by Franklin Lamb
Tripoli, Libya – At 10 a.m., Tripoli time, on June 28, 2011, the Libyan Ministry of Health made available to this observer its compilation entitled, “Current Statistics of Civilian Victims of NATO Bombardments on Libya, 3/19/11 – 6/27/11.”
Before releasing their data, it was confirmed by the findings of the Libyan Red Crescent Society and also by civil defense workers in the neighborhoods bombed, and then vetted by researchers at Tripoli’s al-Nassr University (Nassar University).
As of July 1, 2011, military casualties have not been officially released by the Libyan armed forces.
In summary, the MOH compilation documents that during the first 100 days of NATO targeting of civilians, 6,121 were killed or injured. The statistical breakdown is as follows: 668 men were killed and 3,093 were injured, 260 women were killed and 1,318 injured, 141 children were killed and 641 injured. Of those seriously injured, 655 are still under medical care in hospitals while 4,397 have been released to their families for outpatient care.
NATO claims that private apartments and homes, schools, shops, factories, crops and warehouses storing sacks of flour were legitimate military targets are not believed by anyone here in Libya and, to date, NATO has failed to provide a scintilla of evidence that the 15 civilians – mainly children and their aunts and mothers – who were torn to pieces by eight NATO rockets in the Salman neighborhood last week were legitimate military targets.
Tripoli’s 3,200 neighborhoods, independently from the Libyan armed forces, are intensively preparing for the possibility that NATO forces – or those they are seen as increasingly arming and directing – might invade the cosmopolitan greater Tripoli area during the coming weeks or months.
This observer has had the opportunity to visit some of these neighborhoods the past couple of nights and will continue to do so. As noted earlier, contrary to some media reports by the BBC, CNN and CBS, Tripoli’s neighborhoods during the cool evenings with wafting sea breezes are not tense, “dangerous for foreigners [or] in control of trigger happy soldiers or militias.” The latter assessment is nonsense. Americans and others are welcomed and their presence appreciated.
Libyans are anxious to explain their points of view, a common one of which is that they are not all about Qaddafi but about protecting the family, homes and neighborhoods from foreign invaders. A majority does support the Qaddafi leadership, which is what they received with their mother’s milk, but nearly all emphasize that for them and their friends it is very much about defending their revolution and country first.
They appear to this observer to be very well informed about the motives of NATO and those countries that are intensively targeting their leader and their officials without regard to civilians being killed. It’s about oil and reshaping Africa and the Middle East.
Sitting and chatting with neighborhood-watch teams is actually an extremely enjoyable way to learn about and to get to know the Libyan people and how they view events unfolding in their country. It certainly beats hanging out at “the bar” at the hotel where the Western mainstream media often gather their journalistic insights and pontificate about what “the real deal is,” as one told me the other day. I could not figure out much that he was talking about.
On the evening of July 1, 2011, as many as 1 million Libyan citizens are expected to gather at Tripoli’s Green Square to register their resistance to NATO’s intensifying civilian targeting blitz. Some Western journalists will not attend this news event because they are afraid of potential danger or their stateside bureaus are suggesting they stay away “so as not to legitimize the gathering.” What has become of orientalist journalism?
It’s about oil and reshaping Africa and the Middle East.
The neighborhoods in Libya are preparing for a ground invasion and to confront directly the invaders with a plan that one imagines would not be unfamiliar to a Gen. Giap of Vietnam or a Chinese Gen. Lin Peio, being a massive people’s defense. It has been organized with a house by house, street by street defense plan for every neighborhood and will include all available weaponry.
The defenders are not military, although many of the older ones had undergone one year compulsory service following high school. Their ranks include every able-bodied woman and man from age 18 to 65. Younger or older will not be refused.
Following a Hezbollah model, they are organized into five-person squads once they complete their training. It works like this: Anyone over 18 years of age can report to his neighborhood “tent.” Knowing virtually everyone in the area, the person will make an application and will be vetted on an AK-47, M-16 or other light arm. Depending on his or her skill level, the applicant will be accepted and given a photo ID that lists the weapons that he or she qualified on. If the applicant needs more training or is a novice, it is provided at the location, which includes a training area, a tent with mattresses for sleeping, a makeshift latrine and a canteen.
The basic training for those with no arms experience, including women, is 45 days. Past that, the commitment is four months. Each accepted individual is issued a rifle, normally an AK-47 “Klash” along with 120 rounds of ammo. Each individual is asked to return in one week to discuss their training and show that they did not waste their bullets, which cost around $1 each. If approved, they will be issued more.
Those who begin their duty work one eight-hour shift. Women tend to work during the day when kids are in school but I have seen many women also on the night shift. Most men have regular jobs and proudly explain that they volunteer one work shift daily for their country. They appear to be admired by their neighbors.
I agreed not to describe other weapons that will be used if NATO appears besides rifles, grenades, booby-traps and rocket propelled grenades (RPG’s), but they appear formidable.
But besides preparing for armed defense of their families and homes and neighbors, these neighborhood volunteer civil defense teams explained to me what their main work involves.
When an area is bombed, they quickly help the residents exit their bombed building, get medical help on the scene for those who need it, help the families assure the frightened children that things are OK, make notes of needed repairs, provide temporary shelter nearby if needed and countless other tasks the reader can imagine would be required from a humanitarian, civilian perspective.
Each checkpoint becomes a neighborhood-watch security center for the community.
Cars are cursorily checked – usually just the trunk. Often the drivers are known to the security forces, many of whom are university students, because they are also from the area. Occasionally a car will stop and a citizen will exit and deliver a tray of fruit, pastries or a pot of Libyan soup etc. – a very congenial social atmosphere.
Because NATO has been increasing its bombing of these civilian manned checkpoints, about 50 of which are along the road from the Tunisian border to Tripoli, the neighborhood-watch teams are now operating without lights at night. Those on night duty have each been issued one of those small, heavy duty, 5-inch mini flashlights, which have a powerful beam. This observer was presented one as a souvenir and can attest to its fine quality.
They are civilian because they are volunteers and the regular policemen and women have, in large numbers, joined an army unit hidden elsewhere.
In addition to its current problems, NATO will face another major one if they decide to invade western Libya.
Franklin Lamb, author of “The Price We Pay: A Quarter-Century of Israel’s Use of American Weapons Against Civilians in Lebanon,” is doing research in Libya. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He asks readers to sign the petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/ssfpcrc/petition.html. This story previously appeared on AlManar and Uprooted Palestinians.
Recorded July 10, 2011