Almost exactly eight years ago the whole world was watching Iraq. Everybody knew that the US would invade any day and finally did, as on the 19th of March 2003.
On the other side of the world someone else – Fidel Castro – has been accused of taking advantage of the situation that week. Around that same date Cuba launched a crackdown on hundreds of dissidents in what has later been named the Black Spring.
The reason I bring this up is the situation in Libya at the moment. Around this weekend Japan was hit by a devastating earth quake and tsunami. The results have of course been terrible for the Japanese people. The only problem is a well-known fact that media usually manages to only cover one big foreign event at a time. When world media turned its spotlight on Japan, Ghadaffi troops in Libya started striking back. Reclaiming western Libya. Taking the Eastern coastline, one city and many casualties at the time. Now practically only Benghazi is left.
Everyone knows what lies ahead, should Benghazi fall, just as everybody for years knew what was going on in Sarajevo, Bosnia, where snipers were shooting at people trying to buy bread in a besieged city. The Dutch troops that opened the gates of Srebrenica knew what was going on, as well as Kofi Annan, responsible for UN peacekeeping in Rwanda.
Afterwords history is often re-written. The story turns into a “We didn’t know”. Conferences are organized on genocide and atrocities, “in order to never forget”. Nevertheless history repeats itself. And superpowers never learn.
In these times nothing is certain. I was on Swedish TV during the Egyptian revolution, that Thursday when attacks by horses and camels had been followed by attacks on journalists. I spoke of people fearing a bloodbath, a new Tianmen. It never happened. (I still believe, though, something happened within the army that very night that caused a change of plans).
Regardless of this, it would be bad reporting not to point out the following: People in Benghazi are scared. People in Libya are scared. For almost a month they have breathed freedom, dreams of a better future. Begged for a no fly-zone.
I will never forget some of the pictures coming out of Libya, that I finally decided to not re-tweet; corpses of two men, eyes closed, looking normal at a first glance – until you relize how forceful the weapons must have been that tore half of their bodies away, that the lower half of their bodies were missing entirely.
In these days blogs can live on for years. Should there become a bloodbath in Benghazi, a brutal crackdown on unarmed youngsters asking for freedom, and should the world a few years from now state that “we didn’t know”, I will link this post to those comments.
A foreign air craft intervention would deliver easy credit in the emerging new Arab world in the long run. The foreign policy of Western countries is surprisingly short sighted considering that The Arab League gave it’s blessing to a no-fly zone, and that NATO or whoever could this way find new allies. But no. Too few have still realised that these youngsters that make up a majority of protesters today would be the policy makers of tomorrow. And that they will remember.
Finally, some recommended reading for those that wonder what the mayor of Benghazi used to do before she fled the city after a few days of protests in February:
When Colonel Muammar Gaddafi hanged his first political opponent in Benghazi’s basketball stadium, thousands of schoolchildren and students were rounded up to watch a carefully choreographed, sadistic display of the regime’s version of justice.
They had been told they would see the trial of one of the colonel’s enemies. But instead the gallows were produced as the condemned man knelt in the middle of the basketball court, weeping and asking for his mother, hands bound behind his back.
The crowd cried and yelled out “No, no” or called on God to help them as they realised what was about to happen. Two young men bravely ran up to the revolutionary judges and begged them for mercy.
The worst moment came at the end, as the hanged man kicked and writhed on the gallows. A determined-looking young woman stepped forward, grabbed him by the legs, and pulled hard on his body until the struggling stopped.