Crimes Against Reality in Libya, part 3 | April 17, 2011
Misrata: An Illusion Under Siege
Misrata (alt: Misurata, Arabic: مصراتة) is Libya’s third largest city (after Tripoli and Benghazi), boasting in peacetime about 550,000 people.  Considered Libya’s commercial capital, it lies in the west of the country about 130 miles east of the capitol Tripoli. It was among the amazing number of Libyan cities, east and west, that fell to rebel control within just a few days of the revolt’s start on February 17. This flash of activity was much more violent and pre-planned than the world public realizes, but that was needed to seed the impression that the whole country had “voted” by popular action to secede from the capitol.
After the initial shock of this unprecedented mutiny, the loyalists in the army and within the “liberated” cities re-grouped with an early-March roll-back. In general, rebel support was too weak to last in the west, and caved easily, and by the 19th rebel control was limited to their de facto capitol Benghazi and points eastward. The only exception to this rule was vital and sizeable Misrata, then and for the last month the only western city even partially held by rebels.
As the last bastion of illusion against this being an East-West civil war as opposed to a nationwide popular revolt, Misrata’s fate is second only to Benghazi’s. One holds the key to the east, the other maybe half a key to the whole nation. Just as a threat of losing Benghazi spurred the first western airstrikes on March 19, the continued siege of Misrata is apparently ushering in another phase entirely. With its neighborhood-scale fighting, snipers, and mortars and rockets from afar, the city has been much changed. It’s been described as a living hell, with “unimaginable carnage,” hospitals overflowing, bodies piling up uncounted in the streets, as many as 2,000 killed. It’s been said Gaddafi is flattening the city, strangling it, and intends to slaughter every person in it.
However, on April 14, Professor Alan J. Kuperman wrote an excellent analysis citing Human Rights Watch information on Misrata “revealing that Moammar Khadafy is not deliberately massacring civilians but rather narrowly targeting the armed rebels who fight against his government.” It does seem a bit more sloppy than he makes it sound, but Kuperman is probably closer to the truth of the matter than most. Since the fighting there started nearly two months earlier, he finds from HRW’s numbers:
[O]nly 257 people — including combatants — have died there. Of the 949 wounded, only 22 — less than 3 percent — are women. If Khadafy were indiscriminately targeting civilians, women would comprise about half the casualties. 
In the roughly 45 days since the siege began, 257 is only about six deaths per day, on average. That isn’t likely a complete number, but no more likely to be very far off. In reality it looks less like a genocidal massacre than the six weeks of low-level but NATO-prolonged urban warfare it is. Even presuming a gross margin of unreported deaths, 400 or even 500 dead is really not that high – at most about 0.1% of the population. If the government were trying to kill “as many people as possible,” with this much time to have done it, they are failing badly.
The last few days, April 14-16, have however seen a brutal new offensive by the government’s forces, by rebel reports, with a few dozen more killed in rocket attacks on Misrata, indiscriminately including women, children, and elderly.  Cluster bombs have reportedly been found.  The harbor was attacked again. The rebels predict a total slaughter will finally befall them without more NATO involvement soon. What they really mean is Misrata will no longer be a rebel town.
All these concerns, taken in context, helped the leaders of the US, UK, and France, who happened to be meeting in these bloody days, to jointly denounce, among other things, the “medieval siege” of Misrata. And it finally allowed them to make some new decisions (which we’ll be seeing shortly) on a core realization that all three nations have agreed on for four decades now. Essentially, Gaddafi must go. “It is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Gaddafi in power,” they lied jointly on the 15th. 
Mystery Snipers Killing Kids?
Worse than the fairly indiscriminate death of distance shelling, the most incendiary new allegation is the mad tyrant Gaddafi sending snipers to Misrata to sit on rooftops, picking out children to shoot dead. Or so we hear. On April 8, a statement was issued in Switzerland:
“What we have are reliable and consistent reports of children being among the people targeted by snipers in Misrata,” UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado told reporters in Geneva. The information was based on local sources, Mercado said. She was unable to say how many children have been wounded or killed in this way. 
