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The War Nerd / April 4, 2011

Captured Mercenaries in Libya: Sure, the money’s great, but…

One of the more interesting questions out of Libya is the tangled problem of who’s who, and who’s on who’s side. I’m starting to get some idea of who’s against Qaddafi—basically the young men, the East, and the tribes loyal to the king he booted out to take power.

But who’s fighting for him? I found one interesting answer in a crazy Ghanian blog called “The Ticklish”


According to these ticklers, “Jinns (genies to all you cartoon fans) and dead saints” are fighting for Qaddafi.” I can’t help thinking of that hammy genie in the Aladdin movies yukking it up with Muamar every time he pours his big blue face out of the lamp, all Robin-Williams patter: “Hiya, Mu-man, who’d ya want me to kill today, or shall I just give you some fashion advice—the field marshal’s cap? Burn it, baby.”

But then The Ticklish is not what we in the responsible journalism business call a respected news source. I think all’a us responsible mainstream journalist types can agree that if it was just a matter of genies and dead saints on Qaddafi’s side, even these “Where’s-the-trigger?” rebels would have a good chance of forcing his retirement.

Qaddafi actually has some more serious supporters. Or anyway his money does. Qaddafi has “touched a lot of lives,” as they say, in his 42 years of messing with people. Mostly he’s touched them in what we’d call inappropriate ways, and a lot of them he’s ended, like the poor civvies on the Lockerbie flight. But he’s also tossed a huge amount of cash to groups all over the world. Say you were a Basque separatist and you wanted a kilo of Semtex: Go see Muamar. Suppose you were Robert Mugabe, sulking because the West was always scolding you and you needed a shipment of free gasoline: Muamar again. Suppose you were a Chadian officer with a business plan that involved pissing off Sudan and taking power in N’Djamena…yup, your best bet was making a powe-point presentation to Big Q in Tripoli.

Qaddafi has always had two qualities that count for a lot in politics and war: He has no pride at all, zilch; and he’s willing to spend any amount of money it takes. He’d make a good Western celebrity with a personality like that; too bad he wasn’t born here or he’d probably have his own show.

Qaddafi’s Everybody-Welcome Recruiting Style: He’s Even Going for Serbs! Yeah, you better keep that burqa on, Branko!

Not having pride is a huge advantage in the nasty, treacherous politico-military world. Take the Chadian dictator, Idriss Deby, who’s probably Qaddafi’s biggest ally right now. He and Muamar got to know each other back in the 1980s, when Deby took over Habre’s Chadian forces resisting Qaddafi’s push into Chad, pioneered the technique of high-speed massed raids in technicals on Libyan bases—he was kind of like a Nathan Bedford Forrest of the Sahel there for a while—and ran Qaddafi’s Libyans out of Chad.

But when his boss Habre decided Deby was getting a little too popular and conquering-hero like for his boubou, Habre put out a contract on his favorite field commander (perfectly standard practice for every dictator ever born, and it always amazes me that these generals never seem to expect it when the boss turns on them). So Deby fled. Guess where. Yup: Libya.

And he was welcomed there. Qaddafi throws away the lives of his soldiers without a flinch, without even a memory. That’s not surprising. What is surprising, to me at least, is that he’s just as casual about his own rep. So he was shown up by Chad—by CHAD! That didn’t bother him, just like groveling to the US and the Brits didn’t bother him. He has no shame, and that’s why he’s lasted so long.

Now Deby is in power in Chad, and he’s sending fighters to Libya to shoot protestors for Muamar. You can be sure Deby gets a cut for every warm body he sends, just like the little princes of Hesse-Kessel got a few pieces of silver for every Hessian they sent during the Revolution.

Mugabe is helping out too, with about 500 Zimbabwean soldiers and bodyguards. The bodyguards are there to shore up Qaddafi’s famous all-girl Praetorian Guard. I guess Qaddafi realized that the Fox Force Five bodyguards were one of those Tarantino ideas that’s too cool to resist in peacetime but when the plaster starts falling you kind of want some big bodies between you and the people trying to kill you.

