David Rothkopf

The end cannot come too soon for Qaddafi & son

I can’t help but wonder if the British Government, which showed so much empathy for Libyans for whom the end was near in the past, will be willing to embrace the Qaddafi family much as they did their agent of murder in the Pan Am 103 bombing.  The departures of Tunisia’s Ben Ali and Egypt’s ...

Artyom Korotayev/Epsilon/Getty Images
Artyom Korotayev/Epsilon/Getty Images

I can’t help but wonder if the British Government, which showed so much empathy for Libyans for whom the end was near in the past, will be willing to embrace the Qaddafi family much as they did their agent of murder in the Pan Am 103 bombing. 

The departures of Tunisia’s Ben Ali and Egypt’s Mubarak as a result of the wave of unrest that has swept across the Middle East took away bad men who had at least one or two redeeming qualities. Despite a recent PR campaign by his son to attempt to make Libya look somewhat less barbarian than its leader and the humorous nature of some of the WikiLeaks revelations about Qaddafi’s penchant for nurses who seem to be drawn from the cast of a Ukrainian road company of a Russ Meyer movie, the Libyan chieftan has been throughout his far too long career one of the world’s real nut job leaders.

Qaddafi’s deranged addresses at the United Nations, his exploits camping out in the New Jersey suburbs rather than staying at a hotel in Manhattan, and his generally out of control behavior might make him seem just kooky and certainly made him a favorite of comedians and cartoonists everywhere. But it is important to remember … whether the apparent victory by anti-Qaddafi forces in Benghazi, Libya’s second city ultimately is seen as the beginning of the leaders’ end or not … that this is no mere laughingstock. 

Qaddafi spent much of his career as one of the world’s least discriminating sponsors of political unrest in Africa and worldwide. He is believed to have helped underwrite terrorists from the Black September group that conducted the 1972 attacks on the Munich Olympics to the IRA to Colombia’s FARC to Carlos the Jackal. While he periodically seemed lucid and was charismatic enough to once inspire Nelson Mandela to name one of his off-spring after him, he has enough blood on his hands to earn him a place in the 20th Century madman hall of fame, admittedly not in the main wing with the really big time murderers like Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, but in the wannabe annex. 

Of course, even were Qaddafi to fall tomorrow — which wouldn’t be too soon — he will already have served longer than any Libyan leader in almost half a millennium and his tenure, which began with a  coup in 1969, will rank among the longest worldwide of the post-World War II era. In other words, his departure, when it comes will be long overdue.

That said, even if the uprisings do not produce such a welcome denouement, they have already achieved something great. They have revealed Qaddafi’s son Saif to be something less than the western-looking, well-tailored reasonable young man on the go that he has sought to sell himself as. Threatening rivers of blood and wielding behind-the-scenes influence that has almost certainly led to the deaths of hundreds, Saif is revealing that in a crisis, he is indeed a chip off the old block. With some luck this will have, in any event, written the end for the smooth young thug on the rise.

Meanwhile, we are once again left waiting and watching the news to see whether the anger of people long kept down has claimed another victim from among the slowly but happily dwindling list of the ruthless bastards who have done so much to make the modern Middle East the mess that it is today.

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