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Gaddafi's "do you understand me?" speech - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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According to what transpired in Tunisia and Egypt, and many other Arab countries that are experiencing unrest, Colonel Gaddafi was supposed to come out and issue a speech to the Libyan people in the same manner as former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who famously said “I understand you!” However what happened was the complete opposite, and rather Gaddafi spoke to his people in the manner of “do you understand me?”

What was notable in Gaddafi’s speech was that it was the Libyan Colonel who escalated his demands to the people, not vice versa, giving them a deadline to respond; otherwise he would announce a “holy march” to cleanse Libya. What is also notable is that Colonel Gaddafi did not say that he would not continue in office, or promise that there would be no hereditary succession [in Libya], or that there would be a new start in the country…but rather he promised that he would remain in power until he died. Colonel Gaddafi said “If I were president I would have thrown my resignation in your faces [but I have no position to resign from].” Colonel Gaddafi also indicated that there would be hereditary succession in Libya, as he repeatedly stated that anybody who wants to discuss legal and legislative issues should speak with his son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi!

Colonel Gaddafi’s speech suggests that the regime in Libya is experiencing its final moments. From his speech it was clear that Gaddafi was no longer in control of many cities and indeed regions in Libya; and he [also] attempted to woo the Libyan tribes by any means necessary, to the extent that he listed the names of [prominent Libyan] families. However his speech also points to something far more frightening and this is that the people of Libya will face difficult and dangerous days ahead, and God only knows how bad this will be. Colonel Gaddafi explicitly threatened his own people, saying that he is prepared to fight to the last drop of blood, and this means that the regime will pursue a scorched earth policy in the event of the Libyan people not responding to Colonel Gaddafi’s demands, not vice versa.

Therefore, as we mentioned above, Gaddafi’s speech was not an “I understand you” speech but rather a “do you understand me?” speech, and it is clear that Colonel Gaddafi’s view of Libya is based on the axiom “I am the state…and the state is me.” After issuing a series of falsehoods and insults against the protestors, calling them traitors and rats and describing them as followers of Bin Laden, and then later as agents of foreign intelligence agencies, Colonel Gaddafi reminded the Libyan people that he was responsible for creating Libya, and the Libyan people, even stating that some people were confused about the name of Libya. All of this confirms that the Libyan regime is prepared to do anything to hold onto power, even if this leads to the destruction of the country.

It was also notable that Colonel Gaddafi told the Libyan people that they had the right to demonstrate peacefully so long as this was related to what is happening in the Gaza Strip or Iraq, but not about Libyan domestic affairs! This observation alone reveals the extent of the confusing and absurd policies being pursued by the regime in Tripoli, and other regional states, that base their strategy and legitimacy upon pompous slogans about “the big issues” or “the issues of the [Muslim] ummah”, rather than building their legitimacy by serving their people and respecting their dignity.

Therefore, it is not surprising to hear Colonel Gaddafi tell his people “what has happened to you? This is the evil eye” as he seemed surprised that the Libyan people would protests against, what he himself described, as the glory that Gaddafi had brought to the country! Unfortunately we can do nothing but say “May God protect Libya and its people!”

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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