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Tripoli, the New Troy
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Odyssey Dawn slogs on – a tawdry “kinetic military action” (as per the White House) worthy of the Pentagon’s resident Homer. The stalemate on the ground could go on for weeks, if not months. This is more like The Iliad remixed – remember, the Trojan War slogged on for 10 years without a decisive result. America is bewildered. A new Associated Press-GfK poll found the country is split; 48% are in favor of the “kinetic military action” in Libya, 50% are against it.

Gaddafi is no king Priam. And Saif al-Islam Gaddafi is no Paris (although, in the absence of Helen, he did seduce the London School of Economics). Khamis Gaddafi is no Achilles – perhaps a minor Ajax (gigantic, great courage but dull of intellect).

Priam was a wise prince – while Gaddafi is wily. Priam strengthened the state by good governance (Machiavelli would have approved) and alliances with his neighbors, while Gaddafi governed by playing the tribes against each other. There’s not a shade of Hector – a noble character – in sight.

One may wonder which gods and goddesses – apart from Athena – are as interested in this war as the parties themselves. One of Troy’s crucial allies was Penthesilea, the queen of the Amazons with her band of female warriors. In the Pentagon remix Penthesilea shifted to the opposition, played by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her combat warriors United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice and National Security Council aide Samantha Power.

Arab liberator French President Nicolas Sarkozy is no Menelaus; his Helen – Carla Bruni, who used to cavort with Bacchic Mick Jagger – would rather mingle with the Vogue crowd than sulk in a tent in the desert. British Prime Minister David Cameron is not exactly Agamemnon. As for Silvio “Bunga Bunga” Berlusconi, the Italian president is just a satyr who escaped from an Aristophanes comedy.

Waiting for the lightning bolt

Odyssey Dawn boasts a cast of characters of infiltrated special forces – from the United States, Britain, France, plus the inevitable, Barack Obama-sanctioned Central Intelligence Agency covert ops. They may be teaching the “rebels” a thing or two about warfare – but certainly not the Mao Zedong guerrilla tactics Priam/Gaddafi is now using against a drive-in, wild bunch guerrilla.

These special forces anyway will be key. Troy was besieged for 10 years by a regular army – but only fell after two very special special forces intervened in an intelligence recon mission: Ulysses and Diomede. Troy hosted a celebrated statue of Athena called the Palladium. In disguise; protected by Athena (the Greek version of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization); and helped by Helen – the stunning beauty who provoked the war in the first place – Ulysses and Diomede sneaked into Troy and stole the Palladium.


The Palladium, a wooden statue, protected Troy. Athena had thrown it out of the Olympus because it had imbibed the vaginal blood of Electra when she was raped by Zeus. Yet even after the theft of the Palladium Troy still did not fall. The “coalition of the willing” was getting desperate – until Ulysses came up with another special ops: the Trojan Horse.

It’s hard to see Gaddafi falling for an Anglo-French-American Trojan Horse (unless it’s a new United Nations resolution). When the Trojans saw the horse, they hesitated. Laocoon, the priest, famously said, “What madness, citizens, is this! Have you not learned enough of Grecian fraud to be on your guard against it? For my part I fear the Greeks even when they offer gifts.”

Beware of Westerners bearing gifts – many a Libyan will eventually have to acknowledge, especially when these gifts come from former colonial powers Britain and France, and the CIA/Pentagon/NATO/Africom condominium.

On the other hand, there’s nothing these bearers of gifts would like better than Gaddafi ending his days like Priam – who lived to see the downfall of Troy and was slain on the fatal night the Greeks took the city.

So Tripoli won’t fall until its Palladium is stolen. That is; as long as the Palladium – which is Gaddafi himself, the mirror image of his own power – is in town.

Meanwhile Gaddafi is “winning” like Troy did for years – ambushing the pick-up warriors outside his hometown Sirte, outflanking them through the desert, and replicating the tactic in Ras Lanuf, with a few Grad rockets added for good measure.

There’s not much left for the “coalition of the willing” other than to bend over UN resolution 1973 – even though scores of international law experts stress that under the current UN resolutions arming the rebels is illegal.

The Anglo-French-American consortium is now deep into it – progressing from protecting civilians through Tomahawks and air strikes to targeting Gaddafi’s forces anywhere to finally arming civilians.

They even say everything is already spelled out – in paragraph 4 of UN resolution 1973, which authorizes “all necessary measures” to protect civilians “… notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970”. Paragraph 9 deals with the arms embargo. Thus “not withstanding” gives a legal basis for arming the rebels, as long as it’s assumed this happens to protect civilians. From there to another resolution allowing boots on the ground is only another small step.

It requires major suspension of belief to cast former Gaddafi interior minister Abdel Fatah Younis and CIA asset Khalifah Hifle – the new “rebel” military commander – as Ulysses and Diomede. But still Palladium is in the building. The problem with the Odyssey Dawn script is that Ulysses is nowhere to be found.

No wonder so many are praying for a lightning bolt (a sacred Tomahawk?) sent by a deus ex machina, the one and only Zeus, for the moment just overseeing the proceedings from his throne in Olympian Washington.

(Republished from Asia Times by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Arab Spring, Libya, Muammar Gaddafi, NATO 
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