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October 27, 2011

One of the vivid images of my childhood is the death of Mussolini. Growing up in a journalism family, I followed politics and the war. Then suddenly on page one of every paper were Benito Mussolini and his mistress, plus five other corpses, strung up-side- down by their feet, arms dangling, shirts hanging down or gone, bodies bloody with bullet holes, while another seven corpses were sprawled out on the pavement around them. Crowds, delighted or just curious, including American troops, milled around in Piazzale Loreto of Milan.

It was April 29, 1945, and Il Duce and Clara had been captured in a convoy escaping the city. At first the Liberation Committee, mostly communists, gave orders that no one was to be shot, even if they tried to escape; but then they changed their minds, took the couple aside saying they were helping them escape, then killed them. A few days later, Adolph Hitler, when he heard the news, vowed he would not suffer that humiliation. So he had himself and his wife commit suicide.

The similarities to the death of Mommoar Gadaffi and his son are striking: the hated dictator; the flight and apprehension; the anarchy among his opponents; the brutal, lawless finish; and the cold-blooded  public display of the dead bodies; and the media reports of the big story. The singular difference is that today the killers all carried cell phones and recorded the prey’s capture, beating, bleeding, collapse,  pleading, two-thirds naked corpse with bullet holes in the torso and skull, with dozens clustered around  recording Gaddafi’s humiliation, down to his final burial, wrapped in a white sheet, face protruding, mouth open, in a cheap wooden box.

When his captors flushed him out of the drain pipe where he was hiding,  his captors, from a neighboring city, taunted him: “You dog. This is Misurata. Misurata captured you.” One spat in his face.

“Have pity! Don’t hit me!” Gaddafi cried.

Now you know pity!” one man answered.

They beat him, splayed across the hood of jeep and on the ground, then put him in an ambulance headed for Misurata. Somewhere in the middle of this he got two bullets in the head.

To kill a prisoner of war is a war crime and the United Nations has called for an inquiry.  Abdel Jibril, interim prime minister, has promised an investigation,  but without much enthusiasm. Unfortunately, Gaddafi rule was so centered on his own power and erratic personality that Libya  was never unified by a network of participatory democratic institutions. The disorganized Transitional National Council has not put together a process that can efficiently investigate and prosecute crimes; and they have three murder cases before them: In August, Gen. Abdul Fattah Younes, the rebels’ top commander, killed in Benghazi with two of his aides; dozens massacred, some with hands tied, at the Mahari Hotel in Surt, most likely by rebel troops; and Gaddafi himself.

A Washington Post story reports that a “growing number of revolutionaries” feel let down by their new government, which is neither  efficient, responsive, nor transparent,  and are planning to leave Libya. For example, they “would like a breakdown of the money coming to Libya  from oil revenue,  international aid, and overseas assets, and plans for how it will be spent.”

Meanwhile the Obama administration is collecting kudos for its successful diplomacy in “leading from behind,” helping the rebels win without sending America troops to fight and die. Unfortunately, the United States is not in a strong moral position to urge the new Libyan government to follow due process of law and take responsibility for its murders.

Raymond A. Schroth

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C Walter Mattingly
11 years 11 months ago
A greatly weakened moral position, for sure. In Iraq and Afghanistan, President Bush got approval of the House and Senate as the constitution required; President Obama violated the constitution by obtaining neither. When Saddam was confronted in the field unarmed and nonresistive by US troops under the Bush presidency, he was taken into custody and turned over to the Iraqi government for prosecution. When Bin Laden was confronted in the field unarmed and nonresistive by US troops under the Obama presidency, he was plugged in the head Dirty Harry style, much the same as happened to Gaddafi. 
Stanley Kopacz
11 years 11 months ago
We'll see.  I'm going to visit ows and drop off some winter sleeping bags. Crush all lizards.
ed gleason
11 years 11 months ago
USA ?Obama? has what Walter M.says : "greatly weakened moral position, for sure.'
because Gaddafy was executed by a Lybian where no American boots were on the ground ?
Navy Seals are killers under orders from Obama?

Such Obama hate is un becoming to any American of whatever ideolology
Tom Maher
11 years 11 months ago
This article was needed.  The brutal, extended and vile humiliation, torture and killing of Gaddaffi  was unique in its savagery and needs to be written about and commented on in detail as this article does so well.  

