Around 30,000 Libyans marched through the eastern city of Benghazi on Friday in an unprecedented protest to demand the disbanding of powerful militias in the wake of last week’s attack that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
The attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, in which at least one militia is suspected of participating, has sparked a backlash among many Libyans against the multiple armed factions that have run rampant for months in cities around the country. The militias have become more powerful than the regular security forces, and successive governments since last year’s fall of Moammar Gadhafi have been unable to rein them in.
I get tired of watching OWS or protestors at a G8 conference thinking they are so brave for “standing up to The Man” when the very worst threat they face is a whiff of pepper spray and a night in the pokey.
Libyan civilians surging into he headquarters of an Islamist militia? That’s pretty brave. Most of the militias have shown a far too common lack of restraint and little regard for human life. It’s amazing the militia didn’t decide to just mow down a couple hundred folks to set an example.
Now, the militias are in a strange position. Each is trying to assume effective control over the populations in their area. But they also rely on those same populations for support, either through “taxation” (that is, stealing from them at checkpoints, or whatnot), or other means. For one thing, those populations are where their manpower comes from. And one of the few things that makes them even remotely palatable to the local population is that they are often the sole source of employment in an area. Choosing to accept a short term embarrassment like this was probably a wise choice for the long term.