Moammar Gadhafi was slain in his hometown of Sirte, Libya. Rebels, or revolutionaries, or thugs, or bandits, or patriots, finally hunted him down after an eight month siege of Libya. He went out in a coup the same way he came in. There’s an old saying—or rather I’m sure it has been said by someone at some point—that you cannot become the person you are fighting against.
Gadhafi was found running from the men who would eventually kill him. The man looked like a rat, was dubbed a rat, and symbolically spent his last moments on earth chillin’ with rats in a drainage pipe.His death would come shortly after being captured–but after forty-two years dictating Libya, countless encounters with world leaders and extravagant escapades around the globe, the man who was seen by some as a real life Bond villain and by himself as Africa’s “King of Kings”, made the last concious decision of his life to hide in a dirty tunnel. First it was Saddam Hussein hiding out in a fox hole, now this with Gadhafi…it must be something about totalitarian tyrants ruling oil-rich Arab countries, a sixth sense perhaps, that prompts them to seek refuge and set up shop in filthy, burrowed out portions of the the earth.
It was apparent early on that eventually the man who will emerge from this revolution as the new king/president/prime minister will inevitably suffer a similar fate, forty, fifty, maybe sixty years from now. For now, he is riding the crest of a high and beautifully victorious wave. The West is lauding his victory, pledging support going forward, which can be directly measured in barrells of oil. But the new government has already said that Sharia will rule the foreseeable future in Libya. That doesn’t vibe with American, or NATO interests. The honeymoon period will end, although nobody knows exactly when.
It was only two years ago that President Obama was shaking hands with Gadhafi at the 2009 G-8 Summit, now after being shot dead in his own streets, Obama’s message is congratulatory to Libyans: good job for having “won your revolution”. If somebody was dragged half naked through the streets—with blood seeping from fresh bullet wounds before being shot in the head and having their dead body photographed and videotaped as it lay on a filthy matress that even a street dweller would refuse next to frozen McChicken patties until the rigamortis became too unbearable that the people who killed him realized they couldn’t just let his body literally rot off his bones—well then that person would have had to have done something to really piss you off if you are congratulating the assailants on a job well done. Some heinous act so vicious that it was avenged in a proper manner by those means.
By now though, the United States seemed to already forgave and forgot Gadhafi’s Lockerbie incident, as well as a bombing of a Berlin nightclub that killed an American citizen. The United States had as much basis to go to war with Libya during the late 80s–based on the notion that Libya was responsible– as they did Afghanistan in 2001, but they never seemed to have the vested interest (for whatever reasons, oddly enough you’d think GHW Bush would get boner jams over the oil and do some perverse, hormomal pillaging of the natives) to do more than just fight terrorism with terrorism by bombing the capital city and killing dozens of Libyan civilians. But all that was water under the bridge now. Shit, Obama and Gadhafi’s meeting at the 09 G-8 Summit definitely wasn’t a secret handshake between homeys, but a friendly gesture for sure—one with a meaning that politics have a way of amplifying (not lost on either one).
It is entirely possible that Washington viewed Libya’s future well being as nothing more than an added incentive. It’s better to have these crazed savages on our side than against us! A carrot, or cherry. Only ever really chiming in at the most convenient, self-serving moments, and possibly intervening when potential business ventures are presented. Hilary Clinton was in Libya days before Gadhafi’s death. Although it became well known public record, I first heard of this news from a reporter friend of mine just a few days before Gadhafi was killed. I met him for lunch and we got to shooting the shit, and when Libya was mentioned, he told me that Hilary was in Libya.
“They know where he is, they know where Gadhafi is.” He is a slight man. Not imposing, but very confident, and he says these sort of things with a sneaky grin on his face that you have every reason to doubt, but always end up believing. I was alarmed by what he said, not knowing that in two days whoever “they” was, would find him. It should also be noted, amidst the chaos of that day, that it was an American predator drone directed by some guy pressing buttons and fiddling with a joystick in Las Vegas that bombarded Gadhafi’s convoy, flushing him out to his eventual place of capture. The NATO hand, with the help of private American contractors, will probably be downplayed, buried, and otherwise not really discussed any further than a five-sentence blip on the backpage of most major newspapers. But it’s a crucial hand no matter how discreet or savvy its execution was; and the apparent secrecy of the role that outside forces played in ending the Gadhafi regime needs to be both realized for its ramifications on uprisings in surrounding Arab states, like Syria for instance, which continue to drag their respective countries closer each day to civil wars and government mandated executions, as well as understood as a calculated manuever on the part of the outside forces who have so smoothly snuck off-stage allowing Libya’s National Transitional Council to enjoy what is now high-praise and jubilation, but what will soon become monumental decisions with almost make-or-break implications on a country that is now gutted of its infrastructure, sucked dry of its financial resources, and left to start anew during a revolutionary period in the Middle East. There is no second shot either for the NTC, no mulligan, no other choice but to get it right. Because they got their way, and now it’s time to show that their way is worthy of the strains their crusade put on the country they literally fought to the death to rescue.
