Bani Walid

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In the beginning of a revolution it is necessary to form an ad hoc government. There is no other way, if it is not simply a coup in which control of the already existing "bodies of armed men" change hands, and if the revolutionary forces represent a united front of many classes and parties. A thoroughgoing revolution also requires that these existing "bodies of armed men", i.e. the police and army that define the power of the state, be defeated and replaced by new state security forces more or less built from scratch. This is a long and difficult process but it is the one that the Libyan Revolution has had to undertake.

The Libyan Revolution started as a popular uprising against a capitalist dictatorship that also embodied many feudal trappings. It developed into a people's war that was organized from the bottom up. This too was necessary. This necessarily led to hundreds of armed groups existing after the old regime had been defeated militarily and the need to forge them into one organ of state power that could exercise a "monopoly of violence" throughout Libya. Fortunately, although these revolutionary brigades were autonomous, they had developed co-cooperatively.

The failure to form what could be considered a proper government in the "monopoly of violence" sense, has been the complaint raised most often about the Libyan Revolution in the year that has passed since the murder of Mummar Qaddafi. This criticism had a lot of currency.

We hear that the country is awash with weapons and ruled by armed militias. The central government, as represented by the National Transitional Council, was weak, unrepresentative, plagued by divisions and lacking in sufficient respect among the people. The national police force and national army were also newly formed, weak and lacking in firepower as compared to some of the better armed revolutionary brigades and militias.

The most learn of the critics were quick to point out that the revolutionary Libyan government did not yet fulfill that most fundamental requirement in the definition of a state. It did not yet possess a monopoly of violence within its territory.

And Bani Walid was the proof.

Bani Walid became counter-revolutionary center

Bani Walid had a long history of support for the Qaddafi regime and it isn't surprising that it should become its last stronghold.

Over a year ago, just a week after Mummar Qaddafi was killed, Reuters wrote on 26 Oct. 2011:

The war is not yet over for Libya's new rulers in the desert town of Bani Walid where Gaddafi loyalists vow to fight on for their fallen leader and other residents are angry over violence and looting. Enraged by what they see as acts of retribution by forces loyal to Libya's new government, tribesmen say their men are already trying to regroup into a new insurgency movement in and around the strategic desert town south of the capital.

This January the pro-Qaddafi forces were successful in pushing the revolutionaries out and recapturing the town. Nick Meo and Hassan Morajea wrote about it in the Telegraph on 28 Jan 2012:

Bani Walid, about 100 miles south-east of the capital Tripoli, was a Gaddafi stronghold, fighting defiantly to the bitter end under the direction of his son Saif al-Islam. The town only surrendered after dozens of its young men were killed by rocket barrages which smashed buildings to pieces.

Since its fall in October it has been a place of simmering resentment and occasional violent flare-ups. Then last Monday its tough inhabitants staged an uprising. They overran guards at the main prison, where growing numbers of their friends had been detained, and ejected pro-government forces from the town, killing at least four of them.

Since that counter-revolutionary takeover, it had become the center of pro-Qaddafi activity in Libya, attracting supporters of the fallen regime from all across the country and developing a reputation as the one place that government forces wouldn't go.

Still, remnants aside, the civil war had already been fought out to a decisive conclusion and the Qaddafi regime had lost. While its remaining forces have been able to carry out assassinations and cause trouble, they don't have the support to do more than that. Even Bani Walid is split on support for Qaddafi and its only about 1% of the Libyan population. This little island of the old Qaddafi regime could not be allowed to stand indefinitely in the new Libya.

Libyans build a government

Meanwhile, the Libyan people had bigger fish to fry in getting their country back on its feet. Industry, schools and local government all had to be reconstituted and restarted.

In the all important sphere of national government, the National Transitional Council founded the High National Electoral Commission [HNEC] which registered voters, candidates and parties, and organized national elections which took place on 8 July 2012 in which 1.6 million Libyan voters elected 200 members to a new representative government known as the General National Council. The GNC selected a president and a prime minister. The organs of state power, the army and police were also starting to shape up.

Many of the revolutionary brigades had vowed to stay together and stay armed until they were sure they were getting the government they had fought for, with the GNC formed up, some were disbanding and some were being brought under government control. In the wake of the mass protests against the militias all over Libya after the Benghazi consulate attack, that process of disbanding or integration was greatly accelerated as protesters forced some militias to flee from their bases.

