Watching the battle in Libya has been like watching a deadly pendulum swing back and forth. One day the rebels take control of a town, the next day they lose it. One day Gaddafi’s forces take a blow, the next day his soldiers fire shells into civilians queuing for bread. On the news there is a lot of condescending punditry blithely discussing how poorly trained the rebels are. They so easily forget that these were peaceful protesters, who didn’t intend on fighting until they were given no other option after being slaughtered by pro-Gaddafi forces.
However, it seems Britain plans to do something about just that. They will be sending top military officials into Benghazi to work with the current transitional government and advise on the war. Naturally the idea of Western military officials in Libya has a number of people ill at ease. Is this going to be an invasion? Well, according to the statement put out by the British government it would not at all fall into this category. For one, they note, there wouldn’t be any arming or training the oppositional army. Rather they would simply be sharing military tactics and advice on how to better move the troops. This falls, they say, within the parameters of the U.N. resolution as it is done with the intent to save civilian lives.
Which brings us to some rather troubling news that has emerged as of late. The Transitional Government of Libya has stated that over 10,0000 civilians have died since fighting started in February. Al Jazeera’s correspondent on the ground, Mike Hanna has remarked that this number is likely correct and does not come as any surprise. Indeed, a quick look back at the level of brutality Gaddafi’s forces attack with, targeting civilian-filled suburbs, using human shields in Misrata, and even killing dozens their own dissenting troops, shows a reckless disregard for human life.
Still, its interesting that while Britain is perfectly willing to supply people on the ground in Benghazi they have yet to recognise the Libyan Transitional National Council in any official capacity. So far, only France, Qatar and Italy have done as such. However, most countries have had continuing contact with the Council. The LTNC have also been praised for keeping democratic ideals alive and implemented within their own institution. Meanwhile, the opposition still is trying to find a way to get the weapons and power they need. Qatar has bought limited amounts of oil supplied by the rebels through the port of Benghazi, but money is still extremely scarce. France has also pledged to step up air strikes after a number of reports that Gaddafi forces are still shelling strictly civilian areas with renewed fervor.
The world has, and for good reason, a fair amount of trepidation when it comes to supplying the opposition with anything more than body armor or communications equipment. As Gaddafi refuses to leave, despite condemnation from almost every country it has ever had diplomatic relationships with, it has become clear that this is a battle to the death. With refugees fleeing en masse and bodies continuing to pile up, it is a war the Libyans cannot afford to lose.