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Gaddafi: The inevitable end | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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London, Asharq Al-Awsat – “What is happening? What is happening? My children, will you kill me? My sons, I am Gaddafi…the leader…what are you doing?” These are the harrowing last words of the self-proclaimed doyen of Arab leaders, African King of Kings, and Commander of the Faithful, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who was killed in Libya on Thursday at the hands of Libyan rebels who had risen up against his brutal regime.

Muammar Gaddafi was the longest serving Arab and African leader when his regime was toppled in late August 2011, having ruled Libya since 1969. Ever since he ousted King Idris I in a bloodless coup at the age of 27, Muammar Gaddafi – who styled himself as Libya’s “brother leader” and the “Guide of the Revolution” – ruled Libya with an iron fist. However his almost 42 year rule came to an end following a 6-month uprising, which took part as part of the broader “Arab Spring” that had bloomed in the Middle East in 2011, toppling three long-standing Arab regimes at last count.

Muammar Gaddafi was born in 1942 in the coastal city of Sirte. He reportedly attended Benghazi University, before dropping out to join the Libyan army. Gaddafi was a great admirer of Egyptian leader – and proponent of Arab nationalism – Gamal Abdel Nasser, and he sought to emulate the Egyptian leader’s Free Officers Movement in Libya. Gaddafi first started planning to overthrow the Libyan monarchy during his time as a military cadet, and on 1 September 1969 the so-called [Libyan] Free Officers Movement [named after the Egyptian revolutionary movement] seized control of the country in a bloodless coup, ousting King Idris I who was out of the country receiving medical treatment in Turkey.

Gaddafi then established the twelve-person Revolutionary Command Council [RCC] – which he chaired – to govern post-revolutionary Libya. The Libyan revolution was initially greeted enthusiastically by the Libyan people, and Gaddafi’s Arab nationalist rhetoric proved popular during the early days of his rule.

In the 1970s, he laid out his “Third International Theory” political philosophy in his “Green Book” which charted his home-grown philosophy based on a pan-African, pan-Arab, and anti-imperialist ideals, blended with aspects of Islam.

In the late 70s, Gaddafi established the Jamahiriya system in Libya in which power was held by hundreds of so-called “people’s committees.” The centerpiece of this new system was the General People’s Congress [GPC], a national representative body that replaced the RCC. By March 1979 the GPC had announced “the separation of the state from the revolution”, with Gaddafi relinquishing his duties as Secretary-General of the RCC. From that time, he was known as the “brother leader” and the permanent “leader of the revolution”, not official holding any position within the Libyan state.

However in reality Gaddafi remained in firm control of the Libyan state, not to mention the economy, the media, and indeed all aspects of Libyan society. Responding to the calls for him to step down from power during the early days of the Libyan popular revolution in 2011, Gaddafi made reference to this, saying that he did not hold any official position in the Libyan state to resign from.

The erratic Libyan leader had a complicated relationship with the West and the rest of the Arab world. As soon as he took over control of Libya in 1969, he ordered the immediate shutdown of American and British military bases. He also demanded that the foreign oil companies operating in Libya increase the Libyan state’s share of profits, whilst in 1970 he expelled the Italian settlers in Libya.

Gaddafi enjoyed a strong relationship with Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, and Egyptian intelligence thwarted a planned coup against Gaddafi in December 1969. During an Arab League meeting held in Cairo shortly before his death, Nasser is reported to have said “I rather like Gaddafi. He reminds me of myself when I was that age.” Gaddafi sought to take over the mantle of Arab nationalism following the death of the Egyptian leader.

However relations between Gaddafi and Nasser’s successor, Anwar Sadat, were less cordial, particularly after Sadat began to pursue peace with Israel. This even resulted in a short Libyan – Egyptian War in 1977.

The late Libyan leader also had a particularly complicated relationship with THE Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz. In 2004, Colonel Gaddafi sponsored an assassination attempt against the then Crown Prince Abdullah, whilst in 2009 a heated exchange between the Saudi monarch and the late Libyan leader was recorded at an Arab summit meeting in Doha. King Abdullah strongly censured the former Libyan leader, who walked out of the summit.

Gaddafi pursued a policy of anti-imperialism throughout his rule, backing a number of militant groups, including the Irish Republic Army [IRA], the Palestinian Liberation Organization [PLO], and others.

US President Ronald Reagan famously labeled the Libyan leader a “mad dog” and the US responded to Libya’s alleged involvement in the 1986 bombing of a Berlin nightclub in which two US soldiers were killed with air strikes on Tripoli and Benghazi.

However the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, otherwise known as the Lockerbie bombing, represents the most well-known and controversial attack sponsored by the Gaddafi regime. Gaddafi denied involvement in this attack for many years, resulting in UN sanctions and international isolation.

In 2003, the Gaddafi regime formally accepted responsibility for the attack and paid compensation to the families of the victims. 2003 was also the year in which the Gaddafi regime came in from the cold, agreeing to relinquish its weapons of mass destruction in return for international recognition.

In September 2004, then US President George W. Bush formally ended the US trade embargo against Libya. The normalization of Libya’s relations with Western powers allowed the Libyan economy to grow, and Libya’s oil industry particularly benefited from this.

However Gaddafi’s return from international isolation was not without problems. In September 2009, Gaddafi visited the US for his first appearance at the UN General Assembly where in an hour long speech – which was supposed to last no longer than 15 minutes – he tore up a copy of the UN charter and accused the UN Security Council of being a terrorist body similar to Al Qaeda.

Gaddafi became increasingly famous for his bizarre and outlandish behaviour and conduct. He surrounded himself with a team of female bodyguards, met foreign dignitaries in a Bedouin tent, and at one political summit in Belgrade, turned up with two horses and six camels. This is not to mention his Bizarre rhetoric during the Libyan uprising in which he claimed that the Libyan rebels were drinking drugged Nescafe, and compared them to rats, cats, and cockroaches.

In May 2011, International Criminal Court [ICC] Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo sought the arrest of the Libyan leader for crimes against humanity. The prosecutor said that Gaddafi bore responsibility for “widespread and systematic attacks” on civilians.

As the Libyan rebels marched on Sirte, the sole remaining Gaddafi stronghold in Libya, Muammar Gaddafi sought – once more – to escape those who had risen up against his brutal rule, fleeing his hometown in a large convoy of cars. However NATO targeted his escape route, and Gaddafi, reportedly bleeding and injured, found himself in the midst of those he had labeled “rats” and “cockroaches.”

Footage continues to emerge of the Libyan leader’s last moments; he can be seen jostled and paraded before a crowd of victorious Libyan rebel fighters who are chanting “God is great…God is great!” Later footage shows his lifeless corpse, stripped to the waist, and what appears to be a gun-shot wound to his head. His body was later paraded through Misrata – the birthplace of the Libyan revolution – as the crowing Libyan rebels chanted “the blood of the martyrs will not go in vain.”

Muammar Gaddafi, the self-proclaimed doyen of Arab leaders, the African King of Kings, and Commander of the Faithful, was a difficult and erratic leader, moreover, it was his brutal and ruthless treatment of the Libyan people that guaranteed his inevitable demise. As for the future of Libya, that remains to be seen.