Early last month, I quoted a dispatch from a checkpoint between rebel-controlled Libya and Qaddafi’s Tripoli:
The refugees say that Tripoli’s rebels defiantly paint their flags on anything that will spread their message, including pigeons, cats and balloons.
Today, the rebel flags are flying from buildings across the city, and rumors of Col. Qaddafi’s death or flight from the city abound.
The author of that poetic line from early July, Kareem Fahim, reports:
“We are coordinating the attacks inside [Tripoli], and our forces from outside are ready to enter Tripoli,” said Anwar Fekini, a rebel leader from the mountainous region in western Libya, speaking by telephone from Tunis. “If you can call any mobile number in Tripoli, you will hear in the background the beautiful sound of the bullets of freedom.”
Phone calls to several Tripoli residents in different neighborhoods confirmed that gunfire and explosions were widespread. And there were reports of frequent NATO jet flights and airstrikes — a common accompaniment to the drumbeat of the rebel advance in the past week.
It’s too soon to know how this will all resolve, but it’s hard to imagine that the death or flight of Qaddafi would do anything but demoralize remaining government forces. The civil war is not likely to end in a single decisive move today, but it’s hard to see any ultimate resolution to the conflict other than the ultimate victory of the rebellion. This war lasted longer than the uprising in Egypt earlier this year, and was far more deadly, but it is a reminder that the demand for freedom which galvanized North Africa and the Middle East has not abated. It’s a timely reminder, given the recent naval shelling of rebel towns by Syria’s Assad government.