Meanwhile, this problem of the Qaddafi holdouts in Bani Walid continued to fester. Still, there was time to seek a peaceful solution. In the nine months of civil war, the revolutionary forces had grown from a rag-tag collection of defectors and activist fighters, into a strong and seasoned fighting force that ruled almost all of Libya, whereas it is the Qaddafi forces that have been reduced from a modern mechanized army to a rag-tag bunch of fugitives and criminals, so there has never been any real question about which side would prevail in a final military confrontation.

There never has been any serious doubt that the Libyan government would prevail in an all-out assault, but that might be costly in human lives and cause more problems between the people down the road. Bani Walid is a city of about 85,000 and the Qaddafi forces have shown many times before that they aren't above using human shields. Time was on the side of the revolution, so from January the demand that Bani Walid submit to the national government was pursued by largely peaceful means.

For example, in the beginning of October the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General visited Bani Walid to urge tribal elders to seize an opportunity for reconciliation with the newly elected National Congress. [ Diplomacy in Bani Walid - YouTube ]

Still there were continuing problems with kidnappings and other criminal activities being carried out by old regime forces in Bani Walid.

What changed about Bani Walid?

The Libya Herald described the situation this way on the eve of the current fighting | 10 Oct 2012:

The catalyst for the current standoff was the death of Omran Shaban, the Misratan revolutionary credited with first discovering Muammar Qaddafi last October, who died in a hospital in Paris on 25 September.

Together with a colleague, he was captured in Bani Walid in July and held for two months before being released on 13 September following mediation efforts led by National Congress President Mohamed Magarief.

It is known that he was shot in the spine, reportedly after the vehicle in which he was travelling failed to stop at a checkpoint and then rolled over. There have also been widespread allegations that Shaban was tortured whilst in custody, although this is vehemently denied by Bani Walid leaders who say that he was treated in hospital and visited by the Red Cross.

Today, a Red Cross spokeswoman currently visiting Bani Walid to distribute humanitarian supplies refused to offer any comment on whether evidence of torture against Shaban had been found or not.

Nevertheless, Shaban’s death prompted a resolution [Law no.7] from the National Congress giving Bani Walid ten days to surrender those suspected of involvement in the case and authorising the ministries of defence and interior to use force if the town did not comply.

That deadline was subsequently pushed back to 10 October, today, following a request by Magarief to allow more time for negotiations. Libya’s military commanders have said that should the deadline pass without a resolution then an attack remains a possibility.

After that, the forces authorized by Law No. 7 to enforce the arrest of the suspects began to apply military muscle. Two weeks later one of Libya's most important clerics spoke in favor of the operation, as reported by the Libya Herald:

Grand Mufti Sheikh Sadiq Al-Ghariani has reaffirmed his support for the recent military action against Bani Walid, arguing that it is consistent with the “application of Resolution No. 7 of the National Congress, which represents the highest authority within the state”.

In a statement released by his office, the cleric warned that “bloodshed will not cease as long as those wanted for justice, those outlaws, those accused of killing innocent people remain at large.”

Earlier today, government spokesman Nasser Al-Manaa claimed that more than 100 people had been arrested from Bani Walid, out of a total wanted-list said to be some 1,000 names long.

“Resolution [No. 7] demands the handover of those in Bani Walid wanted for justice”, Ghariani said, “even through the use of force if need be."

“Thus, the government, the national army, the chief of staff directorate and all revolutionaries are under an obligation to implement this resolution.”

There are those that raised questions about the way Resolution No. 7 was passed. “I feel that the congress has sort of followed this intense lobbying attack by the Misratans and by groups of Bani Walid revolutionaries who were kicked out of Bani Walid." Claudia Gazzini of the International Crisis Group complained. There also has been a problem with Misrata militiamen using the operation against Bani Walid as cover for revenge against people they regard as pro-Qaddafi.

While Misrata fighters have complained at what they call Bani Walid’s continued defiance and its alleged harbouring of former Gaddafi loyalists, townsfolk there say they have been unfairly tarred with the “pro-Gaddafi” brush.

“Bani Walid became a centre for those who were wanted for justice to escape,” government spokesman Nasser el-Manee told a news conference. “We can say that they kidnapped the city.”

