Saturday, July 26, 2014

Up, Down

Two weeks ago, at a coworker's farewell party, I found myself standing in the corner of the room, sharing stories about Ambassador Stevens with a colleague who had served with him in other posts, before he was an ambassador, when he was just Chris.  We traded stories about what a prankster he was - how he set my colleague up to end up face-to-face with a known hellraiser in the host country that we all were trying to avoid (to prevent a verbal altercation that would have ended up on the front pages of national papers), how he set me up to be stuck in a cave with 30-odd tribal leaders for lunch.  How the only thing (outside of work) that wasn't a joke was tennis.  For a brief moment, I had nothing but happy memories of Libya.

The last two weeks have been really difficult for me.  The news from Libya has been horrific - friends and acquaintances assassinated in their homes or on the street, the airport in Tripoli under sustained attack and finally destroyed, and today, the Embassy was temporarily closed since we withdrew all of our staff overland to Tunisia for their safety.  The militia clashes in Tripoli were too close to the Embassy, which had taken indirect fire a few times while armed factions fought it out for control of Libya's most valuable assets - or at least fought to deny those same assets to their enemies.

I don't know when we'll go back in to Libya.  I don't know when it will be safe to go back.  I'm thrilled that my American colleagues are safe, but I'm equally terrified for our local hires, Libyans and other nationalities, who are still there in a dangerous city.  I worry about my Libyan friends, and the future of a country that I feel irrevocably tied to.  I have hope - maybe faint, maybe misplaced - that the new council of representatives that will take office on 4 August (to replace the body that was elected in July 2012) may be able to turn things around.  I have hope that a new constitution, when it's finished, will provide a legal framework that will enable Libya's many factions to come to the table, unarmed, to rebuild their shattered country.

I don't want the sacrifices that so many Libyans have made - and, in a tiny way, those that Americans and others have made - to be forgotten or to go to waste.  I don't want Libyans to look around and say, well, it wasn't worth it.  In ten years' time, I want us all to look back and say, the price was too high to get where we are today - but aren't we glad we have made it this far?