But the blame for this savage killing is all on the undisciplined and lawless Libyan insurgents.  President Obama or anyone else could  not have anticipated or be help responsible for this savage killing which is a war crime caught on video. 

The proper response is to presecute the people responsible for war crimes as was done to soldiers in sothern Europe engaged in ethnic cleansing of different ethnic groups.  In Libya the execution of people of different tribes after the war must be stopped.  It would not right to allow the victors who were saved from mass slaughter by NATO intervention to turn around and slaughter others after their victory.  NATO should insist that war crimes be punished. 

The continued killings of prisoners of war and general mayhem would show that the NATO intervention as a policy failed to bring peace, law and order to Libya.   
C Walter Mattingly
11 years 11 months ago
David (#3),
The difference between capturing an alleged murderer such as Gaddafi, Bin Laden, or Saddam and bringing him to trial to face whatever punishment that nation deems fit under its laws and plugging him in the head is the difference between a civil society acting under restrictions of law which demand trial and conviction and a lawless one which does not.
Ed (#4),
There is a difference between disapproval of and lack of respect for a leader who has time and again by his actions demonstrated a lack of integrity to his word, and hatred, although it is easy to sling such words at those who point out such equivocations to one you favor. From one of President Obama's very first decisions during his presidential campaign, in which he posed as one of moral substance by refusing public monies for his campaign to fight the "buying" of elections, then switching costumes as soon as he saw he could get the most cash and buy it for himself, to this more recent episode of violating the constitution and the Bin Laden execution, there is a pattern of acting, which I interpret to be for votes at the expense of principle, that is difficult to ignore. That is a main reason his supporters are disheartened and his opponents angered. But the evidence of the Great Equivocator was there from the beginning.
You ask what would we have the Seals do? Act with the same lawfulness and disciplined restraint that the US Army troops exercised when they captured Saddam, who was hiding in a spider hole with his AK47 when he was apprehended. Bin Laden was awakened in his PJs with his jump drives full of plans to kill American civilians, his porno tapes, and a teenage wife or two, unarmed and totally nonresitive, when he was gunned down.
But what was President Obama to do? Take him to still-open Gitmo and call attention to yet another violation of his word to close it? How was that going to further his reelection campaign? By plugging him and dumping him into the ocean, it would be a net vote-getting plus for him, as it was in his first violation of his word on campaign financing. 
Tom (#5),
One of the drawbacks of fighting a war on the cheap from the air is that with no presence on the ground you have almost no control over what is going on in the lawless aftermath. Even with troops on the ground, we saw the difficulties of doing so in Iraq, especially when handled by incompetent leaders and generals, although with Saddam at least we did manage to capture and bring him to trial rather than experience an execution or a war crime. 
david power
11 years 11 months ago
You are very right Fr Schroth,

I was in Piazza Venezia with some friends on our way to the Corpus Christi celebrations with the Holy Father in 2007 or 2008 I don't remember which.Along came a cavalcade of cars and security which defies belief.It was Gaddafi .
I was standing about 20 metres from Gaddafi and due to the immense security it crossed my mind as to how he could or would be killed.
He stopped in front of the famous balcony from where IL Duce would give his speeches.Gaddafi who was such a demagogue he made Mussolini look humble.He made this defiant gesture to history and the Italians acknowledged how much evil they had done in Libya.When Gaddafi met his fate the first thing I thought of was how he died exactly like Mussolini or at least his body was mistreated in the same way.    
Tom Maher
11 years 11 months ago
Walter Mattingly (# 6)

Your are right. We should have anticipated  as you say a "lawless aftermath" which is a  part of military conflict.   That was a big  mistake in Iraq too. The 'mission accomplished" banner at the end of major military engagements with tanks and aircraft was not even half way to stopping fighting the war as an on-going insurgency.  And the United States was completely surprised and unprepared for the continued insurgency in Iraq. 

Actully we should have listened to Secretary of Defense Gates recommendation  we not get involved in Libya. 

