Thursday, April 28, 2011

Revolutionary Poems and Songs

It’s a few miles from the Qaddafi villa to the breathtaking ruins at Cyrene, founded in the seventh century B.C. and once known as the “Athens of Africa.” I wandered, almost alone, among the Greek and Roman temples and gazed out to the Mediterranean. Libya, brutalized, is reclaiming something deep, its history and culture.

Under the pines I found a few youths with a guitar, two of whom had lost brothers in this war. With a haunting intensity they sang: “We’re gonna chase him out of here because we have no fears. My Libya, your Libya, it’s our Libya. ...”

My Libya, Your Libya, Our Libya

Published: April 30, 2011

BAYDA, Libya

I descended 55 steps into the labyrinth of Muammar el-Qaddafi’s mind. The glow of cellphones and a feeble flashlight lit a passage into the darkness. A netherworld unfolded — bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, even saunas — linked by tunnels with six-inch-thick metal doors agape at their mouths. No expense had been spared on this lair.

“You see what the rat planned,” said Farage Mohamed, a manager in an oil pipe company, as he led the way to the base of an escape hatch that emerged deep in the gardens of this sprawling former Qaddafi villa in liberated eastern Libya. “It’s like Hitler’s Berlin bunker.”

So Qaddafi always thought this could happen, even 42 years into his rule. He feared someone might slice away the myths — Arab nationalist, African unifier, all-powerful non-president — and leave him, disrobed, a little man in a vast vault with nowhere left to go. In the twisted mind of the despot now derided here as “the man with the big hair,” his own demise was the tousle-coiffed specter that would not go away.

Strange, then, that the United States and Europe never thought this could happen — not to Qaddafi, or Mubarak, or Ben Ali, or any of the other murderous plunderers, some now gone, others slaughtering their own people, here in Libya, or in Syria, or Yemen. Policy was based on the mistaken belief that these leaders would last forever.

They were paranoid about their fates. We were convinced of their permanence.

Of course it was not just a conviction about their inevitability that drove U.S. policy toward these dictators. It was a cynical decision to place counterterrorism and security at the top of the agenda and human rights — in this case Arab rights — at the bottom. It was about Big Oil interests. And, to some degree, it was about the perception of what served the security of America’s closest regional ally, Israel.

Oh, sure, an Egyptian human rights activist might get American support, or a worthy nongovernmental organization, but when they were suppressed a resounding silence emanated from Washington.

Arab reform was an oxymoron, as was Arab democratization. They were dwarfed by the supposed counterterrorist credentials of these despots, their professed loathing for Al Qaeda or Hamas or any brand of radical Islamist, and their readiness to kill or torture and pass on intelligence. Qaddafi never stopped haranguing U.S. diplomats about his hatred for Al Qaeda and about American support for Al Qaeda’s first home, Saudi Arabia.

Yet he, like the other dictators, was also busy creating the problem in order to portray himself as the solution to it.

Passports got into the hands of the Libyans who made their way from the eastern town of Darnah to swell the ranks of Qaeda offshoots in Iraq. Repression fed extremism. Plundering fed desperation.

Hosni Mubarak used the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a manipulative tool in his repressive arsenal. He was the worst “friend” the Palestinians ever had, sowing division as he preached unity. Like Qaddafi and Ben Ali, he called himself a bulwark against extremism even as his strangled society fostered it.

So, having been in Tunisia and Egypt and now Libya during this Arab Spring, I say, Shine a light — into Qaddafi’s bunkers and everywhere. Let people out of their dark houses. Allow them to participate in the making of their societies.

Take the disgruntled and give them opportunities. That’s a different counterterrorism policy that may actually work over time. The evolving Middle East, where despotic Islamism is well past its ideological zenith, demands it.

Before visiting Qaddafi’s villa, where kids play soccer on the former tennis court, I went to the Bayda home of Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, the mild leader of the Transitional National Council in eastern Libya. “The West’s mistake was to support Qaddafi, the first terrorist,” he said, citing the downed Pan Am 103 and UTA 772 flights, with a combined total of 440 people killed.

He called for weapons, especially in the embattled west of the country, the intensification of NATO airstrikes, and the ousting of a man “who is challenging the whole world.”

There’s a debt to repay to the Libyan people; a strong strategic interest in a Tunis-Tripoli-Cairo democratic example; and, with civilians dying daily in Misurata, a powerful U.N.-backed legal case for bombing that forces the issue: Qaddafi’s departure. The attack on Tripoli in which one of Qaddafi's sons appears to have been killed falls in that category. Behind the swagger lurks the coward who built that bunker.

It’s a few miles from the Qaddafi villa to the breathtaking ruins at Cyrene, founded in the seventh century B.C. and once known as the “Athens of Africa.” I wandered, almost alone, among the Greek and Roman temples and gazed out to the Mediterranean. Libya, brutalized, is reclaiming something deep, its history and culture.

Under the pines I found a few youths with a guitar, two of whom had lost brothers in this war. With a haunting intensity they sang: “We’re gonna chase him out of here because we have no fears. My Libya, your Libya, it’s our Libya. ...” 

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on May 1, 2011, on page WK11

By punditate

Every day I see pics and videos of the Freedom Fighters:
Civilians with the courage of Gurkhas
Giving their all in their fight for freedom,
Unflinching in their desire to be free of their bondage,
Innovative in their self-made weaponry mounts,
Ingenious in turning their Toyotas into semi-armoured vehicles,
Committed to the cause of Liberty.

Never have I come across lawyers, doctors, engineers, and others
Who so willingly gave up the good life,
To pick up a weapon which they have never seen before
And go into battle against an enemy trained to kill.

Never have I come across successful people
With good, comfortable lives in the west return
To help their brothers break the chains of tyranny
And help free their beloved homeland
From four decades of persecution
In the clutches of a cruel, thieving tyrant.

Never have I seen young men with their whole future ahead
Disregard the danger of losing it all
And lay their lives on the line
So that those who come after
Will have a better future,
Free from the shackles of servitude.

These are the Freedom Fighters.
These are the warriors of freedom.
These are the selfless warriors of Libya.
These are the Gurkhas of Africa!

God bless you all.
Victory is yours!
FlagIn verse and prose,

Benghazi liberates speech

Agence France-Presse
Salemya Mohammed
Published: Saturday, June 11, 2011

BENGHAZI, Libya - Freedom of speech is the name of the game in Revolution Square in the Libyan rebel capital of Benghazi, where new publications have blossomed and women recite poetry in public.

"When the revolution started, I had three choices: become a soldier, or a journalist, or stay at home and sleep," said Abdallah, brimming with enthusiasm. "I'm a journalist!"

With the insurgency against Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi came free speech in a country stifled by 42 years of dictatorship.

Dozens of young Libyans like Abdallah, of both sexes, have since turned to journalism or poetry.

The revolt has inspired a flurry of new newspapers and public speaking, often in the form of poems recited in Revolution Square.

Abdallah's newspaper has the Berber name of "Tamort," or Homeland, and publishes six Arabic pages and two in English each week.

The latest issue honours the memory of King Idriss, who was overthrown by Gadhafi in 1969, and features an interview with the new Italian consul, sent by Rome to the rebel capital.

The questioning is direct and the interview competent, even if they forgot to name the consul, Guido de Sanctis.

"We put the paper together at my place. We go to press on Tuesday for it to come out on Thursday," Abdallah explained.

A Thursday print-run means the paper can be sold to worshippers leaving Friday's main Muslim weekly prayers at Revolution Square, where the flags fly of countries taking part in air strikes on Gadhafi's forces.

It's the ideal place to sell the many publications that have sprung up in the Mediterranean city, all produced in the same format by the same printer, and each costing 30 cents.

On dusty carpets surrounded by portraits of young men "martyred" in the uprising, residents of Benghazi can pray, vent their revolutionary zeal and hatred of Gadhafi, and recite poetry.

"I used to write poetry before but I stopped. I've picked it up again since the revolution," said former Arabic teacher Fatma Abdallah in a corner of the square reserved for women.

Her poem is written in Arabic on a yellow sheet torn from the February pages of a diary, the month when the revolt broke out.

Her verses speak of martyrs and of her son imprisoned in the port city of Misrata, 800 kilometres by road to the west, which for weeks was besieged by Gadhafi's forces.

The women circling Fatma said they would also write poems and recite verses penned by other writers in support of the anti-Gadhafi revolt and their boys on the front line

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Myths of the Arab Revolution

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1) Radical Islamic extremists or al Quada instigated or will co-op the revolution. All of the revolutions taking place in Arab countries claim to be secular, non-religious, democratic revolutions seeking the ouster of the long entrenched dictators and the establishing of a new, democratic constitutional government with an open economy. When one anti-Gadhafi fighter was asked about al-Qaeda, he said, “We hate al Qaeda, we fight al Qaeda.” Even the former Gadhafi general who had fought in Afghanistan and defected has stated that al Qaeda has no place in the Libyan revolution. The only way al Qaeda can benefit is if Gadhafi holds on and a protracted stalemate occurs.

2) Non-violent demonstrations and peaceful protests can overwhelm security considerations and force regimes to change. While this tactic was successful in Tunisia and Egypt, opposition to the regime in Libya has been met by snipers and death, and the strategies of non-violence have been replaced by Sun Tzu and the Art of War. Firepower trumps peaceful protests.