The grand mufti also echoed this view:

The mufti said he recognised that many Bani Walid residents were victims of events beyond their control, reiterating a statement made recently by National Congress President Mohamed Magarief that the town had, to a great extent, been taken hostage by pro-Qaddafi elements and other “criminals”.

Nevertheless, he said, “if Bani Walid… is not outside of the state’s authority, as claimed by those who are against the implementation of the GNC resolution, why then are state assigned forces prevented from arresting those wanted for justice? How can Bani-Walid be under stated legitimacy and yet the state is prevented from entering the town!”

Ultimately, the operation against the pro-Qaddafi militias in Bani Walid could not avoid the ugliness and tragedy that comes with any military assault in an urban center. On 24 October 2012, the day revolutionary government forces took the center of Bani Walid, Human Rights Watch published the following:

The number of victims from the fighting and indiscriminate shelling in Bani Walid remains unclear. Doctors at the hospital there told Human Rights Watch that at least seven people not associated with any armed group had been killed and 60 wounded between the start of the siege in late September and October 18. That number rose as the attacking forces began a major assault on October 19, causing thousands of Bani Walid residents to flee.

The Tripoli Post reported that there were demonstrations in Tripoli opposing the government assault:

Meanwhile, about 500 protesters broke into the grounds of Libya’s parliament building on Sunday to demand an end to violence in Bani Walid that has been shelled by militias from Misurata who have aligned with the Defence Ministry, for several days.

State news agency LANA said on Sunday that 22 people had been killed and 200 wounded in the fighting.

“We are here to demand the government find a peaceful solution for the tribal war that is happening in Bani Walid,” a protester was quoted saying.

On 21 October 2012 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued an official statement of concern that recognized both sides of the equation and the contradictory nature of the Libyan government's role:

The Secretary-General is alarmed by the fighting in and around the Libyan city of Bani Walid, and in particular the reports indicating growing civilian casualties due to indiscriminate shelling. The Secretary-General reminds all parties of their obligations under international humanitarian law and calls on all the Libyan authorities and those in Bani Walid to begin immediately a process to resolve the Bani Walid stand-off peacefully.

The Secretary-General is of the firm conviction that the Libyan authorities must be able to extend Libyan sovereignty and state control and services throughout the territory of Libya. In their historic July elections, the Libyan people put their trust in the Libyan State, and the Secretary-General urges all Libyans to work together to strengthen the legitimacy and effectiveness of State institutions across the country. The State and those militias acting in its name also have a responsibility to the people of Libya to act fully in accordance with international law, in particular international human rights law. All those involved in the fighting in and around Bani Walid should be aware that the international community is closely monitoring the situation.

The Secretary-General believes that the situation in Bani Walid can be resolved in a peaceful manner that preserves the rights of all Libyan citizens and permits the state to exercise its responsibilities there. The Secretary-General notes that his Special Representative in Libya is actively engaged in helping to defuse and resolve the Bani Walid stand-off.

The UN Secretary General cautions the Libyan government to avoid civilian causalities but at the same time, having been fairly elected, he recognizes the right of the Libyan government to rule Libya.

The Russian Draft

The next day, Russia puts forward its own Security Council Draft Press Statement on Bani Walid. What's up with that? A statement, is after all, just that. It carries no real weight of enforcement. The Secretary General had already represented the position of the UN in his statement and every committee of the UN could issue its own statement and none of them would change the facts on the ground in Libya. Besides, its not like the Russians rushes to the Security Council with a draft statement of concern every time a few dozen people are killed in a conflict. Two days later, when the Syrian Army killed 20 people in a bakery in Aleppo in an instant, Russia didn't rush to the UNSC with a draft resolution condemning it.

In fact, the Russian resolution, and most of the coverage of the fighting in Bani Walid by the Russian media and its minions, can only be properly understood in the context of the political struggle around Syria.

The way the story was broken on Russia Today and among most of its followers wasn't even that "Russia has this draft statement." That wasn't the first story. That story was never reported and the secretary general's statement wasn't reported by them either. The first story was "US blocks Russian resolution on Bani Walid," followed by outrage and complaints of a double standard, as if a two week military assault on one town of 85,000 that had so far cost 22 lives should be equated to Assad's murderous 18 month assault on a whole country costing more that 30,000 lives.

