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.