Sat Nov 18, 2017 | 01:16
Gaddafi's last stand?
Thu, 24 Feb 2011 14:32:16 GMT
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Here's a short quiz: which head-of-state dresses like one of the more flamboyant rock stars, has been referred to as a 'mad dog,' but styles himself as a 'king of kings,' and wields greater power over his oil-rich state than most kings ever dream of possessing?

If you are not sure who he is, here is another hint: shortly after the overthrow of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, this leader announced to the world that he definitely had WMDs. In fact, he had an active weapons of mass destruction program, but no one need worry about it because he was inviting international inspectors to come see the weapons and programs for themselves and dismantle them. As it turned out, he wasn't bluffing. When the inspectors actually came to his country, they discovered not only several tons of chemical weapons but an arsenal of nuclear ones, as well.

Still not sure who we are talking about? Well, the following hint should be a dead giveaway. This same leader, who had, early in life, according to a profile on him by the Daily Telegraph, sought to become the Che Guevara of the age,” later came to be known for his increasingly bizarre behavior and megalomania. In a speech before the UN General Assembly in September 2009, he defended the Taliban (they had a right to establish their own government) and the Somali pirates (they were only acting in self-defense.) To top it off, he also announced during his address that he did not recognize the authority of the United Nations Charter.

At an Arab summit, a few months earlier that same year, this head-of-state grabbed a microphone and informed all present that he was “an international leader, the dean of the Arab rulers, the king of kings of Africa and the imam of Muslims,” before storming out the door. However, his most recent action - using fighter jets against peaceful demonstrators, is even more controversial.

There is only one leader on the political scene today that meets this profile and that is Muammar Gaddafi, Libya's eccentric dictator, who has ruled his country as an iron-fisted autocrat for the past 42 years.

A few months ago, most observers assumed that Gaddafi would most likely remain in power for the duration of his life. The army captain from the town of Sirt first rose to prominence in September 1969 when he led a group of junior officers in a military coup (Gaddafi refers to it as a 'revolution) that overthrew Libyan King Idris. The officers quickly dissolved the monarchy and proclaimed the establishment of the Libyan Arab Republic, with Gaddafi, of course, at the head.

Though Libya was initially called a 'republic' and later a 'jamahiriya' or 'people's republic' and Gaddafi is officially referred to as 'Brother Leader and Guide of the Revolution' in both government statements and the Libyan press, the country is - and has been since the 1969 coup - a dictatorship.

A quick glimpse at its structure shows us why. The Libyan government has two branches. One of these, the people's sector or 'jamahiriya' sector, which is made up of people's congresses at local, regional and national levels does hold limited elections every four years.

However, the other branch, the one controlling the military and holding the real power in the country, is the revolutionary sector, which Gaddafi, as 'Revolutionary Leader,' is head of. The leader is not elected. He cannot be voted out of office. He and the twelve members of his Revolutionary Command Council, who support him, have their positions for life. The country's citizens have no say as to who their ruler will be. In fact, the subject, up till now, has never arisen. The man at the helm and those directly under him, are the same ones who have been there since 1969 - whether the people like it or not. Therefore, Libya is definitely a dictatorship.

And in some ways, the Libyan regime is worse than other dictatorships because it allows for neither the formation nor the existence of previous political parties. They were banned in 1972 by the Prohibition of Party Politics Act Number 71. It should therefore come as no surprise that the government also controls and heavily censors the media, and refuses workers the right to strike.

Libya is also notorious for human rights abuse. In a 2010 report, Amnesty International said that human rights abuses are 'rife' in Libya.

Commenting on the report, deputy director of the organization's Mideast and North Africa program, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, said, "What is striking in Libya is the omnipresence and the total power that security forces have, especially the internal security agency. There are no accountability, no checks, no oversight. And this really needs to stop."

The Amnesty report cited numerous cases of enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and indefinite detentions.

The flagrant abuse exercised by the Gaddafi regime should have, long ago, been cause enough for Libyans to rise in revolt against the dictator. However, nothing happened until this year's wave of revolt that was sparked in Tunisia swept throughout the Mideast, challenging one entrenched ruler after another.

When Libyan protestors hit the streets this February, the regime acted predictably, with the military turning its weapons on the people, firing live ammunition into the crowds and Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam, threatening 'rivers of blood' and 'hundreds of thousands dead' if the protests continued.

"Instead of weeping over (a few) killed, we will weep over hundreds of thousands of dead," Saif al-Islam Gaddafi warned in a state television address on February 21. "Rivers of blood will flow," he added ominously.

What Gaddafi's son failed to mention, however, was that the regime, itself, would be responsible for those deaths. According to witnesses, the government is now launching airstrikes on the protesters, with warplanes dropping bombs on the crowds and military attack helicopters gunning them down. At the same time, Gaddafi's Special Forces, along with hired mercenaries, are driving through the cities in trucks, indiscriminately shooting any and all who happen to venture onto the streets.

An article appearing in Al Jazeera's website says that the protestors, at one point, managed to detain some of the mercenaries, who admitted that they had been ordered to fire live ammunition into the crowds.

According to the International Federation for Human Rights, the number of those killed now stands at 400.

As the death toll rises, we wonder what will happen. What will the Libyans actually gain from their sacrifice? Will their country, like Tunisia and Egypt before it, gain its freedom, or is this uprising doomed to ultimate defeat?

On the surface, it appears as if the people might actually win. Numbers of Gaddafi's officials have already defected, including the Libyan delegation to the United Nations. The deputy ambassador, Ibrahaim Dabbashi, has asked other countries to join his delegation's request that Gaddafi step down in order to avoid an all-out massacre.

“He has to leave as soon as possible,” Dabbashi said. “He has to stop killing the Libyan people.”

Another top official, Abdel Monem al-Howni, Libya's representative to the Arab League, has also resigned. In a statement, he said, “I no longer have any links to this regime, which lost all legitimacy.” He went on to call the present situation in Libya “genocide.”

So what will happen? With increasing numbers of his top officials deserting him, will Gaddafi be forced to step down?

According to Ali al-Ahmed, director of the Institute for (Persian) Gulf Affairs (IGA), it isn't very likely - at least not without a fight and a great deal more bloodshed.

In a recent interview with Press TV, al-Ahmed said, “This is going to be very hard to end. It is not going to be clean. It will be bloody.”

When asked if he thought it would be more difficult to remove Gaddafi from power than most people believe, al-Ahmed said that it would be. “It is going to be a very bloody battle for certain,” he predicted.

The expert went on to say that Gaddafi could be removed, but it would be difficult and the cost (in human life) would be high. “I think it will take longer than what we saw in Egypt and Tunisia,” he said, adding that Libya's ruler is, despite popular concepts, incredibly bright and calculating. If he was not intelligent, “he would not have survived for 42 years, ruling a country with very little opposition, al-Ahmed pointed out, adding, “This is the first serious challenge for Gaddafi in 42 years. He is not acting erratic; he is a very calculating man.”

He is also a very ruthless individual, willing to pay any price to remain in power. As one Libyan national pointed out, “He will never let go of his power. This is a dictator, an emperor. He will die before he gives an inch. But we are no longer afraid. We are ready to die after what we have seen.”

If this is truly the case, it appears to be a showdown. Can the United Nations -- or, for that matter, anyone -- do something to avert the catastrophe as Dabbashi and his fellow diplomats hope? It doesn't appear to be likely. As things stand, Gaddafi will most probably not give an inch and the protesters seem to be willing to pay whatever price required for freedom. Unless someone is able to intervene, Libya is in for an unprecedented bloodbath.

TG/AKM
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