3) “The enemies of our enemies are our friends,” is now out the window. It was often used as an excuse to align policy with the dictators of Yeman, Libya and Bahrain who supported US efforts to contain al Quada and other terrorists groups. While Gadhafi and Ali Abdullah Saleh, the head of Yeman were US allies in the war against al Qaeda, they were also at war with their own citizens, and even though the name of the Yeman leader Saleh cannot be said or printed without mention of US support for his anti-al Qaeda stance, there is no indication that his successor or Gadhafi’s successor, whoever they may be, will support al Qaeda and go against US policy.

4) The Arab news organization Aljazeera [ ] is an anti-American, pro-al Qaeda outlet for mis and disinformation. The Omar based syndicate has shown it is independent, has journalistic scruples and is the best authority on all things Arabic, especially the revolution. Its reporters have been targeted and killed in many of the countries, and its English language editors have been consulted by American news organizations as specialists in the region. Polls in March showed 15% of the American people were following the news of the Arab Revolts closely (less than the NCAA Basketball finals), but that is still a sizeable number of millions of people, some of whom can only get Aljeezerez over the internet and have requested the video network be picked up by their cable company.

Misatra Downtown

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Reporting from Misurata, Libya—

The five rebel gunmen crept tensely along the side road's shuttered storefronts, past the dark furniture shop with the broken windows and the streetlamps decorated with plastic flowers. Perpendicular to them was Tripoli Street, the heart of Misurata, where Moammar Kadafi's snipers hide in office buildings and rake the city with bullets.

Their feet crunched the concrete and metal debris scattered on the ground, but the men were otherwise silent. They'd done this before.

At the intersection with Tripoli, one of the men darted into the traffic circle, now filled with sand berms, truck frames, tires and a torched tank. He lunged to one knee and began firing, shooting again and again at a building down the block.

His four colleagues pivoted around the corner and sprayed protective fire, not wincing at the bullets whistling by.

Shielded, the first man raced back to the side street. His companions quickly swung back around the corner, all of them temporarily out of harm's way. There, they pumped their fists and hoisted their weapons, all of them buzzed by the skirmish.

The men of the so-called Shahid group had just fought another small battle in the ongoing guerrilla war in Misurata, the sole western city holding out against Kadafi's forces. This band, and others like it, has been integral to the city's defense.

When eastern Libya erupted into anti-Kadafi protests in mid-February, Misurata and other cities in the west quickly followed. But when Kadafi answered with gunfire, crushing protests in the smaller western city of Zawiya, Misurata residents vowed not to suffer the same fate.

By March, this city of 500,000, the third-largest in Libya, had mobilized, with its own secretive city leadership and the emergence of young gangs to guard Misurata's neighborhoods.

The bands, each with a commander, have quickly evolved, coordinating the supply of weapons and trucks, defending Misurata's rebel-held neighborhoods and answering emergency battle calls. In their David-vs.-Goliath fight, they have shown aplomb and ingenuity, sneaking up on a tank and attaching a bomb to its bottom or side, ambushing soldiers from rooftops with heavy machine guns, even burning small buildings with Kadafi's snipers lurking inside.

Their most inventive act may have been partitioning Tripoli Street with sand-filled trucks into three sections. Now Kadafi's snipers are holed up in a life insurance building, post office and a trade bank; from there they open fire on the surrounding areas.

But with daily shelling and with the city isolated, Misurata and its gangs fear they are living on borrowed time. The pressure builds by the day. Bread and fuel lines grow longer, and more and more Libyans are thinking of leaving the city. The city's pool of men is limited. Streets have been unofficially renamed for those who have died on their pavement.

All of the fighters know that, at some point, their hand-me-down and captured weapons could run out and the shrinking number of fighters could be overrun. They wish NATO troops would help them flush out Kadafi's fighters and destroy the antiaircraft guns, mortars and artillery that hammer Misurata. They've asked. Except for a blunt "no" from the U.S., the response has been equivocal.

So they fight on.

These improvised gangs devoted to the community's survival are the equivalent of neighborhood watch groups on steroids. Many are family members and longtime friends, with ties that go back years; others are strangers who have coalesced over the last five weeks into fighting units. Most are in their teens, 20s and 30s.

The weapons they own are a treasure won by looting abandoned Kadafi militia barracks in Misurata and by plundering the assault rifles of defeated Kadafi fighters. When one rebel wins a better weapon, he hands down his old rifle to a new recruit. If a foot soldier dies, his weapon is passed on to another fighter. Every bullet and every life counts in this war, a war in which the odds are overwhelmingly stacked against the people of Misurata.

Here off Tripoli Street, the Shahid group is intent on harassing Kadafi fighters ensconced in buildings. Like each militia, the Shahid group goes by the name of its leader, Khalid Shahid. His fighters describe him as a 37-year-old who gathered weapons and vehicles in the early days of the fighting and quickly gained a following.

Like other bands roaming the streets of Misurata, the Shahid men have proved quick studies of guerrilla tactics. They coordinate by word of mouth and by radio with other militias, most ranging from 20 to 60 men, and with the city's military operations room. One militia on Tripoli Street is called the Head, another Khatiba and another Abu Jihad. The militias have developed radio code names for the enemy: Tanks are "cockroaches," Kadafi's fighters are "ants."

It is the family and neighborhood ties that keep the Shahid group and other units together — that and the camaraderie forged in the trenches.

Radwan Bilal, 19, is typical of the fighters in Misurata. He found like-minded men who wanted to take on Kadafi after the demonstrations began. Soon he was one of the original seven who gathered around Shahid. The group quickly ballooned to more than 30.

At the beginning of March, Bilal joined Shahid and an informal group of rebels stalking a Kadafi paramilitary unit that had stopped to buy supplies on Tripoli Street. The rebels blocked the intersections and overpowered the men, taking them captive; Bilal was given his first Kalashnikov.

He's now a cross between seasoned rebel fighter and restless neighborhood kid. Showing his youth, he bragged that, during the rebellion, he had seen through night-vision goggles a Kadafi sniper kissing a mercenary. He hails from the center of Misurata, around Tripoli Street; this is his home.

Others came to Tripoli Street at the beginning of March because they saw it as the biggest battleground in the city. They stayed, and now the men there are family in this fight. They patrol the streets around the clock, slipping away to their homes every few days for a shower and to assure relatives of their safety.

Abu Bakr Zain joined the Shahid group on Tripoli Street in this way. First he trailed another fighter, offering him help with supplies. When his friend took a rocket-propelled grenade from a Kadafi fighter, he offered his old weapon to Zain. From there, Zain's skills grew. Soon after, he said, he used a borrowed machine gun to kill four Kadafi fighters from a roof.

Kadafi's loyalists fired off a tank round at the building, but he was already on the move. "Street fighting taught me never stay in one place too long," Zain said.

Two of his cousins recently joined him on the front. Tripoli Street is his post now, he says, and he will live or die here.

Libya Map & Misurata Ruse

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Hague warns over Libya troops ruse

Published on Sunday 24 April 2011 09:23

The withdrawal of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's forces from the besieged Libyan city of Misrata may only be a ruse, Foreign Secretary William Hague has warned.

Rebel leaders in the city were celebrating a major victory after the regime announced on Saturday that it was pulling back its troops after almost two months of fighting which has left hundreds dead.

Mr Hague however said that it might simply represent a change of tactics, and called on the international coalition to maintain its pressure on the Libyan dictator.

"Reports of the Gaddafi forces completely pulling out of Misrata seem to be exaggerated," Mr Hague told BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show. "This may be cover for using more insurgency-type warfare without any uniforms and without tanks."

Libyan deputy foreign minister Khaled Kaim has warned that if the rebels do not lay down their arms within 48 hours, local tribal leaders could send their supporters into the city to finish them off.

The rebels however dismissed the threat, saying there was little support for the regime among the tribes in the area.

Mr Hague said that the regime appeared "politically demoralised" in the face of the sustained international pressure - including airstrikes - and he urged the coalition not to let up.

"We are making progress militarily, there is no doubt about that. They are clearly under military pressure and they will come under ever greater diplomatic and economic pressure," he said. "I think a lot of them can see there is no future for this regime. Time is not on Gaddafi's side. It is Col Gaddafi who needs an exit strategy because this pressure will only mount."

Mr Hague confirmed that there were still some diplomatic contacts with the regime, but said that so far they had amounted to little.

He also dismissed suggestions that the decision to send a team of British military advisers to assist the rebels amounted to "mission creep" and that the UK was sliding towards a land war. He added that Britain would continue to act in compliance with United Nations Security Council resolutions which rule out any occupying force in Libya.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Sniper's View of Misatra

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MISRATAH: Libyan rebel fighters in Misratah appeared on the cusp of a major victory yesterday as they drove fleeing government forces out of the city after nearly two months of fierce battles.

The rebel gains followed a day of some of the fiercest fighting in weeks, in which at least 24 people were killed and more than a 100 wounded, according to hospital officials. The wounded were struck down in a bombardment that pounded the city from dawn to about 3pm local time and in intense street battles between rebel fighters and retreating Gaddafi forces. By mid-afternoon, the guns of those loyal to Muammar Gaddafi had fallen silent.

Dozens of pro-Gaddafi soldiers were reportedly killed or captured. Rebels continued to retake territory from Gaddafi's forces in the second straight day of gains.

