Sunday, April 24, 2011

Announcement: New Blog!

April 24 2011

I've just created a new blog dedicated to the Libyan Civil War: critical views, concerns, complaints, conspiracy theories, and so on. I hope to make it very informative and possibly make it into a hub for multiple writers to organize some mental resistance. There's not much up at the moment (three posts, one a re-post from elsewhere), but there are over a dozen others in draft form and man, many others in the planning and research stages. An explanatory top-post will be up soon.

The blog is here:
Anyone concerned about the war should check it once now, and again in a few days. And in-between and after, feel free to submit useful articles and links to

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Crimes Against Reality in Libya {masterlist}

Posted April 18 2011

This series seeks to shed some light on darkened corners of deception; shamelessly cartoonish distortions of truth suggest a stark and false choice of freedom vs. brutal tyranny and madness. Lies mobilize escalation to regime change in the guise of humanitarian intervention.

Reality: it could even more accurately be seen as Wall Street, western intel, and Persian Gulf tyrannies teaming up with a few thousand local Islamist malcontents and terrorists, foreign fighters and NATO fighter jets, chosing regime change as the only answer to the percieved crisis they created.

And that in turn is often underpinned by distortions and outright fakery accepted as truth by "the civilized world." It's that to which I lend my focus here.

The posts:
Part 1: Behind the Scenes of the al-Baida Massacre, posted March 30.
Feb 23, Al-Biada or somewhere not far away: Alleged Crime: 130 Gaddafi soldiers executed for refusing to follow orders and kill "protesters." Reality: "protesters" killed 130 Gaddafi soldiers and lied to an accepting world.

Part 2: A "Mirage" over Benghazi on the Cusp of Air War, posted April 5.
March 19, Benghazi: Alleged crime: government forces were violating their cease-fire, were inside the rebel's capitol city, and initiating a genocidal bloodbath, even shooting down the one rebel fighter jet that took to the sky so far in the war. Reality: Defeat, not massacre, loomed, rebels probably staged the violence that appeared as an invasion, and they most likely shot down their own jet, whose mission up until then is worth wondering about.

Part 3: The Sniped Tykes of Misrata? Posted April 17.
April 8-14, Misrata: Alleged crime: A slew of reports emerge all at once of Government snipers targeting young children in the western rebel holdout of Misrata. Reality: The only clear evidence shown so far is two children with x-rays of bullets in their chests - but the same x-ray image is used for both kids, and it looks pretty fake to me.

The Sniped Tykes of Misrata?

Crimes Against Reality in Libya, part 3
April 17, 2011

Misrata: An Illusion Under Seige

Misrata (alt: Misurata, Arabic: مصراتة) is Libya’s third largest city (after Tripoli and Benghazi), boasting in peacetime about 550,000 people. [1] Considered Libya’s commercial capital, it lies in the west of the country about 130 miles east of the capitol Tripoli. It was among the amazing number of Libyan cities, east and west, that fell to rebel control within just a few days of the revolt’s start on February 17. This flash of activity was much more violent and pre-planned than the world public realizes, but that was needed to seed the impression that the whole country had “voted” by popular action to secede from the capitol.

After the initial shock of this unprecedented mutiny, the loyalists in the army and within the “liberated” cities re-grouped with an early-March roll-back. In general, rebel support was too weak to last in the west, and caved easily, and by the 19th rebel control was limited to their de facto capitol Benghazi and points eastward. The only exception to this rule was vital and sizeable Misrata, then and for the last month the only western city even partially held by rebels.

As the last bastion of illusion against this being an East-West civil war as opposed to a nationwide popular revolt, Misrata’s fate is second only to Benghazi’s. One holds the key to the east, the other maybe half a key to the whole nation. Just as a threat of losing Benghazi spurred the first western airstrikes on March 19, the continued siege of Misrata is apparently ushering in another phase entirely. With its neighborhood-scale fighting, snipers, and mortars and rockets from afar, the city has been much changed. It's been described as a living hell, with "unimaginable carnage," hospitals overflowing, bodies piling up uncounted in the streets, as many as 2,000 killed. It's been said Gaddafi is flattening the city, strangling it, and intends to slaughter every person in it.

However, on April 14, Professor Alan J. Kuperman wrote an excellent analysis citing Human Rights Watch information on Misrata "revealing that Moammar Khadafy is not deliberately massacring civilians but rather narrowly targeting the armed rebels who fight against his government." It does seem a bit more sloppy than he makes it sound, but Kuperman is probably closer to the truth of the matter than most. Since the fighting there started nearly two months earlier, he finds from HRW's numbers:
[O]nly 257 people — including combatants — have died there. Of the 949 wounded, only 22 — less than 3 percent — are women. If Khadafy were indiscriminately targeting civilians, women would comprise about half the casualties. [2]
In the roughly 45 days since the seige began, 257 is only about six deaths per day, on average. That isn't likely a complete number, but no more likely to be very far off. In really it looks less like a genocidal massacre than the six weeks of low-level but NATO-prolonged urban warfare it is. Even presuming a gross margin of unreported deaths, 400 or even 500 dead is really not that high - at most about 0.1% of the population. If the government were trying to kill "as many people as possible," with this much time to have done it, they are failing badly.

The last few days, April 14-16, have however seen a brutal new offensive by the government's forces, by rebel reports, with a few dozen more killed in rocket attacks on Misrata, indiscriminately including women, children, and elderly. [3] Cluster bombs have reportedly been found. [4] The harbor was attacked again. The rebels predict a total slaughter will finally befall them without more NATO involvement soon. What they really mean is Misrata will no longer be a rebel town.

