September 15th, 2011
06:00 AM ET

Seeing the cost of revolution in Libya

By Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty on assignment in Tripoli, Libya

At Libya's largest hospital, the Tripoli Medical Center, the State Department's point man on Libya, Assistant Secretary of State for New Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, saw the price of revolution up close.

Accompanied by doctors, Feltman visited three rooms in which civilian men lay in hospital beds recuperating from gunshot wounds. Most of them had been hit by Gadhafi loyalist snipers. Feltman shook his head as the doctors described the indiscriminate nature of the attacks.

One man was standing on his roof shouting "Allahu Akbar!" ("God is great!"), they said, in support of the rebels. Another was standing in front of his house. When the doctors told Feltman that one man was shot with an anti-aircraft weapon, he seemed shocked.

Like many Libyans in the capital these days, the men flashed the rebel "v for victory" sign, even though the war is not over. Anti-Gadhafi forces still are fighting for control over three remaining Gadhafi strongholds of Bani Walid, Sirte and Sabha.

Leaving the hospital, Feltman told CNN he found the men "inspiring."

Feltman, the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Libya since the rebels captured Tripoli, met privately with the leadership of the National Transitional Council, including NTC head Mustafa Abdel Jalil and Mahmoud Jibril, chairman and head of international affairs of the NTC.

"I leave here fairly encouraged that the Libyans are managing some legitimate differences and political perspectives in a responsible way," he told CNN. But when asked about emerging political infighting, Feltman said, "It's definitely worth watching."

"We're in a revolutionary atmosphere and, in the best of times, consensus is hard to come by - look at the U.S. Congress trying to forge consensus on things like the budget. It's not going to be easy."

But, he added: "I think that the divisions that we're seeing, the arguments that we're hearing about, shouldn't be unexpected. It also seems to me that people are dealing with them through debate, through the media in some cases. They're having a war of words in the media, but they're not taking it out onto the street."

Feltman had to negotiate another political mine field, arriving just as a report by Amnesty International found widespread human rights violations by Gadhafi fighters and also some violations by the rebels, in spite of their leadership's vow to try to rein in such behavior.

"It is a real concern for us," he said, "and whether you're talking about women's participation in the future, the role of youth, the respect for the laws of armed conflict, the NTC is saying the right things. We believe they're saying it with sincerity. They mean it. But the point is they've got to show it in practice, from top to bottom, that they're implementing these things that they're saying and that was a strong part of our message today."

The NTC, he said, is "looking at how they can bring about sort of accountability for those cases where, in fact, there were failures."

"They were talking about ways to make sure that the policies which, I am convinced, are sincere - about respect for human rights, respect for international conventions, law of armed conflict, things like that - are actually implemented on the street."

Feltman also visited the U.S. embassy, which was attacked, ransacked and burned by Gadhafi supporters on May 1 and May 2. He met with representatives of nongovernmental organizations working in the areas of women's rights, youth issues and business.

At a news conference with international and local media, he found himself responding to a question that has been asked repeatedly: whether the United States will put ground forces into Libya.

"President Obama has been very clear. We have not, will not have, any combat presence on the ground in Libya. Period," he said.

soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. sanjay

    by putting all seems to be good news as per requirement of western govt does not means libya is peacefull and orederly as 6 months back,Kepp on watching the events as it is europe and NATO who will fight in near future with the same so called unarmed rebels or civilians whom they are supporting now.No one now onwards willl kepp europe as safe as Gaddaffi kept .watch out, europians donot learn from mistakes of Pakistan or Afghanistan even US initially advised them not to topple Gaddaffi. From suez canal to algeria, even middle east is now out of control of Europe and US .

    September 19, 2011 at 4:02 am | Reply
  2. ZahirulHoque23

    yes, THEY ARE ALL NICE WORDS AND NICE STORIES. It is not all about. The medi should bring the dark side of Libya where thousands of people were deliberately killed with hundreds of buildings and other critical infrastructure demolished. As history says, you can not hope better and brite future as you killed them together. The role of an authentic is to tell the truth and their news making should be based on principles of truth and moral responsibility. When most of Libyan people are against any western bad intention that they anticipated from the beginning, can not silenced by continous bombing and media mispropaganda. Therefore, we can not go happy without counting on our misdeeds. The resistence which we see in other parts of the county is just a beginning. And it will be apparent soon in its capital with such a rush and force that the west can not imagine. Where most people do not like you, you definitely can not ride on for a long time. Killing, conspiracy and deception can not be the base of any humanity and human-being.

    September 18, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Reply
  3. m

    NTC head Mustafa Abdel Jalil and Mahmoud Jibril, chairman and head of international affairs of the NTC.

    The Libyan people should be examining the past of these two future rulers and ensure that they are clean, fair and just people who will truly make Libya better than before. What is there future agenda? Plans for economic recovery? Ability to keep radicalism out of LIbya? Can they collaborate with wisdom? Who will be on their payrolls? What is their ultimate goal for Libya? Considering they stated no elections for two years, I'd be very very leary of what they are proposing if/when they overthrow the existing govt system

    September 17, 2011 at 10:01 am | Reply

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