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Monday, October 23, 2017

Do You Know Right from Wrong?

by Anastasia (writer), London, October 23, 2011

Credit: Reuters
A Dead Dictator

Mummar Gaddafi was monstrous but he did not deserve to die in such a monstrous fashion, with no pretence of justice.

The pictures are grim, bloody and depressing, the final stages in the life of the Arab world's longest standing dictator. I never thought I could ever have any sympathy for Mummar Gaddafi, but now I do, seeing him treated like that, brutalised by a mob that could not resist taking trophy pictures on their phones, capturing the moment, capturing history, blood to be savoured at leisure.

And those who did not see his end and that of his son Mutassin have been able to queue up in Misrata, children included, to have a look at the remains, masks courteously provided to ward of the stink of rotting flesh. There he is, Colonel Mummar Gaddafi, King of Kings, a bloody corpse, most of his body covered by a blanket, clearly to hide the true nature of his wounds.

It's palpably obvious what happened despite the attempted cover up by the politically embarrassed and impotent National Transitional Council (NTC), the group that supposedly rules Libya, which claimed that he was killed in a 'cross-fire' on his way to hospital. It's a lie. Nothing in the Mad Colonel's life became him so much like the leaving it. He left pleading, pulled from a drain, a bewildered and bloodied old man, asking his baying captors, who called him a dog, if they knew right from wrong.

He certainly didn't; his rule proved that time and again: the way he brutalised his own people proved that, the way he gave support to international terrorism proved that, his involvement in the Lockerbie bombing, the biggest single incident of mass murder in British history, proved that, but his treatment clearly shows that those who have been fighting against him don't know the difference either, something I rather suspect that is set to be proved time and again as the months pass.

The fighting is over; year one of Libya's freedom is being celebrated. And just how is it being celebrated? Yesterday black Africans were being rounded up in Tripoli, the capital, in the belief that they had been mercenaries fighting for the Ancien Régime, on no evidence whatsoever, it has to be said, beyond the colour of their skin. Blindfolded, their hands tightly bound and denied any legal representation, they were seen being driven away to an uncertain fate.

Gaddafi's end, the end of the regime, reminded me of the fate of another dictator, that of Benito Mussolini, Libya's one-time colonial master. He, too, was captured by a militia while he was attempting to flee; he, too, was hated, he, too, was murdered without trial, his body placed on display. The difference is that he wasn't beaten and humiliated beforehand. His death, compared with that of Gaddafi, was almost dignified.

"He was already under arrest and he was hit in the crossfire", Mahmoud Jalil, the 'prime minister', explained. The Sunday reports tell a different story. The ambulance driver who took his body said he was already dead, while another member of the NTC, who preferred to remain anonymous, understandably, I think, said "They beat him very harshly and then they killed him. This is war."

Yes, I suppose it is, a certain type of war, one where captives are tortured and summarily put to death; one person's war; another person's war crime. Oh, but it's alright; this is war, such things happen, and Gaddafi is not a very likeable corpse. Any sophistry is allowed; any justification for murder. This is not a view, of course, taken by Safia, Gaddafi's widow, who is demanding an international inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of her husband and her son.

Andrew Gilligan, writing in today’s Sunday Telegraph, makes a crucial observation; that the dictator's treatment - before and after death - underlines that Libya does not have a government, or a state with functioning standards, only a collection of militias. Who these militias are and what they stand for we will discover in the months ahead, though there is evidence enough of the Islamist character of some of the armed units. What an irony it would be if NATO's bombing campaign, mounted to avoid a massacre in Benghazi, only to see a massacre in Sirte (all civilians are equal but some are more equal than others), allowed malign forces to gain a permanent hold in the country.

Ever since the Colonel's overthrow malign forces, al-Qaeda notably, have been busy shopping at a kind of grand garage sale. "Libya has become an arms bazaar for all the world's leading terrorists.", one Western security official said, "Everyone is trying to get their hands on Gaddafi's weapons. We are in a desperate race against time to prevent them falling into the wrong hands".

We are in a desperate race against time, are we? With no troops on the ground, with no way of controlling the genie released by the bombing, I would hazard that the race is already lost. Last week it was reported that some of the missing missiles had shown up in Gaza. Iran is not to be outdone here, sending teams of Revolutionary Guards to buy as many missiles as they can, weapons, presumably, to be handed over to Hamas and Hezbollah and the other terrorist groups this country supports. International air travel just became a whole lot more dangerous.