All these concerns, taken in context, helped the leaders of the US, UK, and France, who happened to be meeting in these bloody days, to jointly denounce, among other things, the “medieval siege” of Misrata. And it finally allowed them to make some new decisions (which we'll be seeing shortly) on a core realization that all three nations have agreed on for four decades now. Essentially, Gaddafi must go. "It is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Gaddafi in power," they lied jointly on the 15th. [5]

Mystery Snipers Killing Kids?
Worse than the fairly indiscriminate death of distance shelling, the most incendiary new allegation is the mad tyrant Gaddafi sending snipers to Misrata to sit on rooftops, picking out children to shoot dead. Or so we hear. On April 8, a statement was issued in Switzerland:
“What we have are reliable and consistent reports of children being among the people targeted by snipers in Misrata,” UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado told reporters in Geneva.  The information was based on local sources, Mercado said. She was unable to say how many children have been wounded or killed in this way. [6]
UNICEF, the United Nations wing for caring about children's health and well-being, was naturally alarmed enough by these reports to announce they existed but weren’t verified – they’d go and have a look and then, perhaps, we’d hear about corroboration.

A cynic might see in this echoes of the incubator-baby stories of 1991 Gulf War fame. The tale of an Iraqi atrocity in Kuwait, killing dozens of premature babies for no clear reason, gave massive and emotional public support to the war effort. Later, the story was proven to be a complete lie, concocted by the Kuwaiti royal family and public relations firm Hill and Knowlton, Inc. [7] Again, the first part of that is happening with this news spreading like wildfire. And we shall see, and in short order, that the second half is already coming into focus along similar lines.

There’s no great reason to doubt the presence of snipers in the city, given the situation. Rebels allege African mercenaries as usual, military snipers from elite battalions, and most recently special female sharpshooters from Colombia’s FARC army. [8] One Libyan exile with contact in Misrata said the snipers were “Libyan mercenaries,” as well as some “from Mauritania, 2 from Colombia, 2 women, some from Chad, and others from origins of which we are not sure.” (more from this expert below). [9]

As far as people capable of making bullets fly in a war-torn city, we also cannot rule out armed loyalist citizens, possibly gone loco and trying to demoralize the traitors by killing their young. That wouldn't exactly be a government strategy requiring regime change, but close enough for most. Or it could be a black-hearted rebel supporter trying to create another humanitarian disaster to be blamed on the regime. And it would be, of course, with no questions asked. The government itself claims snipers exist in Misrata – brought in by the rebels and affiliated with Hezbollah, says spokesman Khaled Kaim. Hezbollah denies this, and the evidence has yet to be shown [10]

Yousef bin Youssef on Snipers, Kids, and/or Targeting
A video from the Al Aan channel of the United Arab Emirates was posted April 9, with English subtitles, on rebel site Entitled “Batallion snipers targeting children in Misurata,” the content is an interview with Yousef bin Youssef, onetime Misrata resident, in touch with others still there and amazingly informed (he’s the one with the sniper nationalities list). [9]

Asked if “children were actually being targeted by snipers there,” Youssef makes a long presentation with heavy use of the word for “targeted,” but only gives one bit of an answer to that question at the end. He starts with the government shelling of the city:
“[T]here are very serious risks when these populated zones are targeted – many injuries could occur … Families are being targeted daily … the targeting of children and civilians in large numbers … the targeting of Misrata is happening in every residential area … Gaddafi’s forces are systematically killing the entire population of the city of Misrata.”
He does get to children, noting that “a car with four children in it was targeted,” in fact a disputable incident at a check-point, killing one child an wounding another. [11] This is quite common in places like Iraq where a government is up against an insurgency. “In another neighborhood near Tripoli street,” Youssef added, “a child of two years was also targeted” in some unspecified way. He also lists several names with ages of “just a few” of the youngest “martyrs” killed by anything at all so far in this conflict.

He also brought cell-phone video footage of three injured children evacuated, from Misrata and Benghazi, to Turkey. One is a boy with his right arm amputated and the left one locked in a full cast, and one eye swollen shut. Another older boy is shown with both hands in casts. Both look more like mishaps in handling explosives than any sniper’s work. Their injuries are not explained. [9]

The Girl in Turkey: Right for the Heart
The only time in all Youssef’s interview where any sign of a sniper appears is with the third child, which he describes as:
“a small girl, no older than 4 years, who was targeted by a sniper’s bullet near the heart. But thank God, they removed the bullet, as you can see.” [9]
The hefty bullet is shown in a vial, and a precious little girl is shown curled up asleep in the hospital bed, barely saved from the government's mad designs. And as proof the two were once together, her x-ray is also shown to the camera. A rib cage is visible, with a bullet appearing in the upper center (top image). That looks like medical proof she was shot by someone or other. And certainly the whole medical clinic setting lends credence to it.

Luckily I happen to have a clearer blow-up of this same image (see below, explained further below) to get some better detail. It looks like possibly a sniper bullet, but with an odd orientation. Unless the kid was doing cartwheels at the moment of impact, it was apparently fired up from a low angle, an inherently illogical scenario.

Further, the bullet is perfectly shaped, with no apparent deformation from entry and plowing through tissues firm enough to stop it entirely only halfway through.

This in turn might have something to with absolutely no sign of entry revealed by the x-rays. Following back the apparent bullet track suggests it must have entered her body on the left side (lower right in the image). Any possible “hole” in her side would be invisible from a frontal view. We should, however, see any broken chunks or deformation to the curve of her ribs where at least one should have been shattered. But not a single arc of this delicate 4-year-old rib-cage is disturbed that we can see.

While I don’t have the expertise to credibly rule out a real gunshot here, It seems to me that this image shows two things:
1) The girl was never shot.
2) A bullet was made to appear in her chest.
The fakery could be done in any photo-editing program, then sent to a device for developing the image on transluscent film to look real. Or it could be a simple x-ray image of the child with a bullet laid on her chest. But that’s sure as hell not how it was preseted to the world at almost exactly the same time as that April 8 UNICEF report.

