Who really beat Qaddafi?

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Now that it is clear that the 42 year reign of Mummar Qaddafi has come to an end and there is little left to do on the military side beyond putting down a few pockets of pro-Qaddafi resistance, the question of bragging rights to this victory seems to be coming to the fore in certain western circles.

NATO and it's allies are looking to increase their influence in Libya so they can cash-in on post Qaddafi developments. Although they never managed to get "boots on the ground" during the conflict as NATO would have liked, they still hope to fulfill that dream, via some "peace keeping" or "stabilization" mechanism. Regardless of whether they are successful in that quest, they will be peddling their influence in a hundred other ways.

In preparation for that, they are now trying to take credit for the victory over Qaddafi in subtle ways that will allow them to take ownership of it in the public mind. Typical of the way they do that is the story that has been circulating in the media in the past few days about a group of British SAS on the ground in Libya. An example is this one in the Telegraph 24 Aug 2011:

Libya: SAS leads hunt for Gaddafi

British special forces are on the ground in Libya helping to spearhead the hunt for Col Muammar Gaddafi, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

For the first time, defence sources have confirmed that the SAS has been in Libya for several weeks, and played a key role in coordinating the fall of Tripoli.

With the majority of the capital now in rebel hands, the SAS soldiers, who have been dressed in Arab civilian clothing and carrying the same weapons as the rebels, have been ordered to switch their focus to the search for Gaddafi, who has been on the run since his fortified headquarters was captured on Tuesday.

I don't want to address the question of whether or not this is true. Even if the SAS were there, they can hardly take credit for this brilliant victory, a "key role" could be anything. That could mean communications and intelligence and it almost certainly meant supporting the sea assault by Thuwwar from Misrata, but trying to imply that a handful western special force Rambo types, who suffered no causalities as far as we know, are the real authors and heroes of this victory is to take credit were it is not due.

The campaign that routed Qaddafi's Tripoli defenses in a few days was masterful! First there were the coordinated campaigns in the west coming down from the Nafusah Mountains and from in the east, west of Misrata, then the convergence on Tripoli via three major roads, from the west, east and south, together with an amphibious landing of a brigade from Misrata and the uprising by secret forces already in Tripoli. It was a brilliant victory. It showed great unity and coordination by freedom fighters from separate parts of Libya and the leadership of their command staff in spite of the assassination of their chief of staff, most likely by Qaddafi agents, only weeks before. It will go down in military history as a classic victory.

The idea that the authors of this were some westerners who just parachuted in and not the people who lived Qaddafi's nightmare for 40 years and have been fighting it for the last 6 months is ridiculous. Those most likely to believe it are those that have some misconceptions about the supremacy of western special forces and the inferiority of Arabs.

The Libyans are the ones that have been fighting in these lands since before the Romans. They know the lay of the land and they knew the rising capabilities of their people. The only thing they could never be sure of was NATO, which was MIA for the early parts of the campaigns around both Misrata and the Nafusah Mountains and bombed the wrong armies too many times. Why do the British feel the need to resurrect the "Lawrence of Arabia" mythology to try to snatch credit for this win from the revolutionary Libyan people?

Take for example the organizations of the secret forces inside of Tripoli itself. Do you seriously think that was pulled together under Qaddafi's nose by some British SAS guys in Arab clothes? They wouldn't even know their way around and they wouldn't be trusted by anybody. Two months ago I wrote Tripoli Burn Notice about an agitational action by the Free Generation Movement in Tripoli. They have organized many such actions in the past six months and also managed a rising tempo of armed attacks on Qaddafi checkpoints and other targets in the city. The forces that would rise up from within Tripoli itself were schooled and organized by these actions, not by SAS neighborhood classes.

And it was not some SAS guys with satellite gear that kept critical communication links up, it was the hacker groups like Anonymous, both inside and outside Libya that made sure the uprising had some degree of Internet access even in the worst of blackouts. The Google initiated speech-to-tweet service for Libya was far more important than anything the spooks contributed. A lot of operational information pasted through Twitter.