After that, all the pro-Assad, pro-Qaddafi coverage of Bani Walid by RT and its minions seemed designed to exaggerate Bani Walid to Syria like proportions so that the Libyan Revolution can be undermined, the crimes of Assad can be downplayed, and those said to support the Syrian opposition can be charged with hypocrisy. This campaign, of which the draft statement blocking complaint was but the opening shot, also served to distract attention from the really massive killing being carried out by Assad, with Russian support, in Syria.

Now this Russian draft UNSC statement; what was so unique about it that they felt compelled to promote it over the objections of some members even though the UNSG had already issued a statement? Well, here is the text of the Russian statement:

The members of the Security Council expressed their grave concern about the escalation of violence in and around the city of Bani Walid, in particular reports of growing civilian casualties, including children.

The members of the Security Council called on the Libyan authorities to take urgent steps to resolve the conflict by peaceful means and to preserve the rights of all Libyan citizens.

The members of the Security Council stressed the need to promote national reconciliation and inclusive political dialogue in Libya.

At first glance, it looks like an okay statement, but viewed in comparison to the secretary general's statement we can see certain significant differences. Both statements express concern for civilian casualties, except the Russian statement makes specific references to children. As we'll see later, that plays to specific propaganda claims.

And whereas the Secretary General's statement recognizes the right of the Libyan state to use force if necessary, "the Libyan authorities must be able to extend Libyan sovereignty and state control and services throughout the territory of Libya", the Russian statement wants to limit them to "peaceful means." I doubt that Putin would have the Russian state limited to "peaceful means" in dealing with non-violent protesters in Moscow let alone Chechen rebels.

Finally, in the last paragraph, the Russians sound like they think the Libyan state should be opening negotiations about power sharing with the Qaddafi forces holdup in Bani Walid.

Of course the Russians completely fail to recognize the "national reconciliation and inclusive political dialogue" that has taken place in the past year that lead to free elections in which even pro-Qaddafi forces could campaign and protest and the election of the General National Congress that replaced the disbanded National Transitional Council months ago.

This statement deserved to be defeated if for no other reason than it was less complete and less accurate than the one the UNSG had already issued but I suspect that it was designed to be blocked so the Russians could complain about US hypocrisy on Syria and Libya.

Just how thoroughly they had failed to recognize the government changes in Libya was shown by a so-called Libyan government representative they had on Russia Today to talk about Bani Walid. That same day they ran this as part of their Bani Walid story:

NTC defends controversial operations

A spokesman for the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) contradicted Faraj’s testimony, stating that NTC forces are actually inside the town – not militias.

“The whole picture is that this fight now is for the government because through this dispute, some crimes have been carried by some outlaw guys. They were supposed to be given to the local government to be judged, but they ran away. They escaped and hid in certain places in Bani Walid. That’s why the local government – the Libyan forces – had to go there and bring these guys to justice,” Mohamed Sayeh told RT.

This immediately raised the eye brows of anyone familiar with recent history in Libya because the NTC went out of business in August and was replaced by the GNC.

Now Mohamed Sayeh had been a spokesman for the NTC, a year ago he had been the NTC member responsible for transport. but as I said the NTC went extinct last August 8 and his name does not turn up in a Google search of the General National Congress website. In fact, he only shows up recently in Google searches in reference to the RT interview. So how could RT interview a NTC spokesman representing the Libyan government on October 24th?

Here is a screenshot of their interview with NTC rep Mohamed Sayeh, the next day they used the same interview but said he was a GNC rep in the morning and this is how they changed the story on their website:

GNC defends controversial operations

A spokesman for the Libyan General National Congress (GNC) contradicted Faraj’s testimony, stating that the government forces are actually inside the town – not militias.

“The whole picture is that this fight now is for the government because through this dispute, some crimes have been carried by some outlaw guys. They were supposed to be given to the local government to be judged, but they ran away. They escaped and hid in certain places in Bani Walid. That’s why the local government – the Libyan forces – had to go there and bring these guys to justice,” Mohamed Sayeh told RT.

The only problem is that even though Mohamed Sayeh had been a rep for the NTC a year ago, nowhere is he cited as a rep for the GNC but by RT, and even if you assume it was an innocent error, how much do they really know about what they are talking about?

