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Posted by on Oct 20, 2011 in International, War | 16 comments

(UPDATE V) Being On The Right Side Of History — For A Change

And so 247 days after troops loyal to Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi opened fire on peaceful pro-democracy protesters, the favor has been returned. The world’s longest ruling despot is dead.

The circumstances of Qaddafi’s death after he apparently was found in a tunnel in his hometown of Surt remain unclear. Initial reports said he had been shot in both legs and was being taken to a hospital for treatment, while later reports said he had died in a gun battle. Rebel leaders said that reports that he had died in a NATO airstrike were false.

Al Jazeera television showed gruesome footage of what appeared to be Qaddafi, alive but bloody, being dragged around by armed men. The television also broadcast a separate clip of his half-naked body, with lifeless open eyes and an apparent gunshot wound to the side of the head, as jubilant fighters fired automatic weapons in the air.

Rebel fighters from Misurata, the port city that suffered deeply during the civil war, took Qaddafi’s body to a morgue in their hometown. There were unconfirmed reports that they intended to display it in Misurata’s central square.

Libyan television also reported that one of Qaddafi’s feared fugitive sons, Muatassim, was killed in Surt, showing what it said was his lifeless bloodied body on a hospital gurney. There were also unconfirmed accounts that another feared son, Seif al-Islam, had been captured and possibly wounded.

In Washington, President Obama said that the death of Qaddafi signaled the start of a new chapter for Libya.

“We can definitely say that the Qaddafi regime has come to an end,” he said. “The dark shadow of tyranny has been lifted and with this enormous promise the Libyan people now have a great responsibility to build an inclusive and tolerant and democratic Libya that stands as the ultimate rebuke to Qaddafi’s dictatorship.”

I reluctantly came around to supporting the institution of a NATO-led no-fly zone over Libya in March because it was in the service of a larger cause — the democratic transformation of the Arab world, warts and all as well as risks and all — as well as putting an end to a humanitarian crisis, but no one could have foreseen that the underarmed and ill-disciplined coalition of tribes and political groups could take on Qaddafi’s modern military and eventually defeat it in a relatively brief civil war even after his air force was grounded.

The rebel victory and Qaddafi’s death is a foreign policy and military victory for Obama and another example of the effectiveness of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. It also was a textbook example of a new kind of war — fostering democracy through limited intervention, in this case without taking any American lives, and the use of drones and reliance on allies.

And what should be an embarrassment for usually bellicose Republicans who refused to back him and repeatedly accused him of “leading from behind” . . . . oh, and while celebrating Qaddafi’s death in public statements today stayed classy by studiously avoiding any mention of the man who fired the first salvo in the Arab Spring with an address in Cairo in June 2009.

A conspicuous exception was Republican Senator John McCain, who told CNN, “It’s a great day. I think the administration deserves great credit. Obviously, I had different ideas on the tactical side, but the world is a better place.”

Noted an administration official: “Reagan targeted Qaddafi; George W. Bush targeted Bin Laden; Obama has done both.”

Within an hour of the news of Qaddafi’s death, the Arab twittersphere was awash in laudatory comments and hints that a similar fate was in store for other Arab dictators.

As Egypt has shown, the afterglow of a victory over a despot can be short lived and promised changes excruciatingly slow to come. That is likely to be the case in Libya and all the more so because of probable disagreements over how to control and export oil.

And make no mistake, Quaddafi will be mourned by many Libyans. He had transformed the nation from one of the world’s poorest to the most developed in Africa, instituted educational reforms and an imperfect but nevertheless democratic system of government before becoming increasingly erratic in recent years while flaunting his pariah status.

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  • ShannonLeee

    Now all we can do is wish them luck. The dictator is dead…the country is theirs. It is time for a new Libya. Yes, it is good to be on the right side of history.

    I wonder how well Iraq would have done had we not insisted on running the country into the ground after the fall of Saddam.

  • ShannonLee:

    Excellent question. While the answer will never be known, it is my belief that the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds would have eventually reached an accommodation (again) because of oil.

    It was the sheer ineptness of the U.S. occupation and the thuggery of the Al-Maliki government that prompted a civil war that most likely never would have been fought.

  • DaGoat

    I don’t believe in the concept of hell, but if it exists I hope Qaddafi is burning in it. Whether was are on the right side of history remains to be seen, since as with most of these conflicts it’s not clear right now whether the new government will be any better. And regardless of how this turns out we have another precedent for attacking a country that poses us no threat, something I would like the USA to stop doing.

  • DaGoat:

    My blogging buddy Will Bunch addresses your latter concern thusly:

    “If all you have is a hammer — which in this case is the world’s biggest military —
    then every problem ultimately resembles a nail.”

    That sums it up nicely.