UNICEF, the United Nations wing for caring about children’s health and well-being, was naturally alarmed enough by these reports to announce they existed but weren’t verified – they’d go and have a look and then, perhaps, we’d hear about corroboration.
A cynic might see in this echoes of the incubator-baby stories of 1991 Gulf War fame. The tale of an Iraqi atrocity in Kuwait, killing dozens of premature babies for no clear reason, gave massive and emotional public support to the war effort. Later, the story was proven to be a complete lie, concocted by the Kuwaiti royal family and public relations firm Hill and Knowlton, Inc.  Again, the first part of that is happening with this news spreading like wildfire. And we shall see, and in short order, that the second half is already coming into focus along similar lines.
There’s no great reason to doubt the presence of snipers in the city, given the situation. Rebels allege African mercenaries as usual, military snipers from elite battalions, and most recently special female sharpshooters from Colombia’s FARC army.  One Libyan exile with contact in Misrata said the snipers were “Libyan mercenaries,” as well as some “from Mauritania, 2 from Colombia, 2 women, some from Chad, and others from origins of which we are not sure.” (more from this expert below). 
As far as people capable of making bullets fly in a war-torn city, we also cannot rule out armed loyalist citizens, possibly gone loco and trying to demoralize the traitors by killing their young. That wouldn’t exactly be a government strategy requiring regime change, but close enough for most. Or it could be a black-hearted rebel supporter trying to create another humanitarian disaster to be blamed on the regime. And it would be, of course, with no questions asked. The government itself claims snipers exist in Misrata – brought in by the rebels and affiliated with Hezbollah, says spokesman Khaled Kaim. Hezbollah denies this, and the evidence has yet to be shown 
Yousef bin Youssef on Snipers, Kids, and/or Targeting
A video from the Al Aan channel of the United Arab Emirates was posted April 9, with English subtitles, on rebel site LibyaFeb17.info. Entitled “Batallion snipers targeting children in Misurata,” the content is an interview with Yousef bin Youssef, onetime Misrata resident, in touch with others still there and amazingly informed (he’s the one with the sniper nationalities list). 
Asked if “children were actually being targeted by snipers there,” Youssef makes a long presentation with heavy use of the word for “targeted,” but only gives one bit of an answer to that question at the end. He starts with the government shelling of the city:
“[T]here are very serious risks when these populated zones are targeted – many injuries could occur … Families are being targeted daily … the targeting of children and civilians in large numbers … the targeting of Misrata is happening in every residential area … Gaddafi’s forces are systematically killing the entire population of the city of Misrata.”
He does get to children, noting that “a car with four children in it was targeted,” in fact a disputable incident at a check-point, killing one child an wounding another.  This is quite common in places like Iraq where a government is up against an insurgency. “In another neighborhood near Tripoli street,” Youssef added, “a child of two years was also targeted” in some unspecified way. He also lists several names with ages of “just a few” of the youngest “martyrs” killed by anything at all so far in this conflict.
He also brought cell-phone video footage of three injured children evacuated, from Misrata and Benghazi, to Turkey. One is a boy with his right arm amputated and the left one locked in a full cast, and one eye swollen shut. Another older boy is shown with both hands in casts. Both look more like mishaps in handling explosives than any sniper’s work. Their injuries are not explained. 
The Girl in Turkey: Right for the Heart
The only time in all Youssef’s interview where any sign of a sniper appears is with the third child, which he describes as:
“a small girl, no older than 4 years, who was targeted by a sniper’s bullet near the heart. But thank God, they removed the bullet, as you can see.” 
The hefty bullet is shown in a vial, and a precious little girl is shown curled up asleep in the hospital bed, barely saved from the government’s mad designs. And as proof the two were once together, her x-ray is also shown to the camera. A rib cage is visible, with a bullet appearing in the upper center (top image). That looks like medical proof she was shot by someone or other. And certainly the whole medical clinic setting lends credence to it.