However, that hasn't stopped the story from being echoed by its minions on YouTube:

All of these accounts repeat the RT clip that has Mohamed Sayeh working for the NTC and all of these accounts have permission to use the RT clip because they advertise against it.

From Russia Today's reports we get a very different picture of what is really going on in Bani Walid than is owned to by the Libyan government or reported in other media. They speak of "massacres" and "genocide" and paint a picture of slaughter that is a far cry from the claim of 22 killed in 2 weeks of fighting. Under the headline:

‘Massacre in Bali Walid’

Faraj, a man in Egypt, not Libya, let alone Bani Walid, but who says he is in contact with relatives in Bani Walid

told RT that “the city has been exposed to genocide from Misrata militias that are cooperating with Al-Qaeda groups.”

“They attack the city and are using heavy machinery to demolish the houses,” Faraj said. “They are using internationally banned toxic gases against civilian people and they bombard the population with tanks.”

Government-affiliated militias are under the orders “to kill all protesters,” he said. “The city is blocked from all sides; there has been no medicine, no food, and no humanitarian aid. There is nothing inside the city.”

“There is bloodshed in Bani Walid and nobody can hear the people inside the city. [The] militias’ guns come from the outside including from Sarkozy and Obama’s administrations.”

Russia Today takes all this on as the truth about Bani Walid without any verification. The next day RT runs with the headline:

'600 killed in Bani Walid fighting in one day' – source

Alwarfally also claimed that at least hundreds of people were killed during the 20-day siege.

“The number is really big,” he said. “One the first day that [the militia] came, there were about 70 bodies from the fighting. Yesterday night there was 600.”
“The number of people in the hospitals is over 1000,” he added.

That is a truly dramatic news and a very different picture from claims that put the number killed in the overall operation in the dozens range. That would come close to killing 1% of the population of the town in a single day. That's more that twice the number killed in all of Syria even on a very bad day. That is worth repeating and it was repeated by all the Russia minions like Information Clearinghouse and Global Research. A RT corespondent even brought it up at a USState Department press briefing:

MS. NULAND: Is there a question here, or is this a political statement that you're making here in the briefing room?

QUESTION: No, no, just a - I wondering, 600 people, local resident, were allegedly killed yesterday --

RT corespondent in Lebanon, Paula Slier exclaims: [YouTube @ 03:30 ]

More and more people are saying that no one really cares about what is happening in Bani Walid and you compare this to the almost mass hysteria in the main-stream Western media and the international community today in terms of what is happening today in Syria.

As an aside: Given that ~200 people a day are being slaughtered in Syria, I don't know how you could characterize the very slight coverage those deaths receive in the mainstream media as "mass hysteria."

Then US journalist and author Neil Clark comes on RT to tell us that things are worst now than when Qaddafi was in power:

The Humanitarian disaster, we were told Colonel Gaddafi’s forces were killing lots of people, there were dangers of a massive massacre in Benghazi, and because of that we went to war…that was the reason for war. And today, the situation is much worse. We’ve got a humanitarian catastrophe taking place. The number of people killed since NATO intervened has gone up by ten to twenty times. We’ve got massacres going on at the moment and there’s complete silence here in the UK and in the US.

Quality Check

So what is the quality of this dramatic information? What is the source? According to RT it is "an individual in Italy who allegedly has relatives in Bani Walid." His real name isn't Alwarfally, he remains anonymous. So how does RT know that what this guy is telling them is the truth, or that what his relatives are telling him is the truth? The answer is that they don't need to know that. They just need to know they are hearing what they want to hear about Bani Walid. Ditto on the other guy from Egypt with relatives in Bani Walid.

The claim by the men in Egypt and Italy that they have communicated with relatives in Bani Walid is rendered even more remarkable because we are told by RT "Communications were deliberately cut in order for these gangsters to prevent any person from communicating what is really happening."

You think they would have better sources than these before they ran to the United Nations with their own draft statement on Bani Walid and you'd think they'd know that the NTC was no longer in charge before they set about criticizing the current Libyan government.

These two sources sound decidedly pro-Qaddafi and unfortunately for those seeking to use pro-Qaddafi sources to substantiate civilian casualties, the Qaddafi regime was well exposed for faking such causalities during the Libyan civil war. They don't have the reputation of a creditable source on such matters.