But the basic appeal of fighting for Qaddafi is much simpler than all these old networks. After all, Qaddafi’s friends are sort of a losers’ club, people who don’t like each other that much but know in their bones that they’d better stick together because nobody else likes them at all. It’s not what you’d call a warm, happy group. What holds it together is plain old money. Qaddafi has it, and unlike a lot of dictators he’s willing to spend it. In fact, I don’t get the feeling he’s in it for the money, exactly. He’s more of a drama queen, an attention whore. He’ll spend anything to produce his own movies, starring himself, and that’s what he’s doing right now. Because if he loses this one, he’ll be lucky to survive in obscurity somewhere. Me, I’d love that, be an ex-dictator with a few female bodyguards bringing me drinks in hollowed-out pineapples on my private island, dictating my memoirs about why it was everybody’s fault but mine—but that’s not Muamar’s idea of a good time. He likes the spotlight.

And he’s willing to pay his extras. You know how much a Qaddafi fighter makes these days? Supposedly it’s from $300-$1000 per day. Per DAY! That’s up in Blackwater (excuse me, XE, or “Lovely Harmless Angels” or whatever those scum are calling themselves now) territory.

That’s big money in California. Think what it’s worth in a place like Zimbabwe. Hard currency. You could buy your home village with that. And the people you have to shoot are total strangers, don’t speak the same language, don’t mean a thing to you…and best of all: can’t fight. Pretty sweet deal, until you get captured.

Would you like to know more? Gary Brecher is the author of the War Nerd. Send your comments to brecher@exiledonline.com. Read Gary Brecher’s first ever War Nerd column by clicking here.

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43 Comments

Add your own

  • 1. Marko  |  April 4th, 2011 at 11:40 am

    You’d be amazed how much the colonel is popular here in Serbia. Being ex-Resistance myself, I support the (incompetent) rebels. But a lot of people here choose Gaddafi. Partially because he was the biggest fan of Tito and Yugoslavia (local firms got some sweet construction deals, ie port of benghazi), and partially because he was one of the few to stick w the Bosnian Serb side in the civil war. And being against Kosovo’s independence helped, too.

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Support-for-Muammar-al-Gaddafi-from-the-people-of-Serbia/143360419060495

  • 2. Koob  |  April 4th, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Hey Gary, you got anything concrete on the Serb mercenary thing? All I could find was a comment by a rebel spokesman named Bani claiming that Serbs were flying the planes. Any more details?

    btw – ty for the daily blog

  • 3. Eddie  |  April 4th, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    This mercenary thing might sound good until someone figures out how to get to these guys. Since they are already motivated by the cash I doubt they would turn down the extra work.

    Here is what you need to do to get the bonus.

    + Surrender would get you a 1000€.
    + Any information on Q or any of the generals would give you a nice 5 000€ bonus.
    + If you capture and or kill your commander and defect there is another 10 000€ bonus.
    + Killing any of Q’s sons would get you a cool 100 000€.
    + Killing Q would get you a cool 1000 000€.

    Just broadcast the news about the deal on their com radios and drop some leaflets.
    Add in a little extra warning about what happens to those who decline this generous offer, just to sweeten the deal.

  • 4. Evilcor  |  April 4th, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    $300 is what I clear in a week! How do I join up?

  • 5. Michal  |  April 4th, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    That sounds like a pretty good idea, Eddie. The only issue is, they’d be surrendering to some seriously pissed off people. But it’s good thinking.

  • 6. postman  |  April 4th, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    USD 1000 PER DAY?
    Fuck me, where do I sign up?
    I earn USD 500 per month!
    If free raping and looting is included, I will ditch my job like tomorrow, and sunny Libya here I come! I will avoid those SAS commandos though, but having a potshot or two on those “Al-Qaeda” Sayeret Matkal Mistaravim guys would really make my day!

  • 7. Eddie  |  April 4th, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    @Michal

    Just give the rebels a small bonus for every prisoner they bring to the SAS interrogation unit. Big white flag is the universal symbol for surrender.

    Then the prisoner broadcasts a little message to his still fighting comrades.

    I got my 1000€ and they are very nice to me. They even paid for my ticket back to the village.

  • 8. allen  |  April 4th, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    A report on Al Jazeera had Serb snipers supposedly creating misery for the rebels in Masra or something. Source was like some rebel commander, who knows though …

  • 9. Rev. Clint  |  April 4th, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    hell i’d join up for $1000 a day… use some of my hard earned COD skills

  • 10. Parl  |  April 4th, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    @1: “ex-Resistance yourself” – jesus fuck you people like to self-dramatize. By the sound of it you must have crawled around swamps with a PPSh-41 lodged between your teeth. Don’t try to confuse the good, dumb western people on here. You were a dandy that danced in some bloodless street protests organized by a few sellout dweebs with their hands up to their elbows in CIA money. That’s not “Resistance”, it’s just being an idiot.

