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The War Nerd / August 23, 2011
By Gary Brecher

Ackshoo-ul Berbers in Ackshoo-ul Village

Well, that was a quick takedown. One of the strange things about Libya was the pacing. It needed a good editor, because it started fast, then bogged down, and then just when everybody’d given up and gone to get some caramel corn, the credits started rolling.

They’re still rolling, though, and there might be one of those after-credit scenes they put in when they don’t know what else to do with them. Last thing I heard, Qaddafi’s still in Tripoli and his friends’n’relations, along with whatever Sahel mercs are still around, are skulking around the downtown sniping and otherwise expressing their disagreement with the new state of affairs.

But the mobile-warfare stage seems pretty well through. And it was the Berbers who did it, with a lot of help—I’m guessing—from special forces, either US, or maybe French.

Everybody was focused on the Eastern Front, the insurgents moving out from around Benghazi west along the coast toward Tripoli. But they stalled out on the flat coastal plains—very hard to advance on a surface like that against endless supplies of rocket artillery like Qaddafi’s forces had. One thing that’s very clear here: Logistics wasn’t the problem for Qaddafi. He had Grads the way Imelda Marcos had shoes. As long as he had anyone to risk staying in the danger zone long enough to guess the launch angle and press a button, he could deter, like they say. A grad salvo on flat sand—that’s deterrence. It’d deter me, and it deterred the amateurs from Benghazi. I don’t mean “amateurs” in a mean way, but mostly that’s what they were. War’s not as easy as the movies make it look. All that red tape, all that drilling; there’s reasons for it. Without it, you dissolve like the Spanish anarchist militias did every time under fire (except the expat commies), and you can’t even change position without a two-hour argument about who salutes who.

That’s where the Berbers in the West came in. Berbers are interesting people; I wish I knew more about them, but nobody really seems to know much. They were supposed to be bit players in Libya. They’re only about 10% of the population, though even that figure zooms around like the unemployment rate. Depends on who you call a Berber. The word, they say, is like “barbarian,” an old u-PC Roman word for the aborigines outside the walls. They call themselves something else, “Amazigh.” They’ve got a lot of those Harry-Potter words, heavier on the Z’s than a bottle of Halcion. They were there before the Romans and when the Empire crumpled, they came back—until the Arabs came along about 1400 years back. From then on, it was like an English/Irish thing, or the Arab/”black” thing in Sudan: Not a racial deal, more a language and attitude thing. After all, Qaddafi himself—and he hated Berbers even more than he hated…well, everybody else—even he was Berber stock, from a family way down in the desert before they came to Sirte. A Berber is somebody who speaks Berber, acts like a Berber—and isn’t an Arab. Not being an Arab isn’t a good move, hasn’t been for about 1400 years (one of those funny coincidences you get with conquests), and Qaddafi, a secret Berber, an ashamed-of-it Berber, hated them even more than most Arab leaders in the Maghrib did.

The Berber who kept the faith and stayed Berber stick around a few parts of the NW. Towns like the ones you’ve been seeing in the news, Yafran, Zintan, Zawiya—all those Z’s? Berber.

The bad thing about hanging around there is that it’s close to Tripoli. It was a quick commute for Qaddafi’s cousins and mercs to bring the artillery in range and start shelling those Berber towns when they rose up after Benghazi waved the No-More-Q flag. They had plenty of reason, like the fact that Qaddafi hated them, made it real clear he did, changed the names of their towns, banned their language, arrested anybody who acted too Berber and called them “Children of Satan” and said their language—the oldest one in the Maghrib—was a colonialist myth.

But the way I recall the script, the way it was supposed to go, the Berber were going to be—let’s face it: The human-rights tragedy. They were going to resist bravely, then they were going to be massacred. Mulched into war propaganda. It happens. Nothing a good network loves more than a lost cause, especially with photogenic villagers, and best of all when they’re lying dead in the street, mom howling over the kid’s body.

That was the way it was supposed to go: Qaddafi’s forces massacring the poor Berber in the West, providing propaganda cover, if I can put it like that, for the air cover that NATO was giving the real power, the Arab insurgents in the East.

Didn’t happen that way. The Berbers ad libbed, by beating the crap out of Qaddafi’s people. They suffered along the way; their towns were blasted, a few thousand were massacred on schedule—but they dug in, held on, and then, out of nowhere, broke through Qaddafi’s lines and right into Tripoli.

Where of course they were welcomed by “cheering crowds.” Lemme tell ya about those cheering crowds, by the way: Don’t put too much stock in them. When the enemy breaks through into the center of town, cheering is just common sense. I’d probably cheer if it was the Khmer Rouge barreling into my subdivision. In fact I’d cheer even harder if it was them. If it was, say, the UN blue helmet, you could probably get away with shrugging, even spitting in the street, but when it’s serious people, you better borrow their flag and cheer til you sound like Rod Stewart after overdoing the crack pipe all night.

The same cheering crowds that make network photo ops will be throwing rocks the first time the price of gas goes up. Maybe a lot of people in Tripoli were glad to see the Berber roll in, maybe not. We shall see, as the atheist said to the firing squad.

More important: How’d they do it? I repeat, Berbers are less than 10% of the population; they were pushed out of the army, never trusted; how’d they smash into the capital?

As far as I can tell, there were a few big reasons, starting with geography. They were close to Tripoli to start with. It’s a long drive along the Med from Benghazi to Tripoli, and a lot longer when you’re being shelled. Zawiya is a close to Tripoli, which is bad when Qaddafi sends his SP artillery over there but suddenly becomes a huge advantage when your guys dig in, hold on, use that NATO air support and start picking off his rocket batteries. Once you’ve done that, neutralized his advantage in heavy armor, it’s infantry on infantry and I haven’t seen one single sign that any of Qaddafi’s units had any stomach for close-in fighting. And that includes the “elite” Khamis Brigade, under the command of Son #29 or whatever. “Elite”! I think in terms of Qaddafi’s army, that means they showed up at roll call more often than not. Supposedly Qaddafi was using his Sahel mercs, the only real fighters in his forces, as MPs: They had orders to shoot anybody running from the front. That works, as long as you can keep the troops in their trenches, but bad troops can never fight once the line is breached, and they’ll run through fire to get away—they’ll be braver running away than they’d ever be attacking. One of the longterm weirdnesses of military history.

