That's the charge the National Journal's Marc Ambinder makes in his very interesting new book on Joint Special Operations Command, coauthored with D.B. Grady.
The U.S. intelligence community took advantage of the chaos to spread resources of its own into the country. Using valid U.S. passports and posing as construction and aid workers, dozens of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operatives and contractors flooded in without the requisite background checks from the country's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. Al-Qaeda had reconstituted itself in the country's tribal areas, largely because of the ISI's benign neglect. In Afghanistan, the ISI was actively undermining the U.S.-backed government of Hamid Karzai, training and recuiting for the Taliban, which it viewed as the more reliable partner. The political system was in chaos. The Pakistani army was focused on the threat from India and had redeployed away from the Afghanistan border region, the Durand line, making it porous once again. To some extent, the Bush administration had been focused on Iraq for the previous two years, content with the ISI's cooperation in capturing senior al-Qaeda leaders, while ignoring its support of other groups tha would later become recruiting grounds for al-Qaeda.
A JSOC intelligence team slipped in alongside the CIA. The team had several goals. One was prosaic: team members were to develop rings of informants to gather targeting information about al-Qaeda terrorists. Other goals were extremely sensitive: JSOC needed better intelligence about how Pakistan tranported its nuclear weapons and wanted to pentrate the ISI. Under a secret program code-named SCREEN HUNTER, JSOC, augmented by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and contract personnel, was authorized to shadow and identify members of the ISI suspected of being sympathetic to al-Qaeda. It is not clear whether JSOC units used lethal force against these ISI officers; one official said that the goal of the program was to track terrorists through the ISI by using disinformation and psychological warfare. (The program, by then known under a different name, was curtailed by the Obama administration when Pakistan's anxiety about a covert U.S. presence inside the country was most intense.)
Meanwhile, rotating teams of SEALs from DEVGRU Black squadron, aided by Rangers and other special operations forces, established a parallel terroris-hunting capability called VIGILANT HARVEST. They operated in the border areas of Pakistan deemed off limits to Americans, and they targeted courier networks, trainers, and facilitators. (Legally, these units would operate under the authority of the CIA any time they crossed the border.) Some of their missions were coordinated with Pakistan; others were not. As of 2006, teams of Green Berets were regularly crossing the border. Missions involved as few as three or four operators quietly trekking across the line, their movements monitored by U.S. satellites and drones locked onto the cell phones of these soldiers. (The cell phones were encrypted in such a way that made them undetectable to Pakistani intelligence.) Twice in 2008, Pakistani officials caught wind of these missions, and in one instance, Pakistani soldiers operating in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas fired guns into the air to prevent the approach of drones.
Forward intelligence cells in Pakistan are staffed by JSOC-contracted security personnel from obscure firms with insider names such as Triple Canopy and various offshoots of Blackwater, but it is not clear whether, as Jeremy Scahill of the Nation has argued, the scale of these operations was operationally significant or that the contractors acted as hired guns for the U.S. government. Sources say that only U.S. soldiers performed "kinetic" operations; Scahill's sources suggest otherwise. The security compartments were so small for these operations (one was known as QUIET STORM, a particularly specialized mission targeting the Pakistani Taliban in 2008) that the Command will probably be insulated from retrospective oversight about its activities. A senior Obama administration official said that by the middle of 2011, after tensions between the United States and the Pakistani government had reached an unhealthy degree of danger, all JSOC personnel except for its declared military trainers were ferreted out of the country. (They were easy to find using that same secret cell phone pinging technology.) Those who remained were called Omegas, a term denoting their temporary designation as members of the reserve force. They then joined any one of a dozen small contracting companies set up by the CIA, which turned these JSOC soldiers into civilians, for the purposes of deniability.