  • 11. postman  |  April 4th, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    Well, just called the Libyan Embassy for details. As a matter of fact, there are clauses written in small print on the mercenary contracts.
    They say the first two weeks is a kind of internship program, you pay for catering, accommodation, and you have to lease your AK-47 and ammo from them, and you are not allowed to reimburse yourself from living off the land.
    Now the USD 1000 is true, however they pay only at the end of the campaign, and right out of Gaddhafi’s freezed financial assets, soon as they un-freeze them. Then you will receive a Lehman Brothers cheque.
    Sounds good enough to me!

  • 12. Huh  |  April 4th, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    #1, I’m curious about Serbia.

    What was the big deal about the whole civil war there? Who were the good guys and who were the bad guys?

    I’m not picking sides, just looking for a neutral look instead of just “THE SERBS ARE EVIL, MUSLIMS ARE SAINTS” that’s so predominant in the west.

  • 13. Hannibal  |  April 4th, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    Speaking of Serb snipers…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHYC4ekzg60

  • 14. Lajevda  |  April 4th, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    Muahahaa Parl rules!!!!

  • 15. PT Barnum  |  April 4th, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    Now the USD 1000 is true, however they pay only at the end of the campaign, and right out of Gaddhafi’s freezed financial assets, soon as they un-freeze them. Then you will receive a Lehman Brothers cheque.
    Sounds good enough to me!

    He has assets outside Europe. Because, like that is the 10,000th time you’ve pulled the “steal money cause we can” stunt.

  • 16. poiso  |  April 4th, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    As with most civil wars, there aren’t any good or bad guys. There are just people with different agendas fighting each other for the future of their country. The term is typically applied post-factum to winners, and losers get “evil” stamps on their foreheads.

    This goes for both Yugoslavia and Libya.

  • 17. pimp of the Balkans  |  April 4th, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    @10: Preach it, brother Parl! I’d love to see this ‘ex-resistance’ character in a real war, or even the Libyan one. Hahah, wouldn’t that be great. Ten minutes into the first fight, his bowels would be emptier than his rhetoric.

    Bet you fifty dinars the so-called Serb angle is anti-Q propaganda. The Serbs still have a dark reputation in some parts of the world, and this Qaddafi’s-Serbian-snipers-shooting-innocent-rebel-kids-omg-remember-Sarajevo story reminds me a bit of all those babies Saddam chucked out of their incubators in Kuwait City.

  • 18. Esn  |  April 4th, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    @Hannibal, if you’re curious about Serbia, I highly recommend the graphic novel (I think it’s called “Regards from Serbia”) by Aleksandr Zograf. Sort of a look from the inside. It covers about a decade, from the whole period leading up to the war as well as the US intervention and what happened after.

  • 19. Esn  |  April 4th, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    Sorry, my comment was directed at poster #12. Also, I just checked and yes, “Regards from Serbia” is the name. If you have a good library in your city, they might have it in stock.

  • 20. Mason C  |  April 4th, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    Accepting ‘responsiblity’ for Lockerbie is another facet of Q’s absence of pride. That ‘trial’ was like Inspector Clouseau prosecuting Spinal Tap. Q’s a great punching bag for many deserved reasons, but Lockerbie he wasn’t. http://www.counterpunch.org/cockburn07232010.html

  • 21. Ulrich  |  April 4th, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    Lockerbie was the ultimate frame job, not to mention Quadaffi’s fake WMD (well, he conned the west with that one). Q said whatever he had to and accepted blame for whatever he had to, to increase his cashflow and make peace with the west. But being friends with the good ol USA has its price, just ask Noriega, Saddam (oops!), Milo, etc. Q seems smarter than Saddam. I have a feeling he is going to make it through this ok. The west hasnt won a war since panama. Dont tell me bombing Sebian cardboard fake tanks from 40,000 feet counts .

  • 22. Hannibal  |  April 4th, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    Oh, these Libyan rebels are just precious little things, aren’t they?

    http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=02a_1301531604

    Granted they still need to practice decapitating the opposition they capture, but I think they’re moving along quite nicely…

  • 23. TheWarTurd  |  April 4th, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    tons of cash..human vice..body counts for profit..
    Woohoo… Classic WarNerd..