But that skips the big question: How exactly did they neutralize that heavy artillery? My guess is: hand-held laser designators. See, one of the scary questions involved in helping the rebels is what happens to the stuff you give them once the war’s over. It’s not even a matter of “Islamic militants,” it’s a matter of profit. Somebody gives you a Milan antitank weapon—well, maybe it never gets unpacked, sitting in a crate. Kind of a shame. Say Qaddafi’s tanks never showed up on your section of the front. It’s going to cross your mind that there are people out there who want that kind of merchandise. Maybe you’ve got an uncle of a cousin in Algiers who knows somebody in Beirut who’ll hand over some serious cash for that. Shame to let it go to waste. (God, with the rent coming due here I’m drooling over the possibilities myself.)

Flat-Hat using laser designator to Disagree with Taliban

So how do you give the insurgents effective weaponry without putting them into the business of selling weapons on ebay? My guess, just a guess, is: laser designators. Very effective, when used with first-world air power, but best of all, totally useless when the air cover’s withdrawn. You may remember I did an article spitting on that phony USN “laser weapon” that set an Evinrude on fire after only five minutes—but I never denied that as target designators and rangefinders, lasers are lethal. So I’m betting we had an alliance between Leading Edge and stone-age village going, between the Berbs and the ‘Burbs, har har, going here.

Laser designators are just versions (OK, very very expensive versions) of your Community College prof’s laser pencils. Good for blinding pedestrians, highlighting powerpoint presentations…and also good for putting the little red dot of death on a Grad launcher or SP artillery. I’m guessing, just guessing, that those things were handed out like Kinko’s copycards all along the Western front. Tell your Berber friends to point them at a tank, hold the dot on the tank, and wait for the magic F-16 to make it go away. I can just imagine the instructional session after they handed those suckers out, some career noncom from Arkansas twanging away in a Nafusa Mountain camp: “This designator is capable of illuminating targets up to—Hey! You! What’s yer name, son? Well, Usem, what you just did is a good lesson in how NOT to use this designator! This is not a toy! Do NOT point the designator at your friend in the Toyota unless you want the Toyota to disappear! No, it is NOT funny! Translate that for me, wouldja Tacfin? And don’t take it easy on’em, this is something they better figure out real quick.”

And the best thing about those designators is that once the planes go back to Ramstein, these turn into laser toys, about as dangerous as a paintball gun. You’d like to get them back, because they run about $250,000 each for the top models, but look, if you want to save money just don’t have a war. You can’t pinch pennies in a war, it ruins the whole feel of the thing.

Although I’m not sure the instructor would have an Arkansas twang. Not this time. Just as likely, he’d have whatever kind of accent French dudes from the sticks have, because this was a Frog pond all the way.

The French aren’t getting much credit—they never do in the US—but they’re the ones who showed guts this time. Americans sort of assume we’re the ones who have to go in and knock heads because the Euros are still going through Stalingrad PTSS. Not this time. Obama did what he usually does: Waiting around for somebody to make a move. And it was the French who made it first, pushing for NATO air support and going ahead with arms shipments to the Libyan rebels. The French take Africa dead serious, and there are a lot of voters in the scuzzy French suburbs (they put their welfare losers in giant suburban highrises over there) who hail from the Maghrib. Sarkozy had been a little too cozy with the ex-dictator of Tunisia, and he took a lot of heat for it. So when he had this chance to snuggle up to the new powers in Libya, look good for those high-birthrate Maghrib voters, and play the hero all at once, he didn’t have to think too hard about it.

And the British—well, I have to give them credit: They’re just up for it, anywhere, anytime. A Russian reader wrote me an email about his people’s attitude which I copied down because it fits the Brits even better than the Russians: “Nam nuzhna voynooshka,” which he says means “We need a little war now and then.” (If that actually means, “You suck, Brecher,” or something on those lines, I’m going to be pissed off. That’s why I can’t believe these guys who get tattoos in some language they don’t know; how’d you know the tattooist wasn’t in a funny mood that day and just inked “Kick me here” on your elbow?)

The Russians actually didn’t want a little war this time around, not in Libya. They were tight with the Big Q (or “The Big Gh”; I’ve seen Qaddafi’s name spelled more ways than those cutesy made-up girl names like “Siara”) and it’s bad news for Russia now that Q moved on to R, as in “rebels.” They’re already talking about cutting Russia out of the new oil deals in Libya.

The other party who didn’t want any fuss in Libya was us. If you can still call the USA “us.” I’m not so sure any more, not since I lost my three-month no-benefit job. I take that kind of thing personally. Just funny that way.

The US didn’t want another Arab mess. It’s that simple. Obama owes the job to a simple equation: Bush = Iraq. Well, that and his excellent dental hygiene, and the fact that bastard seems to get by on about 10 calories a day. You can’t be too thin and too rich if you want to be president.

So the last thing he wanted was a new equation: Obama = Libya + Iraq + Afgh. We were the squeamish Euros in this one, and the French were the hawks. Even the suckers out in the flyover states tend to notice when you start a war. You can do just about anything else to them and they’ll just change the channel, but a war—that gets the Skraelings’ attention for a few seconds. And not in the way that our JC Penney’s model of a prez wanted. (He does look like a Penney’s catalogue model—admit it! Selling that suit, that’s his strong point. Downhill from there.)

And he had serious people to worry about too, not just the dummies in Kansas. Like the Israelis. They didn’t officially like Qaddafi; he was always one-upping the other Arab mouthpieces about chopping the Jews up into little teeny pieces, way teenier than those other wimps wanted! But look, after 40 years of all quiet on the Libyan front, the Israelis kind of noticed that his woof-to-weight ratio was even lower than the Arab-dictator average. Just pick up a rock and this mutt would dodge, then come back on his belly every time.

