Further to my previous article on Libya’s Mad Colonel (Do You Know Right from Wrong?) I can report that the National Transitional Council (NTC), the body that supposedly governs the ungovernable, has given up on the death by crossfire suggestion. Unfortunately for them there was too much cell phone footage. Now, unsettled by international condemnation, not just over the way he died but the chamber of horrors display of his remains, it has said that whoever killed Gaddafi will be “judged and given a fair trial.”
That’s an interesting way of putting things, don’t you agree? First comes the judgement then comes the ‘fair trial.’ Is this an indication of the way things are to be done in the new Libya, this topsy-turvy approach to any kind of process, political or judicial?
Bad things happen in the wake of revolutions, so I’ve been told, and who really wants to shed any tears over someone quite as repellent as Colonel Gaddafi? Yes, he is better off dead, even if he was abused, bloodied, tortured and - so it now seems - sexually humiliated in the process, all in a way that was a clear contravention of Muslim law.
So if there are no tears for Gaddafi it’s a reasonable assumption that there will be no tears either for those who were prepared to defend him to the end, over fifty of whom have been found in the town of Sirte alone, hands bound behind their backs, killed by a single bullet to the brain. Several hundred others are feared to have met the same fate, many of them black Africans, suspected simply because they were black Africans.
Philip Hammond, the British Defence Secretary, has gone on record, saying that Gaddafi’s death had ‘stained’ the reputation of Libya’s provisional government, though nobody, either in London or Paris, has a word to say about the other murders that have followed. Well, nobody wants to dwell on such unpleasantness, now that William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, has said that ending the no fly zone was “another significant milestone towards a peaceful, democratic future for Libya.”
A brave new Libya is being born, the brave new nation promised by David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, and Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, once the Colonel was out of the way. Let’s not think overmuch about the past.
That’s my problem: I think overmuch about everything. I think that the relative blindness towards the war crimes of the new regime is highly convenient. Even the end of the Colonel was convenient, despite the hypocritical gnashing of teeth over the manner of his demise, submerging so much that deserves to be uncovered.
I have no doubt at all, and I’m sure that the British and French governments have no doubt, that if the right thing had been done and Gaddafi brought to trial he would have unfolded a tale whose lightest word would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood, make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres, thy knotted and combined locks to part, and each particular hair to stand on end. I expect you are glad to have avoided that fate, are you not?
Cameron is glad for you…and for himself. Here is the man, the crusader, who saved the people of Libya, well, some of the people of Libya, from the ravages of wild beasts, all in the name of a good conscience and the decent thing. Here is a man much given to berating Tony Blair for his former dealings with the despot, deals involving arms and oil.
What he’s not quite so keen on, I guess, is close scrutiny of his own dealings, dealings that are equally suspect. After all, it was only a year ago, as Con Coughlin reports in the Daily Telegraph, that the present British government sent a high-level military delegation to Libya to negotiate a new arms deal. The items on offer included high-velocity sniper rifles. I imagine these were for the protection of civilians.
Justice and human rights is such a moveable feast and the centre-piece is so often a rich dish of hypocrisy, served in a piquant sauce of dissimulation and double standards. I have no regrets for the Colonel, a bad, mad man, but he looks like haunting Libya’s high table for some time to come, rather like the ghost of Banquo in Macbeth. In future we may even have to make reference to the Libyan Play.
What man dare, I dare:
Approach thou like the rugged Russian bear,
The arm'd rhinoceros, or the Hyrcan tiger;
Take any shape but that, and my firm nerves
Shall never tremble: or be alive again,
And dare me to the desert with thy sword;
If trembling I inhabit then, protest me
The baby of a girl. Hence, horrible shadow!
Unreal mockery, hence!