News of Abuses
With a little illegal help with air-dropped weapons, rebel forces in the western Nafusah mountains have in July been able to expand their holdings from Az Zintan outward to towns like Qawalish, aka Gualish, between Mizdah and Gherian in the desert of southwestern Libya. There the liberators discovered a number of "African mercenaries", and trumpeted to the world as supporting the claim they'd been making since February 18. As NPR found, Gaddafi's army was "hiring sub-Saharan Africans" to replace those lost in the war, but upon inspection "they aren't the fearsome mercenaries described by many rebels." They were all amateurs, culled from Libya's body of undocumented workers, and simply didn't exist as a force before April at the earliest.
It seems that the rebels were less forthcoming with some others among the town's defenders, and we have New York Times columnist C.J. Chivers and his towering photographer Bryan Denton to thank. He wrote on July 10 about abuses during the taking of Qawalish, whose entire population had fled in advance, as if the Mongols were coming. It then became evident why - Chivers witnessed open and massive looting (especially of grains, animal feed, and straw, possibly "punitive," he thought) and burning certain homes (especially of the loyalist Mashaashia tribe). They drained the only gas station of fuel, and then burned the place. Sounds a bit punitive, and highly criminal, to me. He also noted:
What was obvious and beyond dispute by Sunday was only this: Whatever their motivation, the behavior of rebels in Qawalish, who have been supported by the NATO military campaign against Colonel Qaddafi, was at odds with the NATO mandate to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, and at odds with rebel pledges to free and protect the Libyan population.On July 12, Chivers reported back with the supportive findings of Human Rights Watch, adding news of reprisal beating across the area.
Moreover, the leadership of the Free Libyan Forces, for all the statements otherwise, appeared to lack the ability or inclination to prevent these crimes.
The rebels say they plan to push further through the mountains soon, toward the city of Garyan. Will the villages along the way suffer Qawalish’s fate?
Col. Mukhtar Farnana, the region’s senior commander, said that reprisals were not sanctioned and that he did not know any details about them.Maybe some of them were patriots like that - it might just take a team effort, civilian and government, to turn back the no-longer civilian rebel forces and their multi-government outside support, and its air power presence. The local commanders might have hit on something their soft-hearted patrons don't realize - maybe starving out these cities and clearing them of loyalist people - everyone if necessary - is the only way to free those towns the way NATO and the rebels want. Destroying villages to save them is nothing new.
But Human Rights Watch said the same commander shared details with its investigators and conceded that rebels had abused people suspected of being collaborators as towns changed hands.
“People who stayed in the towns were working with the army,” the organization quoted him as saying. “Houses that were robbed and broken into were ones that the army had used, including for ammunition storage.” The commander added, “Those people who were beaten were working for Qaddafi’s brigades.”
Daniel Larison at the American Conservative, on July 11, called Chivers' dispatch "a balanced, detailed report," but astutely noted:
The depressing thing about Chivers’ report is that this sort of behavior from an ill-disciplined insurgent force advancing into likely hostile territory is completely unsurprising and entirely to be expected.Indeed, amazing and relevant as the reportage is, the public shock comes across as naive. These atterns especially apply in Libya, 2011, where the spirited, "Allahu Akbar" shouting, weapon-confiscating, absolved-of-everything buggers at first gleefully filmed themselves butchering their captives, as can be seen in their own Rebel Atrocity Videos. Most of their victims were military, but some were foreign workers, and at least one was a truck driver from the Warfalla tribe. Mr. Hamza al-Gheit Fughi, was executed in March; the assassins filmed themselves painstakingly removing his head with a knife, for refusing to denounce Gaddafi.
By and large, these artifacts of cruelty show black-skinned men beaten, hanged, shot, hacked, burnt, degraded, displayed, and always called African mercenaries. If what the experts have found so far holds across the field, none of them were mercenaries, but those things did happen to them.
Aside: NATO's foot soldiers in old barbary are barbarians.
To the shores of Tripoli they're pointed, ready to wash it in blood if need be.
Between red blood shed and funeral black, they're doing their part in earnest
to add their colors to the new flag.
(any poet who wants to re-work it, go ahead)
(any poet who wants to re-work it, go ahead)
These recordings were made all across Libya, but most relevant here (see below) are two examples, both from the Nafusah region we're considering here, of victims' bodies tossed out like garbage. This crime adds insult to injury, since Islamic law mandates a proper burial within 24 hours. An internal security soldier was tortured and killed by rebels, in crucial Az Zintan, on February 19. Shown to the world as an Afro-Merc (Chad), his body was found again and filmed two weeks later in the desert. Another twelve or more alleged mercenaries (Nigeria) - but in civilian clothes - were filmed in late May, long-dead and mummified in the desert south of Zintan.
