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Above email address currently deprecated! Use gary underscore farber at yahoodotcom, pliz! Sanely free of McCarthyite calling anyone a traitor since 2001!
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I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?
I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.
Thanks for any understanding and support. I know it's difficult to understand. And things will change. They always change.
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"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook
"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.
We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect
disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest
and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the
land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion
"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him
an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this
or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also
to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing,
with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess
and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson
"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices,
intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to
improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation;
a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most
tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition --
to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri
"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke
"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology;
it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to
understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit
and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant
"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest
winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon,
but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without
being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant
"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand
"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.
"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible,
and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and
man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and
after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus
"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814
"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort,
are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true,
the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated.
This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News
"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
-- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson
"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."
-- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance."
-- H. W. Fowler
"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place."
-- Kate Wilhelm
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein
"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128
"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden
"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit.
He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.
The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cutepanda. Don't you lovepandas?
Current Total # of Donations Since 2002: 1181
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 100 sign-ups; 91 cancellations; Total= 9
Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 16 sign-ups; 10 cancellation; Total= 6
Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 20 sign-ups; 13 cancellations; Total= 7
...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow
I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber
Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow
One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's
face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged
We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott
Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal
If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks
I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes
Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this? -- Natalie Solent
People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost,
Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry,
Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny.
It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out.
And She of whom I must write someday.
'You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people,' he told the president. 'You will own all their hopes, aspirations, and problems. You'll own it all.' Privately, Powell and Deputy Secretary of StateRichard Armitage called this the Pottery Barn rule: You break it, you own it.
Does anyone want to buy Libya, and own it for the next decade?
[...] The rebel army’s nominal leader, Abdul Fattah Younes, a former interior minister and friend of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi whom many rebel leaders distrusted, could offer little explanation for the recent military stumbles, two people with knowledge of the meetings said.
Making matters worse, the men could hardly stand one another. They included Khalifa Heftar, a former general who returned recently from exile in the United States and appointed himself as the rebel field commander, the movement’s leaders said, and Omar el-Hariri, a former political prisoner who occupied the largely ceremonial role of defense minister.
“They behaved like children,” said Fathi Baja, a political science professor who heads the rebel political committee.
Little was accomplished in the meetings, the participants said. When they concluded late last week, Mr. Younes was still the head of the army and Mr. Hariri remained as the defense minister. Only Mr. Heftar, who reportedly refused to work with Mr. Younes, was forced out. On Sunday, though, in a sign that divisions persisted, Mr. Heftar’s son said his father was still an army leader. [....]
On March 29th, Obama's press secretary, Jay Carney told the press gaggle on AF1 that, in essence, he didn't know who the hell these people are, but let's hope for the best:
[...] Q One of NATO’s military leaders testified on the Hill today that there had been signs of al Qaeda seen amongst Libyan rebels. How does that affect the White House thinking on engaging with them?
MR. CARNEY: Well, what I would say is that, as you know, we spend a lot of time looking at the opposition and now meeting with opposition leaders. And the folks who are in London, the people that -- and the leader that Secretary Clinton met in Paris, have made clear what their principles are and we believe that they’re meritorious -- their principles. I think they had a statement today that had some very good language in it that we support.
But that doesn’t mean, obviously, that everyone who opposes Moammar Qaddafi I Libya is someone whose ideals we can support. But beyond that, I don't have any detail about individual members of the opposition.
Q Does it concern you about how much you don't know about the opposition?
MR. CARNEY: Well, what I would say is that we have met with opposition leaders and we're working with them, but as the President said, and as the opposition leaders who put out a statement today said, it’s up to them to decide who their leaders are going to be.
If you let strangers know that you research Libya for a living, there seems to be only one question on their minds: "Who are the Libyan rebels?" I've been asked it at cocktail parties, on ski lifts, at academic seminars, and even by Western journalists in Benghazi who have developed the flattering habit of Skype-ing me at odd hours. Americans seem captivated by this question, perhaps because they have heard senior U.S. officials from Defense Secretary Robert Gates to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to various Republican congressmen proclaim that they do not yet know enough about who the rebels are. I do not take such statements at face value. U.S. statesmen know quite well who the rebels are -- but pretend otherwise to obscure the fact that the United States has yet to formulate a comprehensive policy toward them.
The rebels consist of two distinct groups: the fighters and the political leadership.