So with regards to the story about the British SAS on the ground in Libya, the question is why are they letting it 'leak' out now? The British government always "no comments" any story about the SAS, why then is the Telegraph saying it "can disclose?" That indicates that they have some sort of official permission or backing to print this story. Why is the gov't changing it's policy in this case? It's because making this story public is itself part of a psyops campaign directed at the public. This conclusion is quite independent of whether the story is true or not since it normally wouldn't be disclosed even if it was true.

In spite of all the commentary that says different. It was the Libyan freedom fighters, not NATO that beat Qadaffi. Sun Tzu said "Every battle is won before it is even fought," and this revolutionary war was won before it was ever fought because the people were sick to death of Qaddafi's rule. If Qaddafi was going to beat the uprising militarily, he would have already done so in the first month before the UN and NATO got involved. In that first month the freedom fighters were completely unskilled and practically unarmed whereas Qaddafi's forces were at their peak.

Qaddafi threw just about everything at them in that first month. Jet aircraft, helicopters, tanks, artillery, anti-aircraft weapons against civilians and of course, thousands of arrests and disappearances. The siege of Misrata, Libya's Stalingrad, started then. Grad rockets, cluster bombs, artillery, even naval bombardment until NATO made him stop that. The siege of Misrata was to go on for 4 long months before the freedom fighters had pushed Qaddafi's army beyond his 20 km. Grad rocket range. In some periods I've been told, they were losing an average of 50 people a day in Misrata.

The freedom fighters on the other hand, started out with practically nothing. Some had meat cleavers in their hands when they first attacked the barracks in Benghazi. As a result of that they got a few real weapons but still they had no training. But they had courage! The hospitals were filling up with Thuwwar that had accidentally wounded themselves, and they kept falling into traps and walking into ambushes, but they learned. They also had no overall organization or strategy. Most units began as a small band of brothers fighting together. During the months of battle, these youth groups coalesced into bigger units sometimes called battalions or brigades. Only slowly did they develop and gain strength.

But they showed perseverance right from the beginning. As so often happens in revolutionary periods, two would step forward for everyone killed, imprisoned or captured by Qaddafi. Qaddafi had divisions of crack trained troops, the best UK, EU and Russian weapons and all the soldiers money can buy, but he couldn't trump that revolutionary spirit.

The protests started out peacefully, as they had in Tunisia and Egypt. Once the people elected to meet Qaddafi's state violence with the people's revolutionary violence, there was no looking back. Qaddafi extracted a horrific toll in that first month of violence, probably about 7000, the majority of those killed in the whole six month war, and yet the strength of the Libyan revolutionary campaign continued to grow. Qaddafi sealed his own fate when he ordered his army to open fire on unarmed protesters. The die was cast when the people of Benghazi summoned up the courage to seize the barracks.

After that it was only a matter of time. Had NATO not entered the war on the side of the revolution, it certainly wouldn't have been done in six months. It would have been a protracted war and Qaddafi would have killed many, many more Libyans before it finally came to the same conclusion because the Libyan people simply were not going to put up with him any longer.

NATO did not win this war and this war was not the first war won by air power. This war was won by the revolutionary Libyan fighters on the ground. What NATO did with their intervention was to shorten the war and that is really why they entered the war. Those that say it wasn't about humanitarian concerns are right. So are those that say it was about oil. They were already getting the oil but given the economic crisis, the NATO countries couldn't afford to have the flow of Libyan oil stopped for years by a protracted war. They also didn't like the prospect of the relatively tamed revolutions in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt being radicalized by a protracted revolutionary war in Libya. After a month of seeing that Qaddafi's massive violence wasn't working, they acted to settle the matter quickly by throwing their air power behind the revolution. They acted to shorten the war, and in that they did serve a humanitarian purpose.

There is also the related mythology that NATO stepped in just in time to keep the rebel army from being crushed by Qaddafi forces. NATO did step in just in time to keep the civilian of Benghazi from being massacred, but that is not the same thing as defeating the liberation army in the field. The liberation army was growing in all parts of Libya, as was revealed shortly, not just in the east as the experts said. As the US learned in Vietnam, killing masses of civilians with aircraft, tanks and artillery is easy. Defeating a dedicated people's army in its own country is not.