Luckily I happen to have a clearer blow-up of this same image (see below, explained further below) to get some better detail. It looks like possibly a sniper bullet, but with an odd orientation. Unless the kid was doing cartwheels at the moment of impact, it was apparently fired up from a low angle, an inherently illogical scenario.
Further, the bullet is perfectly shaped, with no apparent deformation from entry and plowing through tissues firm enough to stop it entirely only halfway through.
This in turn might have something to with absolutely no sign of entry revealed by the x-rays. Following back the apparent bullet track suggests it must have entered her body on the left side (lower right in the image). Any possible “hole” in her side would be invisible from a frontal view. We should, however, see any broken chunks or deformation to the curve of her ribs where at least one should have been shattered. But not a single arc of this delicate 4-year-old rib-cage is disturbed that we can see.
While I don’t have the expertise to credibly rule out a real gunshot here, It seems to me that this image shows two things:
1) The girl was never shot.
2) A bullet was made to appear in her chest.
The fakery could be done in any photo-editing program, then sent to a device for developing the image on transluscent film to look real. Or it could be a simple x-ray image of the child with a bullet laid on her chest. But that’s sure as hell not how it was preseted to the world at almost exactly the same time as that April 8 UNICEF report.
The Boy in Misrata with the Same X-Ray Proof
Furthermore, at the same time, there was another child with a family claiming proof of a very similar sniper shot. The April 10 Human Rights Watch dispatch related the story of a five-year-old boy. He’s not in the main article for some reason, but is shown in the bottom picture with his mother and an x-ray image, with this extended caption:
Five-and-a-half year old Rakan Ahmed was playing in the street opposite the Italian Consulate on March 19 when a bullet entered his shoulder and passed by his heart, according to his parents, Hanan Faraj and Ahmed Muftah Burjid. There was fighting at the time about 500 meters away, they said, but no sound of gunfire close by. “Rakan’s uncle carried him inside,” Ahmed Muftah Burjid said. “We thought he fainted. There was no sound of a gunshot, no blood.” When the family arrived at the hospital, they saw the bullet from the x-rays, which the family shared with Human Rights Watch. “We were shocked,” Ahmed recalled. “We just thought he was tired.” 
This might sound strange, but is remarkably akin to what happened to WPC Yvonne Fletcher in London, 1984. Standing across from the Libyan embassy, she was shot by a high-powered bullet that entered the right shoulder at a steep angle, hit the heart, lung, and other vital organs, and passed out her lower left rib cage.  She died from all this within short order, but from the outside, she just collapsed, with no visible blood and officers at first acting as if she’d just fainted.  Gaddafi thug snipers pulled the trigger, it was decided, in both of these cases. Women and children were slaughtered, publics enraged. We have a precedent.
By the photo HRW ran (right), little Rakan does seem to be injured. He has bandages on his left side over the owie (the exit wound after the entry on his right shoulder?). His mom helps show us by pulling up his arm and his shirt. He looks unhappy, but quite healthy and limber for only three weeks healing time after such a massive injury to the upper body.
The x-ray image shown to the right, shared by the family, reveals a bullet is or was once in there, stopped just where it was in the girl’s x-ray. It did not exit through his side or at all. Hmmm…
The bullet shown here has the same pristine profile, same orientation and implied, illogical, low-level entry. It clearly did not enter via his shoulder, as reported, in fact just stopping in the middle of him, halfway to his right shoulder. Beside the bullet match, this x-ray shows the same strange line running across, same light and dark patches, same … undisturbed rib cage.
It’s the same image, I can safely say, (aside from the circled left shoulder in Rakan’s print). See the comparison at left, complicated by low-resolution video, the different angles of view, and different backgrounds behind the translucent images (these are all corrected somewhat for the left image). Clearly they are too consistent to be anything other than the same, so this is of course my source for the above blow-up of the little girl’s chest shot.
