I am seeing a lot of analysis on blogs and some of it is very wrong-headed. It seems to me that there is a mental block when it comes to understanding the distinctions between the various Muslim Sects. The fact is that they all hate each other, but they will unite when necessary against the Infidel. On the other hand there are some who really are peace-loving and will only fight for their own survival. In that category I place the Sufi, which is the majority in Libya.
When people make no effort to understand the history of Libya they will end up making mistakes regarding the situation in that country. There are some in the blogosphere who simply believe their own publicity and will not take the time to learn something about the facts relating to February 17, 2011. Instead of looking into the actual history they prefer to draw conclusions that are in fact wrong-headed.
Libya is made up of three regions and it is full of tribes. Benghazi is in the East, Tripoli is in the west, and then there is the area that includes the mountains. The Berber come from the mountain regions. The majority of Libyans belong to the Sufi or they belong to what was known as the Sanusi Army. The Sanusi sect is a mixture of Wahibbi and Sufi. Neither the Muslim Brotherhood, nor the Salafists are very strong in Libya and this was borne out by the free elections that were held in June. The overwhelming majority who voted for a party was in favour of a moderate form of Islamic party – these moderates are not liberal as claimed by the media. I touched on these subjects last year and do not feel the need to repeat myself on the makeup of the religious community within Libya.
What I have noticed though, is that there are some bloggers who continue to mix up the facts relating to Egypt and Libya. I think that one particular blogger is totally wrong in his assumptions because he has ignored the actual history of those involved. It is important to acknowledge the involvement of Salafists in Derna during the civil war in Libya. They were present and they fought very hard to free Libya from the curse of the devil, Gadhafi. However, they had other aims that were not the same as the people who fought along side them. This is an acknowledgement that yes the Salafists, being those who sympathize with the aims of Al Qaeda were in fact present in Benghazi and that they had a role in the overthrow of Gadhafi. However, they were and continue to be a minority within Libya.
Now for a little bit of history: When Tunisia erupted with protests, the time was ripe for the overthrow of their president. The people could no longer stand his corruption and he really had to go. Always there were on the sidelines groups associated with both Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists. The Enhada Party has its links with Muslim Brotherhood. They have been moderate in what they have done up until now. However, as always one can never know what lies ahead with any party leadership and for the time being the moderates are winning. Encouraged by Tunisia’s success, the next to arise was Egypt and they were successful in overthrowing Muburak. I still have nightmares over the consequences of this action because Muslim Brotherhood is now in control of Egypt, and the Salafists are just as strong. The Salafists remain a danger in the region because they are the ones who want to destroy the pyramids. This uprising was followed by a number of smaller uprisings from Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco, Libya and Syria. The Syrian uprising continues to simmer.
I always considered the Libyan uprising to be different in nature from those other countries, including Syria. The Libyans had been under the thumb of Gadhafi for more than 40 years and during that time they had faced repression and oppression. The people were not allowed to form any political parties. Many of them, especially students, who did join a party, usually the Libyan Fighting group, were arrested, tortured and killed. Some were killed in a very public way so that the people were being taught a lesson. One such group were thrown into prison and they were killed as a group back in the 1990s. It is the relatives of this group who were the ones who began the protests.
The history begins with a lawyer of the group being taken for questioning, but he was released. The people formed in a group in the square to protest his arrest. The army fired upon them and killed one of their number. The next day they held a funeral, the soldiers inside the fort where the funeral procession passed fired upon them as the passed by, more people were killed. There were more funeral processions, only this time the people came armed with their own versions of weapons including molotov cocktails to throw at the soldiers inside the fort. At this stage the crowd was growing as more and more people were angry over the deaths of these people. The killing continued, until one man who had heard about what happened, who had always been against the radical stuff, ran from his unit shouting jihad, jihad. I was personal, and it was aimed purely at those who were killing his fellow citizens. This man used his car and a gas bottle, and then at the end of a funeral procession he headed for the gates of the fort, they were breached, and the rest is history. It was the beginning of a more open rebellion.
By this time the people in Benghazi had coordinated with people in Tripoli, Misrata, Zintan, and other places within Libya. The protests were becoming more numerous. Gadhafi brought in mercenaries and they fired at anything that moved. Women and children were being shot and killed in the streets. By the time that the UN stepped in, Gadhafi had started to employ his Air Force against the people in Benghazi. They were pleading for a no fly zone to be imposed.