A correspondent in Doha, Qatar, sends in these pictures of Libyan ex-foreign minister and spy chief Musa Kusa taking a stroll near his "villa" in the outskirts of town. During the war, following his dramatic defection from Muammar al-Qaddafi's regime, Kusa first fled to London before setting up shop at the five-star Four Seasons Doha, where he was often seen enjoying Italian cuisine and smoking in the lobby, I'm told:
Funny story: a retired CIA case officer, whose name I won't share, was coincidentally placed into a room next to Kusa's, a fact my source discovered when the ex-diplomat at one point was banished from the lobby by either the hotel or his Qatari hosts, and had to resort to pacing the hall outside his room. At one point, Kusa knocked on the former CIA guy's door and asked for a cigarette; on another occasion he tried to enter the wrong room by mistake. Eventually, the Qataris (and the hotel management) got sick of him and he moved out.
In any case, as you can see, Kusa's new digs are not quite so luxurious:
Move over, WikiLeaks: There's a new sheriff in town.
The shadowy hacker collective Anonymous struck again late Sunday evening, exposing the email accounts of top aides to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and posting the passwords online for all to see (most of them were -- literally -- "12345").
Expatriate Syrians pounced, gleefully delving through this treasure trove and pulling out newsworthy gems (some even joked about sending replies from the accounts, for example, "Curse your soul, Hafez"). There were few smoking guns, but one email, from U.N.-based press aide Sheherazad Jaafari to Damascus-based press aide Luna Chebel, was particularly interesting. It advises the presidential office on how to best handle Assad's Dec. 7 interview with ABC's Barbara Walters. If this is the quality of staff work Bashar al-Assad is getting... well, it explains a lot:
Please let me know if you need anything else.
Barbara will be here on the 2nd and the interview will be on the 4th because she is leaving on the 6th so that would give you some time to do the editing.
After doing a major research on the American Media's coverage on the Syrian issue and the American Society's perspective of what is happening on the Syrian ground, I have concluded some important points that might be helpful for the preparation of the upcoming interview with Barbara Walters.
I based my research on online articles written about the Syrian issue, my personal contacts with the American journalists, my father and Syrian expatriates in the States.
The Major points and dimensions that has been mentioned a lot in the American media are:
* The idea of violence has been one of the major subjects brought up in every article. They use the phrases "the Syrian government is killing its own people", "Tanks have been used in many cities", "airplanes have been used to suppress the peaceful demonstrations" and "Security forces are criminals and bloody".
· Bloodshed is another subject brought up in the American media. There is no mention of how many "soldiers and security forces have been killed". They think that bloodshed is done by the government to attack the "innocent civilians" and "peaceful demonstrators". Mentioning "armed groups" in the interview is extremely important and we can use "American and British articles" to prove that there are "armed gangs".
· The American audience doesn't really care about reforms. They won't understand it and they are not interested to do so. Thus, a brief mention of the reforms done in the past couple of months is more than enough.
· It is very important to mention the huge economical and political transformation that Syria has gone through in the last 11 years. Somehow, there needs to be a clarification that reform started since H.E took the office.
· It is hugely important and worth mentioning that "mistakes" have been done in the beginning of the crises because we did not have a well-organized "police force". American Psyche can be easily manipulated when they hear that there are "mistakes" done and now we are "fixing it". Its worth mentioning also what is happening now in Wall Street and the way the demonstrations are been suppressed by police men, police dogs and beatings.
"Syria doesn't have a policy to torture people" unlike the USA, where there are courses and schools that specializes in teaching police men and officers how to torture criminals and "outlaws". For instace, "the electric chair and killing through injecting an overdose amount of medicine"...etc.
*We can use Abu Ghraib in Iraq as an example.
· The comments that follow any article in the American Media are a very important tool to use in the interview. The Americans now believe that their government has failed two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are asking their government to stop interfering in other countries businesses and sovereignty and to start taking care of the American internal issues.
Obama popularity's decline and incline through the past 3 years:
· It is worth mentioning that when Obama asked H.E to step down he himself have had a 70% decrease of his popularity in the States.
· It would be worth mentioning how your personality has been attacked and praised in the last decade according to the media. At one point H.E was viewed as a hero and in other times H.E was the "bad guy". Americans love these kinds of things and get convinced by it.
Facebook and You tube:
This is very important to the American mindset. The fact that Facebook and youtube are open now-especially during the crises- is important.
