Jewish World Review March 2, 2011 / 26 Adar I, 5771
Libyan rebels ambivalent about U.S. military help
By Nancy A. Youssef
They need American weapons, know-how and manpower but want it without making any commitment to follow-up promises or "taint"
ENGHAZI, Libya (MCT) Libyan President
Yet in a phone conversation Zawi, 19, was slow to embrace help from the West to end the battle for control of
After a long pause, he finally agreed that one act of military assistance would be welcome.
"Kill Gadhafi and get it over with," he said. "The Libyan people declared what they want: more freedom. A lot of people shouldn't have to die for that."
That reluctant call for help is spreading quickly across oil-rich
Whether the U.S. or other powers would in fact intervene is far from clear. The U.S. has dispatched two amphibious assault vessels loaded with hundreds of Marines, but Adm.
Still, the range of emotions that comes out as Libyans struggle with the possibility of foreign help captures how proud they are of what they've accomplished, how fearful they are that they won't be able to finish the job anytime soon and how distrustful they are of the West and its motives.
Just a week ago, suggestions of Western intervention were met with outright hostility. But these days the response is more ambivalent, as the struggle between pro- and anti-Gadhafi forces reaches a standoff and the suffering of those who live in cities that are still under Gadhafi control seems crueler every day.
Stopping the bloodshed is paramount, many say.
In Zawiya, residents think that Gadhafi's forces are blocking shipments of food and medicine to starve them into submission. There, residents such as Zawi can contemplate intervention.
In Benghazi, in
The mostly young anti-Gadhafi forces don't want to risk tainting what they now proudly call a people's movement. Soldiers driving confiscated tanks have painted "People's
The sign was originally in response to the presence of the mercenaries who were brought in to buttress Gadhafi's personal forces. But these days, it's also a message to the West.
The rebels said they worried that
"Why didn't they support us in the beginning? You think they are just going to come and help? They will take our oil. They only care about us because of our oil," said a man who asked to be identified only as Jalal for security reasons.
Then he paused and added with resignation: "I don't like the idea of U.S. help, but given the situation now, maybe it is good. It could save lives."
It's hard for Libyans to envision limited U.S. intervention. Just the suggestion of a U.S. effort elicits images of
That's left them searching for alternatives that somehow would give the rebel forces more help without losing the independence of the movement.
In preparation to help fellow fighters claim the western cities of Zawiya, Misrata and eventually the capital, Tripoli, young rebels conduct furtive training sessions. They hope to move west eventually.
Air Force Capt.
"We only have light weapons and they (the pro-Gadhafi forces) have heavy weapons," Amir said. "We need an airstrike to weaken him" in order to move in and end the regime.
Gadhafi's brutality against protesters has touched
Gadhafi's forces killed Mohammed's only brother five years ago, when protesters marched toward the Italian consulate in Benghazi to protest cartoons by a Danish artist that depicted the Prophet Muhammad.
On Tuesday, Mohammed was back at the cemetery where his brother is buried, this time for a neighbor whom Gadhafi's forces killed for protesting the regime.
He rejected intervention, at least at first. "We don't need anybody," he said.
But then he was asked: What about a deadly airstrike on Gadhafi's compound by Western forces?
"Oh, G0d, I wish they would do that," he responded.
In the absence of a no-fly zone, Zawi said Tuesday night that helicopters were hovering over him in Zawiya. His commanders warned him that they anticipated a long night of fighting, which would be at its peak at
"This will be a very bad night," he predicted, 10 days after the blockade around his city began, "a very bad night."
Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.