Scan the news today and you'll see two narratives bubbling to the surface regarding the Libyan rebels: first the rebels are unhappy with NATO and second the rebels are a hapless fighting force. Both could be true, but this is a rundown on who's saying what.
THE REBELS AND NATO
The Associated Press, reporting on rebel claims that NATO mistakenly struck opposition forces for the second time in a week, explains that rebel fighters are increasingly angry about their coordination with the military alliance and quotes one fighter shouting, "Down, down with NATO" (CNN's Ben Wedemen quotes another fighter putting it even less diplomatically: "f**k you NATO!"). The AP adds that opposition commanders have recently complained about NATO airstrikes "coming too slowly and lacking the precision to give the rebels a clear edge."
THE REBEL ARMY
Meanwhile, at The New York Times, C.J. Chivers concludes that the rebel military is "not really a military at all." The rebel fighters may be brave, he says, but their numbers are few and they have no communication equipment or command structure and scant training, fighting experience, or understanding of offensive and defensive combat. "When their morale spikes upward," Chivers writes, "their attacks tend to be painfully and bloodily frontal--little more than racing columns down the highway, through a gantlet of the Qaddafi forces' rocket and mortar fire."
At The Atlantic, Ryan Calder tells of one rebel fighter who drove a car filled with propane into Muammar Qaddafi's military base in Benghazi, but of other unarmed fighters who fled shelling in the town of Brega before foreign photographers had a chance to finish snapping their photos. "These are the ragtag rebels," he says:
Groups of four or five buddies who carpool to the front in their own cars, high-school teachers and high-school dropouts, petroleum engineers and shepherds and bakery owners, packing their own lunches of macaroni and beans, wearing construction helmets and plastic safety goggles for protection, and carrying the Kalashnikovs they managed to buy on Benghazi's streets.
As we learned from The Daily Show last night, Fox News' Geraldo Rivera apparently agrees with Chivers and Calder. As he scampers about in the midst of a firefight in Libya, Rivera warns the West not to arm the rebels: "I swear to God, if you give these people weapons more powerful than they have right now, they will be a grave danger to themselves and others. The real danger here are these crazy kids with machine guns. They have no discipline in combat."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.