In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

Sirte: CNT in retreat

Posted by seumasach on October 13, 2011

Cailean Bochanan

13th October, 2011

A headline in Britian’s Daily Telegraph cites no less than Liam Fox, Minister of Defence and, obviously,  a man of impeccable integrity, to the effect that the fall of Sirte is “very close”. A quick perusal of the article in question leads one to question one’s understanding of the English language, specifically the meaning of “very close”. My understanding of this would be “imminent” or “about to happen” yet the report claims that

“Positions which had seemed cleared 24 hours earlier came under accurate rifle and rocket-propelled grenade fire during the day, forcing back forces loyal to the new interim government.”

In other words, they were in retreat.

“Ishmail Taweel, a fighter from Benghazi, said the revolutionary fighters were reluctant to commit their few captured tanks to the area for fear they would be picked off from the overlooking buildings.

“We just need to bombard the area some more before we go in,” he said.”

How much bombardment do they need before they go in? At some point you just have to go in but they are unable to do so. What is being described here is not military success but military failure. It is also a war crime since these obviously random bombings are killing civilians inside the town, but this is of no concern to the British authorities.

Foreign Secretary Hague is comfortable with this, implying that the bombing of civilians is necessary for their defence.

“Last week, Nato agreed that the positive trend in Libya is irreversible but that not all Libya’s population is yet safe from attack,” he said.

We have been hearing this argument a lot of late, but I don’t think that even this schoolboy coalition would let it pass in one of their sixth form debates.

“Much of the city’s housing and office blocks are already filled with holes from shells and bullets and oily smoke hung thick over several neighbourhoods.”

So the whole town has been all but demolished. OK, they got off with this in WW2 but we surely not in one of their “humanitarian wars”.

Meanwhile the French have shown a penchant for a reverse double think. Le Monde has the headline

“Les forces du Conseil national de transition (CNT) reculent a Syrte”

So the CNT is in retreat. But a quick perusal of the article indicates that Sirte is about to fall, in ” two or three days”. They do agree with the Telegraph that Sirte is “in ruins”,  although this handywork is unnatributed.

The question is how to rearrange these articles into a coherent statement since otherwise we are left thinking that the first victim of war is simple logic. The solution is easy: swop the headlines giving the Le Monde headline to the Telegraph article and the Telegraph headline to the Le Monde article. We then have two radically opposed versions of events: one a story of CNT success, the other of their failure. But which one is true?

In my view the key lies with the testimony of Liam Fox and the likelihood that he is telling the truth.

For my part, I’m happy to hail the success of the Libyan army and the brave people of Sirte and to hope that before long support comes for them within Libya and from outside, where, so far, we have remained shamefully silent in the face of crimes committed in our name.

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