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Friday, March 4, 2011


The adjective "madman" seems to get appended to Muammar Kaddafi's name the way other names have "Mister" or "Senator" attached. To many, there is no other way to account for his idiosyncrasies. Kaddafi's fashion sense alone is enough to make one doubt his sanity. Imagine the reaction if you wore one of those purple or gold outfits into your next business meeting. And his all-female bodyguard contingent has also raised eyebrows.

Kadaffi's allies over the years have included such notables as Idi Amin, whose father-in-law he was at one point; Jean-Bedel Bokassa, who spent a third of the treasury of the Central African Empire on his coronation ceremony; Mengistu Haile Mariam, who was later convicted of genocide; Charles Taylor, who was later convicted of crimes against humanity in Sierra Leone; and Slobodan Milosevic, who made "ethnic cleansing" a household term.

He has also supported causes as varied as the IRA, the Red Army, and FARC in Colombia. Given the nature of the dictators and causes he has supported, it's hard not to conclude that Kaddafi is, like Julian Assange, basically just a nihilist at heart.

But he is not a nihilist in his own country. Kaddafi's domestic policies have actually been extremely shrewd -- for a dictator who wants to hold on to power by any means possible. There's an expression, "Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get me." In Kaddafi's case, they have been out to get him for a long time, and his paranoia and repressive state machinery, which might seem like overkill to those of us who live in free countries, are exactly what has kept him in power.

Right after ousting of the absent King Idris in 1969, Gaddafi made sure that his government controlled all of the large companies in his country, in a system he referred to as "Islamic socialism." He instituted Sharia law. Kaddafi banned the teaching of foreign languages from school curriculums, and made it illegal to engage in any political conversation with a foreigner. In April 1980 he called for the assassination of all Libyan dissidents living outside the country. (According to Amnesty International, between 1980 and 1987, at least 25 of Libya's critics were killed around the world.) Much like East Germany did, Libya has vast numbers of informants whose job it is to report anybody who engages in any activity or talk which is considered counter-revolutionary. Reportedly as much as 10 to 20% of the population is employed doing this. Dissidents exposed this way are often executed publicly, with the executions rebroadcast on state networks.

The mercenaries hired by Gaddafi are a perfect example of his ruling style. He has hired soldiers from around the world to be part of his armed forces. It is in large part these soldiers who are now killing the Libyan protesters, since many Libyan soldiers have refused to do so. One Libyan pilot reportedly crashed his airplane into the sea rather than fire on his own people; the Serbian pilots have no such compunctions.

So the comedians can smirk and call him "Daffy Khadaffy," but Kaddafi has in fact demonstrated a very effective, if evil, form of sanity.


Anonymous said...

Mad Dog might do well to look for a new moniker, at least until the Mad Dog of the Middle East is history.

Interesting post. As you say, there's nothing crazy about Ghaddafi's evil but effective grip on power. Perhaps the best we can hope for at this stage is that he is taken out by a current supporter who thinks he can become the next revolutionary "hero".


John Craig said...

Thanks Guy.

It's actually pretty amazing when you think about it that he would still be in power 24 years after Lockerbie. I'm not a fan of the US getting into foreign military morasses, but we should have gone after this guy long before we ever went after Saddam Hussein.

Anonymous said...

It seems that MG has learned from history. As I recall the Ottoman sultans used foreign originating troops who had no other domestic loyalties - the janissaries - to guard against threats of domestic rivals. Very understandable that MG should do the same.
(I can't figure out why the Pope still needs Swiss bodyguards, though no doubt they were very valuable in the time of the Borgias.)

John Craig said...

Guy --
Quit showing off your knowledge of history. (Although that is a very good point.)

My guess is that the Pope's Swiss bodyguards do about as much good as do the Queen's Guard outside Buckingham Palace.