Where have Libya's children gone? Long time missing"
The quality of life continues to cascade in certain areas of Western Libya while public anxiety noticeably rises over missing Libyan children as the first week of an unusually stressful Ramadan passes.
The shortage of gasoline has become acute and despite government efforts to curtail price gauging, one taxi driver told this observer yesterday that while the usual price of "benzene' was five liters (one gallon) for $.40 (forty US cents) he is now having to pay as much as " 4 dinars for one liter of petrol!" That is roughly the equivalent of 13 US dollars for a gallon of gasoline, a huge price surge in a country long accustomed to cheap, heavily subsidized fuel. "Informal economy" (black market) fuel arrives in car trunks from the Tunisian border and its increasingly common to see fellows with a make shift funnel trying to get more benzene into their vehicle tanks than they splash and spill on neighborhood streets.
Tripoli residents trying to fuel a car on 8/5/11 with black market benzene--often spilling a fair bit in the process. Photo: flamb
Walking around the "medina" off Omar Muktar Street near my hotel yesterday afternoon, the angst over deteriorating conditions is apparent. Shops, like homes, are now subject to rolling blackouts and quickly become hot and stuffy, discouraging would be customers from entering. Some food stores have to discard milk and other perishable items given the up to 11 hour power cuts that send temperatures above 110F. One gentleman on Rashid Street in downtown Tripoli said his family had not had power for five days and the pump that supplies water to his apartment building stopped working so they lack two essential utilities.
NATO's arguable act of piracy earlier this week in commandeering the fuel tanker ship Cartagena off the coast of Malta that was bringing gasoline to Tripoli and sending it instead to Rebel militia based close to Benghazi is yet again explained from NATO HQ as necessary for "protecting the civilian population of Libya."
According to Libya's Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim, "The age of piracy is coming back to the Mediterranean because of NATO."
Some frustrated shop keepers just shutter their shops and seek relief at the beach or take a nap waiting for sundown and their Ramadan Iftar (feast) to begin. But lack of electricity even affects its preparation. (ed. note: 15 minutes ago NATO reportedly bombed the public beach near my hotel as three other bombs landed nearby--targets unknown)
Every time a bomb blast is heard, a chorus of passersby and kids invariably point toward the bomb site and watch the rising white or black smoke (the color depending on the type of bomb or missile) and some shout, "F--- NATO! F---Obama!" Etc.
If a foreigner is confronted by angry citizens who may blame Americans for NATO's bombing, a sure fire way to quickly reduce crowd tension is for the foreigner to make the peace sign and make a fist with his other hand and chant a few times: "Allah! Mohammad! Muammar! Libye! Abass!" (God!, Mohammad!, Qadaffi!, Libya!, that's all we need!") The locals appreciate the sentiment and pre-teens often join the popular chant and dance.
As of the morning of 8/7/11 NATO statistics show that since 3/31/11, NATO forces have launched 18,270 sorties, mainly against Western Libya, including 6,932 bomb/missile strike sorties. Last night (8/6/11) there were 115 sorties including 45 bombings of which 12 were in central Tripoli starting a 10 p.m.
To their great credit, some Congressional staffers on the US Senate Armed Services Committee who liaise with the Pentagon, have acted on constituent complaints and have criticized NATO's incomplete description of its bombing of Libyan civilians.
For example earlier this week NATO reported its bombing of the village on Zlitan, about 160 miles east of Tripoli in the Western Mountains as follows: "In the vicinity of Zlitan:1 Ammunition Storage Facility, 1 Military Facility, 2 Multiple Rocket Launchers."