The month of October 2011 stands as an historical monument to heroism and apocalypse in the Libyan desert as the people of Sirte, hometown to Col. Gaddafi, staged a desperate, doomed fight to protect their families and homes from the might of NATO and its allied bands of Libyan rebels.
With history all to often written by the victors, the tragic tale of how unknown thousands of the residents of Sirte, men and women, fought house to house until the bitter end is the 21st Century’s first saga of doomed heroism, a tragic historical drama that brings to mind the Jews of Warsaw, Ireland’s Easter Uprising or the Paris Communardes.
With multiple international news channels carrying 24 hour coverage the whole world saw a few glimpses of how ruthless the NATO crusade in Libya was, how nowhere was safe, not hospital, school or apartment complex. With missiles raining down an apocalypse from the heavens, night and day, thousands of tons in a few months of high explosive hell, still, the people of Sirte refused to surrender.
Maybe they knew all to well what their fate would be if they laid down their arms, for the preceding months had shown just how murderous their victors were, as town and village alike after falling to the NATO empowered militias were put to the sword, literally in many cases.
First the rebels would approach Sirte as close at they dared and fire armor piercing and high explosive antiaircraft rounds by the tons worth. 23 mm rounds can penetrate up to 4 inches of armor plating leaving little protection by concrete walls for Sirtes people.
When the murderous high explosives fire became to much to bear, the Sirteans would charge out from their homes and bomb shelters and drive the rebels into a hurried flight, looking all to much like dogs whipped in a fight, fleeing with their tales between their legs glancing fearfully over their shoulders.
Then an apocalyptic fire and brimstone would rain down upon their heads via NATO warplanes circling at 30,000 feet and more Sirtean heroes would lie burnt or blasted under the fierce Libyan desert sun. Once, twice, thrice, some ten or more such cycles were repeated with the dwindling defenders of Sirte retreating to smaller and smaller neighborhoods.
The week of the final defeat saw one last counter attack, one last whipped dog scramble for safety by the rebels and one last high explosive onslaught by NATO in revenge and Sirte lay on the verge of total destruction.
Then came that last sally forth, what was a successful fighting retreat until NATO missiles incinerated the column of trucks as they made their way to freedom breaking through the encirclement of Sirte.
Amongst those who survived NATO’s final apocalyptic fury was Col. Gaddafi himself and his end remains a most horrific documentation of savagery and barbarism found almost no where else in historical records
Those Sirtean fighters left behind were rounded up from their homes and neighborhoods, bound, tortured and shot in their thousands for the rebels knew no laws of war or protection of prisoners. When the rebels were finally finished in their murderous orgy of looting and plunder Sirte remained a ghost town, with only the rats and vultures left, well fed off the bodies of the unburied dead.
Today, as the Libyan Democratic Party calls for international peacekeepers to invade and occupy Libya to protect its people from the former rebel militias turned warlords and bandits, Sirte remains a monument to NATO, an apocalyptic vision of shell, shot and bomb blasted ruins. Where thousands of Sirteans remain buried under the remains of their homes and apartments, hospitals and schools, where ever they futilely sought shelter from the vengeance of NATO hurling fire and brimstone down upon them from the heavens.
Remember Sirte! every October from now and forever, a tale of heroism and apocalypse in the Libyan desert.
Thomas C. Mountain is an independent journalist based in Eritrea. In 1987 he was a member of the 1st US Peace Delegation to Libya to commemorate the first anniversary of the 1986 US bombing of Libya. He can be reached at thomascmountain at yahoo_dot_com