So Obama had to deal with people like Daniel Pipes, a classic old-line Likudnik and Muslim-baiter. For these guys, and there are a lot of them, there is only one time zone on the planet and that is Jerusalem time. And Jerusalem as the capital of Yeretz Israel, too, and don’t you forget it. Libyans, Egyptians, Tunisians—none of those people are real to them until they get rid of their dictators. That might energize them, and that means nothing but trouble down the line for Judea and Samaria, which means trouble for DC too.

So Pipes was screeching that dislodging Qaddafi might free up “radical Islam” in Libya. And it might. That’s what happens when people wake up; they get ideas. Deal with it. Personally, I dunno, but if Islam is so damn radical and there’s 1.5 billion of’em and they control damn near all the oil—personally, seems to me we’d be in a lot more trouble than we are. Personally, seems to me I’m not suffering from Islam as much as from the fact that they sent all the jobs away—mostly to Muzzie countries like Bangladesh and Indonesia, thanks very much—then used to profits to keep us suckers scared of some dingbat imam. But that’s just me, I’m not very trusting. Unemployment does that to you.

And since all those boring old liars are sounding the alarm that this’ll be the end of the world…well, look, you can’t go wrong betting against the people who brought you that monster hit, “The Baghdad Cakewalk.” There’s that saying that even a broken clock is right twice a day, but if the neocons were a Rolex, somehow they’d manage not to do it even once. I don’t know how, but they would.

So I’m gonna say here: Just maybe, the whole thing ended pretty well. Not that expensive, money or lives; gotta be better for the Libyans if anybody actually cares about them; can’t see any risk for the big picture—only 6 million Libyans to start with, for God’s sake, and I don’t see the Berber going on a global jihad any time soon. Jeez, what a thought: What if it turned out good?

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

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Add your own

  • 1. Victorvalley Villain  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 11:44 am

    I just jumped over here to point this out to Dol… Brecher,

    But am pleased to find new WN article.

  • 2. Sick and Wrong  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    Such a clueless article.

    I didn’t expect Brecher to fall victim to the Western propaganda so easily. But he does, and then he goes on about Berbers and whatnot, completely unrelated to what’s going on in there, completely detached from reality, while the rebels are getting their asses handed to them, while Misrata is being liberated by the army.

    I guess one can be a good war nerd, but not understand much about politics. It’s a different kind of war this time and Brecher doesn’t even realize the extent of how different it really is.

  • 3. F1  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    Yep, it was an unexpected victory. I thought it would take at least 4-5 additional months.
    By the way, talking about “radical islam”.
    An article about differences between “radical islam” and some kind of real threat (from the viewpoint of the USA), like the Warsaw Pact (even if it is dead now) would be interesting. 😉
    There might be some “minor” differences , for example in the number of troops prepared to invade Western Europe (~ 5 million versus 0), number of nuclear weapons (~ 30 0000 v 0) etc.

  • 4. Dennis Redmond  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Act 1 was Benghazi, Act 3 was Nafusa, but Act 2 was Misurata.

    Qaddafi is a maniacal thug, but was smart enough to know he had only one chance: set the regions fighting against each other and declare western Libya a nation-state. The only problem with the scheme: Misurata, Libya’s 3rd-largest city, was a rebel stronghold.

    The regime had maybe 30,000 loyal thugs at the beginning of the revolution. A quarter were sent to hold Brega, another quarter held down the Nafusa mountains. But half were sent to burn Misurata to the ground.

    Misurata defeated them. It was a murderous, pitiless street war, fought alley by alley, basement by basement. They decimated the regime’s best units.

    Once Misurata was free, the regime was done, and laser-guided airstrikes and mobile small unit warfare could take care of the rest.

  • 5. André  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Hi, I’m writing from Brazil. You are very, very good. Intelligent, funny, witty and never afraid of voicing your opinion. Even if I don’t agree with everything you say, it doesn’t matter, you have style. In two weeks I read more than forty of your articles. Congratulations, Gary.

  • 6. Michal  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Yeah those are pretty much my sentiments, thanks for writing it out. I particularly enjoyed the bit about the laser designators, for some reason I haven’t thought much of those although I read quite frequently about shipping from the gulf which included all sorts of stuff, even recoilless rifles.

    I believe the real difficult part comes now, there’s an entire country devoid of oil revenue right now out there and I really hope the involved countries will not be stingy, that could cost a lot more in the long term.

  • 7. Sick and Wrong  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    This image shows how they fucked up while building the scene decorations in Qatar

    Journalists who engage in war propaganda must be held accountable:

  • 8. Sick and Wrong  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Here’s a better version

  • 9. matt  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    “Jeez, what a thought: What if it turned out good?”

    Gary, with the way the French treat the Africans, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. If you own stock in Total, things will probably be good for you, other than that though…who knows?

  • 10. Paul  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    So in the span of less than one decade the United States has installed pro American regimes in two of the biggest oil producing countries in the world. The Neo-Con goal after 9/11 was to turn the middle east into friendly liberal democratic regimes. Well so far, that is happening. It’s popular to write about the end of the american empire these days, however, I see alot of wins

  • 11. allen  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    Daffy forces are still launching attacks around the country, and the rebels are needing to send reinforcements to the capitol struggling with regime forces … but with the capture of Qaddafi’s compound it looks like it is done.

    With NATO air cover, I doubt the regime is recapturing anything for very long. The question is does Qaddafi have any real committed support — the kind he would need to launch a lengthy guerrilla/”terrorist” campaign? Is anyone going to carry out such a fight in the name of the “Green revolution” even if the old cross-dresser croaks?

    Dunno, kind of doubt it. We’ll see? I was totally surprised by how easily they took Tripoli.

  • 12. Veit  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    If you were really in the know, you would know that those videos of the “rebels taking over” are fake – as half of the blogosphere already noticed. But you are not in the know, obviously.
    You are unemployed for a reason, Brecher.

  • 13. Karel  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    In the time of Inca gold the bankrupt Spanish King could buy a new lease by sending thugs to the Incas and stealing their gold.

    The colonial thugs already holds the Inca gold in their banks, they must just bump off the owners and confuse the peasants, to bail themselves out.

    Chaves is taking his gold – I hope its not too late

  • 14. RanDomino  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    Wtf cheap shot against the CNT-FAI militias?? They were the only ones fighting for all of 1936!

  • 15. helplesscase  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    @2: Berbers are cool.

  • 16. Mudhead  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 4:04 pm


    I see your point, but the British Empire reached it’s zenith right after WW1, when for all intents and purposes it was dead. Swans eventually sing.

  • 17. Duarte Guerreiro  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    “We shall see, as the atheist said to the firing squad.”


    Didn’t know about the common origin of Berber and Barbaros, but now it seems obvious. It was a Greek word for anyone who wasn’t “civilized” (meaning not-Greek) but the Romans later adopted it. The Greek invented it because to them foreign languages just sounded like “Bar bar bar bar bar!”

  • 18. dominic  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    Some reports say the “Cheering crowds” are really the rebels themselves jumping around the square acting like hooligans. And i’m not so sure about your ‘cheering crowds’ analysis, the Crusaders butchered them in one of the cities they took, i forget which (they butchered ALL the crowds, I know, but in one city that escapes my memory, the crowd was cheering them…).

    Also, it would make sense about your laser pointer thing, but there is absolutely no evidence that we do anything, ever, except put large amounts of weapons in the hands of people who shouldn’t be trusted with them (Al Qeda, for example…or Mexican drug cartels). So maybe they’re using the laser thingys, maybe not, but it sure as hell isn[t because someone at the pentagon or in washington is worried that some not-so-nice people will end up with weapons

    otherwise though, good article. I find it proper that Libya may well be over approximately 48 hrs after you were asking “Whats taking so long?”

  • 19. super390  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Paul@10, if you were even a well-informed anti-war pinko, you’d have read “The Shock Doctrine” and you’d know that what the US intended to install in Iraq had nothing to do with liberal democracy. The plan was to install a regime indistinguishable from Pinochet’s, and cover everything in US brand names. We only allowed the first elections because we were scared to death of Ayatollah Sistani and Muqtada al-Sadr whipping up a rebellion too big for us to handle. What we have in Baghdad now is a million miles from what was planned, and closer in allegiance to Iran than the US.

    So why should we expect much better from a country where we couldn’t send in 150,000 soldiers? We’ve already lost Mubarak for nothing, we completely blew it in the ex-Soviet ‘Stans where some big US players once expected to create banana republics, and we’ve lost 90% of Central and South America.

    We also lost Turkey, which now, by coincidence, has a healthier economy than us or Europe. Huh, a lot of those Latin American countries are now doing better without us too… Think ordinary folks in the remnants of our empire will pick up on the hint?

  • 20. Michal  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    @ 13. Contrary to popular opinion, six billion dollars worth of gold isn’t really much.

  • 21. Victorvalley Villain  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    @14. RanDomino

    I remember reading early on in Antony Beevor’s The Battle for Spain that early on in the conflict the anarchists would abandon their trenches and go home for the night, and also would’t show back up to the front lines until Monday morning. That’s some hilarious shit right there.

    All that said A Day Mournful and Overcast is a powerful read.

  • 22. Tom  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    Anyone else notice how the first half of the previous article on Libya Dolan wrote was a lament about not selling out during the Iraq War? Anyone else realize what he’s trying to do here?

  • 23. allen  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    So according to the internet blogger detective brigade all Western nations are lying and every Western news outlet is lying.

    I mean, probably, but to what extent you think they are willing and capable of carrying their lies says a lot about how crazy you think the world is, or, alternatively, how cracked you are … if you follow me.

  • 24. Strelnikov  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    I second what #14 wrote; that was a shitty cheap shot, Brecher.

    Also, if Berbers are so damn mystifying why didn’t you break out the old encyclopedia set to find something about them?


    I’m betting that Gazzafi has fled to Sirte, in fact fled weeks ago, which is why you don’t see the guy, you just hear him on the radio. I was thinking that Ghaddfi would pull a Hitler and die in Tripoli but it seems like the guy is going to pull a Saddam and we’ll find him in a hidey hole in a park in Sirte. He’s better off fleeing to Switzerland.

  • 25. NN  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    @ Sick and Wrong

    If no one listens, just cry harder!

    @ RanDomino

    I agree it’s not completely fair against the anarchist columns, but you also can’t say that any of them where really well organised or battle-hardened like those on the fascist side.

  • 26. Strelnikov  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    When the Anarchist militas were strongest was at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, when in many places it was just groups shooting at each other up in the mountains. People seem to forget that the SCW had a “war within the war” between the Communists, Trotskyists, Anarchists and others while these Left-wing groups were also fighting Franco. The Republic had too much politcs, while the nationalists had very little, save for the Falangists and their “viva la muerte” crap in honor of their fallen leader Jose Antonio Primo de Riviera. The decisive thing besides how the Germans and Italians used air power was the blockade against the republic. If France or Britain had allowed weapons into the Republican zone, Franco would probably have sold very used cars in Florida and not been El Caudillo.

  • 27. Buenaventura Durruti  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    That fat fuck Brecher can kiss my ass. Fucking red and black keyboard column.

  • 28. Uli Krach  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    I am very confident that this is only Act 1 of the Libyan Saga. Either Gaddaffi is playing possum and waiting for Nato to go away before launching a guerilla war or we see the “rebel allinace” (star wars, anyone?) dissolve into goon on goon, warlord on warlord violence. The only thing that kept this alliance together was a common goal. Who rules now will be decided by good old “last man standing” warfare. Mark my words, this is far from over. Nothing is this easy nowadays. There are a lot of tribes that can only play nice when a madman dictator is knocking them in the head.