Consider, for example, this tape of a conversation in which Qaddafi PM Baghdadi Mahmudi is caught plotting with an unknown caller "to take three dead children from a hospital, plant them at a known site, and have the government spokesman, Musa Ibrahim, report from there using the children as casualties to further their propaganda." [YouTube]

Or this report filed by a correspondent for the Telegraph filing about a NATO bomb site at which the Qaddafi regime claimed 85 civilians were killed but after liberation locals said 35 were killed:

Despite discrepancies at the bomb sites, regime spokesmen said that 20 families in Majar, a remote village on a ridge overlooking the rebel enclave of Misurata, had been killed in airstrikes.

While up to seven homes were destroyed by large scale explosions, there was no evidence of the scale of slaughter suggested by officials.

Ten miles away at Zlitan hospital officials put bodies said to have been recovered from the site on display. One woman and two infant corpses lay alongside men of military age.

At least one ruined home bore the hallmarks of family life but debris from the destruction contained relatively few clues to the lives of the occupants.

Only a few traces of blood were smeared the rubble of the houses and there was no sign that bodies had been dragged through the dust.

With Nato's rules of engagement imposing strict safeguards to protect civilian life, Col Gaddafi's forces have an incentive to operate from compounds occupied by families.
A green army belt that one official quickly removed from the side of a teddy bear indicated that the army had established a presence in the area.

Is there any connect between the perchance for using children in these fabrications and the reference to unidentified child causalities in the Russian draft statement? Just asking...

So given this history of fabrication, why rush to print with dramatic claims of massive civilian casualties made by people that aren't even in Bani Walid but sound like they are in the Qaddafi camp, before they are verified by other sources? I mean really? What kind of journalism is this? Taking casualty reports from people like these is like taking wild life reports from the boy who cried wolf.

Consistent with their theme that Libya has no real government and is in the control of completing armed gangs and jhadists, not only did Russia Today breathe new life into the NTC and fail to mention GNC Resolution No. 7, they tried to imply that the whole assault was being done by renegade militias acting on their own and without government authority. They put on a voice named Fatima, who was described as a Bani Walid siege witness and she said "These are not governmental forces, they are militias and armed gangs without any legitimacy. The media is prohibited from reporting what's happening in the city. " [YouTube 3:57]

And US journalist and author Neil Clark told RT that in Libya "demonstrations are banned throughout the country." Oh yeah? Tell that to these "Demonstrators condemning attack on Libya Al-Hurra" or these "Protesters demanding return of NOC to Benghazi".

It seemed like they knew no limits in how far they would go to tar the Libyan revolution and the Libyan government operation against these holdouts from the Libyan regime they had so long supported.

As if charging them with massacres and genocide wasn't enough, they charged them with using banned chemical weapons. Neil Clark on RT:

anytime there is any hint that the Syrian government has got chemical weapons, it’s front page news on all the western news channels. But RT is about the only channel that’s taking up this story about chemical weapons being used at the moment in Libya.

The Russia Today reports on the conflict around Bani Walid began to be filled with charges of "toxic gas poisoning" and "poisonous gas" exposure which quickly morphed into "reports of chemical weapons being used." The basis for this charge is a fax, purportedly from doctors in Bani Walid: [YouTube @ 10:30 ]

We have noticed that 26 injured civilians that are suffering from difficulties in breathing, frothy secretions and an increase in heart rate, with impairment of level of consciousness, also blurring of vision and muscle spasm,

So far, not a single person is reported to have died from this "poisonous gas" or "chemical weapons" attack, nevertheless, Russia Today was on to something. The Libya Herald did a much more through on-site investigation and report:

Government forces stationed at Bir Dufan have been accused of using gas on civilians from Bani Walid during an attack that took place on Monday.

Following two visits to the town, the Libya Herald learned that 26 patients had been admitted to hospital with symptoms including hallucinations, foaming at the mouth, muscle spasms, coughing, eye irritations, dizziness, breathing difficulties and loss of consciousness.

This is the town that RT has told us is cut off from the media. The Libya Herald then goes on a great length about their investigation and all what they did. Then they say:

It remains a possibility that residents were exposed to emissions from a facility that may have been hit during the bombardment as opposed to directly from the munitions themselves.

“I heard an explosion, my eyes became irritated and my mouth dried up”, said Ramadan Sahad Ramadan, one of the patients said to have been exposed to the gas, who also showed signs of breathing problems.

