Libya celebrates after dictator is gunned down

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, deposed tyrant of Libya, was killed yesterday by rebel fighters. His death marks the long-awaited end of the country's bloody but successful revolution.

This morning, the celebrations will still be going on. Colonel Gaddafi, the dictator who ruled Libya for four ruthless decades, has been killed by rebel fighters – his bloody corpse dragged through the streets by the delighted victors. A man whose rule once seemed unshakable is no more.

Libya's 'Brother Leader' was born in 1942, to a poor Bedouin family near the coastal town of Sirte. As a young army officer he became a supporter of Arab nationalism, a doctrine which inspired him to lead the bloodless coup that brought him to power in 1969. He was only 27 years old.

Over the following decades, he consolidated his absolute power over his own people while becoming a hated adversary of the West. His support for anti-Israel terror organisations led to hostilities with the USA. His willingness to supply the IRA in Northern Ireland with explosives made him few friends in Britain. Relations reached their lowest point in 1988, when Libyan agents destroyed Pan-Am Flight 103 above the Scottish town of Lockerbie. A total of 270 people were killed.

Gaddafi became notorious for his eccentric leadership style. He would meet foreign leaders in a specially made Bedouin tent. He had a regiment of female bodyguards, who he called his 'Amazons'. His fashion sense, meanwhile, became more extravagant by the year – he displayed a unquenchable enthusiasm for brightly coloured robes and gold-plated military hardware.

But he was no harmless maverick. His repressive treatment of ordinary Libyans, his failure to bring economic wellbeing, his brutality in the face of dissent – all these led directly to the uprising which toppled him.

He died in Sirte, the town of his birth, trapped by his own furious people. His expensive army and his feared security services had been defeated. It is reported that he met his end cowering in a drainage tunnel, clutching one of his useless golden guns.

Man or monster

Most of Libya spent last night cheering and dancing. Some few, however, will miss their Colonel. He did have a certain charisma and rhetorical force – even in the West there were those who admired his defiance of 'imperialism'. He also doesn't bear comparison with the biggest villains of recent history. Gaddafi's sum of murders is paltry next to that of Hitler or Stalin for example.

But those who have suffered under Gaddafi will say that his charisma was a mask for madness. His eccentric posturing was a symptom of megalomania. His brutality, demonstrated again and again on his own people, and multiplied a hundredfold during the revolution, was limited only by his comparative lack of power and his desire to strut heroically on the world stage. At heart, they will argue, he was a genuine monster.

You Decide

  1. Is it appropriate to celebrate the death of another human being, however evil?
  2. What do you think made Gaddafi act the way he did?

Activities

  1. Do some further research and write a short obituary for Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. What judgement, if any, would you pass on his character?
  2. What do you think Libya's future holds? Sketch out some possible future courses the country could take.

Some People Say...

“Even a monster deserves dignity in death.”

What do you think?

Q & A

Now Gaddafi is dead is the battle over in Libya?
More or less. NATO involvement will end in the next few days. There are now no major pockets of resistance against the new revolutionary regime, which has declared Libya officially 'liberated'.
What regime?
Libya is being run by a National Transitional Council. Members have promised to work towards democratic elections as soon as possible. Their task – running a war-torn and divided country – is far from easy, but they seem to be doing alright so far.
Will things improve for Libya now?
Everyone hopes so. The country could be rich if it was well run. The big question is, after so much fighting, will we see national reconciliation or more violence?

Word Watch

Bedouin
Nomadic Arab tribes who live in the desert and follow the traditional way of life of their ancestors. Bedouin are widespread across the Arab world but are often marginalised from mainstream society.
Arab nationalism
Arab nationalism is a political ideology which favours political union across the Arab world and which celebrates Arab culture and achievements.
IRA
The Irish Republic Army, a terrorist group responsible for a series of bombings and murders across the UK.
Amazons
The original Amazons, in Greek mythology, were a tribe of warrior women who lived on the edge of the civilised world. It was said that they each would cut off their right breast to achieve freer movement of their spear arm.
Uprising
Protests that started in February this year turned violent after demonstrators were shot at by Gaddafi's soldiers. The ensuing rebellion, with NATO support, successfully toppled the Gaddafi regime.

Subjects

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