The Boy in Misrata with the Same X-Ray Proof
Furthermore, at the same time, there was another child with a family claiming proof of a very similar sniper shot. The April 10 Human Rights Watch dispatch related the story of a five-year-old boy. He's not in the main article for some reason, but is shown in the bottom picture with his mother and an x-ray image, with this extended caption:
Five-and-a-half year old Rakan Ahmed was playing in the street opposite the Italian Consulate on March 19 when a bullet entered his shoulder and passed by his heart, according to his parents, Hanan Faraj and Ahmed Muftah Burjid. There was fighting at the time about 500 meters away, they said, but no sound of gunfire close by. “Rakan’s uncle carried him inside,” Ahmed Muftah Burjid said. “We thought he fainted. There was no sound of a gunshot, no blood.” When the family arrived at the hospital, they saw the bullet from the x-rays, which the family shared with Human Rights Watch. “We were shocked,” Ahmed recalled. “We just thought he was tired.” [11]
This might sound strange, but is remarkably akin to what happened to WPC Yvonne Fletcher in London, 1984. Standing across from the Libyan embassy, she was shot by a high-powered bullet that entered the right shoulder at a steep angle, hit the heart, lung, and other vital organs, and passed out her lower left rib cage. [12] She died from all this within short order, but from the outside, she just collapsed, with no visible blood and officers at first acting as if she'd just fainted. [13] Gaddafi thug snipers pulled the trigger, it was decided, in both of these cases. Women and children were slaughtered, publics enraged. We have a precedent.

By the photo HRW ran (right), little Rakan does seem to be injured. He  has bandages on his left side over the owie (the exit wound after the entry on his right shoulder?). His mom helps show us by pulling up his arm and his shirt. He looks unhappy, but quite healthy and limber for only three weeks healing time after such a massive injury to the upper body.

The x-ray image shown to the right, shared by the family, reveals a bullet is or was once in there, stopped just where it was in the girl’s x-ray. It did not exit through his side or at all. Hmmm...

The bullet shown here has the same pristine profile, same orientation and implied, illogical, low-level entry. It clearly did not enter via his shoulder, as reported, in fact just stopping in the middle of him, halfway to his right shoulder. Beside the bullet match, this x-ray shows the same strange line running across, same light and dark patches, same … undisturbed rib cage.

It’s the same image, I can safely say, (aside from the circled left shoulder in Rakan's print). See the comparison at left, complicated by low-resolution video, the different angles of view, and different backgrounds behind the translucent images (these are all corrected somewhat for the left image). Clearly they are too consistent to be anything other than the same, so this is of course my source for the above blow-up of the little girl’s chest shot.

The image could still be of a genuine child shooting, as my pathologist friend Rolfe at the JREF forum points out, but as she also notes with basic logic, it can’t be evidence for both of those kids being shot. [14] Nonetheless, it was presented within the same few-days span as just that. It should of course be noted that this doubling up is enough to change “child” to “children,” and leave the public imagining just how many. Imaginations over here tend to ignore the "reported" part and presume hundreds of things like this. But we have this kind of evidence for only two, one recovering in Turkey, the other all healed up in Misrata, neither with a single broken rib, judging by the single x-ray image between them.

All I can say is I'm glad the rebels are still able to fake these things in Photoshop and have it believed. If the international agencies like UNICEF and HRW were more exacting, we might see rebels actually shooting each others' children to leverage stronger support for regime change efforts. At the moment, I wish Gaddafi would just step down and hand his country over to Wall Street and these manipulative little domestic proxies so this absurdity can finally stop.

[1] Wikipedia. Misrata.
[2] Kuperman, Alan J. "False pretense for war in Libya?" Boston Globe. April 14 2011.
[3] "Rocket barrage hits Misrata, NATO says Gaddafi must go" Times of India, April 15.
[4] Murray, Craig. "Clusters of Hypocrisy." April 16 2011.
[6] Washington Post. UNICEF: Snipers targeting children in besieged Libyan city of Misrata. April 8.
[8] Daily Mail. April 15.
[9] “Batallion snipers targeting children in Misurata.” April 9 posting of video interview with Yousef bin Youssef, on al Aan news. (Undated).
[10] Hezbollah denies any role in Libya’s uprising. Ya Libnan. April 14 2011.
[11] Human Rights Watch. "Libya: Government Attacks in Misrata Kill Civilians." April 10 2011.
[14] "Baby Snipers...Propaganda? Or are they just that evil?" JREF discussion forum. Thread started April 8.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Behind the Scenes of the al-Baida Massacre

Crimes Against Reality in Libya, part 1
March 30, 2011
last edits April 13

Fighting Back the Mercenaries
Al-Baida (aka Bayda, لبيضاء) is a good-sized city by Libyan standards at about 200,000 people strong, per Wikipedia. It’s located about 100 miles northeast of Benghazi, a center of agriculture, industry, and commerce. It was rocked by protests starting in earnest on February 17, the nationwide “Day of Rage” against the Gaddafi regime. At least one protester, and as many as 12, were killed when security forces opened fire. The BBC reported on the 17th “A regional head of security was removed from his post in al-Bayda after the violence on Wednesday, local media reported.” If that was to placate people, it was apparently a ruse, and failed anyway. 

Der Spiegel spoke with one protester in his hospital bed, who explained how they all raged harder yet on the 18th, until rumors spread of about 400 African mercenaries being flown in to mow them down. Hundreds of citizens armed with no guns rushed to the airport to meet them, he said, and stormed the place to a hail of machine gun fire. “The three days after the [mercenaries] landed were bloody in Bayda; it was a battle that has become a symbol of the Libyan insurgency." By this account, in which the teller is the only one of 23 friends to survive, protesters were at first slaughtered by “the heavily armed mercenaries, who were later reinforced with tanks.” 

But somehow, the protesters had taken control of the airport by Monday the 21st, as Der Spiegel reports.  A video available online suggests the city at large was liberated as of the 21st, with some people chanting slogans in a small circle, with signs, mostly in English. It would seem entirely calm here, with kids involved, no repression nor threat of it to be seen. Nothing, in fact, left to protest. Whatever Gaddafi loyalist forces remained free and alive had melted away or were, perhaps, re-grouping.

A reporter from Time visited the liberated town and was allowed to see and speak with some of roughly 200 alleged mercenaries taken captive by protesters at the airport and elsehwere. These were held in an old school in Shehat, a small town five miles east of al-Baida. The report, dated February 23, said in part:
“Given their claim that there were once 325 of them — flown in from Libya's southern town of Sabha — the remaining men consider themselves lucky. Many were captured during fierce clashes between residents and Gaddafi's forces last week; in the ensuing chaos, a group of men from al-Baida executed 15 of the suspected mercenaries on Feb. 18 and 19 in front of the town's courthouse. They were hanged, says the country's former Justice Minister Mustafa Mohamed Abd al-Jalil (who has quit and joined the revolution). It wasn't entirely planned, but the people here were enraged." 
So it’s been acknowledged that in this post-victory mayhem, at least 15 of these prisoners of protest were executed in the heat of the moment. And captives were being taken as of the first day of the reportedly lopsided battle against the mercs.  According to the account of prisoner Ali, 325 had become around 200, suggesting a total of about 125 of them had passed away somehow in the bloody fighting.

