Gaddafi: thus I entered, thus I go
It was roses, roses, all the way,
With myrtle mixed in my path like mad:
The house-roofs seemed to heave and sway,
The church-spires flamed, such flags they had,
A year ago on this very day……..
I go in the rain, and, more than needs,
A rope cuts both my wrists behind;
And I think, by the feel, my forehead bleeds,
For they fling, whoever has a mind,
Stones at me for my year’s misdeeds.
Thus I entered, and thus I go!
In triumphs, people have dropped down dead.
“Paid by the world, what dost thou owe
“Me?”—God might question; now instead,
‘Tis God shall repay: I am safer so.
I am reminded of these three stanzas of ‘The Patriot’ written by a19th century poet Robert Browning, on the killing of Muammer Gaddafi of Libya. Leading the young soldier’s revolt he came into power in 1969 full with pan-Arab nationalist passion and deposed King Idris. He established Libya Arab Jamhariya (Republic) and was inspired by Gamal Nasser of Egypt. He expelled the Italian settlers, forced the multinational oil companies to increase the share of Libya from 50% to 79%. Ordered closure of British and American military bases and followed pro-Palestanian policies. All this was enough to upset the West even four decades ago.
For his own people he established direct democracy which quickly degenerated into a one-man dictatorship who considered himself as the great guide of the people with his own philosophy imbibed in the poorly written Green Book. But on the other hand he spent oil money on raising Libyans literacy rate from a dismal 10% to 90%. He established gender and race equality, provided free health, education and housing services. Life expectancy of Libyians increased to the level of Americans. Kept the country debt free in spite of mega projects such as diverting the river. For all this he first emerged as the saviour of the people and was “it was roses, all the way.” But that was in the first few years.
Then what went wrong that he was unable to hide even in a gutter pipe and was pulled out by enraged rebels and killed brutally? Like all dictators he started believing in his own illusionary grandeur and failed to learn from history and current affairs as well. No matter how good or benevolent a dictator he/she is bound to get unpopular for staying too long. And to prolong his rule he earned many enemies from the Islamist Hizb-e-Tehrir to the Western powers. He got his opponents killed in the country and abroad, supported the IRA in Ireland and many other terrorist organizations even as far as South America. His roughish behavior isolated him in the Arab world although he had come to power riding the Arab nationalism horse.
Gaddafi should have taken clue from the Spring Revolution that started from Tunsia and stepped down voluntarily as the Tunsian president did. But that would have been out of character of the rash and bully Gaddafi the world knew. Internally, all dictators fail to realise that stable economic development contributes to social mobility. As the middle classes and local bourgeoisie size gets bigger the foundation for democracy is laid. These classes want a share in power and fight bitterly for it against the dictators, who help their cronies to a large share of economic and social power. The poor join these middle class and businessmen led movements hoping that the change will bring them some relief. In today’s world everybody knows that the worst democracy is better than a benevolent dictatorship because the rulers have to listen to their voters demands. The problem is most rulers ignore the basic text book political science lessons.
But that’s not all. Gaddafi had started behaving himself once the UN sanctions were imposed. He renounced support to terrorist groups, stopped assassination of his opponents in other countries, agreed bombing compensation for the Lockerbie bombing, refrained from interfering in other country’s affairs, had taken action against Al Qaeda and started projecting a soft image of his government through his LSE graduate son.
Then why the NATO forces came to support the internal uprising in Lybia? No, not for the love of exporting democracy as they plead. They have never supported any dissent in their beloved Saudi Arabia. They turned their eyes away when Saudi and UAE forces rolled in Bahrain, where small minority rules the majority, to crush the democratic movement. They provided mercenary services to Kuwait when the Kingdom was taken over by Iraq. They unabashedly support Israel although it has been violating all the UN resolutions. They oppose observer-member status for Palestine in spite of the fact that their right to be a state on the pre-1967 Palestinian territory.
They disliked Gaddafi from day one because he expelled the Italian settlers, closed British and American bases, asked for control over its oil resources. That was when he came. They bombed the life out of Libyan armed forces and financed and armed the rebel forces because Gaddafi had refused to join the French initiated Mediteranian alliance, he was redirecting his oil sales to China which was one of the major resources for fueling Italy and other European countries and was negotiating with Russia for investing in Libyian energy resources. This is when the NATO powers killed him with the support of the local rebels. Remember how US got Khawja Nazimuddin and Mossedeq removed in Pakistan and Iran respectively when they refuse to join the Baghdad pact. Or made a horrible example out of Bhutto for making a nuclear bomb.
Will Libyan National Transitional Council be able to deliver democracy in tribal Libya remains to be seen. Back home in Pakistan those who think that there would be a Spring Revolution, however, may remain disappointed. Pakistani demoracy, no matter how inefficient it is, has the safety valves: changing the government through elections, free media to voice dissent and a vibrant opposition. Externally a stable Pakistan is the need of the world powers and its neighbours to stand against the bastion of Islamic militancy. So don’t get excited and and presume that the Western powers will support a militant resistance to the government here. Relax and wait for the next elections as we earned it by resotoring democracy in our country. (firstname.lastname@example.org)