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A View From the Opposition

Dr. Mahmoud GibrilCritical analysis of The Libyan interim Prime Minister
Report by Dan Lieberman

The Brookings’ narrow Saul/Zilkha room overflowed with an expectant crowd awaiting the entrance of the Prime Minister of the Executive Department of the Transitorial National Council of the Libyan Republic. Libya’s opposition leader, Dr. Mahmoud Gibril didn’t disappoint. He spoke eloquently and candidly, but insufficiently convincing. Those cheering for the latest entry for the Nobel Peace Prize might not carefully examine his words. However, his overcharged rhetoric invited scrutiny and raised issues.

The interim Prime Minister viewed the current situation in Libya “as a natural product of globalization” and “cannot be separated from what's happening in Egypt, from what's happening in Tunisia, what's taking place in Yemen and what's taking place in Syria.”  The youth in Libya, who have been the leaders in the rebellion, are responding to the global visions of living with dignity and participating democratically
Sounds good and is good, but incomplete. Dr. Gibril failed to mention that the most valid, most meaningful and most easily transformable rebellions, those from the Shi’a majority in Bahrain (omitted by him) and the anti-Allawite majority in Syria have been brutally suppressed, while transformations in Tunisia and Egypt have suffered slight setbacks. The youth of whom he speaks are usually rebellious, ‘rebels without causes,’ as the American flower children of the 1960’s, who later became the war hawks of the 2000’s, have shown. Is it proper to praise those who gallantly man the barricades and lead the nation to freedom and dignity, while not including many of them in the Transitorial National Council of the Libyan Republic?  Is it usual for those who lead the revolution to take a back seat to those who watch from the sidelines? Still unanswered is: “Who declared the interim government other than themselves?” Those who are doing the fighting have not spoken
After the rapid introduction, Dr. Mahmoud Gibril’s address became more analytical and more interesting.

“Those young kids took to the streets peacefully looking for a democratic structure, looking for a dignified life, looking for a better future because they had been living for 42 years, them and their parents, under a dictatorship, a tyrant regime, which deprived them of every opportunity to have a dignified life.”

Afterwards, his remarks became questionable:

“There is no better education; there is no medical services, all failure after failure of all developmental projects that have been introduced during those 42 years. It's enough to say that unemployment exceeds 30 percent in a country whose population does not exceed 6.3 million people with a vast amount of wealth because of oil revenues,”

Are these statements true? United Nations statistics have Libya with one of the highest literacy rates in the developing world, the longest school life for its population, a recalculated human development index at 0.810 in 2010 (higher than Latvia and close to Uruguay), and a national health plan. Reliable data of unemployment rate is unknown. . For what it’s worth, a popular Tripoli daily, OEA, uses Libyan census data to claim "Unemployment among men is 21.55 percent and at 18.71 percent among women," 

For a nation that has suffered repetitive sanctions and lacks resources for agriculture, industry and tourism, high unemployment is not unusual, and will undoubtedly always be a serious problem in Libya. Dr. Gibril proposed resolving the problem with a service economy based on knowledge, a vague consideration that competes with the knowledge experts from India, Korea, Japan, China and the United States; not an easy task.
These dubious statistics were followed by unconfirmed statistics:

“This killing machine was slaughtering people day and night by the thousands. The expectation and the estimate was that over 11,000 people died during those 12 weeks of manslaughtering. … Too many people are fleeing their country, you know. Going to Tunisia and to the Egyptian borders. The United Nations just yesterday -- before yesterday -- released its last report saying that over 750,000 Libyans fled their country.”

Dr. Gibril might have inside knowledge to verify his statements, but they are not reflected in the media. Until May 14, uncomformed estimates of those killed in the conflict span from 1000 to 3000. Wikipedia examined the reported casualties from the several battles and based on these numbers arrived at:” 2,193-2,950 opposition members/fighters (which includes also civilian supporters) and 817-1,114 Gaddafi loyalists have been killed by May 14, 2011.”

“In addition, another 370 opposition fighters and activists have been confirmed as missing in the fighting in the east by the end of March, 500-2,000 are reported to be missing in the Battle of Misrata Batte and 74 were missing following the Battle of Brega-Adjibyah road for a total of 944-2,444 rebels reported missing. However, this number could be higher since it was reported that 700 rebels were missing following the First Battle of Bin Hawad. 

As for the migration, the interim Prime Minister quoted a remark made by the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, to the Security Council and not, as said, from a UN Report. Considering the area of battles and the infrastructure of Libya, Ms. Amos’ figure seems exaggerated. Nevertheless, many of the refugees are African migrant workers forced out by the fighting and many are civilians from Tripoli who are escaping the NATO bombings.

The most controversial remark:

“I would argue in a quick note that the regime realized from the very first week that they do not have enough personnel to put down that uprising, and therefore they resorted to something which I call wicked, and to be honest very brilliant. They tried to go for more...more killing will call for the international community to intervene, and if the international community intervenes then Gaddafi will turn the story from being Libyans against Gaddafi into Libyans led by Gaddafi against the international foreign powers.”

The Libyan leader repeatedly asserted that the Transitional Council is administrative and not political. No government will take power until the country is entirely liberated and every citizen can vote. Reality contradicts this idealistic thought. All areas re-possessed from the present Libyan government will require services and management. A de facto government will operate and soon the citizens will only know that government as the representatives of the people. The de facto government will be succeeded by a de jure government composed the same of officials. That is already happening with the exception of one missing element – the money.

“…we started expanding the Executive Body of the TNC. Now we have about 14 ministries and the Executive Body of the TNC trying to deliver every service and every commodity that our people might need during this critical time of our history. Unfortunately we are facing a very acute financial problem because of the frozen assets that we have in different European countries and in the United States. So I would like to seize this opportunity and to call on the United States administration to help us as they helped us.”

The interim Prime Minister, who served in the Libyan government for almost three years as head of the National Economic Development Board, where he promoted privatization and liberalization policies, asked for 3 billion dollars during his talk and again in the question and answer period. Would this be legal? Can a nations’ funds be seized and the arbitrarily transferred by a foreign nation to another entity that has no recognized authority?

Libya’s opposition leader, Dr. Mahmoud Gibril Elwarfally is either the awaited hope of the Libyan people or another Ahmad Chalabi, the CIA’s favorite Iraqi opposition leader.

Frankly, he displayed both characteristics in his engagement at the Brookings.

Dan Lieberman is the editor of Alternative Insight, a monthly web based newsletter. His website articles have been read in more than 150 nations, while articles written for other websites have appeared or been linked in tens of online journals throughout the world, and include translations into French, German and Spanish. Dan can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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