By Zach Foster
Breaking news from last night: the President of South Africa and Libyan despot-in-chief Muammar Qadafi have announced in a joint press conference that the great leader of the Libyan Socialist People’s Republic (the abbreviated name of the republic) is ready for a truce to bring an end to the civil war that has killed thousands (most of them unarmed civilian casualties inflicted by his loyalists).
South African President Jacob Zuma arrived in Tripoli to meet with Qadafi, and emerged from this meeting trying to assure the international community that the Libyan head of state—still unrepentant about slaughtering thousands of his own people for such insolence as speaking their minds—is “ready to implement the road map” [to peace]. According to an MSNBC report that was published to the web last night, “Zuma said Gadhafi insists that ‘all Libyans be given a chance to talk among themselves’ to determine the country's future. He did not say Gadhafi is ready to step down, which is the central demand of the rebels.”
The same report said “In April... Gadhafi said he would accept the truce but quickly ignored it and resumed his attacks, while the rebels rejected the cease-fire out of hand because it did not include Gadhafi's exit from power. Since then many cease-fire efforts have failed for similar reasons.”
The rebel government and rebel forces are not at fault for the lack of a truce in Libya. They have made it clear that they want Qadafi to step down. They will most likely allow him to live in exile abroad without bringing him back to be tried for crimes against humanity, as long as it brings an end to the war. Furthermore, every time Qadafi has announced ceasefires on his own, without attempting to reach the rebel leadership, he has promptly violated them, simply having lied in order to buy time to rearm, regroup, and move men and supplies in his fight to hold onto power.
The author never thought he’d write this, but Qadafi’s aggressive violations of ceasefires make the North Vietnamese look like rookies and pacifists. Not only has Qadafi denied his citizens their most basic human rights, but he has delivered one lie after another to his people and the world. Such lies include: 1) February, when he claimed that he was not the one ordering troops, police, and mercenaries to fire on the civilians, since he is only a figurehead leader; 2) February, when he said the riots that were turning into gun battles were being provoked by Al Qaeda; 3) March, when he threatened to join Al Qaeda if NATO got involved in the new civil war; 4) when he claimed that rebel forces were slaughtering civilians, not his loyalist troops. The list goes on.
The rebel forces must continue to fight on. Even though the initial NATO intervention was a necessary evil, simply for the sake of keeping the rebellion from being erased from existence by Qadafi’s loyalists, neither the U.S., the U.K., nor NATO can continue to hold the rebellion’s hand from a distance. NATO either needs to get involved and commit combat troops, the way the United Nations intervened on behalf of South Korea in 1950, or NATO needs to allow the rebels to fight it out on their own. It is one thing to make an advisory commitment by sending a handful of Special Forces troops to train their allies—the rebel forces, governed by the Interim National Council—but making this halfway no-fly-zone commitment that seems to have no end can only rob the rebel government of its sovereignty.
Furthermore, the rebel government needs to provide stability and rule of law in the areas it controls. This means swearing the local police in allegiance to the new government, having the local police patrol peaceful areas while rebel soldiers patrol hazardous areas, and letting the citizenry rebuild their infrastructure and resume life as usual. Furthermore, the old Constitution—dissolved by the “great leader” himself after the 1969 coup—needs to be re-evaluated and adapted to modern situations, and a new Constitution and Bill of Rights need to be brought into existence and enforced. The current law of the land in Libya is the Green Book, Qadafi’s attempt at imitating Mao’s Little Red Book by drafting a pocket-sized guide that dictates public policy based on Arab nationalist socialism and his own personality cult. This obviously no longer applies to the rebel-controlled areas.
The rebel government will be best off if it models its Constitution and Bill of Rights after the American counterparts. Whatever the new law of the land will be in rebel territory, it must be all-inclusive, protective of civil rights and individual rights, and it must be put into effect quickly so that Libyans in territory held by Qadafi loyalists can draw hope from the freedom and prosperity the rebels have erected in spite of tyranny and death.