  • 29. Erik  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 11:12 pm


    I remember reading early on in Antony Beevor’s The Battle for Spain that early on in the conflict the anarchists would abandon their trenches and go home for the night, and also would’t show back up to the front lines until Monday morning.

    Also, in the beginning of the war, the republicans were losing a lot of people to Spanish Foreign Legion artillery. They considered it un-Spanish to duck, never mind hiding in a hole in the ground like some animal.

    The survivors learned to dig trenches. Darwinism on fast forward.

  • 30. Hussayn Khariq  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    why the old bat didn’t attack NATO planes or ships is what i want to know

  • 31. Sam  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    Yes, I dunno about the rest, but bashing the Anarchist militias…cmon. they weren’t so much tactically deficient compared to the commie regulars, who would – in a fashion befitting of a commie – refuse to advance the line in a bid to mop up the straggling fascists. It would have been better to advance far then worry about the mopping up later, of course. But this was early modern warfare and I cant say with 100% certainty that the anarchists were better in this respect.

    And who knows if this will be better for the Libyans? The humanitarian damage thus far is almost certainly underplayed. And if whats happened in the other “Arab Spring” countries is any indication, the West don’t give a shit about democracy or the well-being of the “Arab Street”. See how the democratic process turns out for Libya if the TNC wont make concessions to the oil companies…

  • 32. The Last Fenian  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    @allen: “So according to the internet blogger detective brigade all
    Western nations are lying and every Western news outlet is lying.”

    Are you really that naive, or are you just shilling for your master (even while — or because?! — he fucks you up the arse?)

  • 33. Sick and Wrong  |  August 24th, 2011 at 1:20 am

    @ 22. Tom

    Nice one, seems like you’re right.

  • 34. Alen  |  August 24th, 2011 at 3:40 am

    There are no massive US or EU military deployment – so they cannot march across the country in Strykers searching for Gaddafi. The search would have to be done by incognito special forces and local quislings. Taken the fact that lots of tribes are Gaddafi loyalists, local forces will not be able to just storm in without causing tribal civil war. Gaddafi will be more like Tito in WW2 – always somewhere in the friendly territory amidst all-out civil war.

  • 35. tam  |  August 24th, 2011 at 3:41 am

    ‘Jeez, what a thought: What if it turned out good?’

    I dunno about that, Brecher has such a good track record in judging these things that I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt but can’t help wondering if the author’s perspective is being skewed by the fact the US chose not to get involved in a war that momentarily seems to be going quite well for the west. These things can change pretty quickly.

    Obama’s getting mocked for his hesitancy now, but if things take a turn for the worse, (or that becomes the perception) then everyone will start banging on about how prescient he was…

  • 36. NN  |  August 24th, 2011 at 5:12 am

    @ Strelnikov

    Ah very true, thanks for your reply.

    @ Buenaventura Durruti

    LOL, well played, sir!

  • 37. Trevor  |  August 24th, 2011 at 7:11 am

    I saw some CNN correspondent on the ground there yesterday, surrounded by cheering Libyans mugging for the camera. Most were in civie clothes, a few in fatigues. The CNN chick was wearing as much kevlar as possible and looked scared out of her mind. Good times.

  • 38. El Hombre Malo  |  August 24th, 2011 at 8:06 am

    Anarchists in the Spanish Civil War were, with a few exceptions, a deadweight. They were very enthusiastic and motivated but refused to coordinate with other militias or the republican goverment. Even worse, their insistence on doing the revolution, seizin land and livestock from small owners in Aragon, cemented the notion abroad of Franco leading a crusade against godless revolutionares, strangling much needed help from western europe public opinion.

    Fuck Orwell romanticism and fuck the red and black banner.

    Regarding Berbers… they have a history of rebelion against stablished power. Well into the 19th century, foreign powers (arabs, turks, french or spaniards) sticked to the only profitable portion of north african land: the coast. The interior was too wild, mountainous and trade-free to be worth the trouble of subduing the berbers. All these centuries of cultural independence gave them a strong confidence. They didnt conform to anyone and even their modern cultural manifestations, like Raïs, doesnt really fit into clear definitions.

    And they look good to booth. Berber are known for their light eyes and hair, the women can be actually spectacular. One well known example of Berber is Zinedine Zidane (see all the Zs?).

  • 39. A Silver Mt. Paektu  |  August 24th, 2011 at 8:40 am

    “Brecher” has fallen into what’s probably the most common trap for gear/personnel/etc obsessed war nerds: he’s forgotten that war is just politics by other means. Obama made the single most important move of the entire conflict right at the beginning when he signed that executive order freezing all Libyan assets in the USA. He can (and will) free up those assets with a single pen stroke, and in doing so will give the new Libyan government an instant infusion of cash equal to a full year of Libya’s entire peacetime GNP.

    Now, the mainstream media is going on about how the Obama administration doesn’t know who to give the money to, what with the different rebel factions making unclear who has the “legitimacy” required to run Libya post-Ghaddafi. What these mainstream commentators are studiously avoiding suggesting is that the 30bn Obama is poised to put on the table is precisely the factor that will determine one faction’s legitimacy over its rivals. Obama positioned himself as kingmaker and had to expend very little in the way of men and materiel to do so.

    Of course, this will all serve to make Ghaddafi look good after a few decades of historical hindsight. His spokesmen are already making every speech they give sound like a Cliff’s Notes version of “The Shock Doctrine” and Ghaddafi’s posthumous anti-colonial bona fides will certainly be shored up once Obama’s chosen dictator-who-dresses-like-a-banker lets US firms move in and start looting the nation. Ghaddafi was always in it for himself and jamahiriya was never anything more than a bad joke, but having a grand last stand, “The Green Book,” and some piddly redistributive programs as a legacy will make Ghaddafi look like an anti-imperialist saint after a few decades of beigeist neoliberal rapine.

