What we know of what is going on in Libya is the dark side of popular uprisings. As of today there are reports that the aircraft attacking protesters in the capital Tripoli It is nearly impossible to confirm the reports as there has been a virtual news black out in the North African nation. Unlike Egypt the Gaddafi regime has not allowed reporters into the country and they have done a very effective job of shutting down the internet.
What we know for sure is this; two colonels in the Libyan Air Force were among those who were ordered to bomb protesters. Instead of following this order they flew their fighter jets to the island of Malta and asked for political asylum. From the unconfirmed reports others in the Air Force were not so principled.
We know that Gaddafi has not left the country as was rumored during the day today. He made a few seconds long statement form a jeep under an umbrella tonight, saying he was in Tripoli and did not intend to leave.
We know that the city of Benghazi appears to be in the hands of the protesters and that at least some of the military have gone over the side of the popular upraising.
And we know that that there have been at least 200 deaths today alone. What started as peaceful protests have turned violent, not because of the actions of those demanding a voice in their nation, but because of the regime and at least some of the security forces deciding to fire on the protesters.
Oppressive regimes often use the threat of violence to maintain their power. But generally is it s more personal and direct violence than air strikes. By unleashing his military on the people Gaddafi has shown that he really is a despot who will not stand for even the appearance of reform at the will of the people. Not that lip service reforms would have satisfied people who have seen the largest Arab nation toppled in 18 days by people who did not resort to violence.
The warnings of Gaddafi’s son may be coming true. As parts of the military desert the regime it makes the possibility of this uprising tuning into a full fledged civil war that much more likely. By moving to this kind of indiscriminate violence the prospect of a time of increasing international pressure as peaceful protests continue has been short circuited.
Now that hundreds, perhaps thousands are dead the prospect of restrain on the part of the protesters is almost certainly gone. As they are joined by parts of the military they will gain the one thing that they never had before and that is the arms needed to do more than gather and insist on a new form of government.
It is hard to know what will happen in Libya in the next few days, there is still some slim chance that the regime will realize that no matter what things will never go back to the time when they could do as they pleased with the oil wealth of that nation, when companies like BP and Shell would be their willing allies and not have to face major public relations disasters by associating with a regime that would bomb its own people. Perhaps, like in Egypt enough of the military will see where this is leading remove the Gaddafi family.
It is always great when a revolution can occur peacefully and inspire the world. The sad reality is that that is less common occurrence. Most revolutions are bloody and dangerous and they do not always succeed. There is a good chance that the violence will escalate and the Gaddafi family will hold on to control.
Only time will tell, but one thing that can be said is that the dead of today are not likely to be the last of the dead in this uprising; we will have to wait and watch hoping that the people are in fact strong enough to remove their dictator and the dictator is not callus enough to keep his throne on the blood of tens of thousands of his own people.
The floor is yours.