“I saw many tanks, I heard a big explosion and then I woke up in the hospital”, said Abubaker Sudani, another patient, who had no external injuries resulting from the blast. “I have difficulty breathing, I cannot see properly and I have thrown-up”.

Responding to the allegations, Colonel Ali Sheikhi, a spokesman for Chief of Staff General Yusuf Mangoush, denied that any gas had been deployed against the town.

“No gas has been used against Bani Walid”, he said. “We do not possess any such weapon”.

So far, it is still unknown what effected these 26 people but charges that chemical weapons are being used would seem a bit premature. Is this designed to be a preemptive charge against the possibility that Bashar al-Assad uses chemical weapons, and ones that kill at that, in Syria?

Today in Bani Walid

In Russia Today's most recent report, 28 October 2012, they went with the headline "Siege of Bani Walid: Foreign fighters, phosphorus bombs and nerve gas – RT sources." These certainly are extremely alarming charges worthy of the world's attention. And the "RT sources?" "A man who claimed his relatives are trapped inside the besieged city spoke with RT." This source, who we are later told "is currently in Egypt" says of Bani Walid, "There is no communication or Internet so people are not able to connect with each other.” But somehow he has all the details of what exactly is going on!

“They use foreign snipers, I think from Qatar or Turkey, with Qatar covering all the costs,” he said. He claimed that a ship with weapons and other equipment recently docked in the port city of Misrata, where the assault on Bani Walid is allegedly being directed.

So this source is in Egypt with relatives in Bani Walid and he knows all of this how exactly? Including who is paying the foreign snipers? It doesn't matter so long as RT has a source. Then all its minions can cite RT as their source. That's how the support fascists game is played.

The claim of nerve gas and white phosphorus is also based on the word of one person:

“I can confirm that pro-government militias used internationally prohibited weapons. They used phosphorus bombs and nerve gas. We have documented all this in videos, we recorded the missiles they used and the white phosphorus raining down from these missiles,” Bani Walid-based activist and lawyer Afaf Yusef told RT.

Three days earlier she had been used by RT to confirm their view that the assault was done without government authority:

An activist from Bani Walid corroborated reports that local armed militias had attacked the city, not government forces.

“Our city is dying,” Afaf Yusef said in an interview with RT. “It’s just armed forces. Where is our legitimate government? They announced a country of law, a country of justice. Where are they? Why can’t we see them?”

“The situation is very difficult,” she added. “The city is almost completely destroyed. Residents are buried in the rubble. Many among the victims are children and the elderly. There are even more children than the elderly.”

In that case, children certainly should be specifically mentioned in a UN statement of concern.

What can one say about these reports? I would find it helpful to know if this "Bani Walid-based activist and lawyer" was more aligned with the revolutionaries that had been kicked out of Bani Walid or the pro-Qaddafi militias that had taken over because, frankly, the pro-Qaddafi people don't have a strong record for truth telling.

The best thing that could be said is that these claims should require collaboration before they become headlines. RT and its minions don't see it that way. This is the story they want to tell and they don't rely on solid sources and truth telling so much as they rely on repetition to make their message stick.

According to the Tripoli Post on 28 October 2012 Italy is monitoring the situation in Bani Walid and "the toll of the clashes there stands at approximately 25 dead, over 400 wounded and more than 25,000 displaced."

The Libya Herald is reporting 28 October 2012:

Ministry of Interior Undersecretary Omar Al-Khadrawi paid a visit to Bani Walid on Saturday to oversee the deployment of security forces there and assess the needs of the local hospital.

The town was declared liberated on 24 October by Chief of Staff General Yusuf Mangoush, following a week of intensive fighting and a one-month siege.

Contact with the hospital, which is known to have admitted dozens of casualties, has been impossible for at least the past week owing to the failure of phone networks inside Bani Walid and restrictions placed on journalists by the military inside the town.

The Red Cross made their most recent report about conditions in Bani Walid of 26 Oct 2012. They said this:

The humanitarian situation remains difficult for the people of Bani Walid in Libya. To help those who fled the city after heavy clashes this week, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is working with the Libyan Red Crescent to distribute food, drinking water, medicine and other essential items to more than 10,000 people in the nearby cities of Tarhuna and Orban.

