Friday, 21 October 2011

End of Gaddafi

For someone who styled himself as the king of kings and called his opponents rats, this was hardly a fitting end: being flushed out of  a drain and dying in doubtful circumstances in captivity.

What troubles me about Gaddafi's death is that it is not the form of "justice" one should seek in democratic society. Whether he was deliberately killed or died in cross fire as claimed by the provisional government we may never know. He should have been put on trial, and been made to answer for his actions, convenient though it may be for some to get him out of the way so expeditiously.

His death also leaves many questions unanswered. Many in the West will want to know more about his role in the Lockerbie bombing and in supporting causes like the IRA.

His apologists on the other hand will be as happy as governments of the US and UK that he is not around to interrogate about his questionable role in the "war on terror", including "rendition" of suspects to countries like Libya, where torture was legal.

Why has there been so much hypocrisy around Gaddafi and his Libya?

From the West, there's been an ambivalence between the "mad dog" appellation offered up by Reagan, and the desire to have bought dictators in resource-intensive parts of the world. When Gaddafi seemed to be out of control and willing to bankroll any anti-Western interest including the IRA, the "mad dog" label and isolation were relatively cheap options. While he controlled a fair amount of oil, Libya is not one of the biggest oil producers (about 2% of world output), and his output still reached world markets.

On the other hand, liberation movements failed to understand that he was just a military dictator who wrapped himself in leftist rhetoric. To some extent the infatuation of the South African ruling ANC with him is understandable if showing lack of judgement, because he was one of few world leaders who backed their struggle when it started in the 1960s, at a time when the West was cosy with apartheid. A similar misplaced affection for Robert Mugabe applies; the ANC on the whole appears to have forgotten that its liberation struggle specifically attacked the notion that human rights was purely an internal affair. More broadly, those on the left who continued to back him conveniently forgot his role in the "war on terror", and his equally convenient reversion to anti-Western rhetoric when NATO backed the opposition.

Libya has a tough battle ahead to establish a civil society on top of a state where previously only one person had any say. All those who backed Gaddafi in any form are equally guilty of perpetuating this sorry situation. NATO at least has helped effect change. Those on the left who supported Gaddafi on the basis of the enemy of my enemy is my friend need to sit back and think hard about what they really stand for. This man ran a vicious police state that tortured on a mass scale, killed many opponents and was a stooge of the West when it suited him.

What happens now should be up to the Libyan people -- as indeed should have been what happened before.