I'm looking now at a picture of Tony Blair, also published in today's press. There he is, embracing Mummar Gaddafi, the former Prime Minister and the late dictator in happier times, times when the Western approach to Libya was judged to be a foreign policy 'success', bringing the Colonel in from the cold into the fold.

That was the time when Peter Mandelson, Blair's morally dubious Business Secretary, could enjoy high jinks with Saif, the Colonel's still missing son and heir, in a villa on the Greek island of Corfu, kindly provided courtesy of Nat Rothschild. Then Saif was 'battling for democracy,' at least he was according to Gay Lord Mandelson. This was a time that led to the release of the Lockerbie bomber, which had nothing at all to do, as I once wrote, with shady deals over oil and cosy relations with playboys. My problem, you see, is that I can only take hypocrisy in very small doses.

But in the end we did the moral thing, NATO did the moral thing, bringing the Colonel to 'justice' and passing all power to the people of Libya, which means the NTC, which means militias, which means competing commanders, which means Islamists, which means God knows what.

Meanwhile, celebrating the death of the Colonel along with others on the streets of Tripoli one man told a reporter “It is great news. This is what Allah wanted. Allah chose that he died this way." It's comforting to realise that this man knows the mind of Allah. It might be best, though, to wait to see what Allah decrees for Libya, what future waits. I personally feel that Gaddafi's question will haunt this country for decades to come.



About the Writer

Anastasia is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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20 comments on Do You Know Right from Wrong?

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By Barryfromtexas on October 23, 2011 at 09:08 pm

He deserved worse. He died too quickly in my opinion. He was a combatant in war - they get shot. He was treasonous to his country - they get shot.

No one outside of Lybia has the right to say what is justice for him.

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By Anastasia on October 23, 2011 at 09:29 pm

Oh, he should have been tortured, or tortured more, in the way that he tortured others? Well, it’s a view, certainly, a particularly depressing one, which reduces you to his level. Can you answer the question that he posed, the question that he could never answer when he was alive? I suspect not.

I have the right to say what justice is, understanding it to be a universal concept; I have the ability to separate it from ugly and base concepts of vengeance. By your shallow logic the Nuremberg Trials should never have been held and there should be no attempt at all to establish international standards of justice.

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By integrityseek on October 23, 2011 at 11:46 pm

You are free to talk about justice in a universal sense for that is the right of any free human being, but unless you can walk in the shoes of a Libyan citizen who suffered the inhumanities and atrocities committed by this horror of a human being, you really have no understanding or conception of what it was like to exist under the reign of terror this individual commanded. An equally important universal concept is Kharma, and Kharma, in this case, was a real bitch. You may not agree with the code of Hammurabi....(essentially, an eye for an eye), but, strangely enough the universe thought this to be a fitting punishment for this madman (while you're at it...you might want to check out some history......Mussolini was drawn and quartered by his assailants.....at least this animal's limbs were intact.)

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By Ge Siahaya on October 24, 2011 at 12:21 am

Justice? Well, for most people in his country this is justice. It is horrible to see, yes, but he had done so much worse when he was alive, and how many people under his regime died in much much much worse conditioned than his! What goes around comes around, so there you go... I feel sorry for him, but he deserved it.

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By Anastasia on October 24, 2011 at 08:06 pm

IS, and you might want to pause and reflect before writing. I specifically said that Mussolini’s death was almost dignified compared with that of Gaddafi. I’m perfectly well aware what happened to his remains thereafter. He was not, incidentally, drawn and quartered.

Gaddafi was an animal, was he? Yes, well, that’s the way of perceiving of people we hate, they are dehumanised; they are animals, rats, swine; Ungeziefer, as the Germans said of the Jews, or cockroaches, as the Hutu said of the Tutsi. It’s important to rise above these things, such a way of thinking, otherwise you are no better than…Gaddafi.

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By Anastasia on October 24, 2011 at 08:08 pm

Here is a general observation that I made to a Chinese friend of mine, of some relevance, I think.

