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March 25, 2011
The War Obama WantedBy Greyhawk
Who are we supporting in Libya? The question has been raised - I can provide an answer: either we're supporting Libyan rebels with experience fighting American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, or we're supporting rebels with no combat experience whatsoever.
I suppose I've merely rephrased the question in an even more uncomfortable (at least, for those who should have an answer) manner: are we supporting Libyan rebels with experience fighting American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, or are we supporting rebels with no combat experience whatsoever? (Please set aside any fantastic notion that we're only protecting civilians and not supporting rebels at all - when you bomb one side in a war you're supporting the other.) The US military doesn't need-to-know the answer ("Our mission is not to support any opposition forces," the general said) - they are following orders from the Commander-in-Chief, who - not surprisingly - seems rather loathe to examine that point too closely. (Or at least doesn't want to talk about it.) American reporters (also not surprisingly; they've been quite supportive of the government lately - it's like the 90s all over again!) - don't seem too eager to raise the question, either.
Since I know the answer, I believe it's only fair I give it...
At Reason, Michael C. Moynihan says he can't get to Libya, "So I offer this to all of those brave journalists in the field, both in Benghazi and Tripoli, who seem to be ignoring a rather important issue." His offer is this question:
"Who is it that these strikes are supporting?"
Among those LIFG members released (and now very much involved in the anti-Qaddafi rebellion), Abdul-Hakim al-Hasadi - subject of the Italian media story linked at the top of this post, and profiled here. Libyan prisons aren't the only ones he's inhabited: "I was captured in 2002 in Peshawar in Pakistan, while I was returning from Afghanistan where I fought against the foreign invasion. I was turned over to the Americans, detained for a few months in Islamabad, then turned over to Libya and released from prison in 2008," he says - by way of denying he was in Guantanamo.
Afghanistan isn't his only area of interest:
Al-Hasadi told Il Sole 24 Ore that he personally recruited "around 25" Libyans to fight in Iraq. "Some have come back and today are on the front at Ajdabiya," al-Hasadi explained, "They are patriots and good Muslims, not terrorists." "The members of al-Qaeda are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader," al-Hasadi added.
(Andrew Exum noted Libya's - "and specifically eastern Libya" - contribution of foreign fighters to Iraq immediately prior to the start of US involvement in the war in Libya here.)
That version of Al-Hasadi's quote is edited, but the full quote (as reported by Il Sole 24 Ore) is interesting too. Translated:
In 2007, the U.S. military in Baghdad issued a list of foreign mujahideen who were fighting alongside the insurgents: about 112 Libyans, 52 (including some suicide bombers) were from Derna. "I've sent them about 25," states Haqim. "Some have returned and are now on the front of Ajdabiya, they are patriots and good Muslims, not terrorists. I condemn the September 11 attacks, and those against innocent civilians in general. But members of al-Qaeda are also good Muslims and fight against the invader." An ambiguous speech. Yet it is unusual to hear a man accused of joining al Qaeda call for the imposition of a no-fly zone and international raids against the strongholds of the rais.
This description is also interesting for the same reason: "Shaven, long hair, jacket and blue jeans, Ali Faraj, 42, did not look like an extremist."
If you like, you can imagine "I condemn the September 11 attacks, and those against innocent civilians in general" as being spoken without emotion or inflection by a clean-cut rebel in that tone that one heard in Stalinist show trials. Whether delivered in that tone or not, turning to the aforementioned Nic Robertson's CNN report we learn that's exactly what the Libyan "corrective studies" program was all about:
So, perhaps as a result of our efforts Libya will soon be governed by former al Qaeda jihadists transformed by Qaddafi himself into "exactly what the West has been waiting for." If so, how much of that re-education stuck (beyond saying the slightly more right things) is another fine question. Obviously while in 2009 "The LIFG says it now views the armed struggle it waged against Col. Moammar Gadhafi's regime for two decades as illegal under Islamic law" they've subsequently changed their minds.
If nothing else, the above information should help identify the key words in this LA Times article, headlined "U.S. finds no organized Al Qaeda presence in Libya opposition, officials say." Here's a sample paragraph:
A U.S. intelligence-gathering effort that began shortly after anti-Kadafi forces started seizing towns in eastern Libya last month has not uncovered a significant presence of Islamic militants among the insurgents.
One wonders if similar statements like "U.S. intelligence has uncovered an insignificant presence of Islamic militants among the insurgents" or "U.S. finds disorganized Al Qaeda presence in Libya opposition" are also true.
But this comment to the Times from an unnamed "congressional staffer who receives intelligence briefings" is probably the right way to characterize our Libyan allies: "There ought to be a concern and recognition that there may be such a linkage. There should also be an appreciation that the opposition is not a uniform, monolithic movement."
One way of looking at that as a positive: no matter how many Libyans (freelance or under an al Qaeda banner) fought Americans (and Iraqis and Afghans) in Iraq or Afghanistan - and survived for a trip home ("1,000 trained men"?) - there aren't enough to defeat Qaddafi's army, even with American, French, and British air support. So they can't make up more than a fraction of any force that could possibly succeed in Libya. On the downside "Mr. Sayeh said the rebels had been working to better organize their ranks to include members of specialized units from the Libyan Army that would attack Colonel Qaddafi's forces when the time was right. But evidence of such a force has yet to materialize."
In other words, the answer to the question "are we supporting Libyan rebels with experience fighting American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, or are we supporting rebels with no combat experience whatsoever?" is...
Some of each.
Not a good answer, perhaps. But this New York Times account of action on the Libyan front bears it out:
(More to follow...)
Posted by Greyhawk / March 25, 2011 2:25 PM | Permalink
- whether it must or not. Let's do a bit of Sunday morning channel surfing. NBC's Meet the Press opened with an update from the frontlines of Libya's civil war from Richard Engel, appearing with a backdrop of a half dozen locals posed on the ruined hu... Read More
Unbelievable! You might cry. Of course it is. (If it wasn't, it wouldn't be deniable.) But that doesn't matter. You're along for the ride... When it comes to Libya planning, I keep coming back to this cartoon.... I suppose I should explain it in full. ... Read More
Ever wonder what the fourth week of a planned one week war looks like? Wonder no more - it looks like this:Less than a month into the Libyan conflict, NATO is running short of precision bombs, highlighting the limitations of Britain, France and other E... Read More
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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Original content copyright © 2003 - 2011 by Greyhawk. Fair, not-for-profit use of said material by others is encouraged, as long as acknowledgement and credit is given, to include the url of the original source post. Other arrangements can be made as needed.
Contact: greyhawk at mudvillegazette dot com