And for what it's worth, only a very few were true foreigners, and the rest Libyan citizens, although many held dual citizenship, mostly in Chad and Zimbabwe. Ali further claimed he hadn't come to kill anyone - they were flown up from Sabha to participate in peaceful counter-protests in Tripoli, but were re-routed to al-Baida at the last minute for unknown reasons. But as the old saying goes, he would say that, wouldn't he?  An official with Human Rights Watch investigated as well after visiting al Baida. Reporting by March 2, after an apparently later visit, he cited 156 soldiers who were
from the south of Libya and not from another African country. After talking to them he found out that they were all black Libyans of African descent. The soldiers have since been released by the protesters.

23 Claimed Martyrs
A further grim discovery was made and reported worldwide the same day as the Time article cited above, February 23. There are several articles available about this, many citing an amateur video, and some link to one of at least four recordings available on Youtube. These show an array of 22 corpses on a dusty patch of road amongst non-descript buildings.

The only video source I could easily find containing the video and an announcement of its significance was from Iranian channel Erasaneh, posted on Youtube. (3:00 in). Simply put, “130 Libyan soldiers have been executed for refusing to open fire on anti-Gaddafi protesters.” Everyone else agrees, or acts as if they agree, that this is just what happened here. They all cite a prominent Human Rights group, who announced the same day:
Paris - At least 640 people have been killed in Libya in protests against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi since they started last week, the International Federation for Human Rights (IFHR) said on Wednesday. The figure is more than double the official Libyan government toll of 300 dead, and includes 275 dead in Tripoli and 230 dead in the protest epicentre in the eastern city of Benghazi, the IFHR's Souhayr Belhassen told AFP.

The Benghazi toll includes "130 soldiers who were executed by their officers in Benghazi for refusing to fire on crowds" of protesters, she said. Belhassen, who heads the Paris-based IFHR, said the toll was based on military sources for Tripoli and on Libyan rights groups assessments in Benghazi and elsewhere. The Libyan government said on Tuesday that 300 people had died in the protests, including 111 soldiers.
Note that Tripoli did have a death toll, and that a majority of the discrepancy was based on this large new portion of 130 against the regime. Why didn't they acknowledge the 130 loyalists they had just hours before been accused of killing?

How do we know that's what happened? "Libyan rights groups" are cited. We don't know their evidence, affiliations, or credibility. But it is this hasty and dramatic announcement by the IFHR that nearly everyone else cites as the basis for this highly useful claim against our universal enemy and avoiding the same against our good guys, the protesters and citizen-fighters of Libya. (see comments below for my enquiry to them about their evidence)

What we can know is what the video shows. The  22 corpses are uniformed in solid green, blue-ish camouflage, and civilian clothes, many black African, many Arab. They were all bound, hands behind backs, blindfolded, shoes removed, and shot in the back of the head. Brain matter, missing faces, and large pools of thick blood abound. The other 100-plus victims  must be somewhere else - perhaps inside a building, perhaps in other locations and incidents altogether. Details are really that hazy.

But unless the whole world has it wrong (and that has happened, see below), this is the footage of part of that mass killing. Given the chronology above, with around 125 Gaddafi loyalists apparently slain in fighting with rebels, it's hard to imagine some other portion of those forces also slaughtering about the same number of their own amidst the chaos, for ... refusing to shoot the "protesters" ... who were fighting and killing them ... and wound up capturing a further 200 of the suspected mercenaries and/or army soldiers.

For refusing Gaddafi's orders and giving their lives in the process, these 22 were hailed by rebels and their affiliates as martyrs for the cause of freedom, heroes worthy of having streets name after them in the new capitol. But the evidence for that version of their demise was never clear. The video record of the aftermath, in itself, does little to explain why and by whom they were executed while held helpless.

Two available videos version show a 23rd body on the ground - alive. One is available here, and shows the survivor on his back in the bloody gravel and dust, in a spot between two corpse that’s empty in the other recordings. He’s wearing green fatigues with blood stains, seemingly covered in mud, but unbound and showing no visible injuries whatsoever. There is a pool of fresh-looking blood near his head, but the whole thing seems quite possibly fake. The cameraman just walks right past the living man, panning in on the gore of the others and chanting. Very strange response.

Another version shared on Facebook and thence on rebel site shows some (other?) passersby responding a bit more humanely. This oddball is there described as a “dying soldier who is being encouraged to say the testimony of faith." The cameraman, translated on that page, explained how the martyr said he was sent “from Az Zawiyah, he said Mu’ammar sent him.” (Thus, not from Sabha, where the real survivors were flown from). This statement isn't shown, just explained as the cameraman is called over to look at the survivor.

The fading man is also seen begging for water, which another man dribbles into his mouth. The last line from behind the lens almost reads like a sick joke: “Alright alright, don’t give him too much, you might kill him.” The camera’s panning in on the most bizarrely decimated heads would also be consistent with a rather twisted "onlooker." Not good signs. One can be excused for wondering, as commentator Stewart at the Feb17 video's page has, if the camera crew are in with the execution crew.

Gaddafi's Copy: Behind-the-Scenes
Further, the rebel site hosting the "survivor" video touts it as “demonstrat[ing] the falsity of Gaddafi run state tv which accused the rebels of executing these soldiers after muting the audio and filtering sections of it.”

That would not surprise most observers in the slightest, but we have the video in question also available on Youtube. Upon review, it's not muting some audio that's the problem, but a whole alternate beginning. Only one video is claimed to show direct evidence of what happened behind the scenes at al-Baida the night of the 22nd. And, however they got a copy, it was shown first (and only, as far as I know, aside from some Youtube postings) by al-Libya, the new, "liberal" and "private" news station owned by Muammar’s son Saif Gaddafi.

