He’s lost Benghazi and he could lose Tripoli by tomorrow morning, America time:
Libya’s unrest spread to the capital Tripoli on Sunday after scores of protesters were killed in the second city Benghazi, which appeared to have slipped out of control of forces loyal to strongman Muammar Gaddafi. [….]
In the first sign of serious unrest in the capital, thousands of protesters clashed with supporters of Gadaffi in Tripoli. Gunfire could be heard and police using tear gas to disperse the demonstrators. In Benghazi, center of Libya’s unrest, tens of thousands of people took to the streets and appeared to be in control of the city before security forces opened fire and killed scores.
The defection of military units and tribal leaders is very bad sign … if your name is Muammar Khaddafy. I don’t know anyone who voted for him, so I don’t suppose he’ll be missed much, but I have little reason to think that Libya is well prepared to replace Khaddafy’s regime with a better one. Could things get even worse? Why, yes! It’s the Middle East, after all. Which is reason enough to remember that things could still get ghastly in Egypt, too.
If you need another reason to look forward to the fall of the Khaddafy regime, it’s the certainty that it will reveal — if not produce — a spate of great stories about his 40-member squad of hand-picked, ahem, bodyguards. One version of the story holds that they’re all virgins (uh huh) while another holds that many of them are married with children.
What is generally agreed that they’re trained in martial arts and other means of actually killing people.
Who among us wouldn’t pay another dime for a gallon of gas for that back story? Also, am I the only one who thinks Khaddafy has taken on a disturbing resemblance to Michael Jackson?
There are some North Korean angles I’ve been rambling my way toward here. One is that at least until 2004, Libya had been one of Kim Jong Il’s best weapons customers, and even sold Khaddafy some casks of uranium hexafluoride before Khaddafy came clean and turned them over to the Americans.
There is also the example of the Libyan revolution, regardless of its eventual outcome. Egypt’s government was overthrown by mostly non-violent protests and a non-violent defection by the army. This could not have happened in a totalitarian place like Libya, where the reports tell of a violent popular uprising and a violent split in the security forces. Unlike the Egyptian case, Libya’s violent revolution is a plausible fit for North Korea. That’s especially the case when, as Rimjingang reminds us, the North Korean army isn’t eating well:
[F]ood shortages in the army are very serious. According to a Defense Security Command commissioned officer Kim Dong-cheol met in North Pyongan Province, the amount of food, principally corn, supplied to the troops is being restricted to 300 grams/day. “At 100 gram a meal amounts, you will suffer malnourishment just by sitting around.” Kim says that the food supplied to the army hasn’t been in this low in the last 10 years.
The Defense Security Command is in charge of protecting Kim Jong-il and other important officials, so it receives better treatment than normal combat squads or construction teams. This officer, an acquaintance of Kim, spoke his mind about the lack of food: “It is only January and the food situation is already this bad. That means that during the spring distress period (the offseason running from April to August, when there are food shortages every year) it will be terrible.
The report goes on to say that “even though food is being trading in the markets, the government is left scraping the bottom of the barrel,” suggesting that for once, citizens are gaining an economic advantage over the regime in the markets. How can this be? For one thing, traders probably aren’t particularly interested in taking the new North Korean scrip that the regime is using as a medium of exchange. For another, some ordinary North Koreans are probably able to buy food with the yuan and the dollars they’re getting from relatives abroad. There’s an element of speculation on my part here, but if I’m right, this would be the first time that markets are diverting food from the military to the common people, instead of the other way around. That would be a wonderful and dangerous tipping point.