International human-rights groups called yesterday for an investigation into the death of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, as gory new videos showed him being spat at and punched by revolutionaries and as skepticism mounted about claims that he was shot in crossfire after being captured.
- Washington Post, as quoted by the Columbus Dispatch, October 22, 2011
It is hard to avoid a head shaking, eye rolling, heel of the hand against the forehead reaction. It's a little like hearing al Qaeda's official protest that Obama's killing of terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki was without the requisite degree of due process. Like hearing Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) complain about the President's obstructionist tactics. It's another what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-you-guys moment.
The reported killing by an angry mob has been compared with the stringing up of Benito Mussolini. Both were captured as they attempted to flee in motorcades. Both were put on public view after their deaths, Gadhafi in a meat locker, Mussolini upside down outside a gas station.
Mussolini, about to be executed, is said to have opened his coat and yelled at his captors to go ahead and shoot. He was defiant. Gadhafi? No so much. Gadhafi was found cowering in a sewer pipe with some hirelings. He pleaded with the crowd surrounding him to stop hitting him. Then he begged them not to shoot him. Supposedly, a young man in a baseball cap then shot him at close range.
It is hard to judge from translations. Did he really beg, not so much for mercy as for pity? Could he not have known how inflammatory that would have to have been to those who survived his murderous rule? "Now you know pity?" was the reported response.
The videos are blurred and shaky, somewhat hard to follow. But the image is that of a bloodied, panicked little man, pummeled by the angry crowd, pleading for them to stop hitting him, then finally begging them not to kill him. He seems, on tape, less of the monster we expect than the pay-no-attention-to-the-mouse-behind-the-curtain imposter. No longer pulling the levers and pushing the buttons of the killing machine that terrorized his nation, he looks about him in bewildered despair.
Estimates of government spies varied. At minimum, one in ten Libyans were informers on the rest. Forming political parties became a capital crime. Complaining aloud was punishable with long jail sentences. Executions were rife, and Gadhafi presided personally over many of them. Hit squads were sent around the world to target those who fled the country. At least 25 known assassinations resulted. Nobody was safe. There was no sanctuary.
Libyan sponsored terrorism abroad was matched by a ruthless oppression at home.
And during this, there is evidence is that the little tyrant was engaged in a complete deception of himself.
During his flight from his eventual executioners, he is said to have conducted demented rants about the indignities he was forced to endure, complaining about lack of electricity and inadequate water. He spent much of his time talking on his cell phone.
It was a continuation of a willful self-deception. In this, he seemed less like Benito Mussolini than, perhaps, Nicolae Ceaușescu. While Romania starved under the austerity program Ceaușescu imposed to permanently balance the budget, the dictator convinced himself all was well. His subjects watched on television while their leader from a parallel earth visited well stocked markets, publicly boasting about the prosperity he had brought to his country. When he was captured and killed the revolution was complete.
Gaddafi ruled with an even higher degree of unreality. Atrocities were not his doing. The people loved him. He was winning, winning, winning. His enemies were, alternately, Israeli agents and al Qaeda sponsored terrorists.
"Muammar Gaddafi blames Osama bin Laden for Libya's troubles," said late night host David Letterman, when bin Laden and Gaddafi were still menacingly alive. "Boy, it's gonna be awkward when they finally meet in Hell."
In the end, Gaddafi plaintively begged for pity. Please don't hit me again.
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There is small chance that some such men, if there are any, will make it into the Libyan government: a small chance.
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