The rebel push came as the US said its first Predator drone attack in the country had destroyed a government rocket launcher that had menaced civilians in Misratah. The Pentagon said it was the first attack carried out in Libya by one of the drones, which began flying missions in the country on Thursday.

Libya's Deputy Foreign Minister, Khaled Kaim, denied the army had pulled out of Misratah. He said it had stopped operations there in response to pressure from tribal leaders, who wanted life in the city to return to normal.

"If the rebels don't surrender in the next two days, armed tribesmen will fight them in place of the army," he said, adding that the tribes could muster 60,000 fighters to send into Misratah.

The opposition was sceptical of the claims. "Gaddafi forces are moving back," said rebel spokesman Safi Eddin al-Montaser. But he added: "People are still nervous because we don't know the next step of Gaddafi's forces."

Jalal al-Gallal, a spokesman for the rebels' leadership council in Benghazi, claimed the rebels were firmly in control of the city.

Misratah, the only major rebel stronghold in western Libya, has become the most dramatic battleground in the Libyan uprising, which began in February after similar revolts in Tunisia and Egypt ousted long-time leaders. Fighting elsewhere in the country is at a stalemate, even with NATO airstrikes that began last month.

Residents reported heavy fighting, shelling and explosions in the east and south of Misratah and doctors said yesterday's fighting was the bloodiest in weeks.

A doctor at a Misratah hospital said that officials who feared a strong attack had moved out some patients on Saturday to make way for more casualties.

Pro-Gaddafi troops in central Misratah -- including snipers who had terrorised residents for days atop an eight-storey building -- were either flushed out or withdrew in the past two days in what the rebels considered a victory.

"They have withdrawn because they suffered heavy casualties in Misratah and couldn't hold on anymore," said Akram Ali Hameda, a 26-year-old fighter. "God willing, it's almost over and our victory in the city will be complete within a couple of days."

Mr Hameda said stepped-up NATO airstrikes on Gaddafi positions outside Misratah had helped rebels land what they hoped would be the decisive blow against Gaddafi's punishing siege of the city.

On Saturday, NATO airstrikes in the Misratah southern suburb of Dufan destroyed a massive convoy of Land-Cruisers carrying soldiers and arms towards the city, Mr Hameda said. On Friday, he said, 30 tanks had been destroyed.

The retreat of pro-Gaddafi forces enabled some people to venture out into the battle-scarred streets and allowed fighters to set up new checkpoints at the entrance to the city.

"The people began breathing freely," one resident said during the day, although he added that rebels were still wary of pro-Gaddafi fighters who may have melted into the population.

There was no sign of celebrations in the streets.

Traffic had returned and there were long lines for bread and petrol, signs of the distress that the prolonged siege has caused in the city.

In eastern Libya, which is largely controlled by the rebels, other NATO strikes smashed more than two dozen sedans and pick-up trucks belonging to government forces about halfway between Ajdabiya and the strategic oil town of Brega.

(AP) TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — Rebel fighters drove Moammar Gadhafi's forces to the edge of the besieged western city of Misrata on Sunday, taking control of the main hospital where government troops had been holed up, a resident said.

In the fighting, Gadhafi loyalists fired dozens of rockets at Misrata on Sunday, said the resident, despite claims by the Libyan government that the army has held its fire since Friday. The resident asked to be identified only by his given name, Abdel Salam, for fear of retribution.

At least 28 people have been killed and 85 wounded by fighting in the city Saturday and Sunday, said Dr. Khaled Abu Falgah, head of the Misrata medical committee.

"The last 24 hours have been one of the hardest and saddest days in the last 65 days," he said.

Libyan officials have said in the past two days that the military is pulling back in Misrata, ostensibly to enable tribal chiefs from the area to negotiate with the rebels. Late Saturday, Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim said troops remained in their positions in the city, but claimed they halted all activity.

Misrata, the only major rebel stronghold in Gadhafi-controlled western Libya, has become the most dramatic battleground in the Libyan uprising, which began in February after similar revolts in Tunisia and Egypt ousted longtime leaders. Fighting elsewhere in the country is at a stalemate, even with NATO airstrikes that began last month.

Hundreds of people have been killed in two months of a government siege backed by tanks, mortars and snipers firing from rooftops. Late last week, snipers either fled or were flushed out of an eight-story downtown building on a main thoroughfare, Tripoli Street, in a setback for Gadhafi loyalists who had controlled the city center.

The rebels have defended positions around Misrata's seaport.

On Sunday, rebels took control of Misrata's main hospital, on Tripoli Street, clearing government troops out of their last position in the city center, said Abdel Salam. "Now Gadhafi's troops are on the outskirts of Misrata, using rocket launchers," he said.

A Misrata rebel, 37-year-old Lutfi, said there had been 300-400 Gadhafi fighters in the main hospital and in the surrounding area that were trying to melt into the local population.

"They are trying to run way," Lutfi said of the soldiers, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. "They are pretending to be civilians. They are putting on sportswear."

Thousands of people, many of them foreign workers, were stranded in Misrata during the fighting. Since last week, hundreds of migrants, along with wounded Libyans, have been evacuated in aid vessels through the port.

One of those wounded, Misrata resident Osama al-Shahmi, said Gadhafi's forces have been pounding the city with rockets.

"They have no mercy. They are pounding the city hard," said al-Shahmi after being evacuated from Misrata.

"Everyone in Misrata is convinced that the dictator must go," said al-Shahmi, 36, a construction company administrator who was wounded by shrapnel from a rocket. His right leg wrapped in bandages, al-Shahmi flashed a victory sign as he was wheeled on a gurney into a waiting ambulance upon arrival in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

In Washington, Sen. Lindsey Graham said NATO airstrikes should target Gadhafi's inner circle and military headquarters, adding that the quickest way to end a military stalemate is "to cut the head of the snake off."

Gadhafi "needs to wake up every day wondering, 'Will this my last?'" Graham, a Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told CNN's "State of the Union."

NATO said a U.S. Predator drone destroyed a multiple rocket launcher Saturday in the Misrata area that was being used against civilians. The Pentagon said it was the first attack carried out in Libya by one of the drones, which began flying missions in the country last week.

NATO said another armed drone destroyed an SA-8 surface-to-air missile Saturday in the Libyan capital of Tripoli. The drone's operators detected a group of civilians playing football near the missile site and waited to launch their attack until the players had dispersed.

"This Predator strike is a perfect example of the complex and fluid situation that NATO air forces are facing every day," said Rear Adm. Russ Harding, the operation's deputy commander.

He urged civilians to "distance themselves from Gadhafi regime forces, installations and equipment whenever possible so we can strike with greater success and with the minimum risk to civilians."

The SA-8 is a Soviet-built anti-aircraft system dating from the late 1970s. It was the first air defense missile vehicle to mount its own targeting radar.

NATO aircraft have so far conducted nearly 3,600 sorties, including 1,500 strike sorties.

Journalists Killed at Misatra, Libya

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Journalists Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros were killed while covering the battle for Misurata.

Mr Hetherington wrote on his Twitter profile last night: “In besieged Libyan city of Misurata. Indiscriminate shelling by Qaddafi forces. No sign of Nato.”

By Richard Spencer, and Nick Collins 8:38PM BST 20 Apr 2011

Libya: British photographer killed in Misurata

Tim Hetherington, a leading British photojournalist, has been killed while covering the fighting in the Libyan city of Misurata, the Foreign Office has confirmed.

Mr Hetherington, who had won a World Press Photo of the Year award for his coverage of Afghanistan and had also made prize-winning film documentaries, was said by friends and colleagues to have died from a mortar round while on the front line.
The photographer, who was on assignment for the news agency Panos, is the first known British casualty of the Libyan conflict.

An American colleague, Chris Hondros, a photographer for Getty Images, died after being seriously wounded, according to Getty's director of photography, Pancho Bernasconi. Two other journalists were said to have been injured in the incident.
One of those injured was reported to be Guy Martin, a British photographer with Panos, who was receiving treatment in hospital last night.

The photographers were among a group caught by mortar fire on Tripoli Street, the main thoroughfare leading into the centre of Misurata, according to reports.

Spanish photographer Guillermo Cervera said: “It was quiet and we were trying to get away and then a mortar landed and we heard explosions.”

A colleague who was with them and was at the hospital confirmed the death on a Facebook page, prompting condolences from other foreign correspondents.

Mr Hetherington, 40, who was from Liverpool but had dual British and American nationality, read English literature at Oxford University before becoming a photographer and film-maker.

He spent eight years in West Africa, covering the Liberian and Sierra Leone civil wars there, before working in Afghanistan.

His first film, Restrepo, which covered the lives of a platoon of soldiers in Afghanistan, which was last year nominated for an Oscar.

Mr Hondros, 41, had been nominated for a Pulitzer prize in 2004 and also lectured and wrote on war in the United States.

Both men lived in New York.

James Golston of ABC-TV News USA, who worked with Mr Hetherinton on Nightline, a documentary about the war in Afghanistan, described him as “one of the bravest photographers and filmmakers I have ever met”.

He said: "During his shooting for the Nightline specials he very seriously broke his leg on a night march out of a very isolated forward operating base that was under attack.
“He had the strength and character to walk for four hours through the night on his shattered ankle without complaint and under fire, enabling that whole team to reach safety.”

Mr Hetherington last year described some of his experiences in Afghanistan as “pretty traumatic events”.

