating. On Tuesday the United Nations Security Council will meet for the first time to discuss the issue. Some have suggested that the Security Council impose a no-fly zone over Libyan airspace to keep Gaddafi from flying in more foreign mercenaries or use his air force against the protesters.

What is certain is that blood will continue to flow and that if Gaddafi goes down he and his sycophants will kill as many of their own people as they can.  The most interesting thing about this whole situation is that if Gaddafi falls it will be the first time an anti-Western or American regime has fallen signifying that the flames of protest and revolution are much more about overthrowing despots and bringing the people some measure of freedom than anything else. The situation is dangerous, fraught with peril and fluid but it could be the start of a change in the Middle East that takes the wind out of the sails of Al Qaeda and other terrorists groups who draw their support from those repressed by dictators.

It shall be interesting to see how this continues to develop. Pray for the people of Libya.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Danger in the Arabian Gulf: The Fires of Protest Spread to Bahrain

Protesters attacked in Bahrain (AP Photo)

It is weird when you see a place that you have been many times explode into massive protests, violence and potential revolution. That I have been to Bahrain many times and it is strange to see what is going on there. My first couple of times I was assigned to a ship, the cruiser USS HUE CITY on port calls while deployed in the Arabian Gulf. Later I would make frequent trips there as chaplain for the Marine Security Forces.

In the days following the downfall of Tunisia’s President Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak the flames of revolution have spread across the Middle East. Protests have taken place in Yemen, Libya, Jordan and Bahrain and the situations have become violent as security forces attempted to put down the protests. Even Iran is beginning to boil over as protestors who feel cheated by the results of the contested 2009 elections rise up against the Iranian regime. However, the situation in Bahrain is the most troubling if one looks at the potential impact on US strategy in the Arabian Gulf and always tense situation with Iran.

Bahraini Shia women with black flags. The Black flag is commonly flown in Shia neighborhoods and villages in Bahrain (AP Photo)

As I said before I have been to Bahrain many times. It is one of the most socially progressive countries in the Middle East and unlike most other Arab nation’s alcohol can be purchased in stores and not just upscale hotels that cater to foreigners, businessmen, military personnel and diplomats. It is a wealthy nation which though not prosperous as Qatar or the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain has managed to diversify its economy with a per capita income of $25,420.  It is a frequent vacation destination of many well off Saudis and has over 230,000 expats from other countries who call Bahrain home. According to a United Nations report Bahrain has 807,000 residents including the expats.

One thing that I remember about Bahrain is that the wealth is not very evenly divided. For the most part the Shia population is incredibly poor and their villages stand in stark contrast to the wealth of the Sunni. This is one of the biggest causes of the tensions which have brought about the protest movement which was ignited by the success of the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt.

Bahrain Army units deployed in Manama (AP Photo)

The population of Bahrain is divided between the Sunni ruling class which comprises approximately 30% of the population and a less well off Shia population. The Khalifah family has ruled the country since driving out the Persians in 1783. It became a British protectorate in 1861 and the Kingdom attained its independence in 1971 and became a constitutional Monarchy in 2002 with some elected representatives.  The current King Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah is a graduate of Cambridge University and the U.S. Army Command and Staff College. He has reigned since March of 1999 when his father died.

Iran considers Bahrain a rebel province and is viewed as a threat by Bahrain has sought over the years to foment dissent in Shia community which believes that it is discriminated against by the Sunni rulers.

NAVCENT Headquarters in Bahrain (Navy Times Photo)

Bahrain is a vital part of the U.S. strategic presence in the region as a counter to the Iranian threat. It hosts the headquarters of the U.S. 5th Fleet, Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) and Marine Forces Central Command (MARCENT). It is a frequent port of call for U.S. and Allied Navy ships that operate in the Arabian Gulf.  As such the current instability and violence is a matter of grave concern for the United States and its Allies in the Gulf.

As I said I have been to Bahrain numerous times in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. I would stay in hotels with the best security which happened to be the 5 Star locations and dine at various Irish, British or Arab restaurants mostly with fellow Marine or Navy Officers or expats.  The difference between that world and the Shia villages and neighborhoods is amazing the contrast between the vast wealth of some and the absolute poverty of the other troubled me because I could see that it was a ticking time bomb. The Shia population also has limited political rights and is often targeted by the police.  They are certainly infiltrated by Iranian agents who I would guess are helping to stir things up.

The violence that has overtaken Bahrain does not surprise me. The Bahraini military is primarily composed of Sunnis from other Arab countries and has little love for the Shia. They are basically a mercenary force absolutely loyal to the government. There will be no Egyptian style coup in Bahrain. Since the population is small and the Army, police and other security forces wedded to the government I expect that the protests will be put down and that the regime will survive.  It will not be pretty and could well have an impact on U.S. Forces in Bahrain.

Back after 9/11 military dependents were sent home and force protection increased. A couple of years ago dependants were allowed back in but I think that we will see them extracted again. The security forces at the base are robust and work closely with the Bahraini security forces. I would expect that whatever Marine Expeditionary Unit is in theater will be on alert and that additional Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Teams could be flown in to reinforce the base.

The broader ramifications of a continued violent crackdown on the protestors will be felt throughout the region. With the success of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolts people in many parts of the Arab World are now boiling over as protests and revolts against the old authoritarian regimes spread. As the situation continues to build I expect the probability of more regimes being overthrown with very unpredictable consequences. What may be true for Egypt may not be true anywhere else. What is for sure is that the Middle East that existed in December will look far different by the end of this year and that could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on just how it all shakes out and the possible impact on American and NATO operations in the region as well as impact on American overseas counter-terrorism operations especially in Yemen.

We can only wait and see and hopefully influence peaceful and democratic change in the area, but revolutions in countries that repress their populations tend not to be peaceful.  Egypt so far is an exception to that. If you believe in prayer I recommend that we pray hard my friends.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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