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Why the Colonel has got to go - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Colonel Gaddafi is a strange subject. From day one, he has countered all demonstrations lodged against him with bullets, waged a fierce war against all the cities that joined the uprising against him, and killed thousands of people using planes, tanks, rocket-launchers and naval warships. Having committed all these atrocities, we now see him screaming that the raids launched against his forces, following the UN Security Council resolution, are “barbaric” and “leading to civilian deaths”. How can people believe that Gaddafi cares for civilian lives, after the world saw and heard him ordering his battalions to “attack the rats” and kill them “without mercy or pity”, during his threatening speech against the people of Benghazi? It was these threats that led to the issuance of the UN Security Council resolution to militarily intervene to protect civilians.

Gaddafi’s remarks are not out of fear for his civilians’ lives, but for his own. He bears the responsibility for what is happening today, because his oppressive acts against his people led to this international intervention. He first internationalized the crisis when he recruited mercenaries from all over the world to repress his people, abuse them, and kill them without mercy. He did not hesitate to use foreign security companies – and there are even reports that these included an Israeli company – in order to recruit mercenaries. He also hired public relations firms to assist in the management of media and political campaigns, which were fought in defense of his authority, and not in defense of his people.

The man is floundering today, whilst his regime is tottering. When speaking to foreign correspondents, he denied that the demonstrations were against him, because all his people love him, saying that if there were any demonstrations they would be in support of the regime. He made these statements whilst the entire world watched Libyan cities demonstrating against his regime, calling for its downfall, and tearing up his Green Book. A few days ago, the Colonel tried to seduce the West by saying that he is fighting the Al Qaeda organization and terrorism, yet once he saw signs of military movement against his forces following the UN Security Council resolution, he began to threaten that he would join forces with al-Qaeda. Sometimes he claims to be akin to a policeman, protecting the security of the Mediterranean, Europe and even Israel, and then at other times claims the Mediterranean has become an open battlefield, and that he may undertake retaliatory military measures [against Mediterranean targets]. He also boasts of being the African “King of Kings”, then goes on to claim that he is protecting Europe from immigration and that if he ceased to do so, the European continent would “turn black”. He warns of the West controlling Libya’s oil, and plundering its wealth, meanwhile he was the one who was using oil contracts as incentives for countries not to stand against his regime and not to support the UN resolution for military intervention against his forces. Yet Gaddafi has forgotten that he placed the Libyan people’s oil wealth into Western bank accounts, and the freezing of his overseas assets has uncovered accounts and real estate worth billions of dollars that can be traced to him and his children.

I do not know how many times Gaddafi has repeated himself in recent speeches, saying that he holds no official position, that he handed power over to the people in the 1970s, and that if he had a position, or if he was President, he would throw his resignation in the protesters faces. Yet despite this, we see him and his children desperately clinging onto power, fighting for it until “the last woman and child”. His orders were clear for his military battalions, led by his sons, to hunt down and kill what he described as rats, without mercy. All of this was in defense of power that he claims is only “ceremonial” in the first place. However despite this, we have seen and heard him issue all the commands and public directives to wage war on his opponents, enter their homes, and kill his own people whom he does not consider more than “stray dogs”, simply because they are tired of his regime, which has oppressed them for more than 41 years. We have heard about the killings, the indiscriminate shelling and shootings, and the mortar fire, which took place after Gaddafi’s battalions stormed some cities and attempted to force entry into Benghazi and Misrata. We have also heard fears of a massacre in the city of Zawiya, which the Gaddafi forces stormed after a long siege and heavy fighting, isolating it from the outside world so that nobody can be certain about what happened there.

No sane person wants to see foreign intervention in an Arab country – even though in this case it was sanctioned by a UN Security Council resolution – but it is Colonel Gaddafi who has brought this intervention upon his country. How tragic it is to see the Colonel, up to this very minute, trying to destroy his people, and ignite a civil war. He called for various tribes to start a green march “carrying olive branches” on Benghazi to solve the problems “in a peaceful manner.” However just a few hours earlier, Gaddafi had been calling for his arms reserves to be distributed amongst the people, to confront who he labeled traitors. Why did he not confront the peaceful demonstrations from the beginning with olive branches, instead of bullets and shelling?

Gaddafi’s regime has lost its legitimacy after the deaths of thousands of its people, and because of the horrors and crises it has brought upon the country today. If he manages to retain power, he will later wreak vengeance on his people. This will also raise problems for neighboring countries, when Gaddafi returns to his adventures and terrorism which squandered the wealth of the Libyan people and brought sanctions upon his country, resulting in billions of dollars in compensation being paid to victims’ families, to ensure there was no prosecution.

Thus the Colonel and his regime must leave; the good people of Libya deserve –without doubt – better leadership, and better lives.

Osman Mirghani

Osman Mirghani

Osman Mirghani is Asharq Al-Awsat's former deputy editor and senior editor-at-large.

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