Thursday, October 27, 2011

One Week Later

Thursday, October 20, 2011, a day that ought to have been one of joy and hope for Libya, has become a dark stain on the people's heroic struggle to rid themselves of tyranny and dictatorship. The manner in which Muammar Gaddafi, a frightened, wounded, pitiful and utterly harmless captive was killed by the victorious mob, threw a fog over memories of his 42 years of violent dictatorship and international crime and mischief.

Great Assholes Of The Past
The doomed man, whom history was destined to be lump together with the likes of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Pol Pot, Macias Nguema Biyogo, Jean Bedel Bokassa and Idi Amin Dada, was given his great wish to die as a martyr. Instead of treating Gaddafi humanely and handing him over to the International Criminal Court, the liberators of Libya did exactly what they accused him of committing  ruthless and wanton murder. Instead of hauling him before the entire world for a televised interrogation and shame, they turned him into a victim-of sorts that earned the pity of those of us who had nothing but contempt for him.
Lining up to view Gaddafi's body

As if the killing of a hapless captive was not enough, the Libyans, including their interim rulers, lined up to gawk at the cold, bullet-riddled corpses of the former dictator and his son. The macabre orgy of click-clicking cameras as Libyans jostled for vantage views of their dead ruler revealed a darkness of heart that was not different from that of the lifeless king of kings who lay half-naked in a meat container in Misrata.

Nobody, not even Gaddafi, deserves to die the way he did. Nobody's corpse, not even Gaddafi's, deserves to be treated the way the supposedly liberated Libyans did to their former leader's remains. I understand the anger of the citizens who have lived in terror for decades. However, a civilized person cannot find joy in the death of another person, not even the death of one whose moral campus was as dangerously faulty as Gaddafi's was. The killers of Gaddafi and the revelers who thronged to the meat container to see his corpse robbed the Libyan people's heroic struggle of the honor that the world had reserved for them.

The obfuscation that has characterized the attempts by Libya's interim Prime Minister to explain the manner of Gaddafi's death suggests that the truth may be in short supply in the new regime. None of this bodes well for the post-Gaddafi period. The understandable celebrations across Libya may soon give way to weeping and gnashing of teeth as Gaddafi's ghost returns to haunt that country. We have examples from other parts of the world where the removal or death of a tyrant has been followed by darker clouds that have left some citizens longing for their old dictator. Post-Obote I and then post- Amin Uganda come to mind. Post-Siad Barre Somalia and post-Samuel Doe Liberia are other examples.

The mistreatment of the captured Gaddafi does not excuse him from just censure and condemnation. Beneath the colorful attire and generosity towards many who now mourn him as a great man, was a cruel dictator whose documented crimes against Libyans and non-Libyans entitle him to a prominent place on the list of humanity's worst rulers. As I watched the initial videos of the captive Gaddafi looking terrified and bewildered, two words came to mind: suicide and coward.

Gaddafi's long suicide began the day he believed his own fantasy of invincibility and entitlement to lifelong rule. His illusion that revolutionaries never give up power left his people no choice but to force him out by any means necessary. He committed suicide when he subjugated the rights of Libyans to his whims and delusions of superiority and indispensability. He committed suicide when he turned his regime into a family affair, handing the lucrative and highly influential positions and opportunities to his offspring and relatives. Libyans were watching. Even those who sang his praises and declared their loyalty harbored anger and envy towards him which could not remain bottled up forever. Like all cowards, Gaddafi used fear to sustain himself in power. His ranting and displays of velour were the camouflage of one who, as we saw on his face in his last moments, was a terrified man afraid of his people.

Stripped of his presidential guard brigade, with his famed killer-women long gone from his side, Gaddafi was as vulnerable a wretch as humanity has produced. The one who wanted to kill the "rats and cockroaches" that had rebelled against him sought his final refuge among real rats and cockroaches in a filthy drain pipe under a road in Sirte. It was a graphic reminder that that was where such men and their ruinous ideas belonged.

His demise should be a lesson to all dictators who have banked their survival on their armed elite guards and nationwide militias and other armed organizations. Nothing beats a genuinely free and democratic society as insurance against a violent end to a leader's tenure at the top. True revolutionaries like America's George Washington and South Africa's Nelson Mandela understood this. They quit long before their countrymen got tired of them.

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