The image could still be of a genuine child shooting, as my pathologist friend Rolfe at the JREF forum points out, but as she also notes with basic logic, it can’t be evidence for both of those kids being shot.  Nonetheless, it was presented within the same few-days span as just that. It should of course be noted that this doubling up is enough to change “child” to “children,” and leave the public imagining just how many. Imaginations over here tend to ignore the “reported” part and presume hundreds of things like this. But we have this kind of evidence for only two, one recovering in Turkey, the other all healed up in Misrata, neither with a single broken rib, judging by the single x-ray image between them.
All I can say is I’m glad the rebels are still able to fake these things in Photoshop and have it believed. If the international agencies like UNICEF and HRW were more exacting, we might see rebels actually shooting each others’ children to leverage stronger support for regime change efforts. At the moment, I wish Gaddafi would just step down and hand his country over to Wall Street and these manipulative little domestic proxies so this absurdity can finally stop.
 Wikipedia. Misrata. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misrata
 Kuperman, Alan J. “False pretense for war in Libya?” Boston Globe. April 14 2011. http://articles.boston.com/2011-04-14/bostonglobe/29418371_1_rebel-stronghold-civilians-rebel-positions
 “Rocket barrage hits Misrata, NATO says Gaddafi must go” Times of India, April 15. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/Obama-Sarko-Cameron-seal-deal-Oust-Gaddafi/articleshow/7996431.cms
 Murray, Craig. “Clusters of Hypocrisy.” April 16 2011. http://craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2011/04/clusters-of-hypocrisy/
 Washington Post. UNICEF: Snipers targeting children in besieged Libyan city of Misrata. April 8. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/unicef-snipers-targeting-children-in-besieged-libyan-city-of-misrata/2011/04/08/AF5jO4zC_story.html
 Daily Mail. April 15. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1377349/Libya-16-women-children-rocket-blitz-Gaddafis-troops.html
 “Batallion snipers targeting children in Misurata.” April 9 posting of video interview with Yousef bin Youssef, on al Aan news. (Undated). http://feb17.info/media/video-interview-battalion-snipers-targeting-children-in-misurata-translated/
 Hezbollah denies any role in Libya’s uprising. Ya Libnan. April 14 2011. http://www.yalibnan.com/2011/04/14/hezbollah-denies-any-role-in-libyas-uprising/
 Human Rights Watch. “Libya: Government Attacks in Misrata Kill Civilians.” April 10 2011. http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2011/04/10/libya-government-attacks-misrata-kill-civilians
 “Baby Snipers…Propaganda? Or are they just that evil?” JREF discussion forum. Thread started April 8. http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=205780
An Ongoing Disaster
The scale of the ongoing tragedy visited on Libya by NATO and its allies is becoming horribly clearer with each passing day. Estimates of those killed so far vary, but 50,000 seems like a low estimate; indeed the British Ministry of Defence was boasting that the onslaught had killed 35,000 as early as last May. But this number is constantly growing. The destruction of the state’s forces by British, French and American blitzkrieg has left the country in a state of total anarchy – in the worst possible sense of the word. Having had nothing to unite them other than a temporary willingness to act as NATO’s foot soldiers, the former ‘rebels’ are now turning on each other. 147 were killed in in-fighting in Southern Libya in a single week earlier this year, and in recent weeks government buildings – including the Prime Ministerial compound – have come under fire by ‘rebels’ demanding cash payment for their services. $1.4billion has been paid out already – demonstrating once again that it was the forces of NATO colonialism, not Gaddafi, who were reliant on ‘mercenaries’- but payments were suspended last month due to widespread nepotism. Corruption is becoming endemic – a further $2.5billion in oil revenues that was supposed to have been transferred to the national treasury remains unaccounted for. Libyan resources are now being jointly plundered by the oil multinationals and a handful of chosen families from amongst the country’s new elites; a classic neo-colonial stitch-up. The use of these resources for giant infrastructure projects such as the Great Manmade River, and the massive raising of living standards over the past four decades (Libyan life expectancy rose from 51 to 77 since Gaddafi came to power in 1969) sadly looks to have already become a thing of the past.
