- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy
Speaking on television outside one of his residences, which was bombed by the U.S. in the 1980s and features a large statue of a fist crushing an American warplane, Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi just delivered a rambling, defiant speech in which he bizarrely claimed not to have ordered attacks on protesters, despite well-documented reports to the contrary, but promised deadly consequences when he does. Al Jazeera reports:
"I am a fighter, a revolutionary from tents … I will die as a martyr at the end," he said.
"I have not yet ordered the use of force, not yet ordered one bullet to be fired … when I do, everything will burn."
He called on supporters to take to the streets to attack protesters. "You men and women who love Gaddafi …get out of your homes and fill the streets," he said. "Leave your homes and attack them in their lairs … Starting tomorrow the cordons will be lifted, go out and fight them."
"From tonight to tomorrow, all the young men should form local committees for popular security," he said, telling them to wear a green armband to identify themselves. "The Libyan people and the popular revolution will control Libya."[…]
Shouting in the rambling speech, Gaddafi declared himself "a warrior" and proclaimed: "Libya wants glory, Libya wants to be at the pinnacle, at the pinnacle of the world".
This kind of speech is Qaddafi’s trademark, but it’s hard to see the point of it in this context. While he made a few promises for reform — saying that Libyans could have any kind of judicial system they wanted — even he must know that’s not going to satisfy the crowds in Green Square. One lesson that other Middle Eastern autocrats do now seem to have learned from Ben Ali or Mubarak: Unless you plan to resign, you’re better off keeping your mouth shut.