But they didn't mention anything about nerve gas or white phosphorous being used.

In Conclusion

Believe it or not, this article actually started out as a critique of "Libya and the Human Rights Double Standard" by Daniel Kovalick in Counterpunch. I quickly realized that to deal with his arguments, I would first need to deal with his misinformation with regards to the current situation in Bani Walid and his information seemed to come from Russia Today.

Once the Russia Today story on Bani Walid was dispatched, there was nothing left to deal with in Daniel Kovalick's piece except his stubbornly held view that overthrowing Qaddafi was a bad thing and "it was the U.S. and NATO which has unleashed this plague of violence upon the people of Libya." and those are views I've already addressed at length.

Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 1:27 PM PT: The Lebanon Daily Star gives us an update report on the situation in Bani Walid today:

Libya town wracked by political score-settling
November 01, 2012 01:13 PM
By Dominique Soguel
Agence France Presse

BANI WALID, Libya: Mohammed Saad and his family came home to a dead goat in their street, a rocket shell in the front yard and a burnt-out house, victims of score-settling that has rocked the Libyan town of Bani Walid.

They were among hundreds of families who returned on Wednesday to one of the final bastions of supporters of late Moamer Kadhafi, who fought on the losing side in last year's war to unseat him.

The town had been besieged and then attacked as authorities sought to arrest those who captured and tortured Omran Shaaban, a 22-year-old former rebel credited with Kadhafi's capture.

Shaaban spent weeks as a hostage before his release, and later died of his injuries, stoking tensions between his hometown of Misrata and Bani Walid, which galvanised the authorities to act.

"What does burning down homes have to do with searching for criminals of the former regime?" asked Saad, a father of five, after appraising the damage and concluding there was no alternative but to pitch a tent in the garden.

His nine-year-old son Amer let out a squeal of delight on discovering that his school satchel and books had survived the fire.

That was followed by a harrowing cry of "God, O, God," seconds laters as he spotted the bullet-riddled television.

The military operation ended a week ago when hundreds of fighters with different degrees of loyalty to the chief of staff, including armed groups from Misrata, seized the town and declared it "liberated."

"We heard on the radio that it was finally safe to return so we came to take a look," said Rahana Abdel Qadar, 85, inching along in a column of more than 300 vehicles headed towards a checkpoint manned by interior ministry forces. More...

These are my articles on the Libyan Revolution:
BREAKING: Libya | BaniWalid falls!
US Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens Murder Timeline
Libya: This is what democracy looks like - protesters take over HQ of Ansar al-Sharia
My answer to Secretary Clinton Re: US Death in Libya
Women and the Libyan Revolution
The Left and the Arab Spring
Libya's elected congress to take power today
The Elections and Libya's Violent Militias
#Libya at the crossroads: The ballot or the bullet
Is Libya better off than it was?
Libyan Elections to be held July 7th
Qaddafi forces Strike Back in Libya
Libya & Syria - two videos - no comment
BREAKING: Libyan High Court strikes down anti-free speech law
Where should Libya's Saif Qaddafi be tried?
MSM plays Hankey Panky with Libya
Qaddafi lies live on after him
Another "Houla style" massacre in Syria
Libya's Qaddafi helped US & Israel against Iran in Olympic Games
Why is Russia demanding NATO boots on the ground in Libya?
#LyElect Libyans register to vote 1st time in 60 years
Libya's Revolution: How We Won - The Internationale in the 21st Century
Good News from Libya
On Libya & Glenn Greenwald: Are the anti-interventionists becoming counter-revolutionaries?
UN: NATO killed 60 civilians in Libya
Libya in the news today
Amnesty International on Libya again
The Current Situation in Libya
Democracy Now & Amy Goodman gets it wrong again.
Why is Chris Hedges calling for "boots on the ground" in Libya?
The Worm Has Turned: Good Film on Libyan Revolution from PressTV
Why NATO's mission in Libya isn't over yet
Libya's Freedom Fighters: How They Won
Racism in Libya
Abdul Rahman Gave his Eyes to See the End of Qaddafi
BREAKING: Secret files reveal Dennis Kucinich talks with Qaddafi Regime
BREAKING: Libyan TNC won't extradite Lockerbie bomber
Who really beat Qaddafi?
#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 Joined
Helter 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