Great articles from Robert Fisk over these last few weeks! Must be an amazing time for him. Definitely more insightful than any other commentators.
Robert Fisk: Gaddafi raved and cursed, but he faces forces he cannot controlhttp://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-gaddafi-raved-and-cursed-but-he-faces-forces-he-cannot-control-2222904.html
Wednesday, 23 February 2011
So he will go down fighting. That's what Muammar Gaddafi told us last night, and most Libyans believe him. This will be no smooth flight to Riyadh or a gentle trip to a Red Sea holiday resort. Raddled, cowled in desert gowns, he raved on.
He had not even begun to use bullets against his enemies – a palpable lie – and "any use of force against the authority of the state shall be punished by death", in itself a palpable truth which Libyans knew all too well without the future tense of Gaddafi's threat. On and on and on he ranted. Like everything Gaddafi, it was very impressive – but went on far too long.
He cursed the people of Benghazi who had already liberated their city – "just wait until the police return to restore order", this dessicated man promised without a smile. His enemies were Islamists, the CIA, the British and the "dogs" of the international press. Yes, we are always dogs, aren't we? I was long ago depicted in a Bahraini newspaper cartoon (Crown Prince, please note) as a rabid dog, worthy of liquidation. But like Gaddafi's speeches, that's par for the course. And then came my favourite bit of the whole Gaddafi exegesis last night: HE HADN'T EVEN BEGUN TO USE VIOLENCE YET!
So let's erase all the YouTubes and Facebooks and the shooting and blood and gouged corpses from Benghazi, and pretend it didn't happen. Let's pretend that the refusal to give visas to foreign correspondents has actually prevented us from hearing the truth. Gaddafi's claim that the protesters in Libya – the millions of demonstrators – "want to turn Libya into an Islamic state" is exactly the same nonsense that Mubarak peddled before the end in Egypt, the very same nonsense that Obama and La Clinton have suggested. Indeed, there were times last night when Gaddafi – in his vengefulness, his contempt for Arabs, for his own people – began to sound very like the speeches of Benjamin Netanyahu. Was there some contact between these two rogues, one wondered, that we didn't know about?
In many ways, Gaddafi's ravings were those of an old man, his fantasies about his enemies – "rats who have taken tablets" who included "agents of Bin Laden" – were as disorganised as the scribbled notes on the piece of paper he held in his right hand, let alone the green-covered volume of laws from which he kept quoting. It was not about love. It was about the threat of execution. "Damn those" trying to stir unrest against Libya. It was a plot, an international conspiracy. "Your children are dying – but for what?" He would fight "until the last drop of my blood with the Libyan people is behind me". America was the enemy (much talk of Fallujah), Israel was the enemy, Sadat was an enemy, colonial fascist Italy was the enemy. Among the heroes and friends was Gaddafi's grandfather, "who fell a martyr in 1911" against the Italian enemy.
Dressed in brown burnous and cap and gown, Gaddafi's appearance last night raised some odd questions. Having kept the international media – the "dogs" in question – out of Libya, he allowed the world to observe a crazed nation: YouTube and blogs of terrible violence versus state television pictures of an entirely unhinged dictator justifying what he had either not seen on YouTube or hadn't been shown. And there's an interesting question here: dictators and princes who let the international press into their countries – Messrs Ben Ali/Mubarak/Saleh/Prince Salman – are permitting it to film their own humiliation. Their reward is painful indeed. But sultans like Gaddafi who keep the journos out fare little different.
The hand-held immediacy of the mobile phone, the intimacy of sound and the crack of gunfire are in some ways more compelling than the edited, digital film of the networks. Exactly the same happened in Gaza when the Israelis decided, Gaddafi-like, to keep foreign journalists out of their 2009 bloodletting: the bloggers and YouTