World View: Whatever Nato may say, the country is in the grip of a civil war that will resound for years to come
By Patrick Cockburn
A rebel fighter displays the US flag on his pick-up truck near Ajdabiya last week. Does the fool think that USrael came to liberate him? Unbelievable!
"....Crossing the Egyptian-Libyan border is, by way of contrast, not a problem, though the road journey from Cairo to Benghazi is a tedious 16- to 20-hour drive. Once in eastern Libya, dealing with the transitional council is easy since the council's main, and possibly only skill, is dealing with the foreign media. Anti-Gaddafi demonstrators are much better organised than anti-Gaddafi militiamen.
It would be difficult, in fact, to be worse organised than the rebel fighters who stream to and from from the front in their pick-ups. It is in taking too seriously these Gilbert-and-Sullivan advances and retreats that the media become badly misleading. The skirmishing in the small city of Ajdabiya, 90 minutes' drive south of Benghazi, comes across as if it was akin to the battle of Stalingrad. Neither side has the numbers or experience to set up fortified posts in the city or make an effort to hold it. In Misrata, fighting is more intense but never as fierce as Beirut at the height of the civil war.
All this matters because the exaggeration of the rebels' military strength has led to a misunderstanding of Nato's involvement. Barack Obama, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy started by claiming they were launching air strikes to defend civilians. This has since escalated into saying that the aim of the war is to get rid of Gaddafi.
The implications of these two aims, given the political and military balance of power in Libya, have never been made clear. Nato is not just aiding the rebels, but has already largely replaced them as Gaddafi's main military opponent. If he goes down, it will be because of massive foreign intervention. Second, it is absurd to demand as a precondition of a ceasefire that Gaddafi should go, because only he can deliver a ceasefire. His departure ought to be the objective of negotiations after a ceasefire, which, to have any credibility, would have to be policed by non-Nato troops.
When all this is over what will Libya look like? The country is gripped by civil war, whatever the rebels may say, and its legacy of hatred, like the troubled ghosts of Abu Ghraib, will take decades to disappear."