He said: “The thing about the wars in Afghanistan, they've been known as the ghost wars, you know, because not often does one really see the enemy.”

Mr Hetherington wrote on his Twitter profile last night: “In besieged Libyan city of Misurata. Indiscriminate shelling by Qaddafi forces. No sign of Nato.”

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are offering consular assistance to the family.”

McCain Joins Rebels in Bengazi

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Libyan Revolutionaries

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The CIA's Man in Libya? Russ Baker on Gen. Khalifa Hifter

The CIA’s Man In Libya?
By Russ Baker on Apr 22, 2011

As the United States and its allies get deeper into the confrontation with Qaddafi in Libya, it’s worth stepping back to consider what is actually taking place—and why.

We’ve been told very little about the rebels seeking to supplant the dictator. But one in particular deserves our attention. General Khalifa Hifter, the latest person to head the rebel forces.

There’s been little effort to look at Hifter’s background. One notable exception was the work of the always-diligent McClatchy Newspapers, which briefly inquired about his background in late March. That report does not seem to have generated much additional digging by other news organizations.

The new leader of Libya’s opposition military spent the past two decades in suburban Virginia but felt compelled — even in his late-60s — to return to the battlefield in his homeland, according to people who know him.

Khalifa Hifter was once a top military officer for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, but after a disastrous military adventure in Chad in the late 1980s, Hifter switched to the anti-Gadhafi opposition. In the early 1990s, he moved to suburban Virginia, where he established a life but maintained ties to anti-Gadhafi groups.

Late last week, Hifter was appointed to lead the rebel army, which has been in chaos for weeks. He is the third such leader in less than a month, and rebels interviewed in Libya openly voiced distrust for the most recent leader, Abdel Fatah Younes, who had been at Gadhafi’s side until just a month ago.

At a news conference Thursday, the rebel’s military spokesman said Younes will stay as Hifter’s chief of staff, and added that the army — such as it is — would need “weeks” of training.

According to Abdel Salam Badr of Richmond, Va., who said he has known Hifter all his life — including back in Libya — Hifter — whose name is sometimes spelled Haftar, Hefter or Huftur — was motivated by his intense anti-Gadhafi feelings.

“Libyans — every single one of them — they hate that guy so much they will do whatever it takes,” Badr said in an interview Saturday. “Khalifa has a personal grudge against Gadhafi… That was his purpose in life.”

According to Badr and another friend in the U.S., a Georgia-based Libyan activist named Salem alHasi, Hifter left for Libya two weeks ago.

alHasi, who said Hifter was once his superior in the opposition’s military wing, said he and Hifter talked in mid-February about the possibility that Gadhafi would use force on protesters.
“He made the decision he had to go inside Libya,” alHasi said Saturday. “With his military experience, and with his strong relationship with officers on many levels of rank, he decided to go and see the possibility of participating in the military effort against Gadhafi.”

He added that Hifter is very popular among members of the Libyan army, “and he is the most experienced person in the whole Libyan army.” He acted out of a sense of “national responsibility,” alHasi said.

“This responsibility no one can take care of but him,” alHasi said. “I know very well that the Libyan army especially in the eastern part is in desperate need of his presence.”

Omar Elkeddi, a Libyan expatriate journalist based in Holland, said in an interview that the opposition forces are getting more organized than they were at the beginning up the uprising. Hifter, he said, is “very professional, very distinguished,” and commands great respect.

Since coming to the United States in the early 1990s, Hifter lived in suburban Virginia outside Washington, D.C. Badr said he was unsure exactly what Hifter did to support himself, and that Hifter primarily focused on helping his large family.

So a former Qaddafi general who switches sides is admitted to the United States, puts down roots in Virginia outside Washington, D.C. and then somehow supports his family in a manner that mystifies a fellow who has known Hifter his whole life. Hmm.

The likelihood that Hifter was brought in to be some kind of asset is pretty high. Just as figures like Ahmed Chalabi were cultivated for a post-Saddam Iraq, Hifter may have played a similar role as American intelligence prepared for a chance in Libya.

We do need to ask to what extent the Libyan uprising is a proxy battle, with the United States far more involved that it would care to admit. Certainly, Qaddafi has been on the “to-remove” list for a very long time. But after something of a rapprochement, he again became a major irritant in recent years.

As the New York Times reported, almost in an aside, In 2009, top aides to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi called together 15 executives from global energy companies operating in Libya’s oil fields and issued an extraordinary demand: Shell out the money for his country’s $1.5 billion bill for its role in the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 and other terrorist attacks.

If the companies did not comply, the Libyan officials warned, there would be “serious consequences” for their oil leases, according to a State Department summary of the meeting.

…The episode and others like it, the officials said, reflect a Libyan culture rife with corruption, kickbacks, strong-arm tactics and political patronage since the United States reopened trade with Colonel Qaddafi’s government in 2004. As American and international oil companies, telecommunications firms and contractors moved into the Libyan market, they discovered that Colonel Qaddafi or his loyalists often sought to extract millions of dollars in “signing bonuses” and “consultancy contracts” — or insisted that the strongman’s sons get a piece of the action through shotgun partnerships.

Unfortunately, items like the McClatchy piece and the above extract from a longerTimes piece are rarely patched together into a larger analysis of what is going on.

More detailed examinations of the complex history and interests in play are usually relegated to little-known blogs. For example, the Irish author and journalist Ed Moloney writes about President Obama’s decision to authorize the deployment of CIA agents on the ground in Libya, and notes

…The rebels are by themselves incapable of dislodging Gaddafi. The allies’ no-fly zone, cruise missile strikes and bombing missions may be sufficient to deny Gaddafi a victory over his rebel opponents but it cannot assure success for the rebels.

Slowly but surely Obama and his French and British allies are being sucked into direct involvement in yet another project to secure regime change in a Muslim country. The next stage will be to give the rebels sophisticated weapons in the hope this can reverse their decline. The rebels will have to be trained of course, the training must take place in Libya and the trainers will have to be protected, in Libya, by NATO soldiers. Slowly but surely the prohibition against “boots on the ground” will be erased. If, as seems very possible, the acquisition of modern weaponry fails to transform the rebels’ fortunes the only remaining option will be to send NATO troops in against Gaddafi. Failure to remove Gaddafi means a humiliating defeat for Obama and his allies and in the end NATO may have little alternative but to fight on Libyan soil.

…President Obama’s motives in ordering the bombing of Gaddafi’s forces may well have been driven by humanitarian concerns but the appointment of Khalifa Heftir to lead the armed uprising in the oil-rich North African republic, is a reminder that there is a long and tangled history of secret American efforts to oust the Libyan ruler.

Heftir’s elevation also signals that Obama’s intervention in Libya is now not just about saving civilian lives but is aimed at removing Gaddafi from power, a mission begun a quarter of a century before by a President regarded as an American Conservative icon and supposedly the polar opposite, politically, of the White House’s current resident.

The story of Khalifa Heftir’s entanglement with the CIA begins with the election to the White House of Ronald Reagan in 1980 amid gradually worsening relations with Gaddafi’s Libya and a growing obsession on the part of Reagan and his allies with removing the Libyan leader.

Here the story becomes complicated, with lots of names and dates and countries involved. If you don’t have the time or inclination to go further, that’s understandable. The key thing is to appreciate that, as the saying goes, past is prologue. Without understanding what came before, we have no real idea what is happening now, and why. In any case, here’s the back story, which itself is presumably rife with spin and manipulation, and deserves further investigation (the role of Bob Woodward as a principal reporter on these issues, for example, means that the narrative itself may be strategic—see this and this for more on Woodward’s work.)

A year before Reagan’s election a Libyan mob, imitating Iranian revolutionaries, burned down the US embassy in Tripoli and diplomatic relations were suspended. Two years later the Libyan embassy in Washington was closed down while US and Libyan jets skirmished over the Gulf of Sidra, which Gaddafi claimed to be part of Libya’s territorial waters.

Later in 1981 American press reports claimed that Libyan hit squads had been sent to the US to assassinate Reagan, shots were fired at the US ambassador to France while the ambassador to Italy was withdrawn after a plot to kidnap him was uncovered. After explosives were found in musical equipment at a US embassy sponsored dance in Khartoum, Sudan, Reagan ordered a travel ban and ordered all Americans out of Libya.

In 1983 there were more air skirmishes off the Libyan coast; two years later five US citizens were killed by bombs planted at Rome and Vienna airports and US officials blamed Libya. The worst clashes came in 1986, beginning with more air skirmishes over the Gulf of Sidra and the destruction of Libyan SAM sites by American missiles. In April a bomb exploded at the LaBelle nightclub in Berlin, a bar frequented by off-duty American servicemen. Three people were killed, two of whom were US soldiers and of the 200 wounded, sixty were American citizens. President Reagan blamed Libya and on April 15th, some 100 US aircraft, many flying out of bases in the UK, bombed Libyan bases and military complexes. The Libyans said that 70 people were killed in the attacks which also targeted Gaddafi’s compound in Tripoli, killing his adopted infant daughter, Hana. One account claimed that nine of the jets had been directed to blast Gaddafi’s compound in a clear attempt to kill him.

