Aletho News


Whither Gaddafi and Libya?

The Strange Calm Over Tripoli

By FRANKLIN LAMB | CounterPunch | August 22, 2011

Tripoli – The large gold framed portrait of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi that adorned the wall behind the reception desk of my hotel since it opened many years ago has vanished. Also gone are the 72 green flags that flew on the white poles which have also been removed. It’s not polite to inquire of the skeleton staff about who removed these items because the act of removal could become very serious offenses depending on the final outcome here.  But, my friend Ismail, manning the front desk, just grinned at me when I commented on the hotel’s fine new mirror that hangs in the leader’s space.

Looking over the skyline of Tripoli at 7:30 a.m. 8/22/11 from the 26th floor of the Corinthia Hotel it seems that it’s just about over for the Qaddafi regime.

All night one heard in central Tripoli mainly celebratory gunfire from areas like the nearby newly renamed “Martyrs Square” (formerly ‘Green Square’) but so many questions are on most people minds this morning.  Some ask, are the Qaddafi forces opening a trap for the rebel forces allowing them to come in quickly and easily and then when they are gathered in public celebrations and seek rest, counter attack?

The claim of the NTC representative this morning that the rebels control 95 per cent of Tripoli seems farfetched. This is a very spread out city and its clear rebel forces are not deployed everywhere.

A column of 22 camouflaged painted military vehicles full of government fighters slowly passed by our hotel at 8:10 this morning and turned right into the seaside compound which includes the Bab al Bahar Hotel (“gate to the sea”), and on its edge, the unoccupied JW Marriott, from which witnesses said the sniper who shot me in my right leg yesterday morning was perched. My doctor gave me the bullet as a souvenir and I will be fine although the damned thing hurts. An arriving hotel worker just reported seeing government forces assembling in Tripoli’s neighborhoods over the past several hours.

On the other side of my hotel I can see rebel pickups filled with fighters and new tricolor Libyan flags driving very slowly towards Green (Martyr’s) Square. I am thinking what would happen if they make a wrong turn.

Reports of Saif and Mohammad Qaddafi’s capture supports the idea that the government here wildly exaggerated its solid support and that the public largely believed them. Already among the few staff and some kids who come early to jump the hotel fence and use the swimming pool, and their trademark chants of “Allah, Mohammad, Muammar, Libya wa bass” have ended their chants and now support for ousting “the leader” is widespread. Most hotel staff at my hotel appear crestfallen.

The outpouring of support for Qaddafi’s departure by the same crowds who seemed to adore him at Green Square the past five months I have been monitoring them is surprising but perhaps reveals why all powerful despots are often more form than substance and can collapse quickly under certain conditions.

The questions being asked here this morning by student friends include what happened to the resistance to NATO and its supported rebels, where are the “65,000 professional soldiers waiting to repel “NATO’s rebels” from entering Tripoli, mentioned just last night by Government spokesman, Musa Ibrahim, was there ever a real Libyan army of thousands ready to defend Tripoli, what will the transition be like, will there be tribal conflicts for power, will Libya have to pay for all the infrastructure damage, will NATO countries, given the widespread hostility to NATO killing  so many civilians be granted oil contracts, will the US get another military base (Wheelus was closed by Qaddafi on June 1970), will the new government recognize Israel as NATO  is said to be  demanding, will the National Transition Council fulfill its pledges for a just, quick transition with early elections, and on and on.

Yesterday morning, as I embarked on a bike tour of Tripoli, there were signs that something incongruous was happening. Security guards, normally about 20 outside the hotel were nowhere to be seen. Also, no staff came to work. Ismail and the IT guy slept at the hotel—and the British lady “Miss Lorraine” who is in charge of hotel Hospitality lives at the hotel and was understandably and visibly upset.

As I left the hotel close to 7:30 a.m. by bicycle yesterday morning I was surprised to see one woman standing alone on the street in front of the hotel. I was more surprised when she lit up with a broad smile as she chimed “Hello Mr. Lamb!”

She is Marianne, who works with Lorraine somewhere in the bowels of this claimed “7 Star Hotel” I had spoken with her on the phone but we never met personally.  When I asked her why she was standing in the empty street,  she replied, “I need to find a ride to the port!” That seemed odd, given what is happening here, so I asked her why. “My two week vacation starts today and I need to get a boat to Malta”.  I was shocked, “Sweetheart, please, for sure there is no boat to Malta now and it’s dangerous for you to go to the Port.”  “But, my boyfriend is waiting for me in Malta” she wailed. “Ok, but if you find a ride call my room and I will pay half and come with you to the Port”. Marianne agreed. I never saw her again.

