April 01, 2011
Getting Out of Libya
Posted by William Birdthistle

The glister must surely be flaking off Qaddafi’s garish dictatorship if his most senior co-conspirators are defecting now.  Bolting today, in the absence of promises of immunity and in the presence of military gains on the ground, appears to bespeak deep rot at the core of the regime.  For the sake of Libyans eager to rebuild their country, let’s hope that the collapse is quick and complete.  Autocrats the world over, alas, seem to asymptote their dotage along for unwelcome decades.

Ideally, Qaddafi would leave Libya like so many of the rest of us who have departed in the past thirty years: in a headlong sprint.  Like Moussa Koussa and the other defectors, my own family caught the first jet out of Libya when were evacuated in 1981.  Keeping track of US-Libyan encounters is difficult, but 1981 was not the airstrikes on Qaddafi’s compound that killed his daughter (1986), nor was it the Lockerbie bombing (1988), it was the Gulf of Sidra incident.  In August 1981, Qaddafi declared a “line of death” across the Gulf of Sidra, which prompted US naval forces to sail in what the United States declared to be international waters.  After a day or two of airborne handbags, two Libyan jets fired upon U.S. jets, which then promptly shot down the Libyan jets.

Those expatriates wandering around in the desert below were quickly invited to get out.  Esso, the company my father worked for, chartered a DC-10 from KLM and gave us a day or two to evacuate.  The airstrip in Brega is too small for a plane of that size, so all the town’s women and children convoyed up the coastal highway -- the same one hosting today’s fighting -- to Benghazi, where we boarded the plane and flew to Amsterdam.  As I recall, the plane had no flight attendants but very well stocked trolleys: I remember a surprising spirit of hilarity amongst the mothers.  Fathers remained in Brega for a short time to shut down the refinery.

If Libya rids itself of Qaddafi, I’ll look forward to returning someday soon.  I have no insights about how to improve relations with the Middle East, but I’m always a little less pessimistic when I think of my school in Brega.  Both Libyan and expatriate pupils attended Esso Elementary School, and we shared a yearbook -- the Darbuka (a goblet drum) -- which had a wonderful design.  The front cover and first half of the book was in English; the second half and back cover in Arabic.  This layout gave primacy to English readers, of course, but also to Arabic readers, who read from right to left.  Perhaps the collapse of Qaddafi’s rule may allow for a similar alignment of the interests of Western and Arab peoples.

The bone-dry Sahara in Libya is an excellent curator.  Along with the scars from World War II, the desert preserves some of the finest ancient ruins in the world: magnificent Roman buildings in Leptis Magna and unspoiled Greek settlements in Cyrene.  When the sand has soaked up all the blood Qaddafi has spilt, I hope Libyans will be able to excavate a society inspired by those republican and democratic inhabitants of their land.

| Bookmark

TrackBacks (0)

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Links to weblogs that reference Getting Out of Libya:

Recent Comments
Popular Threads
Search The Glom
The Glom on Twitter
Archives by Topic
Archives by Date
January 2019
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31    
Miscellaneous Links