First, the fighters. [...] These fighters are a ragtag bunch of men of all ages and degrees of military training riding pickup trucks around the eastern coastal desert. You have probably seen pictures of them triumphantly showing the "V"-for-victory hand signal as they move westward and fleeing in unorganized columns when they retreat eastward. What you may not have realized (unless you too get woken up by those random Skype calls from Ajdabiya) is that the vast majority of these fighters have never actually arrived at the front and are not contributing to the rebels' effective fighting strength. Such organization as there is tends to be on the unit level only, and this does not facilitate the formation of an effective line of battle.
The units with the highest degree of organization are former Libyan army battalions that were stationed in eastern Libya, also known as Cyrenaica. These units, including those led by former Interior Minister Abdul Fattah Younis al-Abidi, defected en masse in mid-February, retaining their organizational structure. Bizarrely, these units are largely absent from the current fighting. It is unclear why.
BENGHAZI, Libya — Late Monday afternoon, as Libyan rebels prepared another desperate attack on the eastern oil town of Brega, a young rebel raised his rocket-propelled grenade as if to fire. The town’s university, shimmering in the distance, was far beyond his weapon’s maximum range. An older rebel urged him to hold fire, telling him the weapon’s back-blast could do little more than reveal their position and draw a mortar attack.
The younger rebel almost spat with disgust. “I have been fighting for 37 days!” he shouted. “Nobody can tell me what to do!”
The outburst midfight — and the ensuing argument between a determined young man who seemed to have almost no understanding of modern war and an older man who wisely counseled caution — underscored a fact that is self-evident almost everywhere on Libya’s eastern front. The rebel military, as it sometimes called, is not really a military at all.
What is visible in battle here is less an organized force than the martial manifestation of a popular uprising.
With throaty cries and weapons they have looted and scrounged, the rebels gather along Libya’s main coastal highway each day, ready to fight. Many of them are brave, even extraordinarily so. Some of them are selfless, swept along by a sense of common purpose and brotherhood that accompanies their revolution.
“Freedom!” they shout, as they pair a yearning to unseat Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi with appeals for divine help. “God is great!”
But by almost all measures by which a military might be assessed, they are a hapless bunch. They have almost no communication equipment. There is no visible officer or noncommissioned officer corps. Their weapons are a mishmash of hastily acquired arms, which few of them know how to use.
With only weeks of fighting experience, they lack an understanding of the fundamentals of offensive and defensive combat, or how to organize fire support. They fire recklessly and sometimes accidentally. Most of them have yet to learn how to hold seized ground, or to protect themselves from their battlefield’s persistent rocket and mortar fire, which might be done by simply digging in.
Prone to panic, they often answer to little more than their mood, which changes in a flash. When their morale spikes upward, their attacks tend to be painfully and bloodily frontal — little more than racing columns down the highway, through a gantlet of the Qaddafi forces’ rocket and mortar fire, face forward into the loyalists’ machine guns.
And their numbers are small. Officials in the rebels’ transitional government have provided many different figures, sometimes saying 10,000 or men are under arms in their ranks.
But a small fraction actually appear at the front each day — often only a few hundred. And some of the men appear without guns, or with aged guns that have no magazines or ammunition.
Join these brave but untrained souls, see Benghazi, and die.
Instead, Libya’s rebels have entered the grim work of waging war almost spontaneously, and would need time, training, equipment and leadership to develop into even a reasonably competent force.
For now, their ranks have three elements: a so-called “special forces” detachment of former soldiers and police officers; a main column organized into self-led cells of fighters built around a few weapons and pickup trucks; and a sort of home guard that is undergoing quick training to man checkpoints and serve as a civil defense force.
There is also the “shabab,” milling groups of youngsters who arrive at the front each day hoping to pitch in, but with scant idea of how. Officially, the shabab are not part of the fight.
The rebels insist the size of the special forces detachment is large, but on the battlefield it feels anything but. Colonel Ahmed Bani, the military’s top spokesman, suggested that some of these soldiers are being held back for now.
“Our army, the professionals, are still waiting for armaments,” he said. “Only some of them are at the front lines supporting the young men.”
The largest visible body of rebels each day consists of groups of self-led fighters in cars and pickup trucks, who move up and down the highway to Brega, where the Qaddafi forces have plugged the road to Tripoli and taken custody of essential oil infrastructure — a key to the economic fortune of any Libyan government.
These men are a Libyan melting pot, a cross-section of professions and backgrounds. Businessmen and engineers fight beside students and laborers.
A few are Libyans from abroad who hurried home in February or March, answering an urge to topple Qaddafi and remake Libya on less autocratic lines.
They lack structure and they know it. Each contingent fights largely according to its own whim. Sometimes no one knows who is in charge.
“We are without command,” said Ibrahim Mohammed, 32, who said he had served as a sergeant in the Libyan army. “Too many without command. And this is the problem.”