The other fallout of the Libya conflict is the Russians and Chinese who did not block the UN reseolution to allow NATO to protect civilians now regret not oppossing this intervention.  The UN resolution was limited to protecting civilians but what happened was much more: a military action aimed at regime change. Interventions that are intended to be limited in sciope can go out of control and this one did.  Stopping Gadaffi was much more difficult than estimated and this operation took months longer than anticipated.    In the future when it may be urgently needed the U.S. will not get Russiian or Chinese cooperation at the UN.  We may in the future be forced to go it alone which means the policy of limited engagement backfires by making us even more involved in the long run and more isolated from the rest of the world.   The Libya limited intervention is a long term diplomatic failure.

Bib Laden killing was a legitimate and urgently needed military operation that succeeded amazingly well against all odds. Obama finally came out of his liberal cave with his Nobel Peace Prize and finally realized that as Commanded in Chief he would be heaped with blame if another terrorst attack succeeded on U.S. soil.  Bin Laden long reign of terror had to be gbrough to and ended without fail and without making him even more of an icon.  This is a case if the Presiedent failed to take decisive action the U.S. woudl  be seriously harmed.  Thank goodness the President ordered the difficult raid with the aim  to eliminate bin Laden once and for all. Remeber the odds of any of the Navy Seals returning where zero.   This was a suicide mission very unliklely to succeed.  They had to finish the mission without fail by killing bin Laden before they thenmselves were  overwhelmed.  Bin Laden's killing was a legimate military action the Presiedent gets high praise for. 
david power
11 years 11 months ago
@Tom Maher,Obama doing nothing in Libya would have lead to the massacre of hundreds of thousands of innocent Libyans.
In Benghazi they showed great courage standing up to a tyrant and then it seemed as if they were crushed.
I remember it was a Saturday when NATO (Obama and co) decided to enter to make it a fair fight.Gaddafi's troops were on their way to slaughter them people make no mistake about that. 
Obama has not put a foot wrong as Commander-in-Chief and history will give him the due that petty Republicans and removed from reality Democrats refuse to do so now.
You are correct that his move against Bin Laden was a risk but there were many ways he could have wriggled out of it.He could have made a big deal about the relationship  with Pakistan among other things. Obama was bold in the extreme and instead of a small crew he sent a large one in case they needed to "fight their way out".  
It was Obama who chose to keep Robert Gates which was a wise move.W or the Gipper would never have done something like that.Maybe only FDR can claim such a good record as Obama as Commander -in-Chief.
The fact he has done so much without drawing attention to himself is interesting.
I am comforted by the first-class temperament in the Oval Office and Americans should show a little bit more pride in their President.    
Stanley Kopacz
11 years 11 months ago
I'm afraid that the US has such a corrupt, corporate-owned government, I am unable to trust any of its decisions or motivations in these matters.  Regarding Libya, I think it's all about the oil.  Sorry.  Our republican posters strain to find a difference between Bush2 and Obama.  My problem is that there is not enough difference.  Our best present hope is in Occupy.
david power
11 years 11 months ago
The Occupy movement will be gone within a week or so.As soon as HBO produces  a new good show or another series of Mad Men or something. 
People will lose interest and then the media will have something more interesting to report or the fact that the occupy movement has no solutions and is just a collective rant.A couple of cold November days will put paid to it.Check back in a month and you will see I am right.

"Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures, the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the U.S.A." 

The wisdom of Gekko will prevail and slave morality will crawl back under it's rock!! 
Michael Appleton
11 years 11 months ago
The reason that the United States is not in a strong moral position to urge Libyans to follow due process of law is that we have abandoned our commitment to the rule of law as the fundamental strength of our society.  We can exist as a free people only so long as the population shares a belief in the integrity of our institutions. That consensus has been deeply wounded.

The numerous violations of treaty and statutory law by the United States in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq are too well documented for any reasonable person to deny.  The refusal of the Obama administration to even permit an investigation of war crimes constituted a de facto ratification of wrongdoing.  The justification was purely political.  The further refusal to require accountability on the part of investment bankers, traders and Wall Street insiders for the financial collapse in 2008 has only added to the cynicism increasingly felt by ordinary Americans.  Indeed, the Occupy Wall Street movement, despite the silly criticisms that its participants lack an "agenda," is essentially a protest against the corruption of the rule of law by the financially and politically powerful.  People take to the streets when they perceive that no other recourse remains available to them.