The UN delegation left yesterday after their five day “fact finding mission.” Not sure what facts they found because they mainly stayed in the hotel waiting and waiting, like most other foreigners here do, for a promised appointment with a government official or someone. Their leader, a stellar Palestinian lady from Nazarath in Occupied Palestine, convinced NATO to let some foreigners make use of empty UN plane seats so this hotel was essentially emptied of guests.

There has been no sign of Colonel Gaddafi. A strange calm has spread over Tripoli.

Franklin Lamb is in Tripoli.  He can be reached c/o

August 22, 2011 - Posted by | Aletho News


  1. I admit I’m not too familiar with Lamb’s writings, and it seems there were questions about his bona-fides when he hit the scene sometime around 2007. After reading he’d been shot I scanned a few of his articles on Libya.

    The recurring theme seems to be “it seems that it’s just about over for the Qaddafi regime”.

    He’s also written for counterpunch. I’m guessing he’s one of Cass Sunstein’s men.


    Comment by Boxcutter McGee | August 22, 2011

    • CounterPunch and Alexander Cockburn may or may not be “Cass Sunstein’s men” but you can’t apply that label to someone just for having submitted articles for publication at CounterPunch. Given the profile of CounterPunch within the dissident discourse there is every reason for writers to want to be published there. The fact that Cockburn operates as a gatekeeper does not implicate those whom he publishes, at least not in my judgement.

      Outside of CounterPunch Lamb is also regularly featured by Al-Manar, the Hezbollah media outlet.

      Whether or not it is what the Libyan people freely chose, it does seem that “it’s just about over” for the Qaddafi regime.

      Any other allegations about Lamb’s bona fides should be presented openly. Without details that can be investigated and responded to they amount to baseless smears.


      Comment by aletho | August 22, 2011

      • I agree with you about Counterpunch, though it’s such a mixed bag I don’t bother to read it anymore.

        As for the rest, 1) I admit I’m not too familiar with Lamb’s writings

        2) The recurring theme (from articles spanning many weeks) seems to be “it seems that it’s just about over for the Qaddafi regime”

        3) There indeed was a good deal of suspicion when he began writing as to his intent, since he came out of nowhere.

        I’m not smearing him, I’m saying I’d be somewhat weary of what he’s saying and how he’s saying it. There are plenty of writers out there who seem genuine, yet subtly try to steer people to the conclusions they’d like them to draw.

        Now, lo and behold, Lamb is shot in the leg yet manages to participate in a lengthy interview with Morris without any sign of discomfort. I shall not engage in a war of words over who is a disinfo agent and who isn’t, especially someone who risks life and limb in Libya (and only the truly independent journalists (and combat photographers) are actually facing that risk, be it from rebel fire or other “journalists”), but it’s all enough to at least raise an eyebrow.


        Comment by Boxcutter McGee | August 23, 2011

        • Boxcutter,

          Actually, Lamb does have a history writing from Lebanon that spans decades. I have not been following his reports the entire time but I am aware that his fiance was killed in a Beirut bombing back in the 80’s.

          I do agree that we need to be extremely cautious about any reports coming out of Libya right now. In this particular case the writer gives first person accounts and does not seem to extrapolate far beyond his actual observations. I’m currently having trouble finding much that meets that standard for updates.


          Comment by aletho | August 23, 2011

          • “In this particular case the writer gives first person accounts and does not seem to extrapolate far beyond his actual observations. I’m currently having trouble finding much that meets that standard for updates”

            I wasn’t aware of his background in Lebanon, though I learned today he has a PhD. from the London School of Economics. LSE is a spook school of sorts, no?

            At any rate, you’re absolutely correct in your observation.

            I have only begun to educate myself about geopolitics fairly recently. I find your blog to be an invaluable resource. Thanks.


            Comment by Boxcutter McGee | August 24, 2011

            • Aletho News’ sources may not be “absolutely correct” in every instance but I think the track record for accuracy towers above the mainstream media and even the vast majority of alternative media.


              Comment by aletho | August 24, 2011

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