By the mid-1980’s, the Reagan administration and the CIA believed that Gaddafi was supporting terrorist groups or helping fellow radical states throughout the globe. In a November 3rd, 1985 article for theWashington Post, Bob Woodward listed the countries where Gaddafi was said by the White House to be active. They included Chad, Tunisia, Sudan, Iran, Syria, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Lebanon and Iraq. Gaddafi was also supporting the IRA in Northern Ireland and significantly stepped up supplies of arms and cash to the group after a British policewoman was shot dead and diplomats expelled following a confrontation and lengthy siege at the Libyan embassy in London in 1984.

In May 1984, less than a month after the London embassy siege, gunmen launched rocket and gun attacks against the Tripoli army barracks where Gaddafi’s family compound was located. The initial assault was repulsed and most of the insurgents killed when Libyan tanks shelled the building overlooking the barracks where the gunmen had taken refuge. It was though the most serious challenge to Gaddafi’s hold on power in Libya, made all the more threatening by the fact that it had happened on his doorstep.

The attack was claimed by a group calling itself the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL), composed of anti-Gaddafi exiles, some of them supporters of the Idris monarchy overthrown in the 1969 revolution. Claims that the NFSL was at that time supported by US intelligence derive some support from a leak to American newspapers a few days before the attack in Tripoli that President Reagan had recently signed a new directive authorizing US agencies to “take the offensive” against international terrorism by mounting retaliatory or pre-emptive attacks. But the Americans were, at this stage, not directly involved in supporting the exile group’s activities.

The NFSL was getting aid mostly from Saudi Arabia whose ruling family despised Gaddafi after he had accused them of defiling holy Islamic sites in their country but also from Egypt and Tunisia in whose internal affairs Gaddafi had meddled. Sudan was another sponsor. Gaddafi had tried to foment an uprising against its pro-Western leadership and in response Sudan supplied the NFSL with bases from which the May 1984 attack was planned.

The Sudanese, according to one account, kept the CIA informed of the plot. CIA Director, William Casey, was heartened by the attack even though it had failed and renewed his efforts to persuade Reagan to authorize specific covert action against the Libyan leader. Casey is said to have remarked: “It proves for the first time that Libyans are willing to die to get rid of that bastard” (p. 85). From thereon the NFSL was put on the CIA’s payroll.

It was after the unsuccessful effort to kill Gaddafi in his Tripoli compound that Reagan took the intelligence offensive. Bob Woodward revealed Reagan’s move, first in the Washington Post (November 3rd, 1985) and then in his account of Reagan’s secret wars in his book Veil, published in 1987. A secret presidential directive, which Woodward was able to quote, signaled that the exile groups like NFSL would be an important weapon wielded in this campaign against the Libyan leader: “…the exile groups, if supported to a substantial degree, could soon begin an intermittent campaign of sabotage and violence which could prompt further challenges to Qaddafi’s authority.”

The Reagan directive had listed ten options for action against Gaddafi, which ranged from regime change to economic sanctions, although it was obvious that the operation could only be judged a success if Gaddafi was dislodged: “…no course of action short of stimulating Qaddafi’s fall will bring any significant and enduring change in Libyan policies”, the document read.

The former French colony of Chad on Libya’s southern border had already been a major battleground in the war between Reagan and Gaddafi and after the 1984 bid to kill the Libyan dictator it assumed even greater importance. Chad had gained independence from France in 1960 but its history for many years thereafter has been one of coups and civil wars, often sponsored by foreign powers using Chad as an arena for their rivalry.

Libyan interest and activity in Chad pre-dated Gaddafi’s 1969 revolution and centered on a piece of land in Northern Chad called the Aouzou Strip which is rich in uranium and other rare minerals. Gaddafi formed an alliance with the government of Goukouni Wedeye who allowed the Libyans to occupy the strip but in 1982 Wedeye was overthrown by Hissene Habre who was backed by the CIA and by French troops.

Hebre’s was a brutal regime. During the eight years of his leadership some 40,000 people were estimated to have died in detention or executed. Human Rights Watch observed: “Under President Reagan, the United States gave covert CIA paramilitary support to help install Habre in order, according to secretary of state, Alexander Haig, to ‘bloody Gadafi’s nose’”. Bob Woodward wrote in Veil that the Chadian coup was William Casey’s first covert operation as head of the CIA.
During the years following Habre’s coup, Gaddafi’s army and the forces of the Chad government, the CIA and French intelligence clashed repeatedly. In March 1987 a force of some 600-700 Libyan soldiers under the command of General Khalifa Haftir was captured and imprisoned. Gaddafi disowned Heftir, presumably in anger at his capture, and the former Libyan General then defected to the major Libyan opposition group, the NFSL.

A Congressional Research Service report of December 1996 namedHeftir as the head of the NFSL’s military wing, the Libyan National Army. After he joined the exile group, the CRS report added, Heftir began “preparing an army to march on Libya”.The NFSL, the CSR said, is in exile “with many of its members in the United States.”

In 1990 French troops helped to oust Habre and installed Idriss Debry to replace him. According to one account the French had grown weary of Habre’s genocidal policies while the new resident in the White House, George H W Bush did not have the same interest as Reagan had in using Chad as a proxy to damage Gaddafi even though the Libyan leader formed an alliance with Debry.

A New York Times report of May 1991 shed more light on the CIA’s sponsorship of Heftir’s men. “They were trained” it said, “by American intelligence officials in sabotage and other guerilla skills, officials said, at a base near Ndjamena, the Chadian capital. The plan to use the exiles fit neatly into the Reagan administration’s eagerness to topple Colonel Qaddafi”.

Following the fall of Habre, Gaddafi demanded that the new government hand over Heftir’s men but instead Debry allowed the Americans to fly them to Zaire. There Libyan officials were given access to the men and about half agreed to return to Libya. The remainder refused, saying they feared for their lives if they went back home. When US financial aid offered to Zaire for giving the rebels refuge failed to materialise they were expelled and sent to Kenya.

Eventually the Kenyans said the men were no longer welcome and the United States agreed to bring them to America where they were admitted to the US refugee programme. A State Department spokesman said the men would have “access to normal resettlement assistance, including English-language and vocational training and, if necessary, financial and medical assistance.” According to one report the remnants of Heftir’s army were dispersed to all fifty states.

That was not, however, the end of the Libyan National Army. In March 1996, Heftir returned to Libya and took part in an uprising against Gaddafi. Details of what happened are scant but theWashington Post reported from Egypt on March 26th that travelers from Libya had spoken of “unrest today in Jabal Akhdar mountains of eastern Libya and said armed rebels may have joined escaped prisoners in an uprising against the government….and that its leader is Col. Khalifa Haftar, of a contra-style group based in the United States called the Libyan National Army, the travelers said.”

The report continued: “The travelers, whose accounts could not be confirmed independently, said they heard that the death toll had risen to 23 in five days of fighting between security forces and rebels, including men who escaped from Benghazi prison thursday and then fled into the eastern mountains.”

What part the CIA played in the failed uprising and whether the then US president, Bill Clinton had given the operation his approval are not known. By coincidence or not, three months later, Gaddafi’s forces killed some 1200 political prisoners being held in Benghazi’s Abu Simal jail. It was the arrest of the lawyer representing many of the prisoners’ families that sparked the February 17th uprising against Gaddafi and with it, the return of Khalifa Heftir.

As usual, the back story is complex. Valuable strategic resources abound. There are no good guys. And, as usual, the reporting that commands most of our attention just isn’t very good at helping us understand what is really going on.
The consequences of an uninformed public….well, we know what those are.

Quick, Quick: Why Are We In Libya? A New Candor Prevails…Sort Of
By Russ Baker on May 17, 2011

You’re probably already consuming everything that appears in the New York Times. But perhaps you’re quite busy, and just can’t get to many of the tasty offerings on that paper’s bulging menu. Or, maybe you’re one of those people who do read as many of the articles as possible—and then wonder what they actually mean.

I’m one of the latter, which is why I ponder each article as if it is in the crossword section. And why I feel compelled to offer you a markup of the following, which appeared under the headline “British Commander Says Libya Fight Must Expand:

Two months into the NATO bombing campaign against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces, Britain’s top military commander has said that the Libyan leader could remain “clinging to power” unless NATO broadened its bombing targets to include the country’s infrastructure.

Hm. So this British guy, whoever he is, wants to bomb Libya to smithereens as a way of forcing Qaddafi out. And I could swear they were originally in there for some otherreason—and very reticent about the extent of any military involvement.
The comments, by Gen. Sir David Richards, came at the end of a week that saw NATO step up its airstrikes, with an accelerated tempo of attacks on the capital, Tripoli. In the predawn hours of Thursday, a volley of heavy bunker-busting bombs that struck Colonel Qaddafi’s underground command headquarters in the city appeared to have narrowly missed killing him.

Colonel Qaddafi’s defiant audio message after that attack, telling NATO he was “in a place where you can’t get me,” appears to have played a part in galvanizing opinion among NATO commanders, particularly in Britain and France, the nations carrying out the bulk of the bombing.

Don’t piss these guys off, or they’ll come for you just on a dare.

Britain, in particular, with heavy combat commitments in Afghanistan and mounting costs for the Libyan air campaign straining its military budget, has been concerned that the conflict could be settling into a long-running stalemate.