What we are witnessing in this country is the gradual conversion of the social contract into a post-Randian contract of adhesion, a political system which serves the needs of the powerful, an economic system which preserves the advantages of the wealthy by granting capital a preferred position while denigrating labor and a legal system which provides legitimacy by extending to corporate entities the status of individual citizens.
david power
11 years 11 months ago

Sorry to break the bad news to you but "twas ever so".Name one period in American history that was different to the current one?. 
Every nation is born in blood.Does that mean that they should throw a hissy fit and refuse to accept notions of more advanced nations?The Church itself was born in the blood of Christ.  
What you see as hypocrisy or whatever is not in fact that at all.How things are created is often messy.Every one of us on this board was conceived in a fit of passion that had nothing of the idealised about it .
Do we want a constant replay of that moment ?Not at all.Needs differ.I have a friend in Libya ,he is Italian and I can tell you his view would place yours in the purely self-righteous category.These people were facing certain death.America and her friends did the dirty deed and saved their asses.  
Is there a difference between America now and the America of say Clinton in 95.Yes, now it is more accountable and aware of it's failings.Corruption flowed more easily in the previous 20 years.What "occupy" is essentially is not too difficult to understand.It is a pampered man's arab spring.They gave their blood ,their lives for the right to live in Freedom.Those people were heroic.
Those of "occupy" only imagine themselves to be.  Could their be a vast improvement in how financial affairs are run?Absolutely!Would any of those involved in "occupy" give up their moral high for two  minutes to work on it?Absolutely not.This is going nowhere for the simple reason that those involved do not have a fraction of the will of the Arabs or even of those who work for GS.    
Stanley Kopacz
11 years 11 months ago
Pampered?  That Iraq War veteran that took a tear gas canister in the head isn't feeling too pampered right now.  What I liked was how the cops threw a flash-bang grenade at the people who gathered to help him.  Lovely. 

By the way, they've been developing so-called nonlethal weapons for the last decade.  Was it to control Iraqi rioters or us?  I'm waiting to see how long it will take to see an acoustic or microwave crowd control device deployed. Stay tuned, folks. 
C Walter Mattingly
11 years 11 months ago
David P. (#9),
Although I don't qualify as either your petty republican or reality-ducking democrat, I and others from the conservative side have praised President Obama for not only getting rid of Bin Laden, but for his basic adherence to the defense policies of the second Bush term. Yet let's keep things in perspective. The dozen US servicemen gunned down by Major Hassan, something which should have been anticipated based on what was known of the man, likely wouldn't have concluded their commander in chielf made no missteps, nor would the US agent feel very pleased that his president's administration provided the very weapon to the drug cartel used to gun him down. Not many Americans on that flight would have been comforted by the fact that they were saved only because the terrorist's drawers failed to explode, or the Times Square bomber's car bomb fizzled. No, his defense successes doesn't compare with that of FDR, much less Reagan's.

Yet as Tom Maher stated earlier, the president came out of his cave and began taking firm actions, largely to his credit, from the drone buildup to following through on President Bush's withdrawal plan for Iraq to building on the Bin Laden case. And he certainly was wise to not extend his Hope and Change motif to Secretary Gates and General Petraeus, retaining them instead. Yet your statement that neither the W nor the Gipper would have retained a great talent from the previous administration is misleading, as W located the talent in the first instance, and Reagan, very wisely, retained Paul Volcker, who was essential for the success of his economic program. 

None of which compensates for President Obama's overall poor performance, from his lack of integrity evinced by his many violations of his word, his unconstitutional acts such as going to war without congressional approval, and especially his incompetent handling of the nation's economy, most notable in his ducking of his own bipartisan commission's solid work that had the potential to engender real confidence in the nation's economy.  The subsequent pathetic grab for votes with his 1% class warfare diatribe, which if enacted would reduce the projected deficit from 1.29 trillion to 1.21 trillion, now all bollixed up in election politics, is no more than an attempt to salvage the shreds of credibility that remain to him on the economy. Not much pride to take in this president, the nation seems to have reasonably concluded, despite his good teleprompter demeanor.
david power
11 years 11 months ago
Walter ,

