Sandstorm: Libya in the Time of Revolution

Lindsey Hilsum. Penguin Press, $27.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-59420-506-4
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Journalist Hilsum, international editor for Britain’s Channel 4 News, draws on her reporting from the front lines of Libya’s 2011 revolution for this dramatic account. Inspired by Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, Libyans took to the streets in February 2011 to challenge strongman Muammar Gaddafi’s “forty-two years of brutal and capricious rule.” Over the next eight months of “revolutionary conflict,” the author made four trips to Libya to cover the turmoil. Embedded with the rebels, she reports the conflict almost exclusively from their vantage point. However, she is careful not to romanticize them or the revolution itself. Hilsum’s portrait of Gaddafi’s four decades of misrule and support for “militant and terror groups” is devastating, but the opposition is far from pristine. She reports that the rebels’ early “war effort was a shambles” and was only reversed with foreign military intervention. She uncovers evidence of “revenge killing” and random violence among the victorious rebel factions, and warns that the Islamists are in a position to dominate the June 2012 elections for a new constituent assembly. Hilsum concludes with a warning that contrary to Western hopes for a democratic outcome, the “new Libya was a blank canvas.” Though it’s too soon for a definitive account of the Libyan revolution, Hilsum’s early assessment is a timely first draft. Agent: George Lucas, Inkwell Management. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/30/2012
Release date: 05/31/2012
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