Gadhafi's Evil Outlives Him
by AMIR TAHERI
October 25, 2011
“We found him hiding in a hole,” says Muhammad al-Bibi, the man who led the detail that captured Col. Moammar Gadhafi. “He raised his hands as a sign of surrender and shouted: ‘Don’t shoot!’ ”
Thus, the man who ruled Libya with an iron fist for 41 years became the second Arab despot, after Saddam Hussein, to be found hiding in a hole in his hometown.
Found during the final battle for Sirte, his native town, the colonel was killed there and his corpse taken to Misrata, a city he’d turned into a pile of rubble last summer.
Al-Bibi, hailed as the slayer of the dragon, was wearing a Yankee cap and brandishing a gun seized from Gadhafi’s mercenaries. “Now I hope I can go back to my life,” he told reporters.
And this is what most Libyans hope for.
The way things turned out in Misrata was not what Gadhafi had hoped for. Right to the end, he remained a prisoner of his illusions.
For four decades, he had heard men and women shouting themselves hoarse with promises of dying for him. For four decades, he had distributed vast sums of money, generated by Libya’s huge oil exports, among a few hundred thousand individuals who were supposed to fight for him to the end. The colonel claimed to have “an army of Omar Mukhtars” under his command, named after a bandit who became a local hero by fighting Italian colonialists in 1912.
Yet the first city to rise against Gadhafi was Tobruk — Omar Mukhtar’s birthplace. Then as each city rose against him, the colonel promised to fight back from another. And as the final battle for Sirte reached its denouement, the only foreign voice in his support was that of France’s neo-fascist leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.
“He is fighting for dignity on behalf of us all,” Le Pen ranted.
I first met Gadhafi in Cairo in 1970, just a year after he seized power. He chewed the fashionable ideas of the 1960s like a kid in a candy shop: “fighting imperialism,” “ending capitalism,” “worldwide revolution.” I thought that the colonel was just another juvenile idealist soon to be mugged by reality. Over the years, events showed that I had underestimated his penchant for self-delusion.
He saw himself as leader of what he termed “the Arab Awakening” and proposed unification, under his leadership, with a half-dozen Arab countries. All declined. Then he projected himself as the man who would create “the United States of Africa” and started bankrolling despots in sub-Saharan Africa.
Dreaming of himself as “the guide of global revolution,” he financed terrorist groups in Africa, Asia and Europe. In 1975, he tried to promote himself as the Caliph of Islam, competing with the Ugandan despot Idi Amin, who also wanted the job. In 2000, he told the Arab Summit that he was “a global leader, the Dean of Arab rulers, the King of Kings of Africa and the Imam of all Muslims. My international status does not allow me to descend to a lower level.”
That Gadhafi wasted Libya’s chances of progress for four decades may be stating the obvious. Far graver is the possibility that he may leave behind the wreck of a nation. It may be that overthrowing Gadhafi was the easiest part of the challenge that Libyans set for themselves when they rose against him almost nine months ago.