What was Britain’s particular reason for focusing on Qaddafi, as opposed to any other run-of-the-mill murderous thug in these general parts? I couldn’t remember, so I poked around, and came up with this piece we ran previously. It points out (courtesy of a little-noticed New York Times mention) how Qaddafi had angered big oil companies by demanding a bigger piece of the action from those extracting oil from his premises. Big petrol, of course, includes BP—the outfit that has British government officials by their privates:

In 2009, top aides to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi called together 15 executives from global energy companies operating in Libya’s oil fields and issued an extraordinary demand: Shell out the money for his country’s $1.5 billion bill for its role in the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 and other terrorist attacks.

If the companies did not comply, the Libyan officials warned, there would be “serious consequences” for their oil leases,according to a State Department summary of the meeting.

Ok, back to the new Times piece…

Under the United Nations Security Council resolution approving the Libyan air campaign, NATO was empowered to use “all necessary means” to protect the country’s civilian population from attack by pro-Qaddafi forces, which hold Tripoli and much of western Libya, while rebel forces control much of the country’s eastern region. That mandate has been stretchedbeyondattacks on tanks, artillery and other units engaged in front-line combatto a wide range of targets in Tripoli and elsewhere that have been identified by NATO as “command-and-control” centers, including Colonel Qaddafi’s Tripoli bunker.

Whoops! For a second I thought the Times was going to come out and just say it: “That mandate has been stretched beyond recognition to something entirely different—a war to take Qaddafi out altogether. In other words, an invasion, kind of like what Iraq turned out to be.

But the Times doesn’t quite say it, so you’re not quite getting this small but somehow consequential point: what was first presented as “protecting” the civilian population from attack has now segued to attacking—and forcing the leader to flee, or better, killing him.

Of course, all this puts Qaddafi in a truly untenable position, in which he is forced to try even more harsh measures against his uncooperative population, which in turn gives NATO more reasons to express outrage and up the ante.

But with the war now at the end of its third month and the two sides skirmishing in battle zones spread across hundreds of miles, there has been growing concern in NATO capitals that the strategy needs a game-changing adjustment that might bring a rebel victory closer.

Again…pretty pretty close to stating the actual truth about what is—and has long been the game plan (for more on this see “The CIA’s Man in Libya”)

But…darn…just…can’t….quite say it. Too…disconcerting…gonna…really…depress…our readers. Might lose faith in what we keep telling everybody is a pretty righteous American foreign policy.

NATO officials have made no secret of their belief that this would most likely come with attacks that weaken Colonel Qaddafi’s hold on Tripoli, ideally attacks that spread a sense of despondency among Qaddafi forces and lend an impetus to a rebel underground that has roots in some quarters of the city.

General Richards, chief of the defense staff in Britain, spoke in an interview at NATO’s southern headquarters in Naples, Italy, which has served as a command center for the attacks. “The vise is closing on Qaddafi, but we need to increase the pressure further through more intense military action,” he said in the interview, published in The Sunday Telegraph. “We now have to tighten the vise to demonstrate to Qaddafi that the game is up.”

Why haven’t we heard more about this Richards chap? Another Field Marshal Montgomery.

He added that the bombing campaign, which has involved more than 2,500 sorties since it began March 19, had been “a significant success.” But he added: “We need to do more. If we do not up the ante now there is a risk that the conflict could result in Qaddafi clinging to power.”

Oh, ok. So that is what it was all about. And 2,500 “sorties”—nice term, that—unless you’re a civilian being sortied about. Two thousand five hundred bombing runs is a lot. (For more on genteel terms, see how “granular” works well in Afghanistan, here.)

The general suggested NATO should be freed from restraints that have precluded attacking infrastructure targets; other NATO officials have suggested in recent weeks that these could include elements of the electrical power grid in government-held areas, and fuel dumps. And he defended attacks seemingly aimed at Colonel Qaddafi himself, saying that “if he was in a command-and-control center that was hit by NATO and he was killed, that would be within the rules.”
Amazing. A really direct guy. Admits that he wants to kill Qaddafi, that he really isn’t allowed to under the original marching orders, but that there’s a way to achieve this “within the rules.”

A tally of NATO attacks given by alliance spokesmen in Brussels gave a measure of how the bombing had already been intensified, with a strong focus on Tripoli. NATO said that alliance aircraft struck 39 “key targets” in and around the capital in the first four days of last week, including the strike Thursday on Qaddafi headquarters in south-central Tripoli. The Tripoli targets, NATO said, included seven “command-and-control” centers, compared with only three similar strikes in the 10 days before then.

But the increased tempo of the attacks has shown little sign, so far, of seriously destabilizing Colonel Qaddafi’s rule. For weeks, there has been a heavily dispirited atmosphere in Tripoli, with many ordinary Libyans eager to pull Western reporters aside to say they yearned for Colonel Qaddafi to be ousted. NATO bombing attacks have often been followed by outbreaks of automatic fire in neighborhoods in central Tripoli, apparently started by hit-and-run attacks by elements of the anti-Qaddafi underground.

General Richards’s call for a widening of the bombing targets prompted a dismissive reaction from the Qaddafi government. Khalid Kaim, a deputy foreign minister, said the airstrikes had been aimed at infrastructure from the start, and he cited a string of attacks on what he described as civilian targets in several cities. As for attempts to kill Colonel Qaddafi, he said that NATO had conducted four airstrikes aimed at Libya’s leader, the latest on Thursday. Further attempts to kill him, he said, would be “a waste of time.”

Again, Mr. Kaim, this kind of taunt is just not helpful. You are definitely the runts on this playground.

This could all have been so, so much easier. All you had to do was play ball. And never mind those civilians.

Article summary: THE FAKE ARAB SPRING
Libya: Connect The Dots-You Get A Giant Dollar Sign
By Russ Baker on Jun 6, 2011

It’s true that Arab Spring is a good thing. It’s true Qaddafi is a bad guy. But connect the dots, and you will see that he is being set up. The evidence points to a plan to create an “Arab Spring” for the Good Old Boys—CIA, banks, oil companies. Read and see if you don’t agree.

In an earlier article, we posed the question, “Why are we in Libya?” We offered some thoughts.
Now, more pieces are falling into place. Those pieces have names of your favorite players: oil companies, banks like Goldman Sachs, and they paint a picture of endless corporate intrigue. The sort that never seems to come out in the corporate media.

Let’s go for a ride.

This February, several days after Hosni Mubarak resigned in Egypt, civil protest began in neighboring Libya. Quickly, Muammar Qaddafi’s Justice Minister turned against him and became a rebel leader. And, he made the dramatic claim that his ex-boss was the culprit behind the bombing of Pan Am 103:

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi ordered the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, a former Libyan cabinet minister was quoted as saying by a Swedish newspaper on Wednesday.

Former Justice Minister Mustafa Mohamed Abud Al Jeleil, reported to have resigned this week over the violence used by the government against protesters, told the tabloid Expressen he had evidence Gaddafi ordered the bombing that killed 270 people.

“I have proof that Gaddafi gave the order for (the) Lockerbie (bombing),” Expressen quoted Al Jeleil as saying in an interview at an undisclosed large town in Libya.

The newspaper did not say what the evidence of Gaddafi’s involvement in the bombing was.

A Libyan, Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, was tried and jailed in Scotland for the bombing, and Gaddafi, in power since 1969, was branded an international pariah for years.

In 2009, the Scottish government freed al-Megrahi on humanitarian grounds after doctors said he had terminal prostate cancer, a decision strongly criticized by the United States. He returned to Libya and is still alive.
“In order to conceal it (his role in ordering the bombing), he did everything in his power to get Megrahi back from Scotland,” al Jeleil was quoted as saying.

“He (Gaddafi) ordered Megrahi to do it.”

This story made it into major news media throughout the world, without anyone stopping to raise questions about the propaganda benefit of the statement, or of the timing. For example, the UK paper, The Telegraph, interviewed Jeleil/Jalil:
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the head of the provisional rebel government in Benghazi and Libya’s former justice minister, said he had evidence of Gaddafi’s involvement in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie.

“The orders were given by Gaddafi himself,” he told Rob Crilly.

Mr Abel Jalil claimed he had evidence that convicted bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi worked for Gaddafi.
“This evidence is in our hands and we have documents that prove what I have said and we are ready to hand them over to the international criminal court,” he added.

Since then, I haven’t seen any sign that Jalil’s evidence has been shown to anyone. So we don’t know that it actually exists, or that he was telling the truth. But the original headlines did the trick—anyone watching television or reading stories then would have been led to believe that Qaddafi was behind this dastardly deed.

A couple of days later, for the first time, President Obama called for Qaddafi to step down. And not long thereafter, the US, UK and their allies were getting ready to pitch military action against Qaddafi, originally characterized as solely humanitarian, “to protect civilians.” (Eventually, the top British military figure would indiscreetly admitthat the relentless bombing was intended to remove the Libyan leader.)

We’ll get back to the propaganda machine and its effectiveness later, but let’s now examine the relationship between the Western governments and Qaddafi. Was it, as presented in the media, merely a case of doing the right thing against a brutal tyrant? One also accused of being behind the murder of those airline passengers?
This is not the place to recount the entire back history between Qaddafi and the alliance. Suffice to say that Qaddafi is one of a long string of foreign leaders who insisted on an independent course, including requisite regional bigfooting, and got in trouble. Specifically, we could look at some skirmishes with the US Navy during the Reagan-Bush administration, but there’s a long list of grievances. This, as in the case of Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, is compounded by the fact that he sits on massive oil reserves. Add in his brutality, avarice and bizarre manner, and you’ve got an attractive target, and an easy one for his enemies’ publicity departments.

