The Brookings' Saul/Zilkha room overflowed
with an expectant crowd awaiting the Prime Minister of the Executive Department of the Transitorial National Council of the Libyan Republic. Libya's opposition leader, Dr. Mahmoud Gibril, didn't disappoint. He spoke eloquently and candidly, but insufficiently
convincing. Those cheering for the latest entry for the Nobel Peace Prize should carefully examine his words. Overcharged rhetoric raised issues. Failing to be totally accurate invited doubts of credibility.
Note: All Dr. Gibril's statements are verbatim and unedited.The interim Prime Minister viewed the current situation in Libya "as a natural product of globalization" and "cannot be separated from what's happening in Egypt, from what's happening in Tunisia, what's taking place in Yemen and what's taking place in Syria."
Sounds good and is good, but incomplete. Dr. Gibril failed to mention that the most valid, most meaningful and most easily transformable rebellions, those from the Shi'a majority in Bahrain (omitted by him) and the anti-Allawite majority in Syria have been brutally suppressed, while transformations in Tunisia and Egypt have suffered slight setbacks.
After the rapid introduction, Dr. Mahmoud Gibril's address became more interesting.
"Those young kids took to the streets peacefully looking for a democratic structure, looking for a dignified life, looking for a better future because they had been living for 42 years, them and their parents, under a dictatorship, a tyrant regime, which deprived them of every opportunity to have a dignified life."
The youth of whom he speaks are usually rebellious. Consider the American flower children of the 1960's who became the war hawks of the 2000's. Is it proper to praise those who gallantly man the barricades and lead the nation to freedom and dignity, and not include many of them in the Transitorial National Council? Is it usual for those who lead the revolution to take a back seat to those who watch from the sidelines? Still unanswered is: "Who declared the interim government other than themselves?" Have those doing the fighting, including the Islamic groups, related their preferences?
Afterwards, the interim Prime Minister's remarks became questionable:
"There is no better education; there is no medical services, all failure after failure of all developmental projects that have been introduced during those 42 years. It's enough to say that unemployment exceeds 30 percent in a country whose population does not exceed 6.3 million people with a vast amount of wealth because of oil revenues,"
Are these statements valid? United Nations statistics have Libya with one of the highest literacy rates in the developing world, the longest school life for its population, a recalculated human development index at 0.810 in 2010 (higher than Latvia and close to Uruguay), and a national health plan. Reliable data of unemployment rate is not available. For what it's worth, a popular Tripoli daily, OEA, uses Libyan census data to claim "Unemployment among men is 21.55 percent and at 18.71 percent among women,"
Lack of jobs is possibly the principal reason for the insurrection. For a nation that has suffered repetitive sanctions and lacks resources for agriculture, industry and tourism, high unemployment is not unusual, and will undoubtedly always be a serious problem in Libya. Dr. Gibril proposed resolving the problem with a service economy based on knowledge, a vague consideration that competes with the knowledge experts from India, Korea, Japan, China and the United States; not an easy task.
These dubious statistics were followed by unconfirmed numbers:
"This killing machine was slaughtering people day and night by the thousands. The expectation and the estimate was that over 11,000 people died during those 12 weeks of manslaughtering. " Too many people are fleeing their country, you know. Going to Tunisia and to the Egyptian borders. The United Nations just yesterday -- before yesterday -- released its last report saying that over 750,000 Libyans fled their country."
Dr. Gibril might have knowledge to verify his statements, but the media has not reflected the numbers. Until May 14, estimates of those killed in the conflict ranged from 1000 to 3000. Wikipedia examined the reported casualties from the several battles. and based on these numbers arrived at:" 2,193-2,950 opposition members/fighters (which includes also civilian supporters) and 817-1,114 Gaddafi loyalists have been killed by May 14, 2011."
"In addition, another 370 opposition fighters and activists have been confirmed as missing in the fighting in the east by the end of March, 500-2,000 are reported to be missing in the Battle of Misrata Batte and 74 were missing following the Battle of Brega-Adjibyah road for a total of 944-2,444 rebels reported missing. However, this number could be higher since it was reported that 700 rebels were missing following the First Battle of Bin Hawad."