The International media:
· We should mention that in the first month the international media was allowed in Syria. Both al Jazeera and al Arabia's offices were open but when they started to manipulate what is happening and "make up facts", the Syrian government became more cautious about who will enter the country.
10) Civil war in Syria and the neighboring countries:
We can use Noland and Hillary's statements encouraging armed groups to not give up their weapons as a "clear" way of asking for a civil war in Syria.
11) The opposition:
* a brief mention of the opposition "figures". Syria doesn't have an opposition leader with a "ready" agenda; they are all from the previous generation. The opposition was asked to meet by the Syrian government but most of them refused to attend.
The government's crackdown, the bloody regime, civil war, security forces and violence, Tanks, you tube torture clips, Pres. Assad IGNORES the bloodshed and the "help" of other countries and the Arab League", Army defectors, Robert Fords return to the US for "Security reasons", Syria is an authoritarian government.
The Broadcasting hours and channels:
· The interview will be broadcast across ABC News platforms - including World News, Good Morning America, This Week, ABC Radio, a full edition of Nightline, and full-length treatment across the digital space (for ABC News this now includes Yahoo as well - which means you can reach as many as 100 million people. ABC News and Yahoo recently joined forces - which is another reason why so many people now bring their interviews to us).
The exact dates/times for all these broadcasts depends on when the interview is done.
This is all ABC News - every platform. The entire interview would run on ABC News Digital; "Nightline" will devote an entire broadcast; "World News" at least one night, maybe two; "Good Morning America" a segment; "This Week" a segment. And so on.
Thanks to Fadi Mqayed for the pointer.
The news gods have apparently decided it's time for yet another round of Washington's favorite parlor game: "Will Israel attack Iran?"
The latest round of speculation was kicked off by a mammoth New York Times magazine article by Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman, who concluded, "After speaking with many senior Israeli leaders and chiefs of the military and the intelligence, I have come to believe that Israel will indeed strike Iran in 2012."
Veteran Iran hand Gary Sick ably dispensed with Bergman's argument here, noting that his reporting actually points toward the opposite conclusion:
Like virtually all other commentators on this issue, Bergman slides over the fact that the IAEA consistently reports that Iran has diverted none of its uranium to military purposes. Like others, he focuses on the recent IAEA report, which was the most detailed to date in discussing Iran’s suspected experiments with military implications; but like others, he fails to mention that almost all of the suspect activity took place seven or more years ago and there is no reliable evidence that it has resumed. A problem, yes; an imminent threat, no.
Bergman also overlooks the fact that Iran has almost certainly NOT made a decision to actually build a bomb and that we are very likely to know if they should make such a decision. How would we know? Simply because those pesky IAEA inspectors are there on site and Iran would have to kick them out and break the seals on their stored uranium in order to produce the high enriched uranium needed for a bomb.
Would Israel actually attack while these international inspectors are at work? No, they would need to give them warning, thereby giving Iran warning that something was coming. The IAEA presence is a trip wire that works both ways. It is an invaluable resource. Risking its loss would be not only foolhardy but self-destructive to Israel and everyone else.
But Bergman's article isn't the only recent bite at this apple. Foreign Affairs hosted a debate between former Defense Department officials Matthew Kroenig and Colin Kahl on whether the United States should bomb Iran itself; Foreign Policy's Steve Walt went several rounds with Kroenig; defense analysts Edridge Colby and Austin Long joined the discussion in the National Interest. Many others weighed in.
Today, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius threw another log on the fire when he reported that U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta "believes there is a strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June" and that the Obama administration is "conducting intense discussions about what an Israeli attack would mean for the United States." He added: "U.S. officials don’t think that Netanyahu has made a final decision to attack, and they note that top Israeli intelligence officials remain skeptical of the project." (Reuters notes archly that Ignatius was "writing from Brussels where Panetta was attending a NATO defense ministers' meeting.")
