Sunday, February 27, 2011

Muammar Gaddafi: "People who don't love me don't deserve to live."

Many moons ago, when I was in college, I had some respect for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. As Stephen Zunes notes in his Truthout article,

"Under Gaddafi's rule, Libya made impressive, if uneven, gains in health care, education, housing, the rights of women and basic social services. His brand of Islamic socialism, combined with the country's relatively small population and large oil reserves, made Libya one of the more prosperous and egalitarian societies in the Middle East, even though the promise generally outpaced actual performance. Though he was a classic strongman in one sense, Gaddafi also allowed for a relatively decentralized political system which allowed for direct democracy and popular participation in some limited political spheres."

In addition, he gave millions of dollars to the Nation of Islam. He stood up to U.S. imperialism and survived. More specifically, as Stephen Zunes writes,

"In April 1986, following a terrorist bombing in Berlin that killed an American serviceman, the United States bombed Tripoli and Benghazi, Libya's two largest cities, killing up to two dozen civilians, including Gaddafi's daughter. The attack was widely condemned as a violation of international law, which recognizes the legitimacy of the use of military force only in self-defense from an armed attack, not for retaliation. The civilian casualties from the air strikes and the serious damage caused to the French embassy and other diplomatic facilities provoked outrage throughout the world and bolstered Gaddafi's standing both at home and abroad."

Whatever little respect that I had for Gaddafi quickly evaporated when I read about his vicious, brutal and self serving response to the pro-democracy uprising in Libya. In 1969, Gaddafi seized power by overthrowing "the unpopular pro-Western monarchy of King Idris". Now, Gaddafi is the one who is unpopular. The whole situation is reminiscent of George Orwell's Animal Farm. For those who do not know, Animal Farm is about liberators who morph into oppressors.

Gaddafi has become the oppressor of his own people. Intoxicated by power, he declared, "People who don't love me don't deserve to live." According to some news reports, his soldiers and loyalists have killed at least 1,000 protesters. Pro-Gaddafi forces have fired on and bombed nonviolent demonstrators. As reported in the Washington Post,

"Everyone is very devastated," said another resident who lives near the square and watched from her window as men in sport-utility vehicles opened fire on protesters in the street below. She said she thought that as many as 60 people had been killed and knew of three who died when pro-Gaddafi gunmen stormed a mosque and opened fire on worshipers.

"We are just hearing about people dying, and it's like this isn't going to end," she said. "This guy will kill until the last day of his life."

I commend the people of Libya for standing up and demanding democracy. I salute the United Nations for imposing sanctions on the Gaddafi regime. President Obama was right when he said "when a leader's only means of staying in power is to use mass violence against his own people, he has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what is right for his country by leaving now." No leader should be in power for 41 years.

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