Beneath veneer of true love for Qaddafi, rebellion simmers in Tripoli
While the chest thumping of many Qaddafi loyalists in Tripoli is authentic, other Libyans in the capital are not afraid to say they side with the rebels.
Twenty-four hours a day, loyalists of Col. Muammar Qaddafi are in Tripoli’s Green Square, chanting their love for their leader. At some traffic circles around the capital, devotees have erected tents from which to wave flags and challenge allied airstrikes with their voices and pumping fists.Skip to next paragraph
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And on the most important platform of all, state-run Libyan TV, there is an endless loop of speeches by Colonel Qaddafi, street rallies rich with unquestioned support, and now video footage that purports to show hospital scenes of civilians wounded by Western attacks.
There is no doubt that the chest thumping of many Qaddafi loyalists is authentic, and is not limited to only a handful of Libyans.
But the evidence of recent widespread rebellion against four decades of Qaddafi’s rule is also plain to see – and very easy to hear – in Tripoli. Revolutionary Committee offices that were ransacked and burned in the first heady days of unrest in mid-February remain wrecked and blackened hulks.
Not far beneath the official veneer of true love, in fact, are many Libyans who are not afraid to say that they side with the rebels against the “Brother Leader,” and can’t wait for regime change.
The anger seeps out at gas stations, where long lines stretch for blocks in the capital.
“This is a disgrace,” says one man in a black car, who asked not to be named. He says he “absolutely does not” blame the US and NATO airstrikes for the fuel lines or other hardships faced by his family.
“I blame our Col. Qaddafi, and 90 percent of the people think this way,” asserts the businessman, who says his work has stopped because of the six weeks of rebel uprising, government crackdown, and now civil war.
“People can’t really do anything about [Qaddafi]. We try to in Tripoli, but there are guns all over our head … and he is shooting people here,” says the man, as he inches forward in the fuel line with other exhausted Libyans.
One thing is certain, he says: “It is going to end beautifully, after 42 years. There is one end: for him to leave.”
Qaddafi retains supporters
Indeed, not everyone in Tripoli has a screaming, ear-grating speech by Qaddafi as the ring tone on their mobile phone, like some true believers. Nor does every taxi driver race through the capital with Qaddafi posters stuck to his windows, exuberantly kissing the colonel’s Green Book and holding it to his forehead like a Quran (as did the intoxicated driver whom this reporter hailed on Monday night).
Qaddafi still has strong support in some places, though its scale is impossible to gauge. Qaddafi “will never go,” says one young man, a college student called Mohammed, several places further down the line of cars from the businessman at the gas station.
“He is our father; the only solution is victory,” says Mohammed of the leader who has ruled his country for twice as long as he has been alive. He claims that 98 percent of Libyans support Qaddafi; the rest are Al Qaeda militants and “stupid people who think money is everything in this world.”