Bruce Willis and the Libyan Revolution

March 28, 2011

In the cablegate files there’s a report on a visit to Derna in Eastern Libya (its further to the east than Benghazi)  in June 2008.  The Libyan government monitoring seems to have got screwed up and the American diplomat was able to interact with local people relatively freely.  Derna had a reputation as a source of foreign fighters in Iraq something which is supported by the diplomat’s report.

Depictions on al-Jazeera of events in Iraq and Palestine fueled the widely-held view in Derna that resistance to coalition forces was “correct and necessary”. Referring to actor Bruce Willis’ character in the action picture “Die Hard”, who stubbornly refused to die quietly, he said many young men in Derna viewed resistance against Qadhafi’s  regime and against coalition forces in Iraq as an important last act of defiance. 12. (C) Claiming “most Libyans” shared that sentiment, xxxxxxxxxxxx proudly said the difference was that Derna’s sons actually acted on their beliefs. Derna had historically resisted “occupations of all kinds – Ottoman, Italian, American (a reference to the 1805 attack on Derna led by William Eaton), and Qadhafi’s.” Derna’s role in opposing the Italian occupation in the early20th century helped foster the near-deification of Libyan resistance leader Omar al-Mukhtar, who hailed from eastern Libya. A visit to the al-Sahab mosque near the town’s center was telling. Large murals on the mosque’s exterior (inaccurately) depicted Islamic warriors besting what appeared to be Roman soldiers. The mosque’s imam showed P/E Chief a series of small shrines to medieval holy men and a small cemetery filled with graves of “martyrs” who had resisted Ottoman and Italian occupation. Many of the markers were garlanded with flowers; xxxxxxxxxxxx said families  often come to picnic in the mosque’s garden on holidays and pay their respects at the cemetery.

The report notes that local people see the US as propping up Gadaffi’s regime: their view shaped by the mosque and satellite TV.

Also see my earlier post about the US offer of ‘soft power programming’ in Eastern Libya to the government.



  1. […] Bruce Willis and a Libyan Revolution […]

  2. […] Bruce Willis and the Libyan Revolution « Public Diplomacy, Netwo… […]

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