Here's AJEnglish describing events in Tripoli six hours ago (around 3AM Eastern Daylight Time):
When AJE says "heavy artillery" he really means heavy machine guns, from the sound of it. My take-away from his audio report is that Libyan military and police units have not joined the protesters in Tripoli, the protesters there aren't using weapons, and, although there has been heavy sustained gunfire, the military hasn't resorted to air power such as helicopter gunships (much less artillery).
From other audio reports I gather that there is still a heavy security presence around key sites in Tripoli, including Qaddafi's main residence, but that some police stations and other government buildings are on fire.
That all suggests that Qaddafi's military is not willing or able to intervene decisively, which, if true, means his regime is finished.
The U.S. Embassy is surely on lock-down today, and planning to evacuate. Just as surely, local security forces detailed to the embassy will be absent or ineffective, and our local employees will be sheltering at their homes. I'm certain we're doing everything possible to keep the entire embassy community safe while they ride out the storm of revolution.
Speaking of revolutions - really, counter-revolutions, since Qaddafi's is a revolutionary regime - I've been looking back at the end of Ceausescu in 1989, which came about after a week-long popular uprising. The general who stepped up and did what had to be done to finish that regime was interviewed by the BBC two years ago, and he had a striking thing to say:
As minister of defence on 25 December 1989, Stanculescu oversaw the trial and execution of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu, the president and first lady of Romania, his own commander-in-chief.
Was the very brief trial and verdict just, necessary or both?
"It was not just, but it was necessary," says Stanculescu.
"If we had left it to the people of Bucharest, they would have lynched them in the street."
Interesting point. The only way to remove an absolute ruler is absolutely, and until that is done, the popular forces that rejected his authority will seek other outlets to satisfy their sense of justice. In Romania, a quick show trial made the difference between a week-long overthrow of a tyrant and a collapse into anarchy.