  • 24. postman  |  April 4th, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    You wanna sign up as a mercenary for Libya? You wanna follow in the steps of Mad Mike O’Hare and Colonel Callan?
    You wanna shoot kaffirs in Libya for good oil money? You wanna rape ’em and loot ’em legally?
    This is your once-in-a-lifetime chance!
    Join the mercenary squad of postman, the new official Gaddhafi recruiter!
    All you have to do is send me your CV and a Western Union cheque of USD 500 or your credit card payment details (do not forget to include the three digit number on the back of your credit card) and you will receive your contact details to Tripoli within 24 hours, and your greatest adventure awaits!
    Just send the USD 500 Western Union cheque to postman and do not ever talk about it to anyone! Thank you!

  • 25. burp  |  April 4th, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    @12. Just look at the wikipedia article.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yugoslav_Wars

  • 26. aleke  |  April 5th, 2011 at 12:28 am

    I heard Qadaffi also did 9/11. excellent analysis

  • 27. Eddie  |  April 5th, 2011 at 12:36 am

    There is plenty of muscle in the area. No need even to bring in extra manpower.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XR6U-y2fFk&feature=feedu

    Starting with the Chad workers who could not afford the ticket back to Chad. They know their own countryman well and could be a useful ally.

    I love this reporter Mustafa Ba. It’s like having a comedian cover a massacre. Just lifts up everyones spirit.

  • 28. Michal  |  April 5th, 2011 at 12:37 am

    Ulrich: Gulf War, Kosovo, aw heck why am I even trying. You’ll just come up with new and exciting ways of telling us that unconditional surrender of everything you hold dear is actually an amazing victory.

  • 29. Marko  |  April 5th, 2011 at 3:54 am

    @Parl
    @pimp of the Balkans

    Yes, I went around the streets and did my best to avoid getting beaten. The images of kids who didnt (avoid getting pummeled) were more effective than anything, domestically and internationally. Domestically, idiotic socialist supporters like you were actually moved by pictures of riot police beating the holy living fuck out of some poor sap (not Bosnian or Kosovo veterans, but they were against Milosevic anyway). Western money followed and we won in October, 2000.

    And thats how you fight 21st century wars. (Read more Dolan: http://exiledonline.com/war-nerd-blog-day-9-worth-more-dead-than-alive/) I won mine.

    PS. Having seen the bombing campaign in 99, I am willing to tolerate shit from someone who lived in Sarajevo, Grozny or Baghdad, but not from Westerners who’ve seen actual fighting perhaps once on CNN. What, you threw one molotov cocktail at some demo in DC, and think you’re hardcore?

  • 30. LibLocker  |  April 5th, 2011 at 6:04 am

    Libya WASN’T responsible for the Lockerbie bombing and I didn’t expect this otherwise great author to parrot stupid mainstream media bullshit like that.
    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,975399-1,00.html

  • 31. giongulas  |  April 5th, 2011 at 8:35 am

    Marko, what nationality does it say you are on your old Yugoslav identity card?

  • 32. American Serb Ally  |  April 5th, 2011 at 10:05 am

    @Parl
    @pimp of the Balkans

    I’m with Marko on this one, you armchair commandos should STFU about the Balkans, you don’t know shit about any of it beyond the inane propaganda all over the internet.
    Lived there 4 years, know the place & the people, it was a messy war with bad guys on all sides, but it is pretty clear from you tone & comments you all are just talking out of your asses.

  • 33. Jack Boot  |  April 5th, 2011 at 11:37 am

    But, what happens if Khaddafi’s foreign assets should suddenly freeze up?

    “Hey, Colonel; your cheque iss bouncink! You zink ziss funny? Look my face – you see ha-ha?”

    Recently, Muammar’s secret police chief – named Moussa Goussa, Loosie Goosie, Heebie Jeebie, or some damned thing – fetched up in Limeyland.

    He just might have a few account numbers on him…

  • 34. The Last Fenian  |  April 5th, 2011 at 11:49 am

    @12: the Serbs, of course. That you even have to ask such a question…

    http://www.sumotorrent.com/en/details/1006420/Kosovo%20is%20the%20Heart%20of%20Serbia%20(MP3)%20-%20Kosovo%20je%20srce%20Srbije%20(MP3).html

  • 35. MH  |  April 5th, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    Qadaffi needs to explore other markets- there’s a huge demographic in the U.S. that would take up arms for less than $300 per day.

