My Response to the Recent Rallies in Libya
How long has it been? How long has it been since the last time any large group demonstrated in favor of the United States? A more cynical me might suggest any number of ulterior motives for this display of support for the United States on the part of the Libyan people, but the tired yet hopeful me is willing to accept and return this offer of friendship. Tears came to my eyes as I read sign after sign suggesting that all is not lost and that brand America still has positive connotations in at least one small area of this chaotic world. I often have asked for proof that the moderate Muslim not only exists, but also exists in some meaningful way. Do I dare hope that this one event represents the beginning of a true “Arab Spring”?
Here we have a numerically significant group of Muslims willing to put their lives on the line by demonstrating against the forces of violent suppression. They were willing to say that enough is enough and that peaceful co=existence might be the better course. Recent published reports suggest that the Government of Libya did more than apologize after the fact, but also attempted to be pro-active in an effort to prevent the tragedy which later occurred. In support of that view CNN reported:
CNN's Arwa Damon reported earlier this week that the Libyans had a meeting just three days before the attack with senior employees from the U.S. embassy in Tripoli. They talked about the rising threat against western interests in Benghazi.
Jamal Mabrouk, a member of the February 17th Brigade, a militia connected to the government but not part of Libya's armed forces, told CNN that he and a battalion commander attended the meeting, which was about economic matters but turned to the deteriorating security situation.
"The situation is frightening, it scares us," Mabrouk said he told the American delegation.
Jalal Bushala, a spokesman for the February 17th Brigade, said Libyans specifically highlighted the point that the Libyan government could not control these militias and advised the Americans to decrease their presence in Benghazi until they could ensure better security.
This suggests, at least to me, that both the apology and the demonstrations were completely sincere. The dangers of standing up to the militant Islamists cannot be overstated and one cannot help but admire the courage of those normal everyday Libyans who rose to the occasion and loudly and purposefully voiced their opinion. For now, at least, not only have some militias abandoned their bases, but in some cases have they have announced that they are disbanding altogether. It remains to be seen what the long term outcome will be, but all Americans certainly owe their support, their prayers, and their gratitude, to this group of ordinary citizens who decided to take their country back.
Perhaps the Libyan people have learned from the experiences of countries such as Lebanon that it is not in their best interests to accept or condone the existence of independent militias within the borders of their nation. A quote from Reuters might be instructive:
"After what happened at the American consulate, the people of Benghazi had enough of the extremists," demonstrator Hassan Ahmed said. "This place is like the Bastille. This is where Gaddafi controlled Libya from, and then Ansar al-Sharia took it over. This is a turning point for the people of Benghazi."
The good news is that the central government has been able to demonstrate that it is willing and able to exert its power and, not insignificantly, does so with the support of ordinary Libyan citizens. This move towards normalcy can be seen as a very welcome development if it means a stable, peaceful, and moderate Libya is the result.
Thank you Libya for giving me hope.