  • 40. par4  |  August 24th, 2011 at 9:44 am

    @ sickandwrong: Blow me.

  • 41. par4  |  August 24th, 2011 at 9:44 am

    @ sickandwrong: Blow it out your ass.

  • 42. spence  |  August 24th, 2011 at 9:49 am

    Good God Breacher, “what if it turned out good”? You losing your Faith or something?

    Look, there’s oil and oil revenues to fight over, the various local religious, civic and tribal groups can chop each other up over that for the next fifty years. This could easily go Yuogslav on the French, requiring them to try and mop up with boots on the ground. That would be a beautiful day Breacher, remember how we laughed about the last time Jonney Frog went to North Africa? They made a film about it.

  • 43. Samiam  |  August 24th, 2011 at 10:33 am

    And what about Gaddafi’s gold?

  • 44. Strelnikov  |  August 24th, 2011 at 12:16 pm


    “Fuck you, too!” – Kurt Russell in “The Thing.”

  • 45. franc black  |  August 24th, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    Thanks, Gary

    But why include: “you dissolve like the Spanish anarchist militias did every time under fire (except the expat commies)” ?

    The Durruti column was a Spanish anarchist militia … are you saying that they dissolved every time ? How about the their efforts on the Zaragoza front? The efforts to hold Madrid when the republican gov’t abandoned it ?

    Please, back up your point or retract it. This one hit a nerve.

  • 46. g  |  August 24th, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    Mine eyes have see the glory of 3 WAR NERDS IN A WEEK! Could this mean the return of Civil War Saturday??? I hope so. PLEASE BRECHER, more of that Monitor V Merrimack type shit.

  • 47. franc black  |  August 24th, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    @ 38. El Hombre Malo

    Bite your tongue (er, fingers), you ignoramus. You criticize Spanish outcast freedom fighters, and then give a shout out to the Libyan (berber) ones?

    And you insult George Orwell !

    Pistols at dawn, hombre.

  • 48. Phoenix Woman  |  August 24th, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    Wasn’t “Sick and Wrong” outed as a Russian stooge a while back?

  • 49. Cum  |  August 24th, 2011 at 1:56 pm


    You better not read Mr. Dolan’s harsh takedown here, then:

    Lookin forward to this Caturday!!

  • 50. solfish  |  August 24th, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    Calling middle-americans Skraelings gives them way too much credit.

  • 51. Sick and Wrong  |  August 24th, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    @39 [i]He can (and will) free up those assets with a single pen stroke[/i]

    Yeah, like freeing Iraqi assets maybe? Cause those are still frozen. Or “stolen” would be more appropriate.

  • 52. allen  |  August 24th, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    Not surprising to see so many comments in favor of Qaddafi’s regime. The modern left (especially American) can’t put aside their ressentiment for even a moment to be on the right side of history it seems.

    Who cares if the IMF gang and U.S./France/whatever are out for gain in Libya? What’s shocking about that? Qaddafi is still a lunatic dictator who shouldn’t be thought of as “sovereign” over Libya in any way.

    His fall will be progress even if it allows the West to put all sorts of hooks in Libya, which they probably will.

  • 53. El Hombre Malo  |  August 24th, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    franc black;

    Spanish anarchists were, by large, responsible for most of the “atrocities of the left” that strangled any chance of foreign support for the republic. In the dawn of media incunvence during War, they blew it for all of us. And individual bravery aside, they were innefective unless under a charismatic figure (not a leader, never a leader, of course) like Durruti.

    Their revolutionary experiments during wartime were ill advised, to say the least, and undermined any support (or at least compliance) from spanish small land owners (and the republic actually held the territories with more of those). They wanted cake, they wanted it now and they wanted everyone else to sing Happy Birthday for them, else they would stop breathing… well, most did, and the ones who didnt ended up writing romantic books about their dashing exploits against totalitarism. Fuck them. And I dont see much improvement in modern anarchism at all, bunch of blind kids and egotists.

  • 54. RanDomino  |  August 24th, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    If all of us Anarchists would get off the computer and go throw a fucking revolution we would have hanged the last tyrant with the guts of the last priest a long fucking time ago.

  • 55. NN  |  August 24th, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    Spanish anarchists were, by large, responsible for most of the “atrocities of the left” [citation needed]

  • 56. iCONOCLAST  |  August 24th, 2011 at 8:05 pm


    When that happens, we’ll be killing each other next.

  • 57. gary  |  August 24th, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    what self respecting anarchist would fight for anything exept anarchy?…thats why they failed or succeeded….depends on how you look at it

  • 58. Tank Bricklayer  |  August 24th, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    @ #39 Gah?

    I for one am disappointed that MoMo wasnt hiding under the Rixos. The idea of him using BBC/CNN/AJ journos as human shields was exciting. Oh well…I hope he’s got something up his sleeve, and eventually dies with an AK in his hands, unlike that phony OBL.

  • 59. Dejo  |  August 24th, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    Only the sleazes and filth convert. The ones that don’t are tough as nails.

  • 60. dominic  |  August 24th, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    @ El Hombre Malo, how can you say the anarchists were responsible for “most” of the atrocities? Are you then claiming the murderous, back-stabbing Ruskies were comminting, i dont know, acts of brotherly love?

    Not that I’m defending the Anarchists…

  • 61. spence  |  August 25th, 2011 at 12:40 am

    Shame on you Malo. Let’s take a look at the record, decentralised none hierarchal forces vs the opposite. Al Queda Vs the US Army, Al Queda. Rebels Vs Quadaffi, Rebels, Taliban Vs Nato, Taliban. Iraqi Insurgents Vs “the willing”, Insurgents, VC Vs US Army, VC. Algerian Independence Rebels Vs France, Algerians. etc.