This recording shows nine apparent military men seated on a long pinstriped couch, unbound but cowed and looking various shades of worried. The other half of the room, behind the camera and to the sides, is a noisy roomfull of people speaking Arabic, questioning and haranguing their unhappy guests. (I'm trying to hunt down someone now who can help me transcribe it, as I cannot understand Arabic in the slightest).

I have numbered the prisoners of protest from left to right. #1, 5, 7, and 9 wear Green fatigues, while #3 and 6 sport the distinctive Libyan bluish camouflage fatigues. Captives #2, 4, and 8 are in civilian clothes. Two (8, 9) look black African, the rest different shades of Arab. #1 and #6 seem the senior ones among them (balding), and a few look quite young. #4 seems around 17-18 years of age.

Captive #6 has the air of a long-serving officer, and keeps his head down, softly answering the few questions he's asked. He seems more than anything deeply sad about the things he never got around to doing after retirement.  #9, a big black guy, is repeatedly questioned at great length and tries to answer (all but inaudible, unfortunately). Captive #5 is standing apart from the rest for a while early in the video, gesturing emphatically, trying to explain something to his captors, a look of urgent worry on his face. After a while he's apparently told to shut up and sit down. He sits down in the middle of the couch, looking glum.

Identified in Both Videos
That the famous video of 22/23 martyrs is the aftermath of the one shown on al-Libya is based on their own comaprison, which is highly contested (in partisan Youtube comments, anyway. Some are a hoot.). Most people should naturally be expected to reject the word of Gaddafi-regime TV, but in this case it's not just propaganda. The video is right here for anyone who cares to double-check it for themselves.

(And if it gets yanked, I have a copy saved, and will try to make sure it's available)

Their visible findings are based on three freeze-frames, each showing a certain corpse next to an image of an eerily similar person in the first video. Each is supposedly a match for skin color, build, hair, and clothing. The three they were willing to put their name to are the prisoners I numbered, 6, 9, and 8, in order of their appearance, at 4:00, 4:07, and 4:18 in the video.

Each of al-Libya’s three guesses is, in my opinion, better than the last. The one they decided was #6 might well be wrong. This corpse seems to have hair both too thick and too curly. But at this resolution and with an apparently off-center balding spot, and the wrong angle to see it clearly, I don’t feel confident ruling him out. They may have had better copies and expertise to work with.

I kind of think the body laying across the backside of their #6, with its brains all over his blue camo legs and the ground, is prisoner of protest #5, the pleader. But it's hard to tell with no face, and the network did not venture that guess. The corpse they correlated with #9 is entirely consistent and a good guess. Few, but far from none, among a contingent of 325-plus-whoever would be that build and dressed the same as him.

But the one they linked with captive #8 (at right) is the sinker, all but undeniable. With his unique white pinstripe sweater, dark green pants, gangly build, and constant slouch, he has a distinctive and downcast look bedfore his captors. This body with a slightly hunched back suggests the slouch was from more than just his mood, and helps create a correlation one cannot reasonably ignore. It's the same guy.

Or faked video. But that's special pleading, and a weak position generally to take.

Furthermore, I can see bodies that could quite possibly be captives #1, #3, and #7 in there as well, but from there I run out of clear potential matches. It would seem the distinctive-looking captives #2 and 4 are not among those filmed the next morning. Perhaps they were spared, or joined the rebellion, or were killed elsewhere.

All told, this looks a lot like at least three and as many as seven of those same nine loyalists, executed in cold blood and strewn like refuse amongst 15-19 others of similar demographics and outfitting. And nothing about this video looks fake in the slightest. It's ridiculous to imagine a regime so besieged to even bother trying to fake as explanation for any of their reported slaughters, only to have the world ignore and dismiss it anyways.

No, this is likely the truth that the world is ignoring and dismissing. The camera - usually we presume it doesn't lie. ... Usually.

The Ones Not on the Couch
Next I turn to the captors, as seen in the al-Libya video. As generally noted, they do not seem to look or operate like senior loyalist commanders offing some mutineers.

These I've numbered, a bit more abritrarily. #1 is the cameraman, obviously unseen. Captor #2, "the Imam" I'll call him, stands to the camera's left, just barely on screen in parts. We can see he's not tall, but has a long, dark, unruly beard, a good-sized nose, and soft, pink, chubby hands. He seems to hold a walking stick (?), and wears a loose, light-colored top (possibly a robe, or is that a Gandalf/Osama leap of imagination?).

"The Imam" seems to lead the haranguing, and also patiently "comforts" the distressed prisoner #5 until he gently pushes him down to re-join the others on the couch. Later he dramatically turns to the big black guy, #9, causing a brief moment of shock, as seen here, and levels some more serious questions at him, I guess.

Captor #3 is a masked young man of apparently fair Arab stock, perhaps holding a cell phone. He briefly squats down and leans on the couch to the right of captive #9. Someone on that end of the room, perhaps him, also lets a machette dangle across the screen at one point. #5 looks rather professional in his all-black, all-tight outfit. Of a middling complexion and sharp features but unclear ethnicity, he seems to stand guard on the left half of the room. #6 only pops in briefly at 1:54 to invade prisoner #9's personal space for unsure reasons. This person is also black-African-looking, and wearing something green and black.

We can also see, through the open window's lattice, that it's dark outside and a crowd has gathered to watch this all.

One commentator at Youtube was able to understand the dialog that would really help me out, and panned the whole thing.
"The comments the "news reader" made at the end were false, she said that the interrogators asked their prisoners who their "emir" was, trying to invoke fear of islamists, in truth the interrogators asked who the commanding officer was "dobaat" then asked who is the boss "raees" then "they asked who is "emir", so to try to portray them as islamists is incorrect, she was also trying to insinuate that the eastern part of libya were in a war against the western part of libya. In summary, this is the type of "news" that the people in Tripoli are subjected to 24 hours a day.
Well, that would make it more informative on at least this episode anyway, which to my knolwedge hasn't once been seen on CNN, BBC, or al Jazeera or the rest. Not even Russia Today.