I agree with most of what you wrote with one major exception.How on earth can you blame Obama for what happened in Fort worth???That is like blaming GWB for sept 11 or FDR for some soldier lying on the beach of Normandy.Was Obama going over his file and saying "hmm I like this Hassan guy let's give him a break".No he didn't know him from Adam.
He very wisely kept his mouth shut realising that while jingoistic talk is good for the Polls in that case it would be bad for the nation.
The Gipper dropped bombs on Gaddafi and then left without getting anywhere.Obama finished the job.GWB responded to the terrorist acts of a very slim minority of Saudi nutcases by reigning carnage dow on IRAQIS.
Obama it was who did what Bush could not do and finished off Bin Laden the true enemy of the USA.
By the 12th of September it was clear that 4th generation warfare was upon us.Clear to everybody except Dick and George. 
Obama talks very softly and carries a very big stick which he knows how to use.    
Stanley Kopacz
11 years 11 months ago
The degree of police state surveillance required to prevent incidents such as Fort Worth is a lot more than this American is willing to live with.  The obviously overmilitarized police force in Oakland demonstrates that we are probably there already.
C Walter Mattingly
11 years 11 months ago
Of course W was partly responsible for 9/11, as was Clinton. Neither probably knew the names of any of the 19 terrorists who flew into the buildings, but Clinton was president when they illegally gained entry into the US and trained for their flight, etc, and Bush was president when they put it into effect. And FDR was responsible for US participation in the firebombing of Dresden and hundreds of Japanese prisoners in the island campaigns shot in the back of the head, just as Bush was responsible for the war crimes at Abu Ghraib. Same thing goes for Bush and Obama in the BP oil spill. They were commander in chief.

Reagan's attempt to kill Gaddafi, we now know in all probability, was thwarted by an Italian politician who called him shortly before the raid, allowing him to escape with his immediate family. It did accomplish two things: the defacing of Gaddafi's image in public and the acceleration of internal opposition to his regime, which grew over time. Reagan's greatest foreign policy accomplishment, however, was of course effecting the dissolution of the Soviet empire, the destruction of the Berlin Wall, the unification of Germany, and the freeing of 20 nations and 50 million people, all with the indispensible aid of John Paul II, Thatcher, and of course Lech Walensa, without losing so much as a US soldier. 

The carnage brought down on Iraqis might be more accurately described as the campaign that ended the reign of a genocidal monster and demonstrably saved well over a half a million, probably over a million, Iraqis from death another decade or so in the hands of the Butcher would have yielded.

Again, it was Obama who finished what Bush had begun and made possible by obtaining the crucial information that led to the identification of the courier which ulitimately led us to Bin Laden's location. And the costly research and buildup of the stealth technology and the extraordinarily well-equipped and prepared SEALS, which enabled the operation to be successful, was largely provided by the Bush administration. Obama is indeed to be credited, or condemned as others see it, with the continuation of this, and also quadrupling of the drone campaign and other Bush initiatives, which led to Bin Laden's killing. It does seem likely, however, that this was a kill, not a capture or kill, operation, which the administration has not denied. I think the Bush decision to capture alive Saddam was the better of the two approaches, and that US credibility to object to the Gaddafi headshot has suffered as a result of the same being extended to Bin Laden.

C Walter Mattingly
11 years 11 months ago
I understand your concern about excessive surveillance as a violation of your right to privacy, yet the trouble is the issue is similar to the one of vaccination: exercising one child's right to not get a vaccination endangers the lives of all the other children attending the school. Same thing when you object to being xrayed or taking your shoes off at the airport: by permitting those who object to opt out you endanger those who appreciate the safety the intrusive security offers. If we had two lines, one for those who want the maximum surveillance afforded, and another for those such as perhaps yourself who object to such a violation of their privacy to bypass it, who could then proceed on to the minimally checked passengers along with the terrorists, it might work, yet I doubt you could find a pilot to fly that plane.
Gabriel Marcella
11 years 11 months ago
The comparison with Mussolini leaves out some important differences. Mussolini's fascism did not eradicate Italy's democratic institutions, which quickly reemerged after 1945. Gaddafi did not allow the intermediate institutions of civil society to develop, leaving Libya bereft of the capacity to build a democracy. Gaddafi also executed thousands of opponents, absolutely brutalized the people of Misrata, sent a hit squad to murder airline passengers and squandered the opportunity to build a a modern society through the enormous oil wealth.