    Has The Nerd taught you nothing? Anarchy kicks ass on the battlefield. QED

  • 62. dominic  |  August 25th, 2011 at 2:20 am

    Spence, you make a critical error. The anarchists were, by definition, unified by nothing save armed struggle against the opposition, whereas all the other forces you named had a terribly powerful ideological bond. THAT is what kept them cohesive despite their less than hierarchical orginization (they were all to some extent hierarchichal)

  • 63. Michal  |  August 25th, 2011 at 6:55 am

    @ 61. Not when you’re fighting a regular war with clearly drawn frontlines. All those you’ve listed fought a guerilla war where the partisans just need to blow up a bunch of shit and run. This is not the case with army which needs to hold stuff while destroying the enemy through appropriately targeted superior firepower.

  • 64. CB  |  August 25th, 2011 at 8:32 am

    @ spence

    Uh, “anarchist” is not the word I’d use to describe any of those groups, not in philosophy or in organization. You’re confusing “irregular” or “the smaller side in asymetric warfare” with “anarchist”.

    The Nerd has been pretty clear that organization, discipline, and coordination are at least as important for irregulars. Non-traditional cell-based organization is still not the same as anarchy. It was the *lack* of organization and a well-defined control hierarchy that caused the rebels to stall out for so long. The taking of Tripoli in contrast demonstrates that they finally acquired enough organization to pull off something that required significant coordination.

    Anarchy is still a failure, and anarchists are still idiots.

  • 65. CB  |  August 25th, 2011 at 8:52 am

    Wait, my bad, I was stereotyping there. Not all anarchists are idiots. There’s the burn-the-world psychopath type of anarchist. They’re not dumb, they’ve got other issue but I can still respect them. It’s the “anarchy will improve society!” tards that I save my real derision for.

  • 66. Alen  |  August 25th, 2011 at 9:54 am

    Orwell was plain wrong:

  • 67. franc black  |  August 25th, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    @53. El Hombre Malo

    Go play revisionist ‘know it all’ on another site, you falangist f*ckhead.

    For a bunch of peasants who were fighting for some form of social justice they did an admirable job before getting snuffed out by the fascists.

    Spain was used as a testing ground for modern warfare (ex- Luftwaffe on Gernika) and modern politics (ex- USSR vs Axis) and those poor bastards who were stuck in the middle tried their best.

    This site speaks out for causes such as theirs, the vulnerable classes that get chewed up and shit out by big tough guys with the big money and the fancy connections.

    Go to a Tea Party rally and find your soulmates, you muthafukka

  • 68. RanDomino  |  August 25th, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    @62 dominic The CNT-FAI was, and is today in a smaller and more limited form, fighting for collectivization and worker control of all land and means of production. Unlike the Communists, who enslave the workers and fighter to a centralized bureaucracy, Anarchists try to put things *directly* in the hands of the workers who use them, and then ask if they’re willing to fight for it. That’s incentive!

    For those who think Anarchy is about disorder and disorganization, learn a thing or two about Syndicalism. We’re not against *all* authority; we just want for it be under constant scrutiny. There’s nothing wrong with an effective military hierarchy, even, as long as the leaders are just coordinators under the control of the troops. You can win a war with a slave army, sure, if you want a slave empire…

    On the other hand, in the Spanish Civil War, groups like the Friends of Durruti were advocating to completely dissolve the regular army in favor of a decentralized guerrilla war, which would have likely turned Spain into a bloody quagmire for the Germans and Italians.

  • 69. Victorvalley Villain  |  August 25th, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    @67. franc black

    Deep breaths. You got El Hombre Malo all wrong. The bad man is simply making the same arguments that the American in Land And Freedom was making during the general assembly that took place after the POUM militia liberated the village.

    Fast forward to about 46 minutes in.

    There was some legitimacy to the argument.

    Bur for fuck’s sake, Spain was what? 75 years ago? We will all be making a bunch of new mistakes the next time around.

  • 70. Ian Whitchurch  |  August 25th, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    “A grad salvo on flat sand—that’s deterrence. It’d deter me, and it deterred the amateurs from Benghazi. I don’t mean “amateurs” in a mean way, but mostly that’s what they were. War’s not as easy as the movies make it look. ”

    The amateur suburbanites did enough, though – they didnt collapse, and they kept the Eastern Front in being.

  • 71. franc black  |  August 25th, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    @69. Victorvalley Villain

    Understood… thank you for being a voice of reason and calm. You sound Canadian.

    Look, the way I see it, it all started in Spain. All the shit we’ve lived through ever since with Hitler this and Nazi that, Baby Boomer bullshit and USA/UK global dominance … if only some more powerful entities got involved in Spain, maybe it’d all have turned out differently. It’s like they all sat back and watched the whole fuck-up happen … USA/UK/France … let Spain burn … little did they realize that it gave the Axis the confidence and education they needed unleash their inferno upon humanity.
    It bugs the shit out of me to hear some keyboard hero slag those working class nobodies, empowered under the flag of ‘anarchism’ or ‘communism’ or whatever the fuck else provided a morale boost, and who actually stood up to ‘the Man’ and died nasty deaths in the process.

    “No bomb that ever burst shatters the crystal spirit”

    romantic ? yeah, fuck yeah. Where can I get more of it. Seems to be extinct nowadays.

  • 72. Edmund Dorkey  |  August 25th, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    We just all gotta be aware of the “anti-patterns”, the stuff that went wrong in the past and be aware of the patterns that work. Not every situation requires a screwdriver or hammer. Some require a blow torch and some fertilizer.

    – Edmund Dorkey
    Turks and Caicos Islands

  • 73. Bobby  |  August 25th, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    Berbers aint shit.

    They just got run off by loyalist forces. The Green Square is back under Libyan control.

    With a push from China now that the NTC has screwed them on oil contracts, Qaddafi can win this.

  • 74. aleke  |  August 26th, 2011 at 12:07 am

    Gaddafi ruled, even the leprous toads croaking over his dire straits sheepishly admit it through their weak barbs. ‘Lunatic dictator’? i’d take a thousand of these mythic ;lunatic dictators’ over a single one of you toads any day. Talk about ‘beigism’

  • 75. Victorvalley Villain  |  August 26th, 2011 at 3:13 am

    71. franc black

    “You sound Canadian.” That’s fucked up, what did I ever do to you!?

