Anatomy of a Despot: Colonel Muammar Abu al-Gaddafi

Colonel Muammar Abu al-Gaddafi (معمر القذافي) is a very disturbed man.

At one time he was a vibrant young Libyan leader who seized power quietly in 1969, initially disavowing Marxism, somewhat reminiscent of Castro’s disingenuous pledges a decade earlier.

I followed Gaddafi’s rise as a charismatic revolutionary who cleverly engineered a bloodless military coup d’état on September 1, 1969 establishing the Libyan Arab Republic.

Gaddafi is cunning as well as patient, stranding the ailing King Idris I of Libya in a Turkish Hospital in August, forcing the ailing Monarch into exile and quickly deposing his nephew the Crown Prince Sayyid Hasan ar-Rida as-Mahdi as-Sanuss.  This is recalled as a personally gratifying experience for Gaddafi as in contrast he was born in a simple Bedouin (بدوي) tent in the desert near Surt. He went to the lengths of having the King’s father’s body disinterred and spread the desiccated remains across the sands outside of Tripoli, for that tribal touch.

Muammar was first amongst equals throughout his career as an officer.  He made his impressive ascension to dictator via the military cadet corps skilfully exploiting the solitary avenue accessible to Bedouin aspirants to power.

Intent on restoring Libya’s honour after the Israeli triumph in the Six Days War, Muammar and like minded cadets secretly colluded, preparing the overthrow of the Monarchy while attending the Military Academy in Benghazi. This cabal developed into the Libyan Revolutionary Command Council and supplanted all rivals.

Gaddafi was an extraordinarily young leader at 27, with chiselled features emerging upon the world stage exuding a presence of confident command. He attired himself in extravagant uniforms and presented a striking subject for the camera, dissimilar to the Thorazine® deprived countenance we regard today.

Initially he was a purported anti-Marxist thus went barely acknowledged by the US and Britain who were regional stakeholders, but sadly he was left in the sun to rot.

The colourful Colonel was scrutinized closely from more than military perspectives as he was immensely attractive to women. ‘Radical Chic’ was rubbing shoulders with revolutionaries circa 1970 and espoused by celebrities. Muammar’s flamboyance and looks lent to his bad boy appeal. Young Jane Fonda openly visited North Vietnamese troops at a time of war with the USA, now old Jane laments.

Muammar envisioned himself the next Che Geuvara beginning his masterful choreography of the world media, claiming to be the saviour of Libya.

He quietly plundered Libya’s resources to clandestinely create terrorist training facilities and camps, providing land, money and bomb skills for dissidents with a cause. He was going after Israel by any means and terrorism on a broad scale suited his brand of cowardice.

Eventually Muammar began sporting the outlandish attire imaginable at State Occasions, while championing his views on “abolishing Switzerland”.  There is constant speculation as to his mental state but this guy is smart. Sane of course is another question.

Nepotism and genetics now rule Libya with most sons in the family business of tyranny.

He has crippled the Libyan economy from trade sanctions levied in reprisal for terrorism over 41 years in power. Libya is considered a pariah state in all but minor circles. For a time he was father-in-law to the brutal Ugandan dictator Idi Amin establishing the degenerative level of Muammar’s diplomatic status.

Gaddafi is complicit in 25 foreign assassinations of exiled Libyan dissidents.

He has openly paid billions in restitution to the victims of the Lockerbie Bombing of Pan Am 103 personally sponsored by the Colonel himself.  270 innocent lives squandered on a lunatic’s whim and he contemptuously writes a check attempting to gain goodwill in trade for sanction consideration, terming the payments to bereaved families, the “price of peace”.

Libya became a refuge for dissenters of every stripe. Gaddafi promoted hatred of Israel, the west and capitalism and looked for the same in the terrorists that sought his shelter.  The brightest became management, were given money and then a supply of martyrs who were aimed at Israel.

The Libyan Secret Police replicated Hitler’s SS and Pinochet’s death squads in manner and deed. Gaddafi has 15-20% of the population employed as his military security apparatus. Gaddafi’s regime executes dissidents publicly, openly broadcasting the executions on state television as part of your cable package I guess.

He tried to buy into the big leagues but was twice declined by the Peoples Republic of China and by both India and Pakistan as he attempted to covertly purchase nuclear weapons. He has lots of money from oil but countries that do any business with him risk extreme sanctions, Italy excluded.

Gaddafi then reapplied to each for domestic nuclear power plants, which is simply a supply chain to nuclear weapons, establishing that even the most opportunistic of trading nations have limits when it comes to dealing with a mad man. They all declined.

In 2003 it turned out that Libya not Iraq had production programs for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) as well as large arsenals.  Muammar shrewdly chickened out; confessed, concerned only that G.W. Bush’s weapons inspectors might locate the plants and arsenals given the ever increasing activity of drones overhead. Like turning over stolen goods just before the police arrive.

He recognized that if caught red handed he would have provided the lever for outside influence over his Libyan supremacy.  He saw what happened to Hussein over far less. Muammar vowed he was a changed man to the cameras and cleverly got off the hook.

Gaddafi permitted foreign WMD officials to dismantle, neutralize and remove the Libyan chemical cache in a deal brokered by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The indicted Italian politician finessed the turnover of the WMDs extracting an artificial pledge from Gaddafi to amend his ways. Italy buys its oil from Libya.

Last month Gaddafi started shooting his own people.  Chances are he won’t go quietly.