Thursday, 3 March 2011
Colonel Gaddafi - "the bell tolls for thee" (What do we do with a mad dictator?)
Over the past few weeks Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi has increasingly defied logic, convention and sanity with his unfathomable outbursts, laughable television appearances and desperate attempts to continue his discredited and baseless rule in the North African state. During an interview with the BBC on Monday Gaddafi - who has been the unquestioned ruler of Libya since leading a coup in 1969 - pushed the bounds of rationality with his bizarre claim that despite the mass protests against his rule across the country, the fact that forces openly in opposition to his government have control in some areas, and he has all but lost the goodwill of the vast majority of the Libyan people, his is 'still loved' by 'his people.' When asked if he would consider leaving Libya, in the face of the overwhelming and continued opposition to his fragmenting government, Gaddafi laughed and replied: "As if anyone would leave their homeland." The interview continued in much the same bizarre vein, Gaddafi incredibly attempting to portray himself as a 'man of the people', apparently keen for the assembled media and millions subsequently watching the clip to forget the events of the past 41 years, the time in which the disgraced dictator has so far held power in Libya.
Watch the BBC interview with Colonel Gaddafi, posted on 28 February 2011, at the following address: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12603259
Having said this, some would perhaps agree with his claim that about the manner in which Western leaders, previously supportive and accepting of Gaddafi during, as the BBC put it, his 'rapprochement' with the civilised world, most notably economic agreements with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, amongst others, have conducted themselves throughout this entire affair. Gaddafi said, when pressed on the issue: "Of course it's betrayal, they have no morals." Whilst such a moral indictment may seem frankly laughable from a leader willing to 'fight until the last man', in an effortless devaluation of the sanctity of human life, he does somewhat have a point. Western leaders previously on speaking, even friendly terms, have been very quick to condemn Gaddafi and his undemocratic, unrepresentative and repressive rule in Libya, but it appears that such principles as they are currently displaying have been either newly-found or newly-rediscovered, as they didn't seem quite so important ten years ago. Naturally the Western world and its media, so powerful and influential as primary sources of information for millions of people, are quick to set agendas and constantly feel the need to group people into 'good' and 'bad' categories, but the about-turn performed by the United States and Britain in particular seems rather farcical and slightly hypocritical to say the least.
Gaddafi proceeded to outdo himself, claiming that he had 'no real power' in Libya and that whatever position he held was not official nor did it involve a title, suggesting some sort of symbolic or ceremonial role that the rest of the world has somehow managed to misconstrue into something completely different due to our supposed agenda against himself, and 'his people.' The use of a completely fact-devoid attempt at drawing a parallel with Britain was the next factual faux pas Gaddafi committed, when he asked: "Who holds the power in Britain, Queen Elizabeth or David Cameron?" Perhaps he is unfamiliar with the history and politics of Britain so, to summarise, David Cameron does, obviously. Next question please. Gaddafi was then challenged, and turned the challenge upon his unfortunate interviewer, who had already by this point had to sit through minutes, which must have felt like hours, of the Libyan dictator's unbridled madness. Having been asked directly about the protesters on the streets, who had claimed (rightly) that they'd been shot at by 'those with authority to do so', Gaddafi paused for what seemed like an eternity (presumably the camera crew and interviewer left for dinner and returned in time) before saying, astonishingly, that nobody was on the streets of Libya. So it appears that our eyes have been deceiving us all this time, as part of a huge conspiracy organised by the people of Libya and the international media, to invent stories of revolt and uprisings in this stable, democratic, even 'happy', country.
The bounds of reality were pushed in the last few minutes of the interview. Having provided, at Gaddafi's indignant request, times and dates for protests, generously stated to have been 'in favour' as well as staunchly against the Libyan leader, Gaddafi released the following mind-blowingly false riposte: "No one [is] against us. Against me for what? Because I am not [the] President. They love me, all my people [are] with me, they love me, all." He followed this up with: "They will die to protect me, my people." At this point a new theory occured, suddenly out of the abyss into which Gaddafi's deliberate misinformation had dragged me. Perhaps he has been stuck in a time-warp. Maybe it's still 1969 in Libya and he, like Robert Mugable would be in 1980, is a national hero and a figure of exaltation, a 'liberator of his people.' Yet then I realised that this was impossible, and set to work watching the last agonising couple of minutes of this most extraordinary of interviews. He stated, presumably not in sound mind but in the knowledge of this group's activities and high international profile, that those who had taken Benghazi in the north west of the country, and formed an interim government, were members of notorious terrorist group Al Qaeda. Naturally. For the United States would ally itself with a group widely suspected of having been involved in plots to carry out atrocities on American soil (well if you believe the conspiracy theorists...). Talking of conspiracy theories, and this is quite a developed and spectacular one, Gaddafi proceeded to outline the basic methods by which Al Qaeda stirred up the, let's call it a 'minor incident', in the country. Firstly, according to Gaddafi, they seized weapons from military basis. Secondly they drugged youngsters, who were mostly in possession of these arms, and coerced them into terrorising the population. Yet there is some good news, apparently these 'drugs' are wearing off now and the youngsters are laying down their arms. Presumably, if Gaddafi's scaremongering, ludicrous rumours are to be true, they must be painful to carry with all the needle marks in them.
What, if anything, has this particular episode, and I use the term loosely, in no way intended to be connected to the word 'psychiatric', revealed to us about the state of mind of one of the world's last 'great' dictators? For Europe had Nicolae Ceausescu, Africa has Mugabe, Asia has Kim Jong Il, and Cuba has Fidel Castro, and now North Africa has its very own mental case in charge of an army seemingly willing to continue siding with him and continue repressing a population in dire need of either weapons with which to fight Gaddafi, or sedatives with which to attempt to cure him. The stresses of high level office are clear, Tony Blair's rather jaded appearance upon stepping down after just ten years as British Prime Minister - which made him a veritable part-timer compared to others such as Josip Broz Tito and Omar Bongo - is a clear indication of this. Yet Gaddafi's case must surely represent some sort of landmark for insanity. Unless of course it's an elaborate cover-up. For surely no leader in such dire straits, who has clearly lost the goodwill and even tolerance of his people, could claim that the country he so narrowly still rules 'loves him' unanimously, one and all, every man, woman and child. So what should the West do now? Leave the Libyans to it? After all the United Kingdom has, in a rather bumbling and 21st-Century manner, rescued its citizens from the country. Therefore surely it should have nothing more to do with the Libyan conflict, merely release patronising statements along the lines of 'we are with you Libya' whilst the madness continues, and innocent lives are sacrificed in the name of one man and his desperate attempts to continue his stranglehold on power. Personally I cannot agree with such a policy, but as the past twenty years have lamentably shown, when it comes to the Western world, 'our' lives matter far more than 'theirs' do.
Photos courtesy of (in order): Newsy, Horgan, TNT Magazine, Radio Netherlands Worldwide