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Embers of the fire - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Gaddafi was not joking when he threatened in his latest speech, from the walls [of the Red Castle] in the centre of the capital Tripoli, to transform Libya into embers of fire, in response to the popular revolution. This is what is happening on the ground right now, and evidence indicates that Gaddafi’s departure will not come easily, or before a river of blood has been spilled.

In his discourse over the past 40 years, Gaddafi has adopted revolutionary slogans for the liberation of the entire world, and created the Jamahiriya system, with popular committees he claimed were governed by the people themselves. However, he has since discovered that the people found these slogans to be empty, no more than a cover for an extremely authoritarian regime. Demonstrations were allowed, when they called for the liberation of Cloud Cuckooland, but not even a mere whisper was permitted calling for greater internal freedoms, or to improve living standards in a country rich in oil.

When faced with the current Libyan revolution, what remains of the regime has adopted a threatening tone towards the people: Either it is my [Gaddafi’s] way, or civil war; whereby the tribes would be armed, the country would be divided, and Libya itself would come to an end. In other words, it is a case of an individual versus the people. As for the pro-Gaddafi demonstrations, it is difficult to verify whether they are spontaneous or state-sponsored. This is what foreign reporters observed, who were allowed to enter the country in an initiative to improve Libya’s image to the outside world.

There is something puzzling regarding this phenomenon of leaders who cling on to power at any cost, even if this ruins their country, and results in the deaths of thousands of people. The puzzling thing is that none of these leaders think anything of their behavior, which is how they will be remembered in the history books, and assume that these are the normal affairs of anyone who holds a leadership position.

Suppose that a historian or researcher came along in fifty or one hundred years time, and wanted to research into the era of Gaddafi’s rule, what would they say about him? Was he the leader who brought about a renaissance in his country, and improved its affairs, or was he a leader like Nero, or a dictator who burned his country, and caused significant damage there? The recent events answer this question.

Other questions also present themselves: Do such leaders live in a shell, or in their own world, which makes them perceive things and believe that without their leadership, history would stop, the trees would die, the wind would not blow and the seas would dry up? Why do they not look back through history to find that the country always remains, and that they are in fact mortal? Dozens, if not hundreds, have been in their place before them, and all that remains of them for future generations is their legacy, whether good or bad.

Most likely this shell, which the leader does not come out from day or night, is the product of decades of skewed policies and conditions. This has reached the point whereby the leader no longer sees the curtain close; he is still on stage trying to act, whilst the audience have left the theatre and have begun to boo from outside, demanding a refund on the money they paid.

This is a shell built around the leader by the regime and its beneficiaries, both internally and abroad. Libya would not have reached this critical point if those around the leader had questioned the feasibility of spending all this money abroad, on ambitions to extend his leadership, or on fictitious and imaginary projects, instead of investing the money internally, on development and modernization. Libya is no less wealthy than the Gulf oil states, whilst living standards and per capita income are much lower. [This situation would not have occurred] if someone had raised questions about the validity of wasting time on the Green Book, popular committees, the Jamahiriya, along with other slogans, whilst the Libyan people, and indeed the whole world, know where the real keys to power lie. Or, if these popular committees did indeed represent the people, as the regime claimed, then they would have said that the Libyan people were restless, having observed how the rest of the world lives, and that they want freedom.

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim is Asharq Al-Awsat's deputy editor-in-chief. He is based in London.

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