News about the death of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has flown around the world. According to eyewitnesses, he fought for his ideals to the end and died like a soldier. Those who knew him firsthand expected nothing less of the revolutionary author, outstanding statesman, irreplaceable leader of post-monarchy Libya, leader of the Arab world and Africa, politician, philosopher, author and orator. Let’s briefly review the chief milestones in his life and career. He was born in the spring of 1942 in an Arab (Bedouin) nomad’s tent near Sirte, a city located 30 km from the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. That impoverished family already had three daughters, and the birth of a son probably brought joy to his father—hope that his line would continue and the son would be a future support for his family. Not incidentally, his parents named him Muammar, which means “long-lived.”
This “son of the desert” gained an unshakable concept of the eternal inevitability of poverty and developed a hatred for the world’s “elect” from his earliest years. The young boy studied voraciously to escape poverty and raise himself above the crowd, first attending a madrassa in Sirte, then a high school in Sabha. Muammar participated in street demonstrations while still a student and spent time in police stations. When this activity got him expelled from the school in Sabha, he took advantage of an opportunity to complete his formal education in Misrata. Temporarily concealing his revolutionary attitudes and views, in 1963 Gadhafi entered the military college in Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city. While studying military science, the young cadet completed a course of study in history at a local university, then he spent six months studying communications in Great Britain in the rank of lieutenant. After returning to Libya, he organized the underground Free Unionist Officers organization. He very much wanted to follow in the footsteps of his older comrade—Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, free his people from the oppressive monarchy and contribute to the formation of an Arab union.
On September 1, 1969, the voice of the young Moammar Gadhafi was heard informing the world that King Idris had been deposed. Thus, at age 27 Gadhafi took leadership of the country that he was to rule for almost 42 years. Despite objective and subjective difficulties and political mistakes committed by Gadhafi and his associates, Libya came to occupy a strong position among the leaders of the Arab world and Africa. Tribalism and clan rivalry were overcome. The people were able to greatly improve their economic situation. Strides were made in developing the nation’s industry, infrastructure and armed forces. Its education and health care systems were improved. Libya’s oil became the basis for securing that new country’s prosperity for many years. The new leader was instrumental in rallying all Arabs. The Tripoli Charter was enacted on December 27, 1969 to create a union among Libya, Egypt and Syria. In the years that followed, new Libyan unions surfaced (with Egypt, Tunisia and other Arab countries), but they were never implemented.
Meanwhile, Gadhafi began implementing radical domestic reforms based on the so-called “Third Way,” which rejected both capitalism and communism. While he opposed the West, he never became “pro-Soviet.” Moreover, in claiming to be the new leader of the Arab world and Africa, he confused and irritated the leaders of most of the region’s countries. Gadhafi articulated his ideological beliefs in the “Green Book” (1975-1979). It addressed the development of a state based on people’s power—”Jamahiriya.” And although subsequent years showed this theory to be impractical also, we must give Gadhafi credit for seeking justice, truth and his own special path to developing his country and civilization in general.
Despite attempts to act as a peacemaker and mediator in a number of regional conflicts—he suggested, for example, that the Jews and Arabs unite in a single state called “Izratine”—on the international stage he was forced to endure a period of isolation and boycott by the West and enormous pressure from the United States. He was accused of supporting international terrorism, of “pro-Sovietism,” etc. The West was even irritated by his individualism and extravagance, and by his bold and rather critical judgments concerning world events. In 1986, Gadhafi’s residence was attacked by 15 American F-111 bombers based in the British Isles. The goal of the operation was to kill the recalcitrant Libyan leader.
Most of the reforms he made to the state and society ultimately failed, and in 1987 he had to make major adjustments to his domestic policies in order to remain in power. They enabled the country to maintain a relatively high standard of living for the vast majority of the population. Relations with the West gradually improved.
Nevertheless, the “Arab Revolutions” that began in the fall of 2010 also reached Libya. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets, and there were riots and clashes with the police and law enforcement agencies that gradually escalated into armed conflict. Intervention by the United States and NATO only accelerated the overthrow of Gadhafi’s regime. The NATO generals got UN support for a resolution to create a “no-fly zone” across the entire country, ostensibly to protect the population and the rebels from attacks by Libyan aircraft. Rather than just controlling Libyan airspace, NATO began systematically attacking military and government facilities, including Gadhafi’s residence, with missiles and bombs.
We should pay tribute to the courage and fortitude of Libya’s leader. Despite repeated suggestions that he leave the country and take refuge in a safe location, he stayed with loyal Libyan military units and was killed in action in his home town of Sirte.
We can unequivocally say that Gadhafi’s death ends an entire era in the history of Libya, the Arab world and Africa, and all of humanity. It will take a considerable amount of time to appreciate his contribution to world civilization. We have lost a great man, a worthy son of his people, a devout Muslim, an idealist and dreamer, a thinker and soldier, a politician and statesman, an author and philosopher (his short story “Death” and his article “The Greatness and Uniqueness of Russia” are superb), a good family man and loving father. It is no exaggeration to say that Kurds and Russians, as well as millions of ordinary people throughout the world, will forever remember all of Muammar Gadhafi’s noble ideas and deeds.
Libya is at a crossroads. Will the new leaders who come to replace Gadhafi succeed in holding the nation together and guarding the country against domestic strife and conflict? Let’s hope that the foundation laid by its first post-monarchy leader in forming a new Libyan society is a lasting one.
I am confident that the time will eventually come when the Libyans themselves pay homage to their homegrown hero, Bedouin of the Libyan desert and champion of justice—Colonel Muammar Gadhafi.
Source: New Eastern Outlook