‘We came, we saw ... he died’

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPEAK UP - BY ERIC S. MAR­GO­LIS

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.

Com­ments: let­ters@the­sundaily. com

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.