Thursday, October 13, 2011

Is Booze, Not Oil Fueling the Libyan Revolution?

Is booze, not oil, fueling the Libyan Revolution?

At first I thought it just an anomaly when a journalist reported from near the front lines that when he approached a rebel pickup truck, the driver and gunner were drinking, and when they offered him some, and he asked what it was, they said it was whiskey.

All alcohol is said to be illegal in Libya, a law that probably has Arabic origins, but like pot in the United States, Mexico and Jamaica, its there and you can get it if you want to.

Now these were a bunch of heavily armed twenty-some year old kids riding around the desert in a pickup truck, drinking booze, and probably smoking pot, or more likely hashish, and shooting off their weapons in the air at nothing in particular. They were whooping it up like a bunch of drunkin' Texans on a Friday night.

I chalked it off as them just being kids who were suddenly set free after being pent up for a long time and falling under some of the bad influences of the west.

Then I read another reporter's account, weeks later on a different front, and thought that if something happens twice it's going to happen a third time, and maybe something is there and some attention should be paid to it.

Sure enough, as the rebels were closing in on Tripoli, the European model girlfriend of one of Gadhafi's playboy sons decided to visit him. While he tried to explain it was a bad time, they did meet at his beach house. She later said he sat on the couch with a machine gun at his side armed bodyguards all around, and was drinking heavily.

There you go, now both sides are apparently drinking. Gadhafi's kids are twenty something year-olfs too, and they've been pampered, have unlimited bank accounts and are well known throughout Europe as playboys, so why shouldn't they drink? They have no pretensions of being good Muslims or Arab who abide by their religion. Nor do they pay any attention to the legal law that bans alcohol.

So I wasn't to surprised when I read another report of a reporter on the scene at a checkpoint near the front line saying that some of the young rebels in their pickup trucks were drinking whiskey. There's whiskey again, as that seems to be the preferred drink, as much as Toyota pickup trucks seem to be the preferred technical for them to drive around the desert in like they're in a living Desert Rats reality TV show or Road Warrior movie.

Then I was surprised to read about the 200 armed men in trucks who launched a military operation against a Tripoli mosque and dug up and ripped off the relic remains of two dead shieks, who I later learned were Salafi warriors. Since they gave the Jewish doctor a ticket - legal summons fore breaking into an historical site when he wanted to clean up the Synagogue, do you think they'll track down these grave robbers and give them a slap on the wrist too?

The Salafi are strict orthodox Islamic Muslims who don't drink, and are apparently trying to impose a strict Islamic society on the new Libya, which would be one more imposing and restrictive than Gadhafi's 42 year long police state.

Now I don't mind Salafi Muslims practicing their religion, however orthodox it is, the problem I have is when they decide to impose their religious rules on the entire state and society, so it is no longer a religious rule but a state crime not to practice their beliefs. But seems to be what they plan to do.

If that is the case, then they also have to convince the other revolutionaries who have been fighting this war, the ones riding around drinking whiskey before they go into battle, who also have to wonder where these Salafi Muslim warriors were when they were fighting and dying for a new, free Libya?

Statistical estimates say that the Salafi sect consists of only one percent of the Sunni Muslims, so if democracy is the preferred choice after dictatorship, then they should be relegated to the one percent status - and not like the one percent status of millionaires and people who control the United States.

While I don't know for sure, I think that alcohol has only been outlawed in Libya since Gadhafi took power in 1969. I'm not sure what the status of booze was under the King, but I'm pretty sure that booze, at least wine flowed pretty freely during the Italian occupation and the first half of the 20th century.

Under Gadhafi tourism accounted for only one percent of Libya's economy, a number that should improve if the next regime encourages the continued construction of new hotels and resorts, and try to make Libya the "Pearl of the Med," as it was known in the fifties and sixties, when they held an international F-1 Grand Prix auto race and yachts put in like they did at Monti Carlo. That's the Libya many of the revolutionaries were fighting and dying for.