I never met the guy myself, but I hear that Gadhafi wasn’t a real great dude. I can easily grant that, but what I cannot easily do is hide from my honest, and pure reaction to his death. If the symbolism of his demise was not enough (being captured the same way his people perceived him: as a rodent) maybe the real thing will convince you. It is circa 2011, while World Leaders have been overthrown by restless dissidents since mankind was invented, Gadhafi is the only one granted the indignity of his demise literally being broadcast to the world populus. Cell phone videos from his captors were immediately uploaded to youtube, submitted to Al-Jazeera—and once that seal was broken—as if to say “he did it so it’s okay if we do it”—to news outlets wordwide. Some video shows his bloody body being dragged and beaten in the streets, other video shows him half-concious put into the back of truck and driven away, and the least bloody but most graphic video pans his corpse, from head to toe, plopped on top of a torn mattress in a freezer of some shopping mall restaurant. A man who lived larger than life, and at the expense sometimes of other lives, reduced to a lifeless rotting body against all of his will. The guy who supposedly killed Gadhafi was wearing a t-shirt, a bandana over his head, and a camouflage Yankee cap over his bandana. To me he looked no different than your average dropout, clining to whatever the moment brought him, wandering the streets of XYZ City. Whatever mystique it was that shaped my ideas of an uprising was scorched with that image. The digital age gave us something that was too real to seem real. In an instant it abolished the nobility of a supressed people’s uprising, valiantly culminating in a final, victorious overthrow of the king. Instead the guy who is indistinguishable from the dude you just tipped $2 to for delivering your pizza, is the one who ended forty-two years of tyranny.
And this is the precise moment where I feel myself unable to supress my reaction…I sympathized with the motherfucker. He’d already been shot, was bleeding out in pain, and now was being dragged away as he pleaded to kids who looked no older than me (22) to spare his life. As awful and grisly as it was, I couldn’t convince myself that, to a person, he ever did anything as primitive, or treated anybody worse than how he was being dealt with. Here was a savage, being savagely led to his death, by fellow savages. There was nothing humane, nothing civil, nothing just or righteous about how that man died—and beyond that, even the people who decided his fate. It was this reaction that led to a nightmarish realization: there exists bridge that nobody wants to cross, leading to a dark area that nobody wants to hear or talk about.
More than a righteous window into the lessons and consqeunces of tyranny, what those images did was feed a primitive, and barbaric societal appetite. Death porn. Shit, I can’t exclude myself from the guilty masses. We wanted…no needed to see it. What did he look like? What were his dying expressions? Who killed him? How? What did his dead body look like? Was he executed?
There is a trigger inside of human beings that when pulled, fires a bullet at everything we consider to be “progress”. It’s subtle, and through some strange proxy scratches an itch that we cannot fully describe or identify. But we know it’s there, and when it gets scratched we feel much better for some reason. It’s a fleeting need, but a crucial one. It is so subtle in fact that we accept it as nature. Every five or ten years that bullet gets fired, and when it reaches its target people run from their homes and start dancing in the streets. It happened in parts of the world on 9/11, Americans got their chance when Barack Obama announced that Osama bin Laden was dead, and it happened in Libya when Gadhafi was killed. But there is a great mirage in all of this: the belief that these sadistic behaviors differ, somehow, from the desires and compulses that lead a sociopath to emerge as dictator and tyranically rule an entire population for four decades. That very delusion has become the fine line; that minute gap that has come to separate what is evil from what is pure.
So what Gadhafi’s death really signalled was a momentary pause—perhaps even rejoice—as the hands of time make the complete Revolution, returning back to that beginning spot. Soon enough though, the next man will have a go at it. And then a finite clock will begin to tick……tock……tick……silently creeping closer, approaching that inevitable eleventh hour.