A journalist remembers her days in Libya with James Foley

JFandCGintruckClare Morgana Gillis at The American Scholar:

BENGHAZI, April 2011–A large and detailed map of Sirte hung on the wall of the general’s office where James Foley and I conducted what turned out to be our last interview before our capture by Qaddafi’s troops, leading to an involuntary stay in Tripoli. The general—I forget his name–smoked cigarettes in a natty holder and explained his strategy for taking the town, almost exactly halfway between Benghazi, the rebel capital, and Tripoli, the regime stronghold, on the narrow, brush-lined coastal road. It had served as the front line when the British fought the Axis powers during World War II: “a tactician’s paradise, a quartermaster’s hell,” one of Rommel’s generals called it. Now it was where columns of rebel gun trucks beat hasty retreats once regime Grad missiles started thunking down, and the front line that had once spanned nearly to Bin Jawwad had been pushed back to somewhere around Brega. Sometimes those small cities changed hands twice in the same day.

The general’s take on rebel capabilities was a few shades brighter than our own, but Jim was enthusiastic anyway and showed up the next morning with a bag packed for Sirte. I raised my eyebrows and scratched my head. “Are you joking me?” He smiled sheepishly and left his bags in my room, both of us taking only small backpacks.

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