NATO didn't win this war but they want you to think they did. They want to take ownership of this victory for at least three reasons that I can think of. First, they don't want people to get the "wrong" idea that people actually did this, rose up and overthrew an oppressor. That could be very bad for the bottom line. Second, the more they can take ownership of the victory, the more they can justify pushing their greedy noses into the Libyan trough. That could be very good for the bottom line. Third, it makes the argument for "boots on the ground" now go down a little easier if they can argue that they're there already.

Why do they need to disparage the victorious people's army so badly? Even on Al Jazeera we hear "untrained and undisciplined" rebel army in Tripoli. How do that get that from the practice of this army on the ground? The ultimate test of discipline for an army is it's ability to take and hold ground, it soldiers ability to follow orders so that the army can operate in a coordinated manner, and especially it's ability to bounce back from setbacks in a coherent way. The Liberation army has shown all those qualities and much more, an as yet we have heard no reports of widespread looting, revenge killings or other bad behavior by the freedom fighters in Tripoli. And as far as "untrained" is concerned, none who saw this army and it's soldiers in February and now can doubt that they have been trained. How and by whom may be in question, maybe they're self-taught, but the training is proven by the results.

I am also sick of hearing nonsense like "am I alone in wanting to have more information on who the rebels are?" Frankly, I supported the NLF in Vietnam 40 years ago on little more than the gut instincts of a 20 year old. In Libya, thanks to digital technology and the Internet, we have a virtual cornucopia of information about who the "rebels" are. There is far more information in YouTube videos, Facebook pages, Tweets, blogs posts, white boards etc, etc, than anyone could ever hope to consume. There is the excellence coverage of AJE available on-line 24/7. Thanks to the excellent work by Google Translates, you can even read Arabic websites in English with little trouble. Who would have thought that 10 years ago? The Libyan activists have made all of this publicly available, and still we hear "we don't even know who these rebels are" as if the Left's collective ignorance is an indictment of the Libyan people's movement. I think this comes from a combination of arrogance and laziness because I don't get the feeling most of these complainers have spent even an hour browsing http://feb17.info.

The other Arab people don't share the left's doubts. After Friday prays today, the Syrian protesters celebrated the success of the Libyan revolutionary war. It was celebrated in Tunis and Cairo as well. Western "Marxists" may know that "Libya is different" and that in Libya, a CIA/NATO backed group of armed contra is attempting "regime change" against a "progressive", "anti-imperialist" Jamahiriya, but the Arab Street in Syria, as well as Tunisia and Egypt know that it is all one revolutionary struggle and that at this particular time, the Libyans are in the lead. That is why the imperialist need so badly to get control of it.

Even the formerly pro-Qaddafi Russia Today is launching it's own arguments for a NATO force on the ground after the battle has been won. Now it's "the Libyan dictator" and today they are raising a scare about Qaddafi's stockpile of chemical weapons. Either he might still use them for a grand "going out" party or worst??, they might fall into the hands of the rebels and al Qaeda. Their solution? NATO has a responsibility to clean up "it's mess", so they better get down there and make sure those weapons are secure.

This example clearly illustrates the relationship between taking ownership of the military victory and "having to" take "responsibility" for the post-war outcome. More than just bragging rights for the defeat of Qaddafi are at stake. If they can claim the victory, they can claim the spoils. That is almost certainly one of the reasons NATO offered to "help out" in the first place. Of course they helped out in a way that was almost guaranteed to cost them no lives and very little money beyond Obama's drone fest. They have to fly those planes anyway and they really didn't drop as many bombs as some people have been lead to believe.

It is ironic that these types of news stories and this line of argument by the NATO PR people will find perked ears among many in the anti-NATO intervention crowd. Generally speaking, they have already discounted the grave danger that the people of Benghazi were faced with at the time that NATO acted, and they have also discounted the Libyan uprisings as a real organically growth people's struggle against a dictatorship. Many have argued all along that this was a western backed, CIA planned assault by NATO surrogates bent on "regime change." In other words, they had already given NATO ownership of this struggle even before the victory, so naturally they will welcome any news that supports their conclusions.

