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Professor: In Libya, A Civil War, Not Uprising

GUY RAZ, Host:

It's a question we asked Vijay Prashad. He's a professor of international studies at Trinity College in Hartford.

VIJAY PRASHAD: So the first answer to the question who are the rebels, they are the people of the east and therefore they have risen up against the west.

RAZ: Let's talk about some of the personalities. Who are the military leaders? Who is organizing groups of fighters? And are they organized?

PRASHAD: And in the 1980s, he had defected away from Gadhafi and joined army that's a sort of rebel army based in Chad fighting against Gadhafi in the 1980s. His name is Khalifa Hafter. And when the Chadian government changed power, Khalifa Hafter had to flee Chad, and he fled to a very interesting place. He came to Vienna, Virginia.

RAZ: Uh-huh.

PRASHAD: Yes, Vienna, Virginia is an odd place. Firstly, it struck me as interesting how quickly he was able to move from Chad to Vienna, Virginia. You know, when one goes to get a visa to enter the United States, all kinds of complications arise if you've been in the military of a foreign power. But for some reason, he was able to come quite quickly with his family to Vienna, Virginia. It happens to be only seven miles away from Langley, Virginia, which some people might recognize as the home of the CIA.

RAZ: CIA, yes.

PRASHAD: Yeah, right.


PRASHAD: So, Khalifa lived in Virginia for about 25 years. In the 1990s, he created an army called the Libyan National Army. They had a post office box in Virginia and they were conducting operations in eastern Libya.

RAZ: These sounds very familiar, Vijay Prashad. The story you tell about Khalifa Hafter sounds very similar to the story about Ahmed Chalabi.

PRASHAD: Yes, it's a similar story. After all, Chalabi also had an army (unintelligible) a post office box somewhere in London. Various attempts inside Iraq to conduct insurgency and was (unintelligible). So, yes, indeed, the parallels are quite striking.

RAZ: Tell me about the man who we've been hearing about a little bit lately. His name is Mahmoud Jibril. Apparently, he was one of the Libyan representatives who met with foreign ministers in London last week. Who is he? What does he represent? Where does he come from?

PRASHAD: Mahmoud Jibril was the perfect person to run interference here. He had a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh in strategic planning, a very able person who was in charge of the National Economic Development Board. He was a regular visitor in the U.S. embassy in Tripoli. Of course, we know all this, thanks to the WikiLeaks (unintelligible). He met the ambassador several times. So Jibril is, in a sense, the person who is abroad settling the political table while others are doing the military work in Benghazi.

RAZ: Are these the people who presumably lead Libya, run the government if Gadhafi is ousted?

PRASHAD: There is no Tahrir Square in Libya. There is no Google executive among them. This is an old-fashioned civil war, and here, the outcome is going to be quite different and less as it were inspiring than what one saw in Tunis and Cairo.

RAZ: Vijay Prashad, thank you so much.

PRASHAD: Thank you.

RAZ: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.