DISCLAIMER: the views of this Guest are not the views of ‘A String of Pearls’. Neither is this my personal view. Dear readers, I thought long and hard before deciding to publish this article. I was surprised when I first heard of it. I was more surprised to find the author is American. I reflected upon the words of our Guidelines:
Please be tolerant, and respectful in all ways.
(We can agree to disagree, but let’s not cause hurt, sorrow or grief)
In the end I decided to let you, the reader, decide if this was the right thing to do. And finally, I was swayed by this oft quoted phrase:
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”
The death of Muammar Qaddafi
How many times have we wondered about the humanity of Arabs who, by following a religious jihad, bombed themselves and killed hundreds of Westerners (and thousands of Americans at the WTC in 2001)? We shake our heads and can’t quite grasp how these people can rejoice in the deaths of Americans they didn’t even know. And often we congratulate ourselves that WE aren’t like that. Yet how many people rejoiced in the death of Muammar Qaddafi last week? Had no problem watching the beatings administered after his capture and the blood pouring down his face from the gunshots that ended his life as he begged for mercy? How many had no problem viewing the photos of his body on a mattress in a warehouse freezer?
Qaddafi’s daughter called her father’s cell phone after the news of his capture reached her, and a cheering Rebel told her “Old Fuzzhead is dead”. She was his only daughter, and as one who recently lost her father, I can’t imagine seeing my father’s horrific death replayed over and over on TV and the internet. A kill-shot and quick burial of a monster is one thing—but rejoicing in the brutal, graphic death of a man who was one of the first leaders to call for and insist on the release of Nelson Mandela? I would like to think that we as Christians are better than that.
I never took debate in school, but it seems reasonable to assume that at least 2 of the tools used in debate would be to a) turn your opponent into a demon or a threat to those listening or b) turn him into a buffoon. I think Western governments did both to Qaddafi. From what I have read on the internet, he was made fun of for sleeping in a tent; dying his hair; being vain; squandering his country’s oil wealth; and for liking to be surrounded by women.
Life in Libya
First of all Qaddafi was born in a tent in the desert in a country with less than a 25% literacy rate. Qaddafi, however, graduated from a military academy, and at 27 years old, took over the leadership of Libya without a single shot fired against those in power. With Qaddafi at the helm for 42 years, Libya now has an 88% literacy rate because education is free in Libya. Everyone who marries receives $50, 000 toward the purchase of a home; every new mother gets $5000. Qaddafi offered to buy cars and homes for all the members of his tribe to effectively bring a people living in the 18th century desert into the 20th and 21st centuries.
He was shrewd enough to earn billions for his country because of oil, but when they discovered a tremendous reservoir of fresh water under the desert in Libya, Qaddafi poured resources into developing a pipeline which, when it is completed this year, will irrigate Libya (the Great Man-Made River) and allow it to grow crops and feed itself. None of these sound to me like a man who bought luxury items for himself and said to hell with his people. This sounds like a man desperate and determined to raise his people up. So what if he dyed his hair? Ronald Reagan did, too. As for liking women in uniform—hardly a surprise. I mean, he was a man. He was also married to 1 woman (his first marriage ended in divorce) and had 8 children.
Colonel Qaddafi Screaming
Why did he hate the West and seem to blame America so much? I believe I have an answer. I had 5 sons. When the one in the middle (Richard) was about 9 years old, Buddy (my oldest) hit him on the head with the eraser end of a pencil. It was a tap on the head, but Richard screamed like he had been stabbed. Buddy (who was 16) laughed and did it again and again. Each time Richard became more enraged and even hysterical, turning red in the face and screaming to the top of his lungs. Why? Because Buddy and Kevin, his older brothers, both in their teens had power. They had found their place in the pecking order of brotherdom, and Buddy exercised that power by towering over Richard and tapping him on the head with a pencil. Richard screamed in rage because he could not take on Buddy in a fair fight. So Richard used the power he did have: he screamed and he caused a ruckus and I intervened and stopped it. Colonel Qaddafi was an educated man who saw the potential his country had to have power—to be a player; to level the field against the older, stronger brothers of his world—the leaders of the West. He bargained for what his country had that the West needed, and he screamed and caused a ruckus every time one of those countries tried to reduce him to the ridiculous, 3rd world brother.
I think Qaddafi truly believed that the uprisings in Libya were the work of outsiders and Al Qaeda. He simply could not and would not believe that after 42 years, his people were so dissatisfied that they wanted him gone. After all, he never was President or King—he was simply Brother Leader. Where was he to go? He couldn’t believe his own people wanted him out of the country where he was born, and for whom he had fought the older brothers of the world. Because there were enough people around him who were loyal to him, he waged a war that he believed was FOR his country not against his country.
Colonel Qaddafi did good things that ought not be forgotten. He was a visionary and a rebel and a proud man who celebrated his roots and his heritage. Yes, he hated the West, but he was not a terrorist. He repudiated Al Qaeda and he opened his country for UN inspectors who got rid of his chemical weapons.
The Libyan government apologized to the victims of the Pan Am flight and made restitution to the families. You never saw bin Laden apologize for his acts of terrorism or Hussein, who really did live the life of wealthy mogul. Qaddafi liked living in a tent.
When NATO bombed his convoy, he was shot in the leg and the abdomen. He made it to a culvert to redress his wounds. Was he supposed to prop himself up on a tree out in the open, instead? He did not come out of the culvert shooting, though he had a gun. He came out asking what was wrong because he truly did not know and could not believe that his countrymen hated him and wanted him dead. And my God, did he pay a price.
Death of an educated man
I am horrified at his death. Maybe it has something to do with my father’s death; maybe it is because I remember a young and handsome Qaddafi who came to power when he was younger than my Richard is now. Maybe it is because I went to graduate school with Arab men who told me they only wanted the US to see that there were two sides to every situation and not just blindly back Israel, as though Arabs couldn’t possibly have any legitimate complaints and concerns. Yet in the 26 years since I left graduate school, I have seen nothing really change in the US/ West policy toward the Middle East, and I have witnessed a desperate Arab world determined to make a ruckus any way they could. I don’t regret that we took out bin Laden, a man determined to wreak death and destruction until he was taken out of this world. I don’t have a problem with the capture and trial of Hussein. But a proud and educated man who was head of a country for 42 years? He deserved better, and while nobody from the West (we hope) kicked him or stomped him or pulled out his hair, we ought to at least look at the whole of his life and find a shred of compassion now that he is no more.