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Libya: Watching A Bloodbath?

  • March 5th, 2011
  • Posted by 7thmin

smyrna-refugees.jpgCOMMENTARY: Warfare in Libya raises the prospect of more refugees calling for help from outside -  and brings up some bad memories.


Fighting this week in the small ports along the Libyan coast has seen the anti-government side holding its ground and making some advances – but under attack from government forces using aircraft and armour.

Loud appeals have already gone out for NATO or other powers to set up a protective “no fly” zone over the country, or bring on air strikes against Muammar al-Gaddafi in his capital, Tripoli.

That would imply air attacks to destroy the Libyan air defence system, and certain opprobrium in a region already harbouring endemic anti-European and anti-Western feeling.

So far they have sustained the humanitarian effort, transporting guest workers who’ve got out across the Libyan frontiers, to return to home countries – Egypt, or Bangladesh,

Yet, where – leaving aside Israel- the “West” has the dominant military power in the area, what decision might be required if the Gaddafi forces should gain the upper hand and begin driving their enemies into the sea?


Contingency thinking this weekend, it might bring to mind the tragedy of Smyrna in September 1922.

The new town area of that ancient port in Anatolia had a predominantly Greek population.

Turkey under the nationalist moderniser, Mustapha Kemal (Ataturk), was fighting a military campaign to get back territory lost to Greece after the First World War – including the unfortunate city of Smyrna.

After forced evacuation by Greek troops, the town was put to the sword, and then set fire, burning to ruins.

Twenty-seven allied warships including American, British and French waited at anchor off-shore observing the drawn-out agony of stealing, rape, and murder of the civilian population in the streets.

Though kept under orders almost to the end, not to intervene, some of the ships’ captains eventually took on board refugees crowded at the docks, begging to be saved, (picture).

Thousands were killed and millions deported in that era of “ethnic cleansing”, the port of Athens – the Piraeus – becoming a sad and notorious collecting-point for the desperate and dispossessed.

See EUAustralia Online, “World against Gaddafi”, 28.2.11.

Picture  Memories from Smyrna, smyrnialbum