By Ankita Verma:
A defiant Gaddafi is quoted to have said “I was the one who created Libya, and I will be the one to destroy it.”
He was born in a tent in the desert to a Bedouin family in 1942. At a tender age of 10, Gaddafi was greatly impressed by Gamal Abdel Nasser, who took over the reins of Egypt. His early schooling was from a small Muslim school, where he was recognized as one extremely sharp. Later, he was sent to Tripoli to continue his education where the derogatory teasing by his rich classmates filled him with a deep sense of resentment for the establishment. Gaddafi then entered military services in 1961 as the career provided a gateway to the upper-class lifestyle. Influenced by Nasser and his revolutionary nationalism, he and his friends organized a bloodless coup to end the corrupt regime of King Idris.
To his credit, Gaddafi took over Libya with noble intentions. He also supported pan-Islamism, the notion of a loose union of all Islamic countries and peoples, and saw himself as the liberator of several African countries. He was, in a sense, a ‘utopian Modernist’ who tried to rebuild the society from the first principles of his Third Universal Theory. What is the Third Universal Theory? It is an ambitious alternative suggested by Gaddafi, an economic model which is neither communist nor capitalist. Under the theory, Third World states or the Arab states could coexist with the United States and the Soviet Union, and they could enter into agreements with them but they must not be dominated by either. His philosophy is stated in The Green Book, which is a compulsory reading in Libya. The book is also filled with banalities and non-sequiturs which have furthered the speculation, that Gaddafi is not totally mentally sound.
Gaddafi is also infamous for his multiple eccentricities. On state trips abroad, he has been known to bring a Bedouin tent to sleep and even hold meetings in them. He doesn’t fly for more than 8 hours straight. He also has a troupe of female bodyguards who receive personal training by Gaddafi and, according to internal Libyan sources, must be virgins. He also insists upon accommodation on the first floor of any facility arranged for him.
The idiosyncratic Libyan leader has been in the midst of several controversies in his 42 years old tenure. Gaddafi was the brain behind the 1986 Berlin discotheque bombing which killed three and injured more than 200 civilians, including around 80 US servicemen. Various congratulatory messages were intercepted between the agents in Europe and Gaddafi’s men in Tripoli. Ten days later US Air Force fighters targeted the Libyan capital Tripoli and the city of Benghazi. The operation was widely seen as an attempt to kill Colonel Gaddafi. He survived but his adopted baby daughter was killed in the bombing along with at least 15 civilians.
He is also rumoured to be the chief financier of the Lockerbie massacre in 1988. Abdelbaset-al-Megrahi blew up Pan Am flight 103 above Lockerbie in December 1988, claiming 270 lives. The Lockerbie bomber blackmailed Colonel Gadaffi into securing his release from a Scottish prison by threatening to expose the dictator’s role in the tragedy. This forced Gaddafi to secure the release of the terrorist by offering lucrative oil and engineering deals for UK firms in Libya. Megrahi was released on deteriorating health grounds and given a hero’s welcome by Gaddafi upon his return to Libya.
It is hence remarkable that the international community forgave all of Gaddafi’s misdeeds and accepted him with open arms. All it took was Libya accepting responsibility for its terrorist actions and payment of up to $2.7 billion in compensation for the victims of the 1988 attack. It is believed that the designated successor, his son Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, who has a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics, persuaded the colonel to agree to the compensation and abandon Libya’s weapons of mass destruction program.
In 2006, Libya was removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. Libya was also elected to a seat on the U.N. Security Council for 2008 and 2009.
Today, the world is outraged by the civil war raging in Libya. However, for years the world was a silent spectator to his atrocities. The international community is still divided on whether they should interfere in Libya’s internal affairs. Whether Gaddafi stays on or not, one thing is certain, history is being created right now.
–PhotoÂ via Wikimedia Commons.