  • Allen

    Oh they are going to demand great amounts of money and material support….you KNOW that.

    If we don’t make them “Saudi Rich” post haste, it’ll be “death to the infidel”, burning of Embassy’s and capturing innocent people for media slaughter all over again.

    However this man has been a threat to the United States and our interests for a long time. It’s good that he is now gone.

  • Allen


    What about the Chadian and Niger mercenaries? Will there be an amnesty? Will the ICRC be allowed by the United States to play a role?

    Who are protecting the families of those whom were loyal to Kaddafi in Tripoli and abroad? Is anybody what-so-ever protecting non-combatants? Why no media reports? Why no CALLS for media access? Have these people already been raped and murdered?

    Will we release former Libyan funds to those committing atrocities?

  • merkin

    I applaud this man’s death. I was in Frankfurt airport on 21 December 1988 trying to fly back to the United States right before Christmas without a confirmed reservation. Pan Am, with whom I had flown hundreds of thousands of miles was only able to offer me a flight with two connections, through London and New York. I went ahead and booked the flight paying for a new ticket so I wouldn’t have to go back to TWA to get that ticket coupon signed over to Pan Am. But I went on to other airlines trying to find a more direct flight. I eventually got a seat on a direct Swiss Air flight. The Pan Am flight I didn’t take was flight 103 which was blown apart by the Libyan bomb over Lockerbie, Scotland.

    Unfortunately Pan Am had notified my wife that I had changed flights and was on flight 103. By the time I got home she was understandably upset even though Pan Am had told her that I definitely wasn’t on the flight later when she called. She didn’t fully believe them until I came walking in the front door.

    I kept a copy of that Pan Am flight 103 21 December 1988 ticket issued to me for years to prove how arbitrary life can be. But my wife was not able to be so blithe about it since it had caused her considerable pain in those hours until I got home. She followed every detail of the investigation and subsequent trial as if she was a surviving wife of someone on the plane. The first time I heard about Qaddafi’s death was when she told me today. She was quite happy.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Amazing story, Merkin. Thanks for sharing, and I fully understand your and your wife’s feelings.

  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    i am glad you made home safely Merkin, and your love, she was in her right mind… and heart.

    On another note, it is hard to see this pix that is said to be Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi. The body seems innocent. It was his mind that was so without humanity for all.

    I did Shaun, nonetheless, put the pix in thumbnail on feature atop mast, even so. I have seen the film alledging him being ‘taken’ while bleeding so, and it too is hard to watch. I see an innocent body suffering that was inhabited by such a murderous mind. But there it is. And it is done. He will rest with the others. Ceascescu, Saddam, bin laden…and more. As one man on the street said with a tenor not in glee nor in grief, ‘in the end, it is done now.’

    My sense is we will now see much disinformation and discussion before actual facts are known. I mainly wait for Qaddafi’s burial, and hope it will be like bin Ladens, somber, with respect to religious beliefs about the body… and at sea.

    I’d also shaun, if you have a chance like to run some of the pictures of Qaddafi’s innocent victims if you come across them.


  • slamfu

    Lets hope the Syrians get wind of this and take heart. Their struggle is long from over and they are doing it without air support.

  • Ras

    What the world is coming to belies its darker side in the future if what marvel the hightec tecnology brings into living rooms and cellphones the ugly dispose of a ruler;dictator in ever more increasing raw carnage…and to the spectators is almost seeing a view of wars in a Roman Era..and desensitising the most innocent hearts that deplore violence of any type that the more steely among us rejoice and flaunt.

    Dr E has my sentiments and heart on the matter. Without knowing the ‘man’ who even tho was excentric and seemed to rule from a displaced honor among his people for 4o some years still deserves respect for the bold moves and accomplisments he did for a poorest nation as Shuan has pointed out and I hope along with Dr E. that Libya shows Order and Justice now in properly lying their Ruler to rest..Sanity will return hopefully for a new democracy ..of their own of course without more bloodshed.

  • mikee22

    Long live, Libya! Now that he is gone.

    Mike of Hot tub cheap

  • Allen

    You know, after looking at the various pictures and video available, I don’t think they shot him. I think they cut his throat.

    What about the rest of the people with him? Reports say he was in a convoy of vehicles. Surely he wasn’t alone. What happen to the others? Will anybody ask these questions?

  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    I think you get answers sooner allen from cable news. they are reporting with people on the ground there.


  • Allen

    I have been Dr.E,….nothing but very brief clips.

    If any story needed to be covered at this point, it would be what is happening to people in Libya. Seems like nobody cares.

  • ShannonLee

    “seemed to rule from a displaced honor among his people for 4o some years still deserves respect for the bold moves and accomplisments he did for a poorest nation”

    displaced honor
    deserves respect

    I hope you are just trolling.

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