TECHNICALS - The Armed Pickup Trucks

Whether the Libyan Rebels were like a bunch of drunken' Texans or not, they won the revolution with armed pickup trucks that militarily are technically called TECHNICALS -

A technical is a type of improvised fighting vehicle, typically a civilian or military non-combat vehicle, modified to provide an offensive capability similar to a military gun truck. It is usually an open-backed civilian pickup truck or four-wheel drive vehicle mounting amachine gun, light anti-aircraft gun, recoilless rifle, or other support weapon.

The term technical describing such a vehicle originated in Somalia in the early 1990s. Barred from bringing in private security, non-governmental organizations hired local gunmen to protect their personnel, using money defined as "technical assistance grants". Eventually the term broadened to include any vehicle carrying armed men. Technicals have also been referred to as battlewagons, gunwagons, or gunships.

Among irregular armies, often centered around the perceived strength and charisma of warlords, the prestige power of technicals is strong. According to one article, "The Technical is the most significant symbol of power in southern Somalia. It is a small truck with large tripod machine guns mounted on the back. A warlord's power is measured by how many of these vehicles he has."

Such improvised fighting vehicles date back to the first use of automobiles, and even earlier, to the horse-drawn tachankas mounting machine guns in eastern Europe and Russia. During World War II, various British and Commonwealth units, including the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG), the No. 1 Demolition Squadron or 'PPA' (Popski's Private Army), and the Special Air Service (SAS) were noted for their exploits in the deserts of Egypt, Libya and Chad using unarmored motor vehicles, often fitted with machine guns and cannons of various types. During the 1960s, the popular American television series The Rat Patrol echoed the British SAS and LRDG use of the Willys Jeep, this time fitted with a single .50 caliber Browning machine gun. The 1970s show Bearcats! popularized a fictional early 20th century fighting car.

Libyan civil war

During the 2011 Libyan civil war, both regime loyalist forces as well as the anti-Gaddafi forces used technicals extensively. Given the type of warfare that had been carried out in the conflict—wherein highly mobile groups of soldiers and rebels continued to move to and from on the desert terrain, retreating at a time and then suddenly attacking to regain control of small towns and villages in the Eastern rebel held parts of Libya—had led to the technical becoming a vehicle of choice for both sides.

Technicals had also been widely used by the rebels whilst setting up checkpoints. It also formed a vast percentage of the rebel inventory which was limited to light weapons, light armor and very few tanks. Some medium flatbed trucks carried the Soviet-made ZPU and ZU-23-2 towed anti-aircraft twin or quad barreled guns, as well as recoilless rifles and S-5 rocket helicopter rocket launcher pods. Some rebels have improvised with captured heavy weaponry, like BMP-1 turrets and helicopter rocket pods, as well as lower-tech methods such as using doorbells to ignite rocket-launched ammunition.Rebel technicals have also frequently employed BM-21 Grad rockets. Rocket tubes were salvaged from damaged regime Ural-375D trucks and mounted on the backs of pickups, with the technicals able to fire anywhere from one to six rockets.

Tactics for employing technicals were pioneered by the Sahrawi People's Liberation Army, the armed wing of the Polisario Front, fighting for independence against Mauritania(1975–79) and Morocco (1975–present) from headquarters in Tindouf, Algeria. Algeria provided arms and Land Rover jeeps to Sahrawi guerrillas, who successfully used them in long-range desert raids against the less agile conventional armies of their opponents, recalling Sahrawi tribal raids (ghazzis) of the pre-colonial period. Polisario later gained access to heavier equipment, but four-wheel drive vehicles remain a staple of their arsenal.

Libya-Chad War

In 1987, Chadian troops equipped with technicals drove the heavily mechanized Libyan army from the Aozou Strip. The vehicles were instrumental in the victory at the Battle of Fada, and were driven over 150 km (93 mi) into Libya to raid military bases. It was discovered that these light vehicles could ride through anti-tank minefields without detonating the mines when driven at speeds over 100 km/h. The vehicles became so famous that, in 1984, Time dubbed the conflict the "Great Toyota War".

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