But woe betide anyone who mentions that now. It was decided long ago that no supporters of Gaddafi would be allowed to stand in the upcoming elections, but recent changes have gone even further. Law 37, passed by the new NATO-imposed government last month, has created a new crime of ‘glorifying’ the former government or its leader – subject to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Would this include a passing comment that things were better under Gaddafi? The law is cleverly vague enough to be open to interpretation. It is a recipe for institutionalised political persecution.
Even more indicative of the contempt for the rule of law amongst the new government – a government, remember, which has yet to receive any semblance of popular mandate, and whose only power base remains the colonial armed forces – is Law 38. This law has now guaranteed immunity from prosecution for anyone who committed crimes aimed at “promoting or protecting the revolution”. Those responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Tawergha – such as Misrata’s self-proclaimed “brigade for the purging of black skins” – can continue their hunting down of that cities’ refugees in the full knowledge that they have the new ‘law’ on their side. Those responsible for the massacres in Sirte and elsewhere have nothing to fear. Those involved in the widespread torture of detainees can continue without repercussions – so long as it is aimed at “protecting the revolution” – i.e. maintaining NATO-TNC dictatorship.
This is the reality of the new Libya: civil war, squandered resources, and societal collapse, where voicing preference for the days when Libya was prosperous and at peace is a crime, but lynching and torture is not only permitted but encouraged.
Nor has the disaster remained a national one. Libya’s destabilisation has already spread to Mali, prompting a coup, and huge numbers of refugees – especially amongst Libya’s large black migrant population – have fled to neighbouring countries in a desperate attempt to escape both aerial destruction and lynch mob rampage, putting further pressure on resources elsewhere. Many Libyan fighters, their work done in Libya, have now been shipped by their imperial masters to Syria to spread their sectarian violence there too.
Most worrying for the African continent, however, is the forward march of AFRICOM – the US military’s African command – in the wake of the aggression against Libya. It is no coincidence that barely a month after the fall of Tripoli – and in the same month Gaddafi was murdered (October 2011) – the US announced it was sending troops to no less than four more African countries – the Central African Republic, Uganda, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. AFRICOM have now announced an unprecedented fourteen major joint military exercises in African countries for 2012. The military re-conquest of Africa is rolling steadily on.
None of this would have been possible whilst Gaddafi was still in power. As founder of the African Union, its biggest donor, and its one-time elected Chairman, he wielded serious influence on the continent. It was partly thanks to him that the US was forced to establish AFRICOM’s HQ in Stuttgart in Germany when it was established in February 2008, rather than in Africa itself; he offered cash and investments to African governments who rejected US requests for bases. Libya under his leadership had an estimated $150 billion of investments in Africa, and the Libyan proposal, backed with £30billion cash, for an African Union Development Bank would have seriously reduced African financial dependence on the West. In short, Gaddafi’s Libya was the single biggest obstacle to AFRICOM penetration of the continent.
Now he has gone, AFRICOM is stepping up its work. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan showed the West that wars in which their own citizens get killed are not popular; AFRICOM is designed to ensure that in the coming colonial wars against Africa, it will be Africans who do the fighting and dying, not Westerners. The forces of the African Union are to become integrated into AFRICOM under a US-led chain of command. Gaddafi would never have stood for it; that is why he had to go.
And if you want a vision of Africa under AFRICOM tutelage, look no further than Libya, NATO’s model of an African state: condemned to decades of violence and trauma, and utterly incapable of either providing for its people, or contributing to regional or continental independence. The new military colonialism in Africa must not be allowed to advance another inch.
DAN GLAZEBROOK writes for the Morning Star newspaper and is one of the co-ordinators for the British branch of the International Union of Parliamentarians for Palestine. He can be contacted at email@example.com
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