There have also been a number of items in recent days about Iran's murky ties to al Qaeda, including this Foreign Affairs article by Rand analyst Seth Jones and what appeared to be a follow-up report in the Wall Street Journal (never mind that the information was nearly two years old), as well as a steady drumbeat of alarmist quotes from top Israeli officials -- all reminiscent of the run up to the Iraq war. Add to this mix Iran's threat to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, an ongoing congresssional push for tougher sanctions, and the heated rhetoric coming from Obama's Republican challengers, and you have a recipe for a media feeding frenzy.
Most likely, the real drivers of this latest round are the Western attempts to persuade Iran's Asian customers -- China, India, Japan, South Korea -- to stop buying Iranian oil by persuading them that the only alternative is war. Those efforts are probably doomed, despite Israel's increasingly convincing ambiguity about its ultimate intentions. Asian countries simply don't care all that much about the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon -- they care about their own prosperity above all.
So, is Israel going to attack Iran, despite all of the doubts many have raised? There are only two people who know the answer to that question -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Defense Minister Ehud Barak -- and I don't think they'll announce their decision in the New York Times. The smart money's still betting against an Israeli strike, but the odds do seem to be getting shorter.
In a bombshell revelation sure to reverberate around the world, the Washington Post quotes a senior U.S. intelligence official seeming to suggest that the United States' goal in Iran is now the collapse of the regime. The story's headline: "Goal of Iran sanctions is regime collapse, U.S. official says."
I say "suggest" because the Post never directly quotes the official saying outright that regime change is the policy. Here's the key passage:
The goal of U.S. and other sanctions against Iran is regime collapse, a senior U.S. intelligence official said, offering the clearest indication yet that the Obama administration is at least as intent on unseating Iran's government as it is on engaging with it.
The official, speaking this week on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said the administration hopes that sanctions "create enough hate and discontent at the street level" that Iranians will turn against their government.
What's more, the story's authors -- Karen DeYoung and Scott Wilson, two very seasoned and careful reporters -- also spoke with a "senior administration official" who contradicted that line:
A senior administration official, speaking separately, acknowledged that public discontent was a likely result of more punitive sanctions against Iran's already faltering economy. But this official said it was not the administration's intent to press the Iranian people toward an attempt to oust their government.
"The notion that we've crossed into sanctions being about regime collapse is incorrect," the administration official said. "We still very much have a policy that is rooted in the notion that you need to supply sufficient pressure to compel [the government] to change behavior as it's related to their nuclear program."
Dennis Ross, a top Middle East advisor who recently left the White House, also told De Young and Wilson that regime change was not the goal of the sanctions. And he should know, because he helped design them.
So what's going on? I suspect that the first source, the "senior U.S. intelligence official," may have misspoken, or been somehow misinterpreted. Pursuing regime change in a well-armed country of 78 million is no small matter, nor is it the sort of thing that can be ascertained from a blind quote that's immediately contradicted by other sources. (It's also very much worth noting that the harshest sanctions -- on Iran's central bank -- were imposed by Congress over the White House's objections.)
Still, as my colleague Dan Drezner noted yesterday, the Obama team may be hoping that sanctions can open up fissures within the Iranian regime and provoke internal political strife -- thus giving the United States and its allies more leverage. That's not quite the same thing as regime change, however.
It's important to remember that Iranians themselves haven't called en masse for regime change. The protests that broke out over the stolen 2009 presidential election were mainly about calling for a recount or a revote, not about bringing down the entire clerical system. More Iranians may eventually conclude that "everything must go," but as far as we can tell they aren't there yet.
There is a certain political appeal in calling for regime change in Iran, I'll admit. Obama is being pilloried daily by the Republican presidential hopefuls for not doing enough to stop Iran's nuclear program, and he seems highly unlikely to agree to a bombing campaign that may or may not succeed in doing the job. But if he can say that he's trying to overthrow the mullahs rather than negotiate with them, he might be able to neutralize that line of attack. That's probably a bad idea, and it's no way to make foreign policy, but it wouldn't be the first time an American politician behaved like, well, a politician.
