‘We came, we saw ... he died’
SO BOASTED a beaming secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, speaking of the 2011 Western overthrow of Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafi.
She was, of course, shamelessly paraphrasing Caesar’s quote. Clinton should have been rather more cautious in admitting to murder.
Last week marked the fifth anniversary of Gaddafi’s grisly death. He was fleeing in a motor convoy to reach friendly tribal territory when French warplanes and a US drone attacked and destroyed the vehicles. Wounded, Gaddafi crawled into a culvert where he was captured by French and US-backed rebels.
Gaddafi was severely beaten, then anally raped with a long knife. At least two bullets finally ended his suffering. Thus ended the colourful life of the man who wanted to be the second Nasser and leader of a united Arab world. His death was a warning to others trying to challenge the Middle East status quo I call the American Raj.
I was invited to interview Gaddafi in 1987 at his Tripoli headquarters in the Bab al-Azizya barracks. This was one year after the 1986 US air attacks on the barracks that sought to assassinate Gaddafi. But that night, the “Leader”, as he liked to be called, went to his Bedouin tent in the courtyard and thus escaped death – for a time.
A US 2,000lb bomb came crashing through the roof of the barracks right onto the bed where Gaddafi usually slept, often with his two-year-old adopted daughter. The girl died.
Gaddafi led me by the hand through the ruined building, asking me “why Mr Eric did the Americans try to kill me?” I explained: his support of the Palestinians, Nelson Mandela, the Irish Republican Army, and Basque separatists. For Gaddafi, they were legitimate freedom fighters.
Gaddafi or at least his intelligence chief, the sinister Abdullah Senussi, was accused of being involved in the downing of a French UTA and US Pan Am airliner. Libya financed antiFrench movements in Paris-dominated West Africa and the Sahel.
Chad became a flashpoint between Paris and Tripoli. The former head of French intelligence, Count Alexandre de Marenches, told me president Francois Mitterand ordered him to bomb Gaddafi’s personal jet, then changed his mind. The British also tried to kill Gaddafi by means of a large car bomb in Benghazi.
Eventually, Libya buried the hatchet with its Western foes, though Gaddafi remained highly annoying to the former colonial powers and a fierce critic of the Saudis.
I’ve often been asked what Gaddafi was like. He was a simple Bedouin born in a tent. Gaddafi was disgusted by the poverty and corruption of the Arab world, and its exploitation by the Americans, French and British. He saw himself as a champion of Palestinian rights, and Libya as the leader of modernised Africa.
But he was also a dreamer who often had fanciful schemes, like the Great Man-made River to draw artesian water from the Sahara. He loved to insult his fellow Arab leaders. Gaddafi was theatrical and flamboyant and loved to show off.
After spending an evening with Gaddafi, I told him, tongue in cheek, “Leader, we may bomb you but I must confess our women think you are the most handsome and dashing Arab leader.” He beamed and showed me some of his Italian-tailored faux combat wear and kid-skin boots. At times he seemed like a kid in a toy store – zany but also serious and determined. According to his many critics, Gaddafi was a dangerous, anti-Western megalomaniac.
He was also vilified and demonised by the Western media, a process that happened to all third world leaders who refuse to accept Western dictates.
Gaddafi was quietly cooperating with the US when the Arab Spring erupted in Tunisia. Secretary Hillary Clinton and her neocon advisers decided to seize advantage of Middle East turmoil and overthrow Gaddafi.
A new “colour revolution” was unleashed by the Western powers. Protests were organised in Benghazi, always an anti-Gaddafi stronghold, by CIA, French intelligence and Britain’s MI6. Western special forces attacked Libyan military positions. The UN was gulled into calling for “humanitarian intervention to supposedly save civilian lives”.
France led the military intervention. Gaddafi’s son, Seif, had claimed that his father had helped finance French president Nicholas Sarkozy’s election. The vindictive Sarkozy intended to shut up the Gaddafis.
Western special forces intervened behind a popular uprising. Gaddafi’s rag tag forces quickly collapsed and rebel groups seized power, murdering Gaddafi in the process.
The West got Libya’s high grade oil and was rid of a thorn in its side. Gaddafi told me that if he were overthrown, Libya would splinter into its tribal mosaic – which is what happened. Chaos reigns as warlords backed by the US, France, Britain, Italy and Egypt – and a small IS contingent – fight over bleeding Libya. Decades of development that made Libya Africa’s leader in health care and education were wiped away.
The template for the overthrow of Gaddafi – aka “regime change” – was next used in Syria, with more destructive results but less success. Expect to see more colour revolutions when Clinton takes over the White House.
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