There are ways of conducting wars that are free from the standards of savagery that you seem to be promoting. I think it was at the Yalta Conference in early 1945 that, in considering the problem of war crimes and the senior Nazi leadership, Stalin suggested that they should all be shot out of hand. Churchill immediately objected, saying that the British people would never stand for such illegality and brutality, whereupon Stalin backtracked, saying that he was joking (he wasn't). The Nuremberg trials of the senior Nazi leadership were far from perfect but they at least established a standard of justice and, more important, distanced the Allied cause from that of their enemies.

With your argument anything is justified, well, because its war and war is violence. The massacre of Nanking was understandable, along with every other Japanese war crime, well, because, war is violence. Quite frankly I think you’ve missed the point of my article, which was only partially about the murder of Gaddafi. It’s about the character of the new Libya, that reduces itself at the outset to the same levels of barbarism that disfigured the old Libya. Not only that but it made a sickening spectacle out of the whole thing, with those people taking trophy pictures, with children parading before rotting corpses as if they were a fairground attraction. The National Transitional Council could very easily have taken your view, and that of some of those who responded to my Broowaha article, saying that war was violence and Gaddafi deserved to die in the way that he did. But they did not; they attempted to cover up the facts, saying that he was killed in ‘crossfire.’ The fact is they do not have full control over the violent forces unleashed. You think the violence in Libya was ‘positive’ along with that of the French Revolution? My argument was not against violence, the violence of war or the violence of revolution. It simply drew attention to the ugly public death of an old man, a man who really should have been put on trial for his crimes. I don’t really think the gratuitous acts of cannibalism, whereby counter-revolutionaries were eaten during the Cultural Revolution was chiefly intended to please a ‘spiritual leader’; no, this kind of atavistic and sadistic violence is something much more deeply rooted in the human psyche. As for the French Revolution let me give you one example from the Reign of Terror, something I touched on in an article I wrote, headed “I Hate Liberty”. This is an extract. “When the people of the Vendée in the west of France, a peasant community wedded to their traditional Catholic faith, rose against the excesses of ‘liberty’ in early 1794 they were treated with such inhuman savagery that there have been moves to have the repression – which embraced the wholesale massacre of men, women and children – declared an act of genocide. This is hardly surprising when one reads the report that General Francois Joseph Westermann sent to the Committee of Public Safety in Paris; ‘There is no more Vendée... According to the orders that you gave me, I crushed the children under the feet of the horses, massacred the women who, at least for these, will not give birth to any more brigands. I do not have a prisoner to reproach me. I have exterminated all.’ “ Clearly your idea of a ‘step forward in history’, along with your views on violence, will never be mine. Forgive me for saying so, but they are far too Marxist and, ahem, far too Maoist for my taste. Ugliness and savagery are not the best routes to peace and democracy. The violence broke one cruel regime perhaps only to substitute another.

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By justiceforall on October 25, 2011 at 05:16 am

"An eye for an eye ends up making the whole world blind" - M.K Gandhi

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By LaurenK on October 25, 2011 at 07:38 am

When I read the papers on the weekend I had the same reaction as you. I felt a bit of sympathy for Gaddafi and the pictures made me feel sick. I'm not saying Gaddafi wasn't a horrible, but this was not the way to die. The inhumanity of the phone photograph trophies and the pungent propaganda of the "crossfire" statement was worrying and insulting.

The oppressed make the best oppressors - I wonder what other ugliness Allah has in store?

Thank you for making the point about the happier days of the West's foreign policy "success". It highlights something scary about our world doesn't it? This was a fantastic article Ana, thank you for having the guts to say what the papers did not.

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By integrityseek on October 25, 2011 at 11:21 am

I read with interest these comments which remind us that violence is not the answer, but no one addresses the failures of our system to provide justice. Justice, like our President's mantra of accountability, responsibility, and transparency, requires a playground where integrity, honesty, and truth wield power in a uniform and consistent way. Perhaps, Anastasia, you should consider writing an article where justice is wanting......as examples we have many...(President Nixon--pardoned)...Scooter Libby (scapegoat for the Bush Administratiion-sentence communted), Bush/Cheney (no prosecution for misrepresentations to the public and abuse of their powers while in office), British Petroleum (as yet no criminal filings for one of the worst environmental disasters in our history). I could go on and on, but my point is that the Libyan people acted out of years and years of abuse, violation of their rights as humans, and sheer frenzy. Correct action on their part---a resounding NO!!! Understandable? Depends on your point of view and degree of compassion...Obviously they had none for a madman who ran roughshod over his people and violated their trust and belief....I go back to my earlier assertion that kharm is, indeed, a bitch.

