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Oct-24-2011 02:12printcommentsVideo

The Lion of Libya: Omar Mukhtar, Launched Resistance of Italy's Colonial Invasion 100 Years Ago

Haliburton said that "Libyan operations are expected to make a positive contribution in 2112" - BBC

Bust of Omar Mukhtar
Bust of Omar Mukhtar in Venezuela: Commons Wikimedia

(SALEM, Ore.) -

Omar Mukhtar

Problems associated with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi were no big deal until recently; take a step back and look at Libya's past, examine the character of one of Gaddafi's heroes, then decide if western military forces belong there. It was reported tonight that Gaddafi's body is still being paraded around Libya by the rebels at this time.

We had video of the brutalizing of Col. Gaddafi published very early; gunshots are heard, and then the camera shows the national leader's lifeless body. At the time of this writing a Portland, Oregon news anchor stated "it is not clear if Col Gadaffi was executed or killed in crossfire" and it seems like such an insult to our intelligence.

Italy ruthlessly attacked and invaded Libya exactly one hundred years ago, in October 1911. It's leaders were trying to rekindle some kind of perceived greatness that to them, was symbolic of the supposed glory of the Roman Empire. Instead it was met with resistance and the fierce, educated man who history remembers as Lion of the Desert - Omar Mukhtar.

I first came to understand the importance of this man after our writer Kiflu Hussain filed the story Benghazi; Libyans in Rebellion Mood in the Spirit of Omar Mukhtar, from Uganda.

The more I discover, the more it seems reasonable to conclude that Italy's bitter hostile takeover of Libya, a violent colonial conquest executed at a time when western countries still believed they could simply take existing countries by force to stimulate their economies and expand their regional 'claims' without diplomacy or humanity, is the root of the problem. Nations destabilized by brutal force have much larger challenges than those that are not.

Omar Mukhtar (Arabic: عمر المختار Omar Al-Mukhtār) was born in 1862, in the small village of Janzour, near Tobruk in eastern Barqa (Cyrenaica) in Libya. For almost two decades he organized and led the native resistance to Italian colonization of Libya.

The Italian attack in 1911 drove the Turks and their Libyan allies to the countryside where they formed a resistance movement and refused to surrender. The Italians bombarded the city for three days, then stated that the Tripolitanians were "committed and strongly bound to Italy."

This marked the beginning of a long conflict between the Italian colonial forces and the Libyan armed opposition led by Omar Mukhtar whose network of fighters provided a stiff and unexpected resistance that was not anticipated by the fascists.

In order to bring Mukhtar down, Italy's leaders including Benito Mussolini, launched a plan to break Cyrenian resistance.

On orders from Rome, occupational soldiers forced a mass relocation of Gebel's hundred-thousand residents; they were moved into concentration camps on the coast and along the Libyan-Egyptian border. This, years before Hitler's Genocide of Europe. The population being cleared out meant that the coast at Giarabub would remain closed, cutting off any foreign aid to resistance fighters, depriving them of support from the native population.

The measures put into place early in 1931 took their toll on the resistance. Deprived of help and reinforcements, Mukhtar's forces were spied upon, attacked by Italian aircraft, and pursued on the ground by the Italian forces aided by local informers and collaborators, as Wikipedia explains.

While the Colonizing Italians would eventually capture and hang Mukhtar, it didn't happen until 1931, when he was 70-years old. In his vivacious lifetime, he harassed and outsmarted his enemies to no end.

He fought valiantly, wisely and ferociously, and of course, was considered a terrorist by the Italian occupational authorities. This is the same fascist government of Italy that went on to be Germany's closest ally in WWII.

Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi welcomes Libyan
leader Muammar Gaddafi. Photo from 12 June 2009
Daily Mail shows Mukhtar's image on Gaddafi's jacket.

Wikipedia explains that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi wore a photo of Omar Mukhtar hanging on his chest during a state visit to Rome in 2009, and he also brought Mukhtar's elderly son along for the visit. It is interesting that a man who was recognized by western governments with legitimacy for so long, would approvingly be murdered in the streets by a band of thugs.

I know people are cheering and letting their bloodlust rise to the top, they should just be glad that they aren't in the gun-sight of some American, French or British plane. Men like Omar Mukhtar fought against this exact type of military tyranny from foreign military forces that inflict indiscriminate collateral damage in violent political/military power grabs.

At the onset of the Libyan uprising on 17 February 2011, the Lion of the Desert Omar Mukhtar, once again became a symbol for a united, free Libya; one free of the greedy needs and wants of warring western nations. The tie to this hero was not unique to the pro-Gaddafi government forces, Libya's NATO-backed rebels also celebrated Mukhtar, and in his honor, the "Omar Mukhtar brigade" was named.

Those who cheer war should thank God that their home isn't in the range of a deadly neighborhood-destroying bomb, and that they were not born in a place deemed worthy of destruction and slaughter.

It's pretty backward of western people to applaud and excuse the targeted murder of world leaders by armed crowds, and the justification is flawed, since the only thing the United States has clearly shown the world is that it is really capable of, is shooting first and asking questions later, maybe. It's mostly just shooting that you can count on.

The same Italian government that colonized Libyans, placed them in concentration camps, and ultimately killed their highly respected leader, went on to rule people under the thumb of fascism and were defeated by resistance fighters, just as they were in Spain.

The problems of the world today were created by colonizing European governments that subjected people to apartheid laws and downplayed the roles of indigenous people. Shall we not look back at this time as the root of the problems we are seeing today? Only if your eyes are open.


Omar Mukhtar - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Benghazi; Libyans in Rebellion Mood in the Spirit of Omar Mukhtar - Kiflu Hussain


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Ralph E. Stone October 25, 2011 6:56 am (Pacific time)

After Gaddafi seized power in 1969, he got even for three decades of brutal Italian colonial rule, which ended during WW II by appropriating all assets in Libya belonging to Italians (as well as non-resident Jews) and and close to 30,000 Italian settlers were deported. Qaddafi also closed all British and American military bases, expanded the Libyan armed forces, exiled or arrested senior officers with connections to the monarchy, and closed all newspapers and churches, banned political parties, and jailed political opponents. In the mosques, Sanusi clerics were replaced by more compliant religious leaders. Banks were nationalized and foreign oil companies were threatened with nationalization.

Agron Belica October 24, 2011 3:08 pm (Pacific time)

Great article!

Tim King: Thanks Agron!

gp October 24, 2011 9:42 am (Pacific time)
I was particularly disgusted by Hilary
Clinton's "we came, we saw, he's dead" remark followed by her loudly laughing. What a cool diplomatic way for her to respond don't you agree?

Editor: GP, I knew a few reasons that we had no right to take this international action against a functioning country, but I had no idea how many things Col Gaddafi had done for the people of Libya, I am more horrified than ever, it all explains a great deal to me, thanks.   

Anonymous October 24, 2011 8:45 am (Pacific time)

Anyone who believes that NATO’s overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi is a “success” for President Obama’s foreign policy should listen to the speech of Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, the chairman of the National Transitional Council, at the “liberation day” celebrations in Benghazi: “We are an Islamic country,” the de facto president of Libya proclaimed to the crowds shouting “Allahu Akbar.” “We take the Islamic religion as the core of our new government. The constitution will be based on our Islamic religion.” KEEP IN MIND THE THOUSANDS OF SHOULDER-HELD SAM'S THAT HAVE BEEN STOLEN. I PITY THOSE WHO IN THIS COUNTRY SUPPORT THESE PEOPLE WHO HAVE SWORN TO KILL US. WELL, NOT REALLY.

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.


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