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Muammar Gaddafi

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It is often said that people get the government they deserve, but by no stretch of the imagination can the Libyans have deserved Muammar Gaddafi, who at the time of his downfall was the longest-serving ruler in Africa. Son of an illiterate Bedouin herder, Gaddafi had already hatched plans to topple the Libyan monarchy while at college and, after military training in Greece and Britain, led a successful revolution at the age of 27. Like Mao, Gaddafi outlined his political views in a pithy tome: the Green Book. His Islamic socialism was a curious mixture of Arab nationalism, socialist welfare state and religious moral codes, but succeeded only in reducing LIbya from a republic into a jamahiriya — a neologism that means “government by the masses” — a querulous tribalistic quasi-state.

Meanwhile, Gaddafi was left free to practice his interventionist and not inconsequential policies. Libya has donated money for humanitarian causes across Africa and also allowed Africans to travel to the country to find work. It supported African rebels in South Africa and Zimbabwe during apartheid. On the other hand, Gaddafi had supported scores of other baleful rebel movements in Chad, Sudan, Sierra Leone and Liberia. After he had became embroiled in Chad’s Civil War, Gaddafi sent high school pupils to the frontline, telling them that they were going on a field trip. The Irish Republican Army (IRA), Palestinian militants and the forces of former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin had training camps in Libya, although the Irish soon left after facing tight alcohol regulations.

These unseemly connections led to Gaddafi being identified as the world’s premier state-sponsor of terrorism. Implicated in several terrorist attacks including the Munich Massacre of 1972, shooting of protestors from inside the Libyan Embassy in London in 1983, and the Berlin discotheque bombing of 1986, Gaddafi was the “mad dog of the Middle East” to President Reagan, who authorized the bombing of Tripoli, which killed, among many others, Gaddafi’s own adopted daughter. His retaliation was the Lockerbie Bombings of 1988, which consigned Libya into international pariah-hood.

Although his military rank remained uncharged, the colonel subsequently festooned himself with rows after rows of decorations. His delusions of grandeur were also palpable when he tried to create a Federation of Arab Republics (with Egypt and Syria), an Arab-African Federation (with Morocco), and an Arab Islamic Republic (with Tunisia). They lasted five years, two years and two days respectively. As his fellow Arabs failed to support him in the face of international isolation in the 1980s and 1990s, he abandoned pan-Arabism for pan-Africanism. In the recent years, his vision was for a second USA — the United States of Africa, modeled after the EU — with Gaddafi himself as its “King of Kings”.

As his influence dwindled, Gaddafi became more idiosyncratic: he came to dress more and more eccentrically; two years ago, he gave an incoherent speech at the UN; he paid Italian women to study Islam. Bedouin tents, Amazonian bodyguards and an Ukrainian nurse closely accompanied him. Yet, he found limited success in his bridge-building to the West. After he partially atoned for Lockerbie, the new generation of world leaders sought Gaddafi’s help in the War on Terror and energy security. He emerged as the key mediator in negotiations over Western hostages kidnapped in Mali and Niger. He ‘magnanimously’ pardoned Bulgarian nurses accused to spreading AIDS in Libya. In 2009 — the year he chaired the African Union — Gaddafi was also at the G-8 summit, a worthy achievement for the man who was, for the better part of four decades, a bogeyman for the West.

After forty years of repression, Gaddafi’s end came astonishingly fast. As dictatorships to east and west of him crumbled, his position became increasingly untenable. Yesterday, he appeared in a 22-second TV interview, holding an umbrella, sitting in the front seat of a van and denying the rumors that he had fled to Venezuela (above). Preparing a symbolic last stand, he made a speech from his deserted residence, which was aerial bombed in 1986 by the U.S., brandishing his Green Book. Like his own dictatorship, the speech was rumbling and went on far too long; Gaddafi himself looked distant and shabbier than ever before, at last unable to steer the destiny of a nation that had ceased to listen to him, ceased to trust him. To the end, he remained defiant, saying “Colonel Gaddafi is history”. In this judgment at least, he was correct.



Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

February 23, 2011 at 6:11 am

Posted in Obituary, Politics

Tagged with ,

8 Responses

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  1. […] looking particularly un-Presidential, has been all over the place and was used to headline a somewhat premature “obituary” of the man at Iconic Photos.  There are those stories about him living in a tent, hiring […]

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by zituzinc, Nice Links. Nice Links said: Muammar Gaddafi http://bit.ly/gNCxZA […]

  3. It might be a bit premature to put his rule in the past tense just yet. Though as of 10am Wednesday, it seems unlikely to last the next 24hrs.

    The Libyan / Lockabie connection is somewhat suspect. Through they certainly got themselves out of the international dog house by taking the blame, there is real doubt about whether actually did it.

    Chris Tregenza

    February 23, 2011 at 10:17 am

  4. He looks like Jamiroquai!!!


    February 24, 2011 at 2:22 pm

  5. So, Daffy Kadaffy finally went to see Disney world!?
    Well, if not, then he should. Its a great place to flush out your head-gear! Ya know, I had that Crazy Son-of-a in my crossgairs once. Kept Radio-in, “Target in sight, Permission to fire….Permission to fire…” That was in the days when he had the “Tom Jones” hairdoo (Or was that Julio Englasias?…I can remember).

    Well anyways, you know they never wanted the jack-ass dead! He was the only one that they had under their thumb. Well, I should-a Capped his sorry ass anyway. Most I would have got was a written repramand. Hindsight is always 20-20!

    Your Obt. Svt.
    Col. Korn,
    Chief o Mayhem in the Great WW2 an the Cold War,
    Now head o Security an Sanitation,
    OXOjamm Studios.
    P.S. If you think its fun bein tha “Dude who could-a Shot Daffy-Kadaffy”, think again…it ait.

    Col. Korn

    February 28, 2011 at 7:42 am

  6. I would like to finally stop the war, this is definitely not right


    June 8, 2011 at 8:12 pm

  7. […] iconic images of the Arab Spring. By his staunch refusal to step down, Muammar Gaddafi — that umbrella-yielding, youTube meme of a dictator –was determined to fight on and to produce iconic moments till […]

  8. Haha, the West’s fault? Sorry, nothing to do with us, why is it always down to the West? Getting sick of these terror states not taking account of themselves, always blaming white man and the West for all their failings.
    Gaddafi was a maniac, the Libita people dealt with him, and now its our fault?
    How about Africa, Middle East took some account for its mess, stop looking to blame us and then ask us for help.


    December 31, 2014 at 11:13 am

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