UPDATE: The Post has now changed its headline, substantially revised the top of the story, and appended a correction. The new headline reads: "Public ire one goal of Iran sanctions, U.S. official says." That's more like it.
The tiny Persian Gulf state of Qatar, a Connecticut-sized thumb of a nation sticking out of the side of Saudi Arabia, played a huge role in the overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi, pushing for a no-fly zone and sending significant amounts of weapons, advisers, and supplies to support the Benghazi-based rebels. Qatar's Al Jazeera satellite channel cheered on the rebel fighters and hosted prominent opposition figures on its airwaves. The country also helped set up a satellite channel for the interim National Transitional Council, and provided its leaders with housing in swank hotels in downtown Doha. Last week, I attended a victory party hosted by Qatar in the capital city's restored souq, which was festooned with banners congratulating the new Libya on its liberation.
In recent weeks, however, some Libyan political figures have been ramping up their criticism of Qatar for allegedly favoring Islamist leaders like exiled cleric Ali Sallabi and Tripoli Brigade leader Abdel Hakim Belhaj, a former head of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, over more secular-minded folks, and for circumventing the NTC.
Until now, such criticism has been couched in polite, but firm terms: Thanks for helping liberate us, but you need to butt out now. Qatar even signed an agreement pledging non-interference in Libya's internal affairs.
But yesterday, Abdel Rahman Shalgham, Qaddafi's longtime foreign minister and later U.N. ambassador who broke with the old regime in a dramatic, tear-filled speech in New York on Feb. 25, unloaded on Qatar. Shalgham, mind you, is still Libya's ambassador to Turtle Bay.
On possible Qatar led coalition in Libya - Shalgam: I don't understand this coalition & I don't accept it
Shalgam: Even the Libyans don't understand this (possible Qatar led coalition) Qatar leading America & France? Who is Qatar?
Shalgam: Does Qatar even have an army? Qatar only has mercenaries, from Nepal & from Bangladesh & from Pakistan.
Shalgam: What capability does Qatar have? Our brothers from Qatar helped us but I fear Qatar will meet the fate of Gaddafi's megalomania.
Shalgam: Qatar might have delusions of leading the region. I absolutely do not accept their presence (in Libya) at all.
Shalgam: The number of Libyan martyrs & injured & missing, if you count them, is greater than the number of Qatar's residents.
Shalgam: What is Qatar doing there (in Libya)? Qatar isn't neutral with all parties. Qatar will gather these weapons & give them to others.
Shalgam: Libya is in no need of Qatar's money. It was Nato that played a decisive role.
Shalgam: The professionals who run the oil & banking industries in Qatar are Libyans.
Shalgam: What makes Qatar so special that it sets up an operations room (in Libya) to lead Britain & the US, this is totally unacceptable.
Shalgam: All of Qatar isn't worth a neighbourhood in Libya. The Libyan experts are the ones who are leading Qatar.
Shalgam: We don't need Qatar in anything, thanks for their efforts, we will decide our own destiny, we don't want them to interfere
Shalgam: We don't consider them neutral in Libya, they are backing certain people, we know their names.
Shalgam: We don't need America or Qatar, we have officers and everything. | Question from anchor - "Was Qatar forced on the Libyans?"
Shalgam: This is unacceptable. There was no document. They gathered in meeting in Doha. Qatar forced Qatar (on Libya)
Shalgam: Sheikh Mustafa Abdul Jalil (NTC head) went to Qatar with apolitical people who don't know the background & didn't read the document
Shalgam: They accepted the document. I warn our brothers in Qatar, if they continue this path to dominate Libya they would be delusional.
Shalgam: We will resist the Qataris by all means. We will not accept to be used by Qatar.
Shalgam: We will not accept to be a new emirate that belongs to the new "Emir of the Believers" in Qatar.
Shalgam: I do not rule out Qatar setting up a Hezbollah party in Libya. We don't want a foreign country to interfere.
So much for gratitude! Let's see how the Qataris respond.
In February, when Libya erupted in spontaneous protests that quickly turned into an armed revolt, Muammar al-Qaddafi and his son Seif al-Islam had a ready response: This was an al Qaeda-backed uprising, a plot to install "Islamic emirates" paying homage to Osama bin Laden.