Folks like this are quite sure these two videos aren’t linked by any reality, that the similarities shown are coincidence or worse. And furthermore, it's clear to them that the rebels shown in the first one are not the foreign al-Qaeda-linked Islamists Gaddafi has been shouting about. They’re just ordinary Libyans, fed-up and not taking it any more. Consider this captor shown in the video, and whom I’ll call Khalid (wearing the white jacket).
Khalid could be any local Libyan man who moved to al-Baida from Benghazi with his two daughters, after his wife died of a rare neurological disease in 2006. He might work hard in construction, struggling to make ends meet under Gaddafi’s stifling regime, hoping to send his eldest, Aisha, to college in America. But history called, and he took up arms, like this rifle, to protest. And here is Khalid about one month ago, with captor #5 guarding the left end of the room, assisting in the peaceful interrogation of these obvious outsider mercenaries.

Ironically, the Youtube commentator cited above made issue of Slavic-looking riflemen used by ... the Gaddafi regime: “There are also unconfirmed reports that serbian snipers are being used by the Gaddafi regime (only unconfirmed because the snipers were not captured alive)”

Further Awkward Insights
So it appears these regime-loyal fighters were not murdered for refusing to “shoot protesters.” Rather, it could be they were offed for refusing to join the insurgency. This goes strongly against the once-prevailing idea that the whole country had effectively mutinied, leaving an illegitimate and insanely depraved tyrant in charge with only a few paid thugs. But here we see dedication and sacrifice, and a human side to the loyalists, defending their country from an unprecedented and bewildering inside-and-out attack, that we are currently bombing to smithereens in the dozens, if not hundreds. (Armored personnel carriers carry what?)

Further we see here a shrinking roster of vile and desperate mass-murder by those who remain loyal. Could it be the reality on the ground is more nuanced and unclear than the dramatic narrative of heroism against madness that we’ve been sold? These 22 killings, plus the fifteen at the courthouse in al-Baida, and likely many others, were not done in cold blood by Gaddafi’s desperate thugs. Most likely the full 125-130 who demised in that reported sum did so at the hands of the same side, just not the side reported to the world.

Perhaps it’s time to reconsider other incidents in and around Benghazi as well, like another six soldiers, or alternately (or also?) “dozens” of mutinous soldiers “burned alive in their bunkers," we’re told, for the same crime – refusing to shoot peaceful protesters. Again, how we know the villains, their motives, and that the victims were alive when burnt, is not the slightest bit clear. We do know protesters have no problem lighting government buildings on fires. hosted at least one recording of this atrocity exhibition. A few corpses are shown, extremely burnt, nearly skeletal, placed in body bags but re-opened. That’s all I could vouch for, but the rest of the world has taken it through the same distorted filter as they get everything about this war. It's obviously the work of an ever-insaner tyrant who really, really, really must go, quickly! The claim is widely repeated, including at MoD Oracle, a private site sort-of-linked to the British Ministry of Defense, mostly serving service-members with general military information.

Please also consider the above information next to this hyperventilating warning from the same IFHR who are the only ones vouching so prominently for the “killed for refusing” claim.
“New credible information, and sometimes still difficult to verify, regarding the murders of soldiers refusing to follow orders [...inter alia...] suggest that Gaddafi has effectively decided to implement a mass extermination of those participating in the protests and furthermore, the systematic repression of civilians. The intention announced by Gaddafi in a speech on Feb. 22, to eradicate the “rats” should be taken seriously." [emph. mine] [source, PDF]
And on the flip-side, obviously, we’ve seen an ugly dark side of the “rats” the world is so intensely interested in protecting on their march to control of Africa's greatest oil reserves. We have here good evidence we've all been hoodwinked and are blowing up Libya to help hand it over to – in part – radical Islamists, and uncivilized war criminals, with no compunction about using unnecessarily brutal terror tactics and fobbing it off on the enemy to help secure their continued tactical air support from the “civilized” world.

Question: does an unlawful combatant (aka rebel, bandit, terrorist) posing as, and among, peaceful protesters - and seizing control of cities full of them - constitute using human shields? Or only using the more potent "Human Rights" shield and its add-ons?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A "Mirage" Over Benghazi on the Cusp of Air War

Crimes Against Reality in Libya, part 2
April 5

last updates April 20

Resolved to Protect Benghazi
Talk of seizing the Libyan skies started early in the civil war, fed in large part by the impression that Gaddafi's insane forces were bombing peaceful protesters from the air. Considering real atrocities, like the 130 government soldiers executed around al-Baida for refusing to shoot protesters (we heard), bloodbath and madness loomed. The world had to act, it gradually became clear, as they had in Yugoslavia, Iraq, and elsehwere, by seizing the skies away from the repressive government and using this high ground themselves for "policing" powers. Responsibility to Protest, P2P, it's called.

Three weeks into the insurrection, it was getting desperate for the rebels. They had pushed too far and been left too long as the regime pushed back. One-by-one, cities west and then east fell back to government hands, and by March 17 loyal forces were moving in on Benghazi itself. Gaddafi had promised to go to Libya's second largest city and the de-facto rebel capitol, and crush those who refused to surrender. That coming to fruition would destroy any reasonable hope of finally toppling the colonel with this insurrection.

United Nations security council resolution 1973 was voted in 10-0 at the end of a late-night session on the 17th. It called for a "cease-fire," with special emphasis on government actions. But it was never in fact to be applied to the rebels, and became a one-sided cease fire demand. The resolution also tightened sanctions, froze assets, and imposed a "no-fly zone" for government aircraft, over the whole nation.

The skies were authorized to be seized as of morning light on the 18th. As the west prepared to attack and scheduled a special meeting in Paris, Libya announced a cease-fire in the evening. The world scoffed, and noted that government forces were still rushing towards Benghazi. No one bothered waiting for the rebels to agree to stop shooting, and they never did. They couldn't topple anything without firing a whole lot more.