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By Anastasia on October 25, 2011 at 05:13 pm

JFA, indeed so.

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By Anastasia on October 25, 2011 at 05:15 pm

Lauren, thanks ever so much. :-) Yes, it does highlight something scary...and wicked.

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By Anastasia on October 25, 2011 at 05:24 pm

Integrityseek, you seek integrity? Well, I can assure you, so do I. All of the things you have highlighted may indeed be injustices of one kind or another. But I do not choose to write about any of those things, not here and not now. I chose to write about a story that had topical force.

Gaddafi was a bad man; there is no doubt in my mind about that. It would have served the cause of the new Libya so much better if the world had been shown just how bad, calmly and in accordance with due process. As it is this ugly violence raises all sorts of questions about the future direction of Libya, a dimension of my article that you are overlooking. Already there are people in the country saying that the manner of Colonel’s death was haram, contrary to Muslim law. It behoves all of us to consider these issues calmly.

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By integrityseek on October 25, 2011 at 05:50 pm

While I respect your opinion, I believe that the death of Gaddafi was inevitable without regard to the means. If the manner of Gaddafi's death was, as you say, haram, it begs the question of how many acts of haram were committed by Gaddafi against his people. Whether he drank hemlock or he was brutally murdered, the fact remains that he is dead. While that might impact Libya's future in the short term, the Libyans will ultimately decide what road to travel in the future. Violence begets violence, of that we have no doubt...I would submit that there is even more topical force in the manner in which we have allowed this nation to be taken from the public. For me, Occupy Wall Steet has more topical force than the death of a tyrant. It signifies an attempt to awaken and reclaim what was guaranteed in the Declaration of Independence as well as our Constitution. What about the future of this nation? When do we finally say enough to those who would create an oligarchy? The more that injustice is allowed to proliferate, the more blatant it becomes. In this nation, it is not merely exemplified by disfigurement or brutality fostered by our senseless need to protect our right to bear arms; it is much more subtle than that and infinitely more dangerous in that one tends to be lured into the acceptance of the injustice as a way of life. Again, I do not defend the way that Gaddafi was murdered, but I do recognize the act as a rather quick and dirty way to get back to the realities that there are limits to the violence that citizens will tolerate....you keep poking a dog with a stick and the dog will ultimately react in a violent way....that's exactly what Gaddafi did and the people expressed their anger in a most regrettable way. Libya will survive. Perhaps this unfortunate incident can be used as guidance for the new Libya....perhaps not...only time will tell.

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By Anastasia on October 27, 2011 at 05:23 pm

IS, on the basis of your concluding remarks here, I really don't think we are that far apart.

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By boom! on October 30, 2011 at 08:16 pm

It was really difficult and painful to watch this video. Extreme fear of survival and security and group frenzy turns off our normal sensibility and restraint as human beings. Perhaps it would shock and awaken some Dictators and the people and Governments who support them. Violence never solves the root of the problem sustained in our personal ego minds as well as collective ego. May sanity and goodwill dawn in our hearts and minds everywhere. Peace

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By Felicia Stevenson on October 31, 2011 at 01:32 am

It is very difficult to watch humans rejoice in the pain of others. I am reminded of 9/11 and seeing the videos of people celebrating in the streets over there. I'm reminded of Bin Laden's death, and every american news station rejoicing. While these were horrible men, it is not our place to kill, and when we do, we lower ourselves. God said "though shalt not kill". Not "though shalt not kill, unless though thinks I will approve".

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By Anastasia on November 01, 2011 at 06:35 pm

Boom, that's a noble sentiment. If only.

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By Anastasia on November 01, 2011 at 06:36 pm

Felicia, indeed it is not.

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By Angie Alaniz on November 05, 2011 at 11:23 pm

Excellent article Ana. How do you do this?

My favorite line is: > ....which means competing commanders, which means Islamists, which means God knows what.

From where I stand, I think the "entire" thing is inhuman.

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By Anastasia on November 06, 2011 at 05:09 pm

No great secret, Angie: I love words, love writing, and I'm a complete news junkie. :-))

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