The statement that the United States is not ''in a strong moral position to urge the new Libyan government to follow due process of law and take responsibility for its murders'' misses the point. With all of our imperfections we remain the beacon of hope, the leader of the democratic community of nations, and the most powerful. Ask Libyans today how they feel about the role of the United States. They're very grateful.
Stanley Kopacz
11 years 11 months ago
You said a pilot wouldn't want to fly the plane with people who chose not to be x-rayed.  Maybe he'd think he has passengers with enough testicular fortitude to feed a hijacker his own bits as an airplane snack.   Are americans as cowardly as their politicians and corporate masters think they are?  That's the question.  Are we?

As for Gabriel's comments, the Libyans should perhaps only be thankful that the removal of Gaddafi was coincident with our national economic interests.  I no longer attribute human attributes like compassion to governments, especially our own.  However, these attributes may sometimes gum up the works a little, but only a little.
david power
11 years 11 months ago

What do you mean that Mussolini did not eradicate the democratic institutions of Italy?.Democracy only returned to Italy properly in 1948 three years after the death of IL Duce.He outlawed all other political programmes just like Gaddafi.He invaded Abbyssinnia and brutally repressed any attempts at liberty in Italy.
Libya is no different to the Italy of 1945 right now.
All of the other things you quote were done by Mussolini including not only the terrorisation of Misrata but also Benghazi and Tripoli by the Italians.An old woman I know who went there as a child to live with her family died yesterday.She was 92.She saw it all and it was no picnic.Such was the hatred for what Mussolini and co did that when Gaddafi came to power he made the Italians dig up the bodies of their buried loved ones and bring them back to Italy.
Libya will have a democracy every bit as good as the Italian onein about 3 years which was the timeframe the Italians needed to build up their institutions to the deplorable state they have always been in.   
Gabriel Marcella
11 years 11 months ago
Let me be clear. Eradicate means to uproot, to destroy. Mussolini's attempt to fascistize Italy failed because Italians resisted, as we always have down the centuries.  Institutions, such as political parties (Christian Democratic, Socialist, Communist, Liberal, etc.) labor unions, the media, a vibrant Catholic Church, and civil society  in general, were not destroyed. Some went underground, but they quickly reasserted their political roles after the collapse of 1943 and especially after 1945, making Italy the flourishing democracy of the 1950s and later. Many of the political leaders of the post war joind the ranks of the partisan forces to fight Fascism and the Germans, thereby assisting the Allied cause. The writings of historians like Renzo De Felice and the Australian R.J.B. Bosworth, and others, are a rich source of information on this entire period.

To equate Italy of 1945 with Libya of today is quite a stretch. Gaddafi eradicated all intermediate institutions and alternative centers of power, leaving the country practically bereft of institutions upon which to construct a democracy, and practice the habits of compromise, accountability, and political participation. It wil take more than 3 years to democratize Libya, and hopefully the United States and other nations, even Italy, will assist. 

Italy's shameful conduct of the 30 years war in Libya brings no honor to Italians.

One more point: my name is Gabriel.
david power
11 years 10 months ago

Sorry you are of course right on most of what you wrote.
I thought for some reason that the main thrust of your original comment was that Mussolini was somehow a more civilized version of Gaddafi.
Which of course is not true and not what you intended.
I have friends in Italy who would define themselves as Fascists (I also have friends who define themselves as communist),they are both as ridiculous as one another but it is mainly in Rome that the fascist instinct lives on.The current mayor of Rome is an "ex"-fascist.The Previous mayor was an ex-communist.
I think the Church makes itself the bedfellow of whatever is in power.They resisted the communists because they knew they would not be nice to the clergy.
They held close ties to the Fascists and Nazis and in fact one of the heroes of the Vatican at the moment is a guy called Cardinal Merry del val who will most likely be canonized soon enough.He had connections with this lot http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ratlines_(World_War_II). It could also be said that World War 2 saved Italy from the fate of Libya which endured 100 years of totalitarianism.First the concentration camps of the Italians and then the brutality of Gaddafi.So I think that yes it may be optinistic to expect any real progress.
 Sorry about the mistake with your name .

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