Predictable Brutality: Bottom of the Basin
There is an allegation in a video, which I was alerted to in comments below, that at least four civilians were executed in their home in reportedly empty Qawalish, while al-Jazeera was filming (from the outside, and apparently ignored the deaths inside). Otherwise, the reportage so far doesn't seem to reflect the killing of any civilians, loyalist or otherwise, in this region. But it does now reveal killings of those in the line of duty, along the lines of their earlier known rampages, as seen on Youtube.
Since March, we've seen less of those atrocity videos, because the rebels either got more civilized, ran out of victims or steam, or became more discreet about their abuses. Chivers' next finding suggests the last option is closest to the mark. A photo-based piece collaborating with Denton, it chronicles their discovery of "the rotting remains of five men whose bodies had been hidden in a cement basin on the road outside Qawalish." Again, clearly not a proper burial. The text, with one photo, is as follows:
Most of the pictures in that sequence are too gruesome to publish here. The dead men appeared to be wearing the olive green uniforms of pro-Qaddafi forces.
More recently yet, he added this on the rebel response:
Who were these men? Who killed them? Why? None of this was clear. A sixth rotting body was buried under one of the olive trees to the left.
An Equally Predictable Denial
The corpses, apparently, have been covered with this mound of soil, below, which is a few meters away from where the remains were first found. Rebels now say the dead men were given proper Muslim burials. We’ll leave to you to decide if the grounds in these images looks like a proper, religious or respectful burial.
What happened to these men remains an open question. But official rebel sources have made their position clear, insisting that these are the remains of Qaddafi soldiers killed and hidden by other Qaddafi soldiers. The evidence for that claim is, principally, that the rebels say so. The possibility that some of rebels might have done this to their enemies has been rejected outright.This as well is nothing new. It was the "protesters" who were well-known for using fire as a weapon against government buildings in February. But whenever charred corpses were found in those days, they were filmed and shown as victims of Gaddafi's mercenaries - soldiers burned alive for refusing to shoot innocent protesters. The world just needed to see the horror for themselves, they explained in apology for so shocking us. When 21 soldiers were were found in al Baida, bound and with their heads blown off, the same story was given, and still accepted, despite video proof the rebels themselves ordered the killings.
Chivers also added the dumpers chose their spot poorly, the basin being visible from the main road to Qawalish. Upon simply walking up to this odd spot, "the blood stains on the concrete, and tire treads on the soft soil" were clear, along with a scrap of green clothing, and even a picture of a handsome black-skinned man in uniform, perhaps one of the victims. These things they photographed but left, and they're all gone now.
He closes with a promising sign that freedom and openness are finally, at such great cost, coming to Libya - now that the rebels are being called the government of the place by people like Barrack Obama. No more massacres, cover-ups and lame excuses, and government minders controlling the press. As Chivers and Denton saw the bulldozed area on the road days later:
we tried to stop to learn more. Our driver refused, announcing that he was under orders from the rebel military leadership not to allow us near the site. It seemed, he said, that doctors were worried that journalists might be exposed to unhealthy conditions near the rotting remains. This did not quite pass the sniff test, so we pressed. Then came a different answer — the rebel military council had simply told him, without notifying us, that he was not to take us there, and that was that. That was Saturday.Either way, we know enough for now to know what's needed next are these things:
- The rebel authorities need to get those bodies identified,buried properly, and their families noted.
- Wherever they live, CNN should ask these families how they feel about the condolences of the new "government of Libya."
- Find out if anyone else is missing.
- Start pressing the rebels there for straight answers. Do they, or do they not, work for us? How many were killed in Qawalish and the other towns and hastily stashed around? Six only is suspiciously low.
Update August 10:
It seems Mr. Chivers and Denton saw the bodies first in the well, but not after they were removed. Between their removal and burial of whatever sort, it seems the bodies were laid out and observed by, among others, a reporter from the UK Telegraph. They reported on Jul 20, a day before I first got this thing up, a story completely in line with what the New York Times people saw. Five bodies werein the basin, no more (I forgot to check if they even mentioned the sixth guy buried under a tree). The five looked like government soldiers, and had been floating face-down. The body Chivers said "appeared to have been beheaded" was “cleanly decapitated.” The other with "his pants bunched down around his ankles" is confirmed with "the trousers of another had been ripped down to his ankles, a way of humiliating a dead enemy." There is a photograph attached to the article of some men standing around looking, with only one of the victim’s hands visible in the foreground. The site was bulldozed, the Telegraph confirmed, the burial situation unclear, and an investigation was in order.
What might prove more interesting than six killed soldiers is the separate Qala'a massacre, revealed August 7, from about 30 miles away at Qala'a. For this we have video, but no clear date or details, of 30-34 slaughtered civilians. Rebel supporters instantly asserted this was the government's work, but some say the rebels did it. I think a wee bit of study is in order, and perhaps quite a bit, if needed. This puzzle might be easy to solve.