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Free Libya Raises Its Head

With the anti-Qaddafi fighters.

Sep 5, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 47 • By JAMES KIRCHICK
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The determination of Qaddafi’s hardened loyalists to keep the regime afloat is evidenced in the carnage that they have wrought across the country, particularly in Tripoli, which for a week was transformed into a jungle of urban warfare. It remains a ghost town. Driving in from Zawiya, about an hour west of Tripoli, there was almost no one on the streets, dotted with the hulks of tanks. A massive, metal statue of The Green Book, the vain compilation of Qaddafi’s insane, Islamo-Marxist rants, has fallen from its formerly privileged place overlooking a crossroads.

“Without Qaddafi, everything is going to be okay,” Mohammed al-Bosefi, a 24-year-old medical student, tells me. That simple sentiment encapsulates what practically everyone in Libya thinks—with the exception of those men, many of them mercenaries, still fighting for Qaddafi. “He’s a criminal,” says Isa Abudiyeh, a 70-year-old Libyan whom I met on the Tunisia-Libya border. “He supported crimes against the world, so the [world] helped us because they wanted to stop it. And they stopped it.”

Libya has been brought so low by the degradations of the Qaddafi mafia that the only place to go is up. It is not reassuring to see boys who look no older than 15 walking around hotel lobbies with Kalashnikovs. Integrating them into a functioning, democratic, and stable state will not be easy. But there is a sense here of national unity, of pride in having accomplished something unthinkable, that one hopes will carry over into the rebuilding effort. For too long, the peoples of the Arab world have lived in humiliation, with their heads perpetually bowed to tyrants, kings, and lunatics like Qaddafi. As victory in Tripoli draws near, at least one thing about Libya is sure—its people can indeed raise their heads high.

James Kirchick is writer-at-large for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

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