His fighting cell consisted of six men, two pickup trucks, a rebel flag, a heavy machine gun, a few Kalashnikov rifles, a Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifle and a surface-to-air missile. The six men — excepting two who are related — had not known each other before the uprising began.
Now they lived in the desert, roaming a single road, dodging mortar and rocket fire. Their truck beds contained blankets, a tarp, ammunition, bottled water and ammunition crates packed with fresh vegetables and canned food.
The third group is made up of more recent volunteers, who turn up each morning for training at a military base at the edge of Benghazi.
Mindful that the rebels lack weapons and trainers, and that sending them into battle against Colonel Qaddafi’s conventional military will get too many of them killed, the rebels’ military leadership is training them for the more limited duties of civil defense.
They are brave. They are men who give their lives like Mahdi Ziu, a "paunchy man, sedentary and diabetic, with thinning hair and glasses and a resigned expression" who "worked as a middle manager at the Arabian Gulf Oil Company," who blew himself up to breach the Katibah (read the whole thing):
On Sunday morning, with the sound of gunfire in the background, Ziu slipped a last will and testament under the door of a friend. He then returned to his apartment and asked the neighbors to help him load a number of full gas canisters into his black Kia sedan, parked just outside the house. They asked why, and he told them the canisters were leaking; he needed to get them fixed. His brother, Salem Ziu, told me that he thinks Mahdi used a small patch of TNT, the kind Libyans use to kill fish, as a detonator. No one really knows.
What is certain is that about 1:30 p.m., Ziu drove his car until it was facing the Katiba’s main gate, near the police station where the first protests began five days earlier. The area in front of him was clear, a killing zone abandoned by all but the most reckless. Rebels fired from the shelter of rooftops and doorways, and snipers at the Katiba fired occasional shots down on the figures darting in the streets. Ziu put his foot down on the accelerator. The guards opened fire, but too late. The speeding car struck the gate and exploded, sending up a fireball that was captured on a cellphone video by a protester a few hundred yards away. The blast blew a hole in the wall, killing a number of guards and sending the rest retreating into the Katiba. Within hours, it would fall to the protesters.
The remains of Ziu’s charred and crumpled car now lie by the open gate of the Katiba. Above and around it are tributes to him in looping spray-painted letters: “Mahdi the Hero.” “Mahdi, who liberated the Katiba.”
If ever there was an indicator of a rebel force in disarray, it was this: a lone Libyan rebel in uniform on the highway leading away from the battlefield, unarmed, almost dazed, separated from his unit, trying to hitch a ride.
His name was Abdullah Insaiti, and until Feb. 17, when the uprising in Libya began, he had been a sergeant in the Libyan Army. A career soldier, now 33, he had served almost 13 years as an infantryman, specializing in antitank rockets and heavy machine guns. In February, he and the rest of his unit defected from their base in Benghazi and joined the rebels.
The campaign had its dizzying highs and terrifying lows. And now, this afternoon, he appeared on the highway, staggering home.
His unit, he said, had been scattered under fire in the fighting in recent weeks. He said he believed that eight of his friends had died, but offered that the number was probably much higher than that. Some, he said, had been blown apart in the shelling they had been subjected to out in the desert, where the forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi have been pounding the rebels with all manner of fire.
Asked if he knew where his unit was now, Mr. Insaiti gave a perplexed shrug. From inside his olive-drab coat he produced the two-way, hand-held radio he had once used to communicate with his fellow fighters. Its battery was long dead.
“I don’t know anything more about them,” he said of his friends. [....]
NATO acknowledged on Friday that its warplanes hit a rebel convoy the day before, killing at least four people, and after some confusion eventually expressed regret over the accident.
[...] On Thursday, General Younes said he could not understand how NATO could continue to confuse the rebels and the loyalist forces, particularly in this latest mix-up. “It is not possible to make a mistake with 20 tanks advancing on a large patch of desert land,” he said. “We hope that such a mistake will not be repeated.”
On Thursday, General Younes said he had repeatedly warned NATO about the deployment of tanks to the front lines. “We informed them at the time the tanks were leaving Benghazi, and when they arrived at Ajdabiya,” he said. “We informed them that in the early morning they would be advancing on Brega. We gave them all the information concerning their number, and that they would be carried on tank transports, and their direction.”
How is this working out for the rebels? Not so well.
Despite General Younes’s contention that his fighters had recovered from the NATO attack and regained ground, a rebel-held checkpoint on the western edge of Ajdabiya was shelled by Colonel Qaddafi’s forces around 2:45 p.m. on Friday, suggesting they were still within striking distance of the city.