    From what you are saying, I think you might find this Gilles Dauvé essay of interest,

    When Insurrections Die – Gilles Dauvé
    Gilles Dauvé’s pamphlet on the on the failures of the Russian, Spanish and German Revolutions, and the rise of fascism in Europe.

    “The question is not: who has the guns? but rather: what do the people with the guns do? 10,000 or 100,000 proletarians armed to the teeth are nothing if they place their trust in anything beside their own power to change the world. Otherwise, the next day, the next month or the next year, the power whose authority they recognize will take away the guns which they failed to use against it.”

  • 76. Victor C  |  August 26th, 2011 at 6:11 am

    You have a lot to learn Mr Brecher.
    This is about as likely a scenario as the Mexicans invading and taking over the USA.
    Imagine how much external support they would need.
    Can’t be done. Everyone makes mistakes, I guess.

    Sure, G is evil he has what we want.

  • 77. Sick and Wrong  |  August 26th, 2011 at 6:32 am

  • 78. CB  |  August 26th, 2011 at 10:03 am

    But wait, I thought the rebels had never taken Green Square and it was all done on a set in Qatar, and it was a global psyop media control conspiracy in which CNN and BBC forgot that they weren’t supposed to report that Qaddafi’s son hadn’t been captured?


    I love how all these Russians and people from former satellites (judging from the comments in all these youtube vids) have appointed themselves the Iraqi Information Ministers of the Libyan conflict. “There are no rebels in Tripoli! It was all U.S. special forces! Okay they *were* here but they were crushed! Okay, they were here, and captured half the city, but then the people rose up to destroy them! Yeah, that’s it! That’s the ticket!”

    I can’t wait for the next update.

  • 79. Fnord  |  August 26th, 2011 at 10:09 am

    Well, Gary, the one thing you seem to have missed is that in addition to the brits and french SF, the Arab League did a historical first and actually showed up for a fight. Both Quatari and Jordanian SF have been in the front, according to the british sources.

    As for the quip about the anarchists: Hey, Durutti turned the rout around, and the Asturian miners of the syndicalists really fought like heroes. Dont know if the basques get fitted as anarchists or tribalists, but they sure fought as well.

  • 80. Emad  |  August 26th, 2011 at 10:51 am

    Zintan is not berber.

  • 81. Bobby  |  August 27th, 2011 at 1:50 am

    Gary, do a story of how the Libya rebels are crawling with Jihadi elements.

    This is the general of the rebel forces in Libya:

    Abdelhakim Belhadj
    *Jihadi Fighter
    *”severed ties with al qaeda”
    *Taliban veteran; trained in Afghanistan
    *Member of the Jihadi group LIFG
    *Current head of NATO rebels

  • 82. Sir Hendersson  |  August 27th, 2011 at 4:48 am

    It is touching to see commenters still believing that the Empire gave a hoot about democracy in Spain. The propaganda corps was good back then. Seeing the republicans bending over backwards to please us was rather amusing, but Franco was the right sort of chap all along.

  • 83. Nick Nolan  |  August 27th, 2011 at 6:38 am

    Note about French and their involvement.

    Libya has been supplying 15 percent of French’s oil demand (20% of Italy, 15% of Austria etc). EU and US did not take it well when it was revealed that Qaddafi was flirting with Gasprom (trough Italian ENI). So when uprising started, Europeans were more than happy to see him go (except that Italian Buffoon Berlusconi).

    It’s hard for many European refineries to replace high quality Libyan oil they have used to, the don’t have the equipment installed to deal with lesser quality.

    When it looked like war would be prolonged, Europeans realized that every day without oil shipments would cost them money. Something had to be done.

    ps. I think your cautious optimism is way too premature. OK. We get rid of Qaddafi, then what? Libya is country with tribes, minorities like Berbers and tensions between them. What could go wrong?

    Reading material:

  • 84. Nestorius  |  August 28th, 2011 at 8:31 am

    “A Berber is somebody who speaks Berber, acts like a Berber—and isn’t an Arab. Not being an Arab isn’t a good move, hasn’t been for about 1400 years (one of those funny coincidences you get with conquests), and Qaddafi, a secret Berber, an ashamed-of-it Berber, hated them even more than most Arab leaders in the Maghrib did.”

    Wrong. A Berber is someone who belongs to a Berber tribe, even if he talks Arabic. Being Berber or Arab is determined by genealogy, not by language or culture or “how he identifies” as all stupid retard Westerners think.
    Many Berber tribes have adopted Arabic instead of Berber.
    Of course, under Arab nationalism, the Berbers were not recognized. Everybody was Arab, period. Otherwise claiming to be non-Arab could get you accused of treason and collaboration with the “Americo-Zionist enemy”.

  • 85. Nick Nolan  |  August 30th, 2011 at 6:56 am

    Anybody recognize this drone from Libya:

    It looks like hawk shaped spy drone. Pretty good idea in the cloudless desert if it flies so high that you can’t estimate its real size.

  • 86. bob  |  September 2nd, 2011 at 11:01 am

    The Atlantic pictures from-

    In all of the “Russian-made UB-32 multiple rocket launcher” pictures there is very ENGLISH writing on them. 29 and 23 were the most obvious.

    The “workman” wearing the wingtips in 23 also doesn’t quite look right.

  • 87. Phoenix Woman  |  September 10th, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    El Hombre Malo @ 53: A-yep. The anarchists forgot the first rule of rebellions: Never be bigger assholes to the people than your enemies, especially when your support depends on the people (and on the goodwill of outsiders).

  • 88. Ben  |  November 25th, 2011 at 5:40 am

    Gary Brecher is a loser. End of.

  • 89. Silva  |  October 30th, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    The accent of a French dude from the sticks:

    (for extra hilarity, he’s half-Berber).

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