As animosity grew, Libya started being labeled a terrorist force, possibly with some truth, and then connected to a series of major outrages with which it may or may not have had anything to do.

One was the death of several US soldiers in a Berlin nightclub in 1986, and another the alleged sponsorship of a hijacking that same year. But the thing that turned much of the world against Qaddafi was the alleged role of Libya in blowing Pan Am 103 apart.

Most of us probably remember, vaguely, that Libya’s role in that is an established fact. If so, we’re off base. Let’s start with this 2001 BBC report, following the conviction of Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer:
Robert Black, the Scottish law professor who devised the format of the Netherlands-based trial, was quoted on Sunday as saying he was “absolutely astounded” that Al Megrahi had been found guilty.

Mr Black said he believed the prosecution had “a very, very weak circumstantial case” and he was reluctant to believe that Scottish judges would “convict anyone, even a Libyan” on such evidence.

The view, published in British newspapers, echoes that of some of the families of UK victims of the Lockerbie bombing, who are calling for a public inquiry to find “the truth of who was responsible and what the motive was”.

Wednesday’s verdict sparked angry protests in Libya on Saturday, as Washington and London demanded the Libyan Government accept responsibility for the atrocity and pay compensation to the victims’ families.
The protesters condemned what they called a “CIA-dictated” verdict and demanded compensation for the victims of the 1986 US air raids on Tripoli and Benghazi.

For more on doubts about Libya’s role in the bombing, see the excellent summary of powerful evidence that the Libyans may have been framed, evidence not presented at trial, on Wikipedia. (While Wikipedia should not be considered a definitive source, it is often a good roundup of what may be found elsewhere and thus a starting point for further inquiry.) The troubling elements, which constitute a very long list, include an alleged offer from the FBI of $4 million for certain incriminating testimony, the subsequent admission by a key witness that he had lied, details of strange goings-on in the FBI’s crime lab, and indications that the bomb may have been introduced at an airport where the defendant was not present.

Nevertheless, Megrahi’s conviction, and the media’s dutiful reporting of it as justice done, meant that Libya, and Qaddafi, would continue under sanctions that had already isolated the country for a decade from the international community.

Qaddafi had sought to undo the cordon, including handing Megrahi over for trial in 1999. But that had not done the trick, and the January 31, 2001 conviction, coming 11 days after the inauguration of George W. Bush, threatened to make things worse—much worse. Qaddafi particularly had to worry about how it might impact his own survival.

By May 2002, with US troops in Afghanistan having ousted the Taliban and four months after Bush listed Iraq, Iran, North Korea and Syria as part of an “axis of evil” seeking “weapons of mass destruction”, Libya was feeling the heat. That month, it offered staggered payments to the Lockerbie victims’ families, as part of a trade for the cancellation of UN and US trade sanctions, and removal of Libya from the State Department’s list of states sponsoring terrorism. By August, 2003, several months after the invasion of Iraq and removal of Saddam Hussein, Qaddafi cut a deal, as reported in the New York Times:

Libya and lawyers for families of the victims of the 1988 midair bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, signed an agreement today to create an account for $2.7 billion in expected compensation, a lawyer said.

”Libya and the lawyers representing families of the victims have signed an agreement to create the escrow account at the Bank for International Settlements,” said the lawyer, Saad Djebbar, an Algerian living in London who has followed the case since 1992.

As a result, he said United Nations sanctions might be lifted.

With the agreement, Libya is expected to deposit the money in the account and to send the United Nations Security Council a letter accepting responsibility for the bombing, in which 270 people died.

In Washington, family members said today that the State Department had invited the victims’ families to a briefing on Friday.

It was a package deal, with many tentative aspects. Libya told the UN it “accepted responsibility” in the bombing—though, notably, it did not admit guilt. Indeed, as late as 2008, Qaddafi’s son Saif told a BBC documentary crew that the only reason Libya “admitted responsibility” was to get the sanctions removed. The documentary noted that several victims’ families had declined compensation because they felt Libya had not actually been behind the bombing.

The 2003 deal was enough, however, to begin welcoming Libya back into the family of nations. The Bush administration moved quickly to begin trade with Libya. By December, 2003, Libya had agreed to give up whatever WMD programs it purportedly had in return for the US lifting sanctions.

This heartened not only Libya, but also major Western companies, which had been champing at the bit for years to get a piece of Libya’s assets, including its vast oil reserves and the income they generated.

The inexorable trade machine kept grinding along. Within a few weeks, Bush signed an executive order restoring Libyan immunity from terror lawsuits and ended pending US compensation cases.

In 2007, strongly encouraged by the UK oil company BP, Britain began pushing for a transfer of Megrahi back to prison in Libya, resulting in a series of events that concluded with his 2009 release from incarceration—on purported medical grounds. (New information on BP’s role has come out recently, with Hillary Clinton and key US senators expressing outrage and declaring their intent to investigate–see here. No mention by the Dems of the doubts about his guilt, just indignation that a “murderer” had been freed.)

In 2009, the same year Megrahi was released, Qaddafi, faced with stiff ongoing Lockerbie payments, began pressing oil companies to pay more to help cover his debt.

We learned of the pressure on the oil companies during the recent propaganda effort to build support for military action against Qaddafi. In a New York Times articleheadlined “Shady Dealings Helped Qaddafi Build Fortune and Regime”—the crux of which was Qaddafi’s shadiness (though not necessarily that of the oil companies)—was this gem of an item. It was easily missed and as easily misconstrued:

In 2009, top aides to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi called together 15 executives from global energy companies operating in Libya’s oil fields and issued an extraordinary demand: Shell out the money for his country’s $1.5 billion bill for its role in the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 and other terrorist attacks.

If the companies did not comply, the Libyan officials warned, there would be “serious consequences” for their oil leases,according to a State Department summary of the meeting.

Now why would Qaddafi be desperate for cash? The article didn’t say. But if I’m connecting dots correctly, I’d say that you have to read another paper, then link the two.

Here’s the Wall Street Journal with an exclusive from May 31 that is hugely important but has thus far been seen in isolation, unconnected to the oil demand above. I recommend reading the lengthy excerpt that follows:

In early 2008, Libya’s sovereign-wealth fund controlled by Col. Moammar Gadhafi gave $1.3 billion to Goldman Sachs Group to sink into a currency bet and other complicated trades. The investments lost 98% of their value, internal Goldman documents show.

…In 2004, the U.S. government had lifted an earlier set of sanctions…That opened the door for dozens of U.S. and European banks, hedge funds and other investment firms to pile into the North African nation.
The Libyan Investment Authority set up shop on the 22nd floor of what was then Tripoli’s tallest building and launched in June 2007 with about $40 billion in assets. Libya approached 25 financial institutions, offering each of them a chance to manage at least $150 million, recalls a person familiar with the fund’s plans.

Soon it was spreading chunks of the money to firms around the world. In addition to Goldman, those institutions included Société Générale SA, HSBC Holdings PLC, Carlyle Group, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Och-Ziff Capital Management Group and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., according to internal fund records reviewed by the Journal.

… “The country made a conscious decision to join the major leagues,” says Edwin Truman, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and former assistant Treasury secretary. Until then, the investment fund’s money was held in Libya’s central bank, earning ho-hum returns on high-quality bonds.

Goldman seized the opportunity. In May 2007, several Goldman partners met with the Libyans at Goldman’s London office. Mustafa Zarti, then the fund’s deputy chairman, and Hatem el-Gheriani, its chief investment officer, invited the Goldman partners to see the fund’s Libyan headquarters for themselves. Mr. Zarti was a close associate of one of Col. Gadhafi’s sons, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, and reported to a longtime friend of the Libyan ruler.

…Goldman soon carved out a new business with the Libyans, in options—investments that give buyers the right to purchase stocks, currencies or other assets on a future date at stipulated prices. Between January and June 2008, the Libyan fund paid $1.3 billion for options on a basket of currencies and on six stocks: Citigroup Inc., Italian bank UniCredit SpA, Spanish bank Banco Santander, German insurance giant Allianz, French energy company Électricité de France and Italian energy company Eni SpA. The fund stood to reap gains if prices of the underlying stocks or currencies rose above the stipulated levels.

But that fall, the credit crisis hit with a vengeance as Lehman Brothers failed and banks all over the world faced financial crises. The $1.3 billion of option investments were hit especially hard. The underlying securities plunged in value and all of the trades lost money, according to an internal Goldman memo reviewed by the Journal. The memo said the investments were worth just $25.1 million as of February 2010—a decline of 98%.

Officials at the sovereign-wealth fund accused Goldman of misrepresenting the investment deals and making trades without proper authorization, according to people familiar with the situation. In July 2008, Mr. Zarti, the fund’s deputy chairman, summoned Mr. Kabbaj, Goldman’s North Africa chief, to a meeting with the fund’s legal and compliance staff, according to Libyan Investment Authority emails reviewed by the Journal.

One person who attended the meeting says Mr. Zarti was “like a raging bull,” cursing and threatening Mr. Kabbaj and another Goldman employee. Goldman arranged for security to protect the employees until they left Libya the next day, according to people familiar with the matter.

…Following the showdown in Tripoli, the fund demanded restitution and issued vague threats of legal action.