The world scoffed (especially after the Qaddafis accused the revolutionaries of a lot more outlandish things, from putting hallucinogenic drugs in their Nescafe to being simple "criminals"). These weren't jihadist terrorists -- they were ordinary Libyans seeking freedom from an evil, capricious tyrant. And their leaders were secular liberals, people like Mahmoud Jibril, Mahmoud Shammam, and Ali Tarhouni -- who sold the revolution to the West and made NATO intervention politically palatable.
This narrative was challenged as it became evident that some of the best anti-Qaddafi fighters were Islamists like the February 17 Martyrs Brigade, which was later accused by some of killing interim "defense minister" Abdel Fattah Younis. Then, when Tripoli fell in August, one of the most prominent figures to emerge was Abdel Hakim Belhaj, the bearded former emir of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Belhaj -- who claims to have been tortured by the CIA -- was at pains to differentiate himself from al Qaeda, but his sudden ascension took many by surprise. Leading Libyan Islamists like exiled cleric Ali al-Sallabi began to agitate against the secularists on the interim council, and Jibril's continuance in office became untenable.
All this, however, was merely an undercurrent, and the world got swept up in the excitement of the fall of Tripoli and the subsequent liberation of Qaddafi's strongholds in Bani Walid and Sirte. Last week, the Brother Leader himself was captured and appears to have been executed later that day.
The issue of religion in politics came roaring back Sunday, however, when interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil, thought to be a moderate, declared in his "liberation" address that Libya would be an Islamic state and that sharia law would be a fundamental source of legislation. That remark differed little from statements he had made previously, however (and all Arab states have similar provisions in their constitutions). What did catch people's attention was when he got into specifics: Libya's new constitution "will not disallow polygamy," he said, and charging interest will be forbidden.
Libyans seemed satisfied, but secular Arab commentators were taken aback. Sultan al-Qassemi, an Emirati columnist, tweeted that Abdel Jalil had just declared "the Islamic Republic of Libya." Gulf News editor Abdul Hamid Ahmad said "Mustafa Abdul Jalil has just given an evidence to all [the] world that [the] Arab uprising will end up to be Islamic states."
No doubt the international press is going to have a field day, and there will be some serious soul-searching in Western capitals, especially coming after the shocking way in which Qaddafi was killed and the far-from-transparent way in which his autopsy was conducted.
It's hardly surprising that Libya is heading in a more religious direction -- the vast majority of Libyans are conservative Muslims, after all -- but what is somewhat alarming is the way Abdel Jalil simply decreed these things from the podium. If Libyans want to outlaw interest and bring back polygamy, fine, but let them do so in a democratic and transparent way: Write a new constitution and let the country vote on it.
What's amazing is that Abdel Jalil's speech happened on a day when, next door, Tunisians lined up to vote in what look to be free and fair elections to choose a constitutional assembly. Maybe they'll end up granting a plurality to the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, and maybe a coalition of liberal and leftist parties will emerge to promote a secular state. Either way, the important thing is that the people are getting a chance to choose in an open and institutionalized process. After today, the gnawing doubts that Libyans will be able to do the same will only grow.
UPDATE: I should note that others had a different interpretation of Abdel Jalil's speech. Al Jazeera English reports him calling for "a democratic state based on Islamic law" (their paraphrase) and quote him saying, "We strive for a state of the law, for a state of prosperity, for a state that will have Islamic sharia law the basis of legislation."
I should also add that, while there are clear differences between technocrats like Tarhouni and Islamists like Belhaj, I don't think religion will much be a faultline in Libyan politics -- it's pretty clear where the bulk of the population stands: in the conservative middle. What is worrisome are the clear geographic faultlines -- between east and west, for instance, or between the Western mountains and the coast. Perhaps, then, Islam can serve as a glue that unifies the country as splits begin to emerge over reconstruction, how to distribute oil revenues, and the some $200 billion Qaddafi left behind.
