Upon the US capturing Saddam Hussein out of a “spider hole” and parading his abject person on TV, Tariq Ali wrote: “My first reaction to the capture of Saddam Hussein was both anger and disgust. Anger with the old dictator who could not even die honourably. He preferred to be captured by his old friends than to go down fighting, the one decent thing he could have done for his country.” Will Muammar Gaddafi, refusing to follow the precedent set by Saddam, be willing and able to do “the one decent thing” left for him to do for Libya?
After all, in the bloom of his youth, Gaddafi was a better man than Saddam, and the early years of his political career were not without genuine achievements: overthrowing King Idris’s monarchy, eliminating the UK and US military bases from Libya, nationalizing the country’s natural resources, building a welfare state. Libya under Gaddafi was also the country that initiated the oil embargo against the US support for Israel during the Yom Kippur war.
Then again, in the twilight of his life, Gaddafi, practically senile, let his children and retainers hollow out the Libyan state, politically and economically, socially and culturally, so much that the right wing of it successfully plotted and staged a coup against it, expropriating and exploiting the legitimate aspirations of freedom-seeking Arab youth who understandably detest the old man for turning their country into something resembling a family business — the coup that is now destroying Libya with the help of NATO and the Gulf Arab royalty. Nearly all the good deeds he ever did for his country (with the one exception of the deposing of King Idris) are now in the process of being undone by his own misdeeds. Let that be an object lesson for all the nations — especially their leaders, including those who may mistakenly believe that making peace with the masters of the universe is the best way to protect themselves — that are on the imperialists’ to-do list.
The undoing of Libya, however, has not been simply the work of the Gaddafis and their former friends turned enemies in league with imperialists. Moscow and Beijing must accept their shares of the blame.
And that is not all. What could have been a tragedy with a touch of Shakespeare, the rise and fall, decolonization and neocolonization, of Libya, has been turned into a farce, not only by the absurd propaganda of the coup leaders and of the Gaddafis, but also by the equally absurd phrase-making of those leftists, especially Arab and Western, who, as mentally decrepit as Muammar himself, didn’t know enough (even after all the relevant facts surfaced) to distinguish revolution from regime change. Cry that we are come to this great stage of fools.
Yoshie Furuhashi is editor of MRZine.