I believed in the optimism of the “Arab Spring” and in our country’s support of “incipient democratic movements” in the Arab nations. Like others, I was appalled by the story of the obviously deluded Libyan dictator who was so corrupt that he distributed his country’s wealth among his family, while his own people went without and then, rebelled.
But when I viewed the videotaped actions of these rebels, I wondered what “incipient democratic movements” we were supporting. It was my feeling at the time that, indeed, the barbaric manner of Col. Muammar el-Qadaffi’s death did not bode well for the future of Libya.
After Libyan rebels found the once-charismatic revolutionary leader turned dictator hiding in a drain tunnel, his convoy struck by NATO warplanes, they descended upon him like a pack of wild animals. They even sodomized him with what looked to be a metal stick, all to the incantations of “God is Great,” while filming his ordeal.
Who was this god they were appealing to, I wondered, while rebels tortured and killed the helpless captive.
The graphic videos that resulted, posted on the Internet for all to see, were chilling:
Bright red blood was pouring down and obscuring the side of Qadaffi’s face, who was screaming out in pain. Then, the camera focused on one moment when the dazed dictator, obviously suffering, lifted up his hand to wipe his face, and stared in disbelief at his bloodied palm..
"Keep him alive! Keep him alive!” jeered his attackers. There was an image of him placed atop a jeep or van. There were the sounds of pistol shots. Next, the camera rested on a photo of his dead body. He had been summarily executed, with a bullet wound to his head.
There was talk of an investigation among Western nations, as killing a prisoner of war is against international law, but it never took place.
The official Libyan explanation -- that Qadaffi had been killed in a cross fire – was obviously contradicted by the posted videos. His tormenters and killer were not identified. Rather, they were hailed as national heroes
We left it at that.
“We came, we saw, he died," said our Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, unseemingly blithe, when she was shown the graphic video that confirmed Qadaffi’s death. Her take on Caesar’s famous dictum -- “Veni. Vidi, Vici,” or “I came. I saw. I conquered.” -- seemed somewhat flip and arrogant, in view of this flagrant violation of the laws of the Geneva Convention.
Next the rebels posted a videotape that showed the dictator’s decomposing body, displayed in a glass-covered meat freezer, while an endless line of jubilant Libyan citizens, entire families of men, women and children, paraded past it taking photos – celebrating, I suppose, some sort of gruesome Libyan family day
Who were these people who behaved this way? I began to wonder. In a civilized country, a man who committed the crimes against humanity that Qadaffi did would have been called to account in an orderly legal proceeding.
I waited for a response of outrage at this scene of desecration but it never came.
The days after Qadaffi’s death were not marked by the proclamation of “freedom” as we had been giddily expecting, but by the proclamation of Shariah law and the revival of bigamy. Shariah law -- the religious law of Islam, abrogates the rights of women, celebrates “vengeance,” and in its extreme, justifies Jihad – or war against non-believers, endorsing killing and even suicide, done in the name of Allah.
Was I the only one left wondering about where this new development, inconsistent with our democratic ideals, not to mention the rights of women, was leading to?
In our press, there was much talk about Libya’s “liberation” and promising future, as television cameras and reports focused on its “freedom-fighters” ravaging what remained of his Qadaffi’s lavish lifestyle. An op-ed in the New York Times actually stated that there was nothing unusual in the manner of Qaddafi’s death, except for the fact that it was filmed. He died, it said, in the manner of all dictators, citing the infamous Caligula. There was even lot of kidding around, as on a late night comedy show, where a little boy was featured on Halloween, walking about encased in a cardboard drainpipe costume and sporting a military-style hat. The official stance was that Qaddadi deserved to die the way he did. See, for example, Charles Krauthammer's "Libyan 'Crossfire'" in the Washington Post.
Such a stance seemed all the more troubling, in view of the complicated history our nation has had with the Libyan leader. He was certainly responsible for the bombing of Lockerbie, but he also paid reparations to the families of the victims. He reinstated himself in the eyes of the West, also by agreeing to not to stockpile nuclear weapons and not to harbor terrorists. (In fact, it was his anti-Islam stance that most angered his country’s religious extremists.) Just in the past few years he and members of his family had been formally received as visitors to our nation.
In this day and age, it seemed to me, our country had moved much beyond the days of the treatment of Caligula. Maybe not. As I think of the sickening videos posted on YouTube, in our reaction we seemed no different than the Libyans -- or the ancient Romans who watched gladiators killing each other for sport or enjoyed the spectacle of Christians thrown to the lions -- viewing and celebrating scenes that appeal to humanity’s basest emotions. What kind of nation have we become? And what have we accomplished?
It has become fairly obvious by now that the "incipient democratic movements” we so jubilantly supported have brought into power a bunch of militant Islam factions, who abhor and distrust all things Western, their rage exacerbated by memories of colonialism. In the end all that we left behind as a result of our intervention is a lawless country torn apart by tribal warfare, its fighters no different than the ones who so barbarically killed Qadaffi.