Back in March when this left wing crowd first noticed the Libyan revolution and started issuing various "Statements on Libya," I said that I thought they were tailing after their own bourgeoisie. I said that because I felt that revolutionaries would have recognized the significance of the Arab Spring much earlier and seen the central importance of the armed struggle shaping up in Libya long before the UN or NATO got involved. I said that because they only seemed to 'wake up' to what was going on after the imperialist had made it a question of public discourse when the bourgeoisie needed to get the public involved.

But a big part of the "tailing after their own bourgeoisie" POV didn't fit because the anti-interventionists came into the struggle opposed to NATO, seemingly opposed to their own bourgeoisie. What tricked them was that NATO, for it's own creepy reasons, some of which I have discussed here and here, came into this fight on the side of the revolution. As a result, much of the anti-war movement, short on analysis and driven by reflex, came out opposed to NATO. They took a counter-revolutionary stand with regards to the Libyan revolution

A good example of this viewpoint can be found on the Marxist website Kasama in a piece by Mike Ely titled:
Regime change by bomber: NATO’s victory in Libya
Do I really need to quote from it? The title makes it clear what he thinks. Anyway while we are here. How does Mike think the war was won?

The key element in their overthrow has been the massive deployment of aerial power by major imperialist countries (including the U.S. and its European NATO allies). It destroyed the Libyan government forces, and increasingly picked off, one by one, any concentrations of military forces willing to stand and fight.

He points to NATO stats of over 7,500 strike missions in the war to date. What he doesn't tell you, which I have pointed out elsewhere, is that this number is very misleading because in NATO's Libya campaign, they have actually attacked targets in less than 20% of the "strike missions," i.e. four our of five planes come back from strike missions without having dropped anything. This abnormally has raised eye brows in defense circles but has gone unnoticed by the anti-NATO "massive bombing" crowd.

And how does he think Tripoli was taken so fast?

The ground-based opposition to Gaddafi has increasingly walked into Tripoli through the cratered remains of Libyan government forces.

Is that true? How many bombs has NATO dropped in the last week in Libya in general and around Tripoli in particular? From NATO's daily reports we have:

Key Hits 17 AUGUST:
In the vicinity of Brega: 3 Rocket Launcher, 2 Tanks.
In the vicinity of Az Zawiyah: 2 Armed Vehicles, 1 Military Boat.
In the vicinity of Badr: 4 Armed Vehicles.
In the vicinity of Tripoli: 1 Military Facility, 1 Radar, 2 Surface to Air Transloaders, 3 Surface to Air Launchers, 2 Surface to Surface Launchers.
In the vicinity of Waddan: 2 Ammo Storage Facility.
In the vicinity of Zlitan: 2 Tanks.

Key Hits 18 AUGUST:
In the vicinity of Az Zawiyah: 1 Command and Control Node, 2 Armed Vehicles, Transloader, 5 Tanks.
In the vicinity of Tripoli: 4 Military Facility, 1 Surface to Air Missile.

Key Hits 19 AUGUST:
In the vicinity of AzZawiyah: 1Artillery Piece.
In the vicinity of Tripoli: 9 Military Facility, 3 Radars, 1 Radar Guided Anti Aircraft Weapon System, 1Tank.
In the vicinity of Zlitan: 1Military Logistic Vehicle, 1Tank.

Key Hits 20 AUGUST:
In the vicinity of Tripoli: 3 Military Facility, 1 Military Storage Facility, 7 Surface to Air Missile Transloaders, 1
Radar, 1 Surface to Surface Missile, 2 Armed Vehicles, 2 Armoured Fighting Vehicles, 3 Command and Control
Node, 2 Multiple Rocket Launcher.
In the vicinity of Sirte: 1 Command and Control Node.
In the vicinity of Brega: 1 Multiple Rocket Launcher, 1 Heavy Machine Gun, 1 Military Firing Position.
In the vicinity of Gharyan: 1 Armed Vehicle, 1 Anti Aircraft Gun.
In the vicinity of Zlitan: 1 Surface to Air Missile Launcher.