A lot of the plotting by the people of Libya happened behind closed doors, and this was especially true in Tripoli where people had to be very careful. There were men and women who took enormous risks to bring about the end of the Gadhafi rule. Many of them died as a result of being tortured after they were captured, but many more made it until the end of the civil war. Parents lost their children when they were hit by not so random bullets of snipers’ guns. The people of Tripoli suffered just as much if not more than the people of Benghazi and Misrata. At no time can one say that this had anythting to do with Egypt or the Muslim Brotherhood. It did not. This was very much a real people movement. Many had been waiting a long time to get rid of Gadhafi. They detested him, and they detested the Communism that he brought to the country. This explains why, once the civil war ended, the issue of sharia was raised. Libya was always a sharia country, but Gadhafi had strayed and brought in his own ideas such as his “Little Green Schoolbook”. What was intended was the throwing out of these Gadhafi ideas as Libya returned once more to Sharia. Also, the people had already voted for Sharia law, so nothing in fact changed in Libya. It was simply a move to remove the things that Gadhafi had imposed.
When the end of the civil war came, and Tripoli was freed, we saw the introduction of Belhaj, a member of the Islamic Fighting Group, the man who had been the subject of a rendition. He declared himself in charge of Tripoli. However, he did not retain his power for very long, and was sidelined. The NTC were always very careful to keep any Salafists out of the way. This is what set Libya apart from the rest.
Since the end of the civil war though, there has been a power vacuum, and the weakness pointed up the lack of security in the country. The militias that had formed refused to go home. Some did terrible things, and yes they sought retribution towards those who had caused them so much misery. The people who copped it most probably deserved what happened, even though the human rights groups would tend to disagree. However, I will go out on a limb here and state that if I was in that situation, and my family had been endangered, my daughters raped, as it happened in Misrata, then I would also want to seek revenge against those responsible. Yes, I believe that is what in fact happened and why it happened. I do not blame those who sought revenge over those who had been more than willing to be Gadhafi’s stooges during a reign of terror and during the civil war. At the same time I do not condone their actions.
However, the biggest difference between Libya and Egypt is the result of their respective elections. The people as a majority rejected both the parties associated with Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists. Both parties were in the minority. This is the opposite to the situation in Egypt where Muslim Brotherhood won the majority with the Salafists close behind.
As you can see from this somewhat potted history, there is no real way that one can claim any role for Muslim Brotherhood over what took place on September 11. There is simply no link at all between Libya and Muslim Brotherhood.
However, there is a link between Ansar al-Sharia and the leadership of Al Qaeda. Muslim Brotherhood is made up of Shia who are in the minority in Libya. Ansar al Sharia are Salafists, and they are linked to the Sunni. The Sufi and the Sanusi sects are also offshoots of Sunni, not Shia. This distinction is important because it explains why there is a link to Al Qaeda rather than Muslim Brotherhood. The aims of each is similar but they are simply not the same.
The Libyan government has given the most details on what happened and who was behind it. We know that it was a deliberate attack and that a c- grade movie was used as a pretext for a protest. It could be that Al Qaeda decided to wait in order to coordinate a wider protest. The stage was set in Libya when foreigners crossed the border into Libya from Mali and Algeria. Neither of these countries are near Benghazi and that means the operatives moved across Libya without being questioned. It does not mean that they were unseen. The use of Malia and Algeria for crossing actually suggests that the remaining Gadhafi family could have financed the operation (it is a thought that has crossed my mind – just speculation based upon the fact that these people crossed from Mali and Algeria). These operatives trained members of Ansar al Sharia over a period of months to carry out the operation. They were being watched and yes the drones knew what they were doing.
One can speculate as to the reasons why this happened. There is the statements of AQAP who have more or less claimed responsibility. There seems to be a link to the Egyptian head of Al Qaeda, Zawahiri that points to the involvement of Al Qaeda. The stated purpose was the revenge killing for the death of Al Libi. Is this the truth?
I think that there was an additional reason. I think that the operation had another purpose, and that is to drive a wedge between the government at Tripoli and the Western powers. These militants had already attacked a British convoy, and there were several other attacks. This last attack was the most deadly of the attacks. It is not hard to imagine that the intention is to force the Western powers to leave Libya.
What I am left with is a gut feel that the truth has not been totally told. I do believe the Libyan government because it was a deliberate attack. However, with Libyan security being so vulnerable I cannot ignore other possibilities that are meant to destabilize the country and force it back into a civil war. The Gadhafi family living in Niger and Algeria have retained access to a vast fortune. What if it was Gadhafi money that had in fact paid for this operation?