There’s been a lot of (uninformed) discussion here in Washington about whether the Libyan rebels are Islamists or democrats, extremists or moderates, totalitarians or reformers.
In truth, they are all of the above. Libya, after all, is a country with more than 6.4 million people; and Islamists are a fact of life in virtually all Muslim countries.
Still, make no mistake: the revolution in Libya has always been driven by a desire for freedom, and not a yearning for a Sharia state. This is something confirmed by most credible, independent reporters who actually have taken the time to visit Libya and to talk with the rebels.
Fox News’ Rick Leventhal, for instance, was assigned to Libya back in March, at the height of the fighting. And, yesterday, he shared his thoughts about the revolution there with anchor Megyn Kelly. (I’ve also included the (very brief) video of the interview, which is worth watching.)
Kelly: Back here at home we had so much debate, so far removed from the events. You know, you were right there; we saw you. Here, you know, [in] the antiseptic nature of this studio — here we sat and debated.
Kelly: Who are these people? We were being told they’re doctors and they’re lawyers, and they’re real people…
Leventhal: And they were.
Kelly: … And they want democracy. But then we were being told: “Maybe they’re al-Qaida. Maybe they’re, you know, Muslim Brotherhood. You know, the devil’s in the details. Do we really want these folks taking control?” What was your experience?
Leventhal: My experience was that they were welcoming; they were warm; they were friendly; they were committed; they were honest; they were hard working. They were determined, and they had a lot of courage and a lot of heart.
Were there some bad apples in the bunch? Probably. There usually are in any military organization. But these guys were committed to the cause. They wanted what we have: democracy and freedom.
Kelly: Were they real? Were they soldiers? Were they citizen soldiers? Or were they, for the most part, civilians, who had just taken up arms at the sight of an opportunity?
Leventhal: Mostly civilians… Most of them gave up day jobs. Some of them were schoolteachers, who just wanted to do what they could to bring Gaddafi down.
Kelly: How important was it to them to kill Gaddafi, to take him out?
Leventhal: They were willing to die for it, and some of them have — and some of them could still. But they were willing to give up their lives for freedom…
Kelly: …Why did they hate him so much?
Leventhal: He imprisoned their neighbors and their relatives. He held them down. Anyone who spoke their mind, they said, would face consequences. They were tired of him. From everything we learned, they hated him and couldn’t wait to get him out of power.
Kelly: Yeah, well, they are celebrating on the streets of Libya.
Leventhal: Yes, they are.
And we should be celebrating, too — and working diligently as a country to ensure that Libya’s transition to a more representative, pluralistic, and democratic society succeeds. The Libya rebels, or revolutionaries, need our help, and in part to help fend off their own illiberal and Islamist elements.