There is some confusion, but not as much as there should be, about the supposed siege of the city starting on the morning of the 19th. The new Wikipedia page for "the second battle of Benghazi" has the first shots fired, by Gaddafi's forces near the city, at about 7:45 am. [1] The government denied any attack on Benghazi, that hey held their positions miles away. But shelling of the city's southern areas occurred, and scores were killed and injured, according to hospital staff, Even two air strikes were reported in the early morning hours by one reporter. Gaddafi troops were fought at the gates, said one rebel commander, and government tanks were roaming freely inside the city, according to many reports.

The evidence of heavy weapons usage in the area, including Libyan army tanks seems entirely credible, but there are no photos of these attacking forces to show their context. Considering this abandoned army base on February 24, the rebels had heavy weapons early on and numerous tanks, among other things, after this siege. And the government claimed with a straight face they did none of that, that it was apparently the work of rebels with seized equipment shooting at each other to draw in the West.

Whichever the case, the West was trying its best to be drawn in. Very wealthy leaders of some handful of normal countries (US, UK, France, etc.) talked it over in Paris. By the middle of the day an urgent consensus was reached to save Benghazi by starting to enforce the 36-hour-old resolution 1973. A rather lopsided vote from 9 of the 22 members of the Arab League had already been managed, bolstering the surface-level worldliness of this trojan horse air campaign. Asked if military action would now go ahead, the British Prime Minister David Cameron said:
"Gaddafi has made this happen. He has lied to the international community, he has promised a ceasefire, he has broken that ceasefire, he continues to brutalise his people, and so the time for action has come." 
Fire in the Sky: A Government Air Attack?
The last straw, merging in the news stories announcing the line in the sand, was a dramatic visual that morning from Benghazi's southern outskirts. Around 9am local time the first reports and video emerged, despite the supposed total internet blockage, of a high-speed fighter jet seen streaking over the city, then bursting into flames and tumbling from its path, apparently shot from below.

The pilot was seen to eject from the flaming jet with a parachute rather late in the sudden nose-down plunge. On impact with a residential area, a massive, dull orange fireball crusted with black expanded over the sururb and stretched into a tower of black smoke. Citizens of the rebel capitol reportedly cheered and celebrated as the jet crashed. [2]

The photo was run in huge sizes by countless news outlets that day, visualizing the situation in appropriately stark and dramatic terms. As Sky TV put it, "the aircraft crash in Benghazi appears to be the first solid evidence to contradict Libyan claims of refraining from military action." The solemn decision reached in Paris came "just hours after a Libyan ceasefire was broken" by this crash, reported The Sun. "Gaddafi appeared to openly flaunt the threat of a no-fly zone resolution earlier today as a fighter jet was shot down..." [3]

The Telegraph's Rob Crilly in Benghazi, was on the roof of a hotel where journalists stay when he saw the fighter. In a blog entry at 9:21, he wrote:
It came in from the sea, somewhere to the north. At first the residents of Benghazi cheered, believing it would herald the start of air strikes against Gaddafi forces still rumbling towards their city. “Is it European,” shouted one. Then it swung back around the city, describing, a high, slow circle even as artillery shells pounded the outskirts of the city. If it was a Mirage then maybe it was one of Gaddafi’s last.
It’s next run would have been more deadly, as it roared back across the city, this time flying low and straight – the very definition of intent – as anti-aircraft guns roared along its western path. [...] A flash illuminated the jet, somewhere near its tail. The flash grew to a flame as an explosion ripped through the plane, stopping it as if caught by an invisible hand rather than anti-aircraft fire. Slowly the plane sycamoured towards the ground where it exploding in another, bigger fireball.
It's still speculated that catastrophic engine failure caused this crash, but that's an odd enough coincidence, and enough reports suggest the sound of anti-aircraft fire, that I'm presuming it was torn down with guns on the ground. Again, the government of Libya denied this was their jet on any mission for them, that they didn't intend to flaunt anything at just that moment. [2] Again, the world didn't believe the civilian-bombing regime.

Friendly Fire in the Sky? A Rebel Attack?
Just before noon, the Telegraph reported "confirmed reports from Libyan rebel leaders that the jet fighter shot down today over Benghazi was one of theirs, and not a Gaddafi aircraft." [4] The Guardian's Chris McGreal said as early as 9:45 "Some of the rebels say it’s their plane. It might have been their only plane that was shot down by Gaddafi's forces," adding at 10:19 "the rebels now concede it was their only plane."[5]

The protesters-turned-rebels were swooping over the city "low and straight – the very definition of intent"? And who shot their air force down? Previously it was presumed to be anti-aircraft fire from within the city. I could swear I saw a few whispers that it could have been friendly fire, in trigger happy wild west Benghazi. But I’m having a hard time relocating them now, aside from Rob Crilly, "tweeting" around 11:30 “rebels [are] telling us they think the plane shot down was a rebel plane – fog of war. We only saw one." [6]

A Government Attack on the Rebel Attack?
Most source leapt straight from rebels killing Gaddafi jet to Gaddafi killing rebel jet, either one meaning Gaddafi, but not the rebels, was in violation of the cease-fire-no-fly/whatever demand. Rick Leventhal told Faux News at mid-day "we don't know" who was flying the jet. If it were Gaddafi's fighter, it'd be in major violation just for flying there. But if it was a rebel jet, it was probably just aiming for the government tanks in the city, which he said "we believe" were targeting the journalists' hotel. [7] But if it had been a government jet, it may have been aiming itself for the hotel. Maybe the tanks were rebel-held and there to shoot down the plane.