A small contingent of rebels gathered at a checkpoint there on Friday, passing the hours peering nervously westward in anticipation of another advance by pro-Qaddafi forces. The rebels were an ill-disciplined sight, sometimes firing long bursts of machine-gun fire high in the air, and at one point devolving into a long rebel-on-rebel shoving-and-shouting match.
The immediate question was no longer whether the Forces of Free Libya, as they are called, would be able to retake the oil town of Brega, from which they were ousted this week. It was whether they could hold on to Ajdabiya, which is the next city to the northeast and sits at the strategic junction of the major roads to the north, to Benghazi, and the east, to Tobruk and the Egyptian border.
By morning, pro-Qaddafi forces had moved close enough to Ajdabiya to ambush vehicles on the road less than five miles from the western checkpoint. And by midafternoon, the checkpoint was subjected to enemy fire, either artillery or rockets.
The contingent of rebels and milling civilians there, perhaps 200 people in all, fled en masse when a barrage of at least six high-explosive rounds burst beside them. As the smoke and dust rose, the rebels ran, many climbing into other people’s cars and trucks as they sped past.
Within minutes, the checkpoint was abandoned. The entrance to the city was unguarded.
Since the Qaddafi forces withdrew from the city last month under NATO air pressure, the rebels have controlled the city’s entrance. But they have yet to fortify the position in any way, or to move communications equipment to it, or to dig trenches for their ever accumulating waste, or to provide it and its environs with any sense of order.
And by late Friday afternoon, at least for a short time, they had abandoned it outright.
Whether the loyalists want to recapture Ajdabiya or have been creating a buffer between rebel-held territory and the oil infrastructure at Brega and Ras Lanuf was not known. But there seemed to be no armed rebel presence between the pro-Qaddafi vanguard and Ajdabiya, a city largely deserted by its population and available for the taking from the jittery rebels. [....]
Not so well at all.
What's the latest genius idea of the rebels? Earlier from that story of the 8th, and many other reports:
[...] Rebels in the hotly contested area between Brega and Ajdabiya in eastern Libya said that henceforth they would paint the tops of their vehicles pink to help avoid future friendly fire accidents.
Because, you know, in Libya, the government can't get pink paint.
As the conflict has evolved, however, Colonel Qaddafi’s forces have proved adept at mixing in with civilian populations and mimicking the rebels’ vehicles, to sow confusion and deter allied airstrikes.
[...] But American intelligence reports from Libya say that the Qaddafi forces are now hiding their troops and weaponry among urban populations and traveling in pickup trucks and S.U.V.’s rather than military vehicles, making them extremely difficult targets.
“The military capabilities available to Qaddafi remain quite substantial,” said a senior Pentagon official who watches Libya. “What this shows is that you cannot guarantee tipping the balance of ground operations only with bombs and missiles from the air.”
NATO officials, who just took over responsibility for the air campaign from the United States, deny that their bureaucracy is somehow limiting the campaign. “No country is vetoing this target or that one; it’s not like Kosovo,” where in 1999 some countries objected to certain bombing targets, said a senior NATO official, asking anonymity in accordance with diplomatic practice.
“The military command is doing what it wants to do,” he said.
“NATO is not the problem,” the senior NATO official said. “The Qaddafi forces have learned and have adapted. They’re using human shields, so it’s difficult to attack them from the air.” While many Western officials have accused the Qaddafi forces of using human shields, they have yet to produce explicit evidence. But they generally mean that the troops take shelter, with their armor, in civilian areas.
The harder question is how NATO will respond to the changed tactics of the Qaddafi forces, which now seem to have achieved a stalemate against the combination of Western air power and the ragtag opposition army.
What is to be done?
The United States has had C.I.A. agents on the ground with the rebels in eastern Libya for some time, and there are unconfirmed reports that they may be helping to train the rebel army’s raw recruits. Even so, forming a real army that can oust Colonel Qaddafi may take many months, and the coalition is unlikely to be that patient.
That is one reason that allied governments, including the United States and Britain, are urging defections from the Qaddafi circle and hoping that he will be removed from inside. No official, of course, is willing to talk about any covert mission to remove the colonel, except to say that “regime change” is not authorized by the United Nations.
And that is why Britain, Turkey and the United States are all exploring the possibilities of a negotiated solution to the conflict, provided Colonel Qaddafi and his sons relinquish power.
François Heisbourg, a military policy expert at the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris, said, “Given where we are, any deal that removes Colonel Qaddafi from the scene is a deal we should take.”
As for the current air war, NATO is especially sensitive to the criticism that came most scathingly from the leader of the Libyan opposition forces, Gen. Abdul Fattah Younes. He said in Benghazi late Tuesday that “NATO blesses us every now and then with a bombardment here and there, and is letting the people of Misurata die every day.”