A fun thought circulating on Twitter today: Imagine if Chuckles here hadn’t given up his nuclear program in 2003 after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Believe it or not, he went on ranting on state TV this morning for a good hour and a half; the clip below will give you a taste, with the best part coming towards the end when he accuses demonstrators of being high on drugs. (Earlier in the vid, he argues that he can’t resign because he technically has no official position to resign from.) He also vowed to “fight until the last drop of my blood” and to “cleanse Libya house by house” of the “rats” who have caused him so much trouble this week, which, given the reports of bodies lying in the streets all over Tripoli, sounds like an exceedingly credible threat. In fact, he specifically mentioned Tiananmen Square at one point to show that he means business.
Which is to say, we’re now at the point where this guy simply can’t remain in power, even if he somehow rolls out enough mercenaries to beat down the protests once and for all. The risk of reprisal massacres against the population in the aftermath would be too great. He has to be removed, and if the demonstrators and Libyan army can’t do it, the UN will have to. Hopefully, the prospect of an international intervention will flip most of the remaining loyalists in the Libyan military to the other side and send Qaddafi’s mercenaries running back home, which in theory means it would all be over quickly. (Although we’ve heard that about invasions before, haven’t we?) The UN’s destined to play a major role anyway in the post-Qaddafi reconstruction of Libya, whether helping to form a central government or negotiating some sort of partition among the tribes, so having peacekeepers in place will be useful. (The tribes are the only functioning civic institution after 42 years of Qaffadism.) Any country out there want to volunteer troops for the effort? We’re tied up at the moment in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I don’t imagine that any of the Arab autocrats in the region are keen on supplying manpower towards the goal of eliminating tyranny, so unless the Egyptian military can be enticed into “spreading the revolution” next door (for a large fee), I’m not sure how it would work logistically. All theories welcome!
Here’s something to goose international cooperation on the anti-Qaddafi effort: If we don’t take him out, he might take out Libya’s oil infrastructure.
There’s been virtually no reliable information coming out of Tripoli, but a source close to the Gaddafi regime I did manage to get hold of told me the already terrible situation in Libya will get much worse. Among other things, Gaddafi has ordered security services to start sabotaging oil facilities. They will start by blowing up several oil pipelines, cutting off flow to Mediterranean ports. The sabotage, according to the insider, is meant to serve as a message to Libya’s rebellious tribes: It’s either me or chaos…
The source went on and told me that Gaddafi’s desperation has a lot to with the fact that he now can only count on the loyalty of his tribe, the Qadhadhfa. And as for the army, as of Monday he only has the loyalty of approximately 5,000 troops. They are his elite forces, the officers all handpicked. Among them is the unit commanded by his second youngest son Khamis, the 32nd Brigade. (The total strength of the regular Libyan army is 45,000.)
My Libyan source said that Gaddafi has told people around him that he knows he cannot retake Libya with the forces he has. But what he can do is make the rebellious tribes and army officers regret their disloyalty, turning Libya into another Somalia.
According to Al Jazeera, Libya’s interior minister — a.k.a. “Qaddafi’s number two” — resigned this afternoon and urged the military to side with the people, so who knows if there are even 5,000 troops left at this point to fight for the regime. There are surely plenty of mercenaries, though, whom Qaddafi can afford to pay for a long time coming given all the oil wealth he’s squirreled away over the years. The Security Council met this afternoon and is preparing a statement of strong condemnation and grave blah blah blah as I write this; while we wait, here’s the clip of the speech and, below that, what purports to be real-time reaction from the anti-Qaddafi stronghold of Benghazi. It speaks for itself.