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Foreign Dispatch: A Libyan Road Trip
By FOX News Radio’s Courtney Kealy
“Riders on the Storm… Riders on the Storm.”
This time, The Doors, are playing on my colleague Ahmad’s sound system in his new Toyota land cruiser as we fly down this Libyan desert road.
“There’s a killer on the road,” sings Jim Morrison ominously.
Well, these days I think, he’s farther west down the road – about 75 miles to be exact -near the oil port city of Brega. I’m referring to Qaddafi’s forces of course. I have no idea what the Doors were worried about.
Three and a half months ago, on this same desert road Colonel Muammar Qaddafi’s air forces menaced overhead. The bombs kept landing in the soft beige sand, which absorbed the blasts instead of hitting the two-lane asphalt road and spraying shrapnel.
People here still like to believe their fellow Libyans couldn’t obey Qaddafi’s direct orders to bomb them and that the pilots missed deliberately.
They’re still shocked and, they tell me repeatedly – each time with the same wide – eyed wounded look of betrayal – that Qaddafi launched a war against, “his own people.”
In March, our crew and other media teams had to flee – along with the townspeople – from the town of Ajdabiya that lies along this desert road which was in the sights of Qaddafi’s troop as they launched a counter-offensive.
The only way to drive safely to the Libyan Egyptian border then was to take the much longer safer route along the Mediterranean coastline.
Bit after a series of NATO Alliance air strikes- initially led by the US -Qaddafi’s troops had to pull back.
Now after a 12 day trip we can take the faster desolate desert road cutting down the drive to the Egyptian border by a few hours.
On this recent visit to Bengahzi the defacto Rebel held capital, the Stars and Stripes fluttered along in the wind with the French, the British, The pre-Qaddafi now known as the Free Libya flag and others at the courthouse downtown where a small tent city will remain until Qaddafi goes.
Like so many other places I’ve worked I left the country on my last assignment not knowing what I may come back to – if ever.
But NATO planes pushed Qaddafi’s forces back and people here credit NATO almost universally with staving off a blood bath.
I interviewed young girls volunteering on an English language Radio station, Men making hybrid tanks and any kind of weapons they could weld together to sent to the frontlines, women who have formed a committee to offer safe, anonymous medical and mental help to victims of rape and politicians who hope to have a political structure in place to start moving towards elections soon after Qaddafi cedes power. Everyone hopes it will happen before the Holy Month of Ramadan which starts this year in early August.
Their waning enthusiasm jolted back to life this week when the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Colonel Qaddafi, his son Seif and Abdullah Senussi his Military Intelligence Chief.
Cars, and trucks filled with people waving flags blaring horns and shooting guns in the air took to the streets in celebration.
Ahmad has helped guide us in between air strikes and up and down the desert road. Before the conflict he worked for a Canadian company here and downloaded thousands of songs. He provides a finely selected soundtrack for the Libyan conflict.
We’ve been trucking along to Cat Stevens’ “wild world” or as he prefers to be called now, Yussef Islam.
Then there’s a favorite by the Eagles that set us right this morning as we start our desert trek: “I’ve been running down the road trying to loosen my load.”
A road trip through the desert with the Eagles and Ahmad was a brief respite from the Arab Spring that has evolved into a long hot summer.
“Take it easy, take it easy, don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.”