Sky News' Emma Hurd said "suspicions have now been raised that the jet was a rebel-flown, stolen aircraft hit as it sought out Gaddafi's forces on the outskirts of Benghazi. ... There is still some confusion over that but what is clear is that despite claims of a ceasefire there still is fighting and it seems to be led by his [Gaddafi's] forces." [1]

Considering again the somewhat unclear location of government forces on the 19th, it needs a bit of presumption to take the rebel version that they were at and in the city. But this is all but necessary to accept they were close enough to shoot down the mystery jet. And, of course, that would also put them close enough to be targeted by it. Within just over a day, the no-fly-zone against the government of Libya became, effectively, a no-shooting-at-rebel-air-offensives-zone. That, I believe, is unprecedented.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported a bit later in the day:
However a rebel official reached by telephone acknowledged the plane was one of their Mirage fighter jets and that it had been downed by loyalists. "It was one of the insurgents' planes. It was downed by Kadhafi's forces. From what I hear the pilot is dead but I cannot confirm that," he said. [8] 
Aircraft Model
The rebels held very few acknowledged aircraft at this time. Most people believed the number was zero, leading to the presumption that it was from the government. As noted above, Chris McGreal passed on rebel reports, multiply confirmed, that this "was their only plane." [5]

The rebel official had cited it as one of a few, and gave it as a French-built Mirage (unspecified model). The Telegraph however noted this was "contrary to other reports that it was a Mig-27 Flogger-D." [4] One should hope that a rebel official giving specific information would know the make. David Crilly, citing rebel sources,  said "no-one able to ID it. Consensus was that it wasn’t a mig – possibly a mirage." [6]

Comments at the New Statesman suggest the craft was not a Mirage. Someone there so inclined did suggest the F-1 as compatible, the only specific model I've seen specified. [9] Other said Mig-29, and "visual identification confirmed: it's MiG 23." Live Leak's report and Wikipedia called it a Mig-23. [2] [1] This is supported by further sources, but that's perhas not it either.

I decided to overlay the jet photo with schematics of the Mirage F-1, Mig 23, and the Mig-27 Flogger D. I used perspective and skew effects on the photo to make it as "flat" as possible in overall proportions like these overheads (planar surfaces anyway, wings and horizontal stabilizers). Then I matched the body, nose-cone to tail-fin, as close as possible, and found all of them are reasonable fits, but the Mig-27 is the only one that seems perfect (note also the "shoulder spikes." likely off due to rotation). Then I looked at the wings. Both Migs have adjustable ones, but the sweep setting here also mimics the F-1's fixed angle. For size and shape the wings are a best fit best with the Mig-27, and is clearly out for the Mirage. The Telegraph had it.

update April 12: I re-did the graphics. The plane was a bit too wide before. For reference, the original version is here. Also, the rebels were recently caught flying a MIG-23, which NATO escorted back to the ground for violating the no-fly zone. Still no sign of them running any of the model used that morning. [source

I'll spare myself (for now) the painful research of seeing just what this model means vis-a-vis Gaddafi's air force, rebel-seized Gaddafi jets, and related implications. Others better informed may perhaps have a comment to share on that.

The Wreckage and the Crew
Seen from a distance, the mystery Mig seemed to plow straight down into a residential neighborhood, and engufled it in a massive fireball. A few deaths, many injuries, and much damage should be expected. It took two days for Fox News's correspondent Rick Levental to be shown the wreckage on the afternoon of the 21st. He testified the plane was definitely rebel, painted with the old monarchy flag on its tail-fin. Dull metal sheet and engine debris was strewn around a rather large walled courtyard of an “old adoption home.” [10]
Leventhall said the pilot had directed the plane there to minimize injuries on the ground, and none at all were reported to my knowledge. The pilot did indeed eject very late, and not surprisingly, this report confirms that he died of injuries on landing. [10] One comment makes a claim the “pilot died from wounds after ejecting, co-pilot ejected and had minor injuries. 3 days later he was back up in another plane.” [11] No other sources I’ve found confirm anything about a co-pilot, however.

What if the government forces truly were too remote to have taken that shot? Only the rebels would then have controlled the ground fire in that area, as first noted in the presumption they had shot it down. They controlled the jet itself, as we found out, so absent AA fire from Gaddafi’s side, it was friendly fire, rebel-on-rebel. This seems most likely, in fact, going just by logic. But that contradicts rebel findings. ... Oh well.

But what if this wasn’t accident? All things considered, it probably was, but my over-active imagination has me wondering if it could possibly be a false flag bit of theatrics for the foreign journalists and their cameras. Perhaps it went awry, or was re-written behind the lead actor's back. Maybe the original idea was so strafe or rocket the hotel and massacre journalists, before zipping away from the hapless civilians' defenses. The rebels would clearly not have claimed it in that case. The possibilities are endless when you have a case this full of holes and mystery.

On the Mig/Mirage confusion, I would guess the rebels did in fact hold a very few Mirages, acknowledged, and at least the one Mig-27, unacknowledged as far as I know. If this were the case, we should ask why rebels were flying a model of jet they don't acknowledge having? Considering the first impressions that it was Gaddafi's jet, maybe it was to create that first impression? The painted tail-fin mitigates against this, but for all we know, that was painted on after the fact, to support the story they adopted, for whatever reason, if it differed from the original story, written by whoever ...

The Telegraph's Crilly said he saw the Mig-27 first come in, and the line of travel suggested “it came in from the sea, somewhere to the north.” Western airpower was sitting out there on carriers, ready to launch. It’s odd to suspect Gaddafi’s forces would launch from out on the sea or even swoop out much over it and risk shoot-down. The same might go for a rebel jet on its way to attack Gaddafi’s forces or … whatever it was “intent” on doing. Is it possible a rebel jet - or even a remote-controlled drone - was launched from naval points north? The photos of the pilot ejecting only shows a parachute and a large object from the distance seen. Again, the possibilities are endless...

Whatever was really  going on there, this mysterious incident certainly wasn't the cause of the bombing raids and 110 cruise missile strikes that started later that day. It did, however, serve a nice role tipping the scale in the public mind's eye. Gaddafi never stops flaunting, will never stop the killing and the insanity on his own, but now he will go down in flames. It started to really happen with jets that were French Mirages, to much cheering, a bare eight hour later, seeking out Saddam's forces - still stationed miles from the city.

[1] Second Battle of Benghazi - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
[2] Live Leak March 19
[3] "PM: The time has come for action" The Sun. March 19.
[4] Libya as it Happened: March 19. The Telegraph.
[5] Libya military action - Saturday 19 March part 1. The Guardian.
[6] Libya live blog: latest developments on no-fly zone, ceasefire and ...

[7] Fox News. Coverage of Libya war, dispatch, Rick Leventhal. March 19.

[10] Fox News. Coverage of Libya war, dispatch, Rick Leventhal. March 21.