Key Hits 21 AUGUST:
In the vicinity of Tripoli: 3 Command and Control Facilities, 1 Military Facility, 2 Radar, 9 Surface to Air Missile Launchers, 1 Tank, 2 Armed Vehicles.
In the vicinity of Bin Ghashir: 1 Radar.
In the vicinity of Al Aziziyah: 5 Surface to Air Missile Launchers.

Key Hits 22 AUGUST:
In the vicinity of Brega: 2 Multiple Rocket Launch

Key Hits 23 AUGUST:
In the vicinity of Tripoli: 2 Armoured Fighting Vehicles, 2 Military Heavy Equipment Truck, 3 Surface to Air
Missile System, 1 Radar.
In the vicinity of Ras Lanuf: 3 Armed Vehicles, 3 Multiple Rocket Launchers.
In the vicinity of Zuwarah: 2 Tanks, 3 Armed Vehicles, 2 Military Trucks, 1 Military Facility.

Key Hits 24 AUGUST:
In the vicinity of Tripoli: 2 Military Storage Facility, 1 Military Heavy Equipment Truck, 2 Anti Aircraft Gun, 1
Surface to Air Missile Support Vehicle, 1 Multiple Rocket Launcher, 1 Radar.
In the vicinity of Sirte: Surface to Surface Missile Support Vehicles.
In the vicinity of Okba: 1 Surface to Air Missile.
In the vicinity of Bani Walid: Anti Tank Rifles

So NATO hit 84 targets in an 8 day period around Tripoli starting 3 days before the beginning Operation Mermaid Dawn. Of those 23 were missiles or missile launchers, 12 were vehicles of various sorts including a tank and 9 were radar installations. This is what is being portrayed as a carpet of bombs which allowed the Arab army to just waltz on into Tripoli over the decimated remains of Qaddafi forces.

The hospitals of Tripoli, Misrata and Benghazi are full to overflowing with injured and dying freedom fighters, true working class heroes. Many have given their all and will never see the new Libya or their twenty-fifth birthday. The Libyan people have paid with their blood to show that even the application of massive violence won't defeat the people's will to liberation.

And we have to read this stuff from a so-called Marxist? This is a very sorry time for our movement.

For more background on the Libyan Revolution and links to lots of information see my other writings at the DailyKos and WikiLeaks Central:
#Feb17: @NATO Please help MEDEVAC wounded from #Libya
What should those that opposed NATO's intervention in Libya demand now?
BREAKING: Qaddafi's Tripoli Compound Falls!
Does PDA Support Qaddafi?
BREAKING: Operation Mermaid Dawn, the Battle to Liberate Tripoli is JoinedHelter Skelter: Qaddafi's African Adventure
Qaddafi's Long Arm
SCOOP: My Lai or Qaddafi Lie? More on the 85 Civilians presumed killed by NATO
Did NATO kill 85 Libyan Villagers As Qaddafi Regime Contends?
CCDS Statement on Libya - a Critique
The Assassination of General Abdul Fattah Younis
NATO over Tripoli - Air Strikes in the Age of Twitter
How Many Libyans has NATO Killed?
Qaddafi Terror Files Start to Trickle Out!
Have Libyan Rebels Committed Human Rights Abuses?
Tripoli Green Square Reality Check
Behind the Green Curtain: Libya Today
Gilbert Achcar on the Libyan situation and the Left
NATO slammed for Libya civilian deaths NOT!
2011-07-01 Qaddafi's Million Man March
NATO's Game Plan in Libya
February 21st - Tripoli's Long Night
Did Qaddafi Bomb Peaceful Protesters?
Tripoli Burn Notice
Libyans, Palestinians & Israelis
'Brother' Qaddafi Indicted plus Libya & Syria: Dueling Rally Photofinishs
An Open Letter to ANSWER
ANSWER answers me
2011-06-22 No Libyans allowed at ANSWER Libya Forum
Are they throwing babies out of incubators yet?
Continuing Discussion with a Gaddafi Supporter
Boston Globe oped supports Gaddafi with fraudulent journalism
2011-04-13 Doha summit supports Libyan rebels
Current Events in Libya
Amonpour Plays Softball with Gaddafi
Arming Gaddfi
North African Revolution Continues
Is Libya Next? Anonymous Debates New Operation