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Militias Out of Control in Libya

One Libyan militia has taken to mounting raids against hotels over unpaid bills. Another militia recently captured and held two British PressTV journalists because militia members mistakenly believed Welsh materials in the journalists’ possession were written in Hebrew, and that the Iranian-employed Brits were Israeli agents.

Meanwhile, official Libyan police have finally gotten around to rounding up the vandals responsible for the disgraceful desecration of Christian and Jewish tombstones in a WWII-era cemetery. The problem is they’re too scared to do anything about it:

Police in Libya captured three members of an armed mob that desecrated British war graves in Benghazi – but released them after a few hours because they were ‘too dangerous.’ The extremists, who admitted smashing the gravestones with sledgehammers, belong to an Islamist militia with links to al-Qaeda. During questioning, police were so nervous they made the men wear blindfolds so they would not be able to identify their interrogators.

After the liberation of Iraq from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein’s crime family, liberal critics endlessly intoned that the Bush administration had made inadequate preparations for “winning the peace.” Bracketing the somewhat obnoxious spectacle of 20 year old DC newcomers suddenly declared themselves to be sage military historians, the argument was not wholly undue.

Criticism regarding the current administration’s lack of post-Qaddafi preparation has not reached a similar pitch, circumspection that’s doubly perplexing given how in contrast to Iraq there really was a hasty rush to war on Libya. Had a Bush-era official underwhelmingly expressed himself “concerned” about tens of thousands of airline-busting missiles falling into the hands of terrorists – while UN officials were acknowledging that nobody had a sense for the magnitude of the problem because “nobody has had a chance to look… across the country” – the howls of derision would have lasted weeks.

Al-Qaeda-linked militias are functionally in control of key parts of Libya, and have been for many months. Senior Libyan officers admit they “have no control over these men, they are too dangerous, they have more weapons.” Past attempts to reign in militia-linked criminals triggered raids on police stations, with the buildings overrun and the arrested militia members freed.

The post-Saddam/post-Qaddafi parellels run so close that Libya has even seen priceless archaeological artifacts stolen in the chaos. When the Iraqi Museum was raided, it led to no end of outrage and White House resignations. There are published books on the incident with titles that have words like “rape and “cultural cleansing.” The din in response to NATO’s hasty and underplanned intervention into Libya has been somewhat more muted, for some reason.