Good Reads: Qaddafi's pest fixation, Libya's missing weapons, and a former hostage returns to help Somalia

In today's papers, Muammar Qaddafi reveals in a recorded audio message that he has not fled the country. The Monitor's Scott Peterson reports that thousands of Libya's weapons have gone missing, and Geoffrey York finds a former hostage who returns to Somalia to make a difference.

By , Staff writer

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    A former rebel fighter removes Qaddafi slogans next to a pre-Qaddafi flag at the last checkpoint between Tarhouna and Bani Walid, Thursday, Sept. 8. Libya's former rebels have surrounded the ousted dictator Muammar Qaddafi, and it is only a matter of time until he is captured or killed, a spokesman for Tripoli's new military council said Wednesday.
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Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi may be down, but he is not out of the country; or at least that is what he said in his most recent audio message, as broadcast by a Syrian television station and reprinted by a number of newspapers, including Britain’s top international newspaper, the Guardian. Shiv Malik and Lizzy Davies, now based in Tripoli, quote this rather charming example of Qaddafian prose.

"The youths are now ready to escalate the resistance against the 'rats' [rebels] in Tripoli and to finish off the mercenaries. All of these germs, rats and scumbags, they are not Libyans, ask anyone. They have cooperated with Nato."

Germs, rats, scumbags. Sounds like a Tarantino movie.

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Meanwhile, in Tripoli, the New York TimesDavid D. Kirkpatrick introduces us to one of those ger... – sorry, to a former Qaddafi propagandist and press minder who switched sides just as soon as the rebels came to town. Now he does the same kind of propaganda and press handling job for the rebels. There’s a kind of pragmatism in this behavior found in many war zones, and Kirkpatrick explains it well here.

“As the curtain falls on Colonel Qaddafi’s Tripoli, many of its supporting actors are rushing to pick up new roles with the rebels, the very same people they were obliged not long ago to refer to as 'the rats.' Many Libyans say the ease with which former Qaddafi supporters have switched sides is a testament to the pervasive cynicism of the Qaddafi era, when dissent meant jail or death, job opportunities depended on political connections, and almost everyone learned to wear two faces to survive within the system.”

Adel Sennosi, a former Qaddafi Foreign Ministry official now working with the National Transitional Council, put it this way:

“The way the system worked, everyone had to be part of it – all of us. If we say, ‘Get rid of whoever was part of the system,’ we would have to get rid of the whole population.”

The Monitor’s Scott Peterson is also in Tripoli, chronicling the worrisome disappearance of heavy weaponry from Qaddafi’s arsenal.

According to researchers for Human Rights Watch, thousands of surface-to-air missiles have gone missing, including sophisticated Russian made SA-24 missiles that mimic the US “Stinger” missile. While it is plausible that Qaddafi’s own forces have taken these weapons to carry on the fight, it is also possible that these weapons have been sold or given to other dangerous groups, such as Al Qaeda.

Peter Bouckaert, the emergencies director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), sums it up well here:

“If these weapons fall in the wrong hands, all of North Africa will be a no-fly zone. That’s the Western concern. But what poses the biggest danger to Libyan people – as we know from Iraq – is what’s laying right behind you ... all of these tank shells and mortars, because that’s what people turn into car bombs.”

Up in Mogadishu, Geoffrey York profiles a young Canadian photojournalist, Amanda Lindhout, who has returned to Mogadishu two years after being released from a 426-day hostage ordeal.

On Aug. 23, 2008, Ms. Lindhout and Australian photojournalist Nigel Brennan were kidnapped by Somali gunmen (along with Lindhout’s translator and two drivers) and held for $2.5 million ransom. Today, she has returned to Mogadishu as the head of her own relief organization, using her own personal story to help raise funds and to urge forgiveness and generosity to the less fortunate.

Setting up her own aid group has drawn a fair amount of criticism from other aid agencies, who don’t fault her motives, but say that she is part of the problem of spreading aid resources too thinly to make any real difference. But Ms. Lindhout explains why she felt compelled to help the Somali people, and to return to Mogadishu.

“It was a promise that I made to myself in captivity. If I made it out alive, I would do something for Somalia. I had an understanding that my kidnappers were a product of their environment.”

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