Letter From New York February 27, 2011

Or, as it seems to me…

Two days ago my friend Beverly, who receives and reads this missive, sent me an email wondering what I was thinking about Libya. What is happening there is less covered than events in Tunisia and Egypt. The difference: there aren’t that many cameras in Libya and there aren’t that many correspondents reporting out of there.

Gaddafi invited foreign correspondents to Tripoli, the capital, to demonstrate that all was under his control. It apparently backfired as some squares and streets were filled with protestors, demonstrating that all was not well and under the dictator’s control. Correspondents were eager to see things up close, particularly after a telecast from Tripoli of a long, peculiar, rambling rant of Mr. Gaddafi informing his subjects that he was still in control, wasn’t going to leave Libya, wanted to die there as a “martyr” and that all the trouble was being caused because Mr. Obama, our President, was seeing to it that young Libyans were being provided hallucinogenic drugs. I saw some of it and it was mesmerizing in a terrifying way as it demonstrated his dangerously erratic behavior and probable madness.

He is a thug; yesterday I listened on NPR to a heartbreaking report from Tripoli from a man who described the relief he and friends felt when ambulances showed up at the scene of a melee between protesters and security forces and how relief became horror as Gaddafi’s security forces burst from the backs of those ambulances to shoot into the crowd. It is such actions that have resulted in the UN Security Council recommending that Gaddafi and his cronies be referred to the Tribunal for War Crimes while placing sanctions against them, which makes me believe that Gaddafi might feel he is going to have to really embrace that martyr role because there will be no place for him [or his sons] to run.

Reviewing online some of the African press this morning, it is clear there is concern that Libya will have a Ceausescu moment when Gaddafi falls, looking back at the execution of Romania’s dictator and his wife when their communist state collapsed beneath them.

There is a provisional government that has been formed in the east of the country under a former Justice Minister who defected to the rebels a few days ago and which is currently being recognized by the former Libyan Ambassador to the U.N. who also has renounced Gaddafi. The situation is confusing and complex and frightening. Some governments are quickly evacuating their citizens but migrant workers from poorer nations are adrift with their native governments unable or unwilling to assist them. Workers from African nations are gathering in compounds and are being guarded because Libyans are confusing them with African mercenaries brought in by Gaddafi and his boys to subdue them.

It appears that it’s only a matter of time before Libya is freed from the Gaddafi family; it is only a matter of how much blood will be lost in the process. And that is the terrifying reality. Unlike Tunisia and Egypt, the army is split and some of them are firing on the Libyan people though others are defecting and turning on their Colonel.

Much of the news is coming out via Twitter and Facebook because the correspondents are not there in the same force they were in Tunisia and Egypt. And the Tweets and Facebook postings are also showing that unrest remains in much of the Arab world. The Arabian King is offering significant financial assistance to his population to quell their unrest while Yemen’s dictator is under increasing pressure with old allies beginning to abandon him. Bahrain’s monarch is shuffling his cabinet as protests continue. Oman has begun to experience its first protests.

What began two months ago in Tunisia and then swept into Egypt and has now been blown into Libya and Yemen and Bahrain and Oman and Saudi Arabia. We will have to watch closely because the world is shifting before our eyes and the eventual outcomes will undoubtedly shape the geo-politic for years to come, for good or ill.

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