The Journal goes on to describe Goldman’s response—which “audacious” doesn’t begin to describe. Goldman offered to make it all up to Libya by selling it a huge stake…in Goldman itself. That Journal piece is well worth reading, as is this essay from Rolling Stone, but a bit off our topic beyond the notion that Western companies loved rubbing this rube’s nose in it.

The point, at least to me, is that Libya had taken the advice of an American firm and invested, and lost, a huge amount of the funds that are supposed to generate profits used in governing Libya. Including providing the kinds of services that kept Libyans loyal to Qaddafi in the first place.

Is it any surprise that just as this banking disaster unfolded, Qaddafi in 2009 turned desperately to the Western oil companies, which were doing well by Libya, and wanted them to pay more royalties to fund the Lockerbie settlements? Settlements he perhaps should not have had to pay in the first place?


By December 2010, when a Tunisian man set himself on fire, the Arab Spring revolt was under way—in Egypt, Bahrain, and elsewhere. Pretty quickly, it was clear to everyone that the Western powers were in danger of losing crucial oil suppliers—and vital military bases.

It certainly was convenient that, right about that time, Libya showed signs of moving in the opposite direction—into the US camp. Read our piece here about the CIA ties to the Libyan uprising.

Then consider the timing of February’s ramped-up claim by the defecting Libyan official, that Qaddafi himself had ordered the Lockerbie bombing.

If that wasn’t enough in the propaganda department to get the global public worked up, next came the Libya rape story. The average person doesn’t have the time or appetite to follow the kinds of complex corporate maneuverings that fascinate us here, but they do understandably get upset about bombs on civilian aircraft and rape.

We wrote about that rape story back here. Our point, which still stands, is that it is highly unusual for rape victims and their families to come forward publicly. It is almost unheard of in Arab countries, where the consequences can be severe. (Update: the woman and her family are being relocated in the West¸ and she’s said she’d like to come to America.)

We noted the timing of the story, the alacrity with which the Western press grabbed it and spread it, and the simple fact that there’s no evidence tying Qaddafi in any way to any such act. Even the woman herself doesn’t claim that. Yet it infuriated untold millions and postings all over the Web show that it moved a lot of public opinion into the column supporting military action to remove the Libyan leader.

That the corporate media cannot see what is going on here, or refuses to see, tells us how far we have not come since the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.

Still, we can hear the other shoe dropping if we listen carefully enough. For example, the website Politico ran a little item the other day on a powwow between Hillary Clinton and corporate executives over business opportunities in Iraq.

FIRST LOOK: WALL STREET IN IRAQ? – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Deputy Secretary Tom Nides (formerly chief administrative officer at Morgan Stanley) will host a group of corporate executives at State this morning as part of the Iraq Business Roundtable. Corporate executives from approximately 30 major U.S. companies – including financial firms Citigroup, JPMorganChase and Goldman Sachs – will join U.S. and Iraqi officials to discuss economic opportunities in the new Iraq.

Full list of corporate participants:

Give it a couple of years, and they’ll be having the same party celebrating a more sympathetic regime in Libya.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Gadhafi CIA Psycho Profile

Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafi. A CIA report says that the dictator, while usually rational, is prone to delusional thinking when under pressure.

By BENEDICT CAREY © 2011 New York Times News Service

Posted Friday, April 22 2011 at 22:00

American analysts have compiled psychological assessments of hostile leaders like Gaddafi, Kim Jong Il of North Korea and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez

He is a delusional narcissist who will fight until his last breath. Or an impulsive showman who will hop into the next flight out of town when cornered. Or maybe he’s a psychopath, a coldly calculating strategist — crazy, like a desert fox.

The endgame in Libya is likely to turn in large part on the instincts of Muammar Gaddafi, and any insight into those instincts would be enormously valuable to policymakers. Journalists have formed their impressions from anecdotes, or from his actions in the past; others have seized on his recent tirades about al-Qaeda and President Barack Obama.

But at least one group has tried to construct a profile based on scientific methods, and its conclusions are the ones most likely to affect US policy.

For decades, analysts at CIA and the Department of Defence have compiled psychological assessments of hostile leaders like Gaddafi, Kim Jong Il of North Korea and President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, as well as allies, potential successors and other prominent officials. (Many other governments do the same, of course.)

Diplomats, military strategists and even presidents have drawn on those profiles to inform their decisions – in some cases to their benefit, in other cases at a cost.

The political profile “is perhaps most important in cases where you have a leader who dominates the society, who can act virtually without constraint,” said Dr Jerrold Post, a psychiatrist who directs the political psychology programme at George Washington University and founded the CIA branch that does behavioural analysis. “And that has been the case here, with Gaddafi and Libya.”

At-a-distance profiling

The official dossiers are classified. But the methods are well known. Civilian psychologists have developed many of the techniques, drawing mostly on public information about a given leader: speeches, writings, biographical facts, observable behaviour.

The resulting forecasts suggest that “at-a-distance profiling,” as it is known, is still more an art than a science. So in a crisis like the one in Libya, it is crucial to know the assessments’ potential value and real limitations.

“Expert profilers are better at predicting behaviour than a blindfolded chimpanzee, all right, but the difference is not as large as you’d hope it would be,” said Philip Tetlock, a psychologist at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and the author of Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know? (Princeton University, 2006), who has done profiling of his own. “There’s no secret sauce, and my impression is that often the process can be rushed,” as a leader suddenly becomes a person of intense interest.

The method with the longest track record is modelled on clinical case studies, the psychobiographies that therapists create when making a diagnosis, citing influences going back to the sandbox.

The first one on record, commissioned in the early 1940s by the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor to the CIA, was of Adolf Hitler; in it, the Harvard personality specialist Henry A. Murray speculated freely and luridly about Hitler’s “infinite self-abasement,” “homosexual panic” and Oedipal tendencies.

Clinical-case approach

Analysts still use this clinical-case approach but now ground it far more firmly in biographical facts than on Freudian speculation or personal opinion.

In a profile of Gaddafi for Foreign Policy magazine, Post concludes that the dictator, while usually rational, is prone to delusional thinking when under pressure – “and right now, he is under the most stress he has been under since taking over the leadership of Libya.”

At his core, Gaddafi sees himself as the ultimate outsider, the Muslim warrior fighting impossible odds, Post argues, and he “is indeed prepared to go down in flames.”

Characterisations of this type have been invaluable in the past. In preparation for the Camp David peace negotiations between Israel and Egypt, the CIA provided President Jimmy Carter with profiles of both nations’ leaders, Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat. In his memoirs Keeping Faith, Carter credited the profiles with giving him crucial insights that helped close a peace deal.

The brief on the Egyptian president, “Sadat’s Nobel Prize Complex,” noted that Sadat “sees himself as a grand strategist and will make tactical concessions if he is persuaded his overall goals will be achieved,” and added, “His self-confidence has permitted him to make bold initiatives, often overriding his advisers’ objections.”

Yet the assessments can also be misleading, even embarrassing. Profiles of President Saddam Hussein of Iraq that circulated in the early 1990s suggested that he was ultimately a pragmatist who would give in under pressure.

And in 1993, the CIA reportedly provided lawmakers with a brief alleging that the Haitian leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide had a history of mental illness, including manic depression. Aristide furiously denied it, and the report was soon discredited.

In a 1994 review of the episode in Foreign Policy, Thomas Omestad wrote that the profile was “light on facts and heavy on speculation; it came closer to character assassination than character analysis.”

Intelligence specialists have learned to hedge their bets over the years, supplementing case histories with “content analysis” techniques, which look for patterns in a leader’s comments or writings.

For instance, a software programme developed by Margaret Hermann, a researcher at Syracuse University, evaluates the relative frequency of certain categories of words (like “I,” “me,” “mine”) in interviews, speeches and other sources and links the scores to leadership traits.

Wipe them out

A technique used by David G. Winter, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, draws on similar sources to judge leaders’ motives, in particular their need for power, achievement and affiliation.

The sentence “We can certainly wipe them out” reflects a high power orientation; the comment “After dinner, we sat around chatting and laughing together” rings of affiliation.

“Combine high power and high affiliation, the person is likely to reach out, whereas power and low affiliation tend to predict aggression,” said Winter, who has profiled Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton, among many others. “That’s the idea, though of course you can’t predict anything with certainty.”

At least one group of political profilers has incorporated that flaw itself – uncertainty – into its forecasts. Peter Suedfeld, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia who has worked with Tetlock, sifts through a leader’s words to rate a quality called integrative complexity. This is a measure of how certain people are, how confident in their judgments, whether they have considered any opposing points of view.

In a series of studies, the researchers have compared communications leading up to the outbreaks of World War I and the Korean War with those that led to a peaceful resolution, like the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

And the higher the level of acknowledged uncertainty, the less likely the leader is to pursue war, Suedfeld said. He has not yet analysed Gaddafi’s comments, but it doesn’t take an expert to observe that the Libyan leader sounds very certain, if not always coherent.

What is missing amid all this number crunching and modelling is any sense of which methods are most useful when. In an exhaustive review of intelligence analysis published in recent weeks, a prominent panel of social scientists strongly agreed: Psychological profiling and other methods intelligence analysts use to predict behaviour are sorely in need of rigorous testing.

And new ideas. In an unusual move, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which commissioned the report, has sponsored a kind of competition (, inviting people to test their own forecasting techniques, to improve intelligence analysis.

Given the challenge of predicting what leaders like Gaddafi might do, think of it as a plea for help.