Tom Malinowski, whose opinion I respect tremendously, emails to tell me I've got this all wrong:
I just read your post on Abdeljelil declaring an Islamic state. I thought I was mostly on point, but don’t think it’s correct to say that Abdeljelil tried to decree anything. It’s always been his style to speak in simple declarative terms about what the NTC believes and plans to do, but that does not mean he is making law, which he is in no position to do. I was very happy when he said to a big crowd in Tripoli that there would be women in the post-liberation transitional government, and of course all the times he has made commitments about humane treatment of prisoners, respect for the rule of law, demanding no revenge attacks on Qaddafi supporters, and so forth. In these cases, I almost wish he had the power to decree what he says! But that’s not the case, and I don’t think that was his intention in this speech. He was simply making a personal commitment to the goals he outlined.
He is a very conservative, religious man – the first time I met him, when he was still a Qaddafi minister, he was playing Koranic music in his office; and he has always framed discussion of issues in religious terms. Plus he is a politician (which is a good thing) who must appeal to his base in a largely conservative, Muslim country. Indeed, the reason he has been able to play the largely positive, unifying role he has played over the last few months is that Libyans do not see him as a westernized secularist like Tarhuni and Jebril. When he talks about Libya needing to be part of the world, respectful of international norms, and the like, they trust him more than the others.
So, we shall see. This whole issue of the role of Islam will be debated in Libya over the coming year. Things could still come out very badly. But no one has decided anything. What we have is what we hoped for – an open discussion among Libyans of what kind of country they want.
ABDULLAH DOMA/AFP/Getty Images
As videos and various accounts emerge of the violent final minutes of Muammar al-Qaddafi's life -- which certainly looks to be a summary execution -- international organizations from the United Nations to Amnesty International to Human Rights Watch are issuing statements calling for an investigation into the circumstances of his death.
Human Rights Watch writes, in a carefully pitched statement that first calls for accountability for crimes committed under Qaddafi's 42-year reign, writes, "The council should also investigate the circumstances leading to the death of Gaddafi, including whether he was killed while in detention, which would constitute a serious violation of the laws of war. Human Rights Watch called on the NTC to set up an internationally supervised autopsy to establish Gaddafi's cause of death. "
We're also seeing a lot of pious commentary about how if Libya's transitional government doesn't get to the bottom of what happened, it's a troubling sign of its commitment to democracy, etc., etc.
All of this is no doubt well-intentioned, and yes, in an ideal world the Brother Leader would have been duly brought to trial and prosecuted in a fair and transparent process that brought healing to the victims of his regime. But that's not what happened, it probably wouldn't have happened, and ultimately it may not matter much.
For one thing, the entire war was pretty much a legal farce to begin with. The U.N. Security Council resolution enabling it called for countries to take action to protect civilians -- and yet NATO stretched that definition to the breaking point, more or less functioning as close air support for rebel fighters. France, Qatar, and the UAE sent weapons. Sometimes NATO's contortions on this matter reached the level of farce, like the rationale a senior officer provided the LA Times Thursday about striking Qaddafi's convoy: "Those vehicles seemed to be directing the actions of the others, and they were struck. For all we know it could have been a lower-level leader." Ha, ha.
Furthermore, as Shashank Joshi notes, the real issue to worry about in Libya right now isn't some kind of fanciful, abstract notion of the rule of law -- that's a long way off, clearly -- it's whether the transitional government can get control of the dozens of militias that sprang up spontaneously to fight Qaddafi. (Though, given that it was a Misratan brigade that probably whacked the Brother Leader and dragged him through the streets of town, it's admittedly hard to separate that vital issue from Qaddafi's killing.)
So, am I troubled by the manner of Qaddafi's death? Yes. But it's not realistic to expect people that have been ruled for four decades by a brutal tyrant -- who left no institutions left behind and called his people "rats" as he vowed to hunt them down "alley by alley"-- to behave like Western democrats when they finally catch him. Far more important than getting to the bottom of Qaddafi's end is stabilizing the country itself and standing up a legitimate government as soon as possible.
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