  • 36. gary  |  April 6th, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    couple of things….q was not responsible for lockerbee..it was iranian payback for the airplane the us shot down over the gulf.. can’t blame the iranians…why do we think a few million dollars and an apology is make them forgive and forget?…..as far as the serbs are concerned, every tribe in the balkans are crazy,,,even hitler was reluctent to get involved in that age old insanity..maybe it was a snow job but the memory of those asshole serbs sniping and shelling te civiians in sarajevo is still burned n my mind

  • 37. Crumbs  |  April 7th, 2011 at 5:15 am

    Just as the war gets dull- (when will it be finished?!) we get some great explanation for events. I was wondering where Kadaffi guys got the motivation.
    One thing your analysis misses Gary is shown by the UN Human Develop Index– look it up! It tells us something important, Libyans are RICH!!! Comfortably middle class in world terms, Billionaire class in African terms. To me this explains a lot about the rebels lack of motivation, they just can’t be bothered, their life is good. The use of foreign soldiers in other Arab militaries reinforces the point.
    Thanks for picking up the pace of the columns..

  • 38. SN  |  April 9th, 2011 at 7:24 am

    Quadaffi is certainly a nut and a tyrant but in point of fact he did not do Lockerbie. Libya did not commission the bombing of Pan AM 103 over Lockerbie in 1988. Rather Iran, via Syria paid the PFLP-GC to carry out the operation, in retaliation for the U.S. shooting down an Iranian civilian airliner over the Persian Gulf. The original investigation into the Syria-PFLPGC-Iran connection got junked in the run up to the First US/Iraq war as the US needed arab allies and Syria was willing to play along so long as the Lockerbie business got put on someone else.

  • 39. SN  |  April 9th, 2011 at 7:30 am

    Quaddaffi’s support for ETA and PIRA involved large quantities of material just weeks from being thrown into the recycling bin. PIRA’s SAMs never worked. the AK’s were old and shitty Egyptian models, same with the fake Barretta’s. The PIRA would have been better served by getting their hands on high quality civilian small arms rather than trying to pretend to be a conventional army with the junk Muammar sent them.

  • 40. C  |  April 9th, 2011 at 7:52 am

    From the comments section of the original article where the second picture originated:

    Iraklija says:

    Here are some things I’ve heard from someone who served in the Foreign Legion and then as a solo mercenary. This is what you get if you’re a mercenary in Libya:

    1. $ 10,000 – $ 20,000 a month in cash
    2. Citizenship
    3. Wife and prostitutes
    4. Gold medals
    5. An opportunity to work in the security sector Gaddafi or safety of a family of Gaddafi.

  • 41. martes  |  April 10th, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    Gary Brecher says:
    What is surprising, to me at least, is that he’s just as casual about his own rep. So he was shown up by Chad—by CHAD!

    Don’t you foget that Chad government was backed by nigerian troops, french Jaguars and tons of american supply?

    ps. pardon me for my poor English

  • 42. Private Ivan  |  April 23rd, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    ROFL @ at the “Serbs” who are going “both sides bad”. Shit, when the Russians won in Ossetia, we never fucking claimed to be the bad side. We pwned and prevented ethnic cleansing, and kept our region stable. And embarrassed Sukashvili’s military in the process, and killed a shitton of Mercs, and didn’t give a flying fuck about the whiners.

    If you’re saying “both sides bad” – that means you’re on the wrong side of war, because by fighting it, you are contributing to the atrocities committed against your brothers and sisters.

  • 43. Carpenter  |  May 13th, 2011 at 5:07 am

    @12: Albanians had been immigrating illegally into Kosovo for decades, and then they organized a guerrilla, the KLA, to burn Serb churches, kill Serb civilians, etc. The KLA was financed through smuggling drugs to Western Europe. One time they shot several Serb children swimming in a river, not that you’ll ever hear that.

    So Serbia decided to remove this illegal alien population before it was too late. Then came Madeleine Albright, Sam Berger, and the other One-Worlders. Like Wesley Clark put it:

    “There is no room in modern Europe for ethnically pure states.”

    That’s what it was about. Europeans/Westerners must never, ever see an example of a nation removing the immigrants, not even when they are illegal immigrants organizing a guerrilla to kill you.

    The “youth group” in Serbia after that was funded and organized by Washington-based orgs like the NED, USAid, and George Soros’s Open Society Institute, etc. Same as the “youth groups” in Ukraine, Georgia, Kazakhstan, etc. (They funded one in Belarus also, but they just took the money and ran.)

    When Slobodan Milosevic’s home was attacked and he was captured and given to the Westerners, the “civilian crowd” was actually security guards and police from U.S.-funded cities in Serbia (after the war it was anarchy, with a devastated infrastructure, and some towns turned traitor and took U.S. money, breaking with the government), together with some of these “youth protesters,” who had been bussed in for a planned attack.


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