Yesterday, Muamar Khaddafi was killed in his hometown of Sirte. He was wounded in the final battle of the liberation of Libya. He was found hiding in a drainage pipe by the vanquishing combatants. Their hatred for him was so intense that instead of getting him medical attention, they opted to humiliate the dying dictator dragging him through the streets from the back of a pick-up truck.
That was the story yesterday. Today, there are conflicting reports. He is still dead. It is just the circumstances. He may have been in better health upon capture than first reported. Now there are reports that someone shot him in the gut when he was captured and that is the wound that killed him.
Khaddafi was as the LA Tiimes obituary called him in their opening lines. "In the modern pantheon of the world's dictators, Moammar Khaddafi stood apart. Far apart." He was ambitious, ruthless, flamboyant, tough, congenial, calculating, self-serving, charming, and what the LA Times also called "cartoonish."
From afar dictators like Khaddafi, Hussein, Chavez, and Castro can look comical. They rant. They rave. They wear ridiculous uniforms. Some of these characters routinely orate to captive audiences for 4 or more hours. They write little black, red, yellow, or green books of their vision and "insights" that they make everyone in the country read. From afar they look comical and perhaps even harmless. In their countries, however, it is quite the opposite. People are deathly afraid of their ego driven cruelty designed to create loyal cowering subjects. You can be in one minute and being tortured the next. You can be arrested for no apparent reason and perhaps never seen again. Sometimes, the world gets a taste of their mania firsthand like when Khaddafi had that nightclub in Berlin bombed or when he brought down Pan Am 103 blown out of the sky.
Khaddafi was more flamboyant than any of them. Google his name and click on images. His costumes over the years are really something to see. The one pictured here is for some reason my favorite though they are all colorful and comical. He may have been a cartoon character to the world, but to his people, he was as tough, cruel, and ruthless as any of the dictators. He clamped down viciously fighting to his own death when the Arab Spring came to Libya. The world was horrified at his reaction and level of violence he brought to his own people. He was not about to lose power. He was not about to be told by anyone how he should govern or that he needed to make reforms.
Yet, like many others he could be charming. He decided to change and be more of international player especially after the US bombed his country. Khaddafi did convince, until this Libyan Spring, that he was a better global citizen. Once his true colors re-emerged in the past several months, it seems like the entire world turned against him. It seemed like it was what the European NATO countries needed to take the action they had long wanted to take against him. Everyone seemed happy to see him killed today. It is reminiscent of the killing of Bin Laden earlier this year.
He challenged the US a few times over the 40 years he ruled Libya. In the 1980s we challenged him twice. After he bombed the nightclub in Berlin killing and wounding US soldiers, President Reagan authorized an air strike on Libya, targeting Khaddafi’s living quarters. People were killed in this raid including an adopted daughter of Khaddafi. A US government spokesperson was asked if the goal was to kill Khaddafi. I will never forget the answer, “If you bomb someone’s home at 2 in the morning… presumably.”
In the same decade, the United Nations agreed that a country’s territorial extendted to twelve miles from the shoreline. Khaddafi decided to defy this and extend Libya’s to something more. This led to a US – Libya confrontation. The US began flying sorties from Mediterranean based aircraft carriers into the airspace between the UN and Libyan territorial water borders. We did it to challenge and taunt the Libyans i.e. Khaddafi. Two Libyan fighter jets, of Soviet vintage if memory serves me correct, fired on two US fighters. The US jets were beyond the range of the Libyan missiles. The missiles fell into the sea. The funny part to me at the time was that the Libyan jets were within the range of the missiles the US jets were carrying. The US pilots were given the OK to engage. They did. Splash. Splash. Both Libyan fighters were destroyed.
The video that I saw yesterday morning was on the New York Post website was taken with someone’s cell phone and was jumpy and erratic. It should a bloody Khaddafi being manhandled by his captors. He passively waved his hands which was all the resistance he could muster in his weakened state. All the while someone was shouting “Allah Akbar.” He was held by the shoulders at the edge of a pick-up truck. His feet were the only things to be dragging in the street. They were jostling him around and pulling on his hair. They did this instead of getting him medical help. They denied him any kind of show a trial might have afforded.
This morning there were photos of a dead Khaddafi lying in the street. It did not look like the same person as in the video yesterday. So who knows?
Glad he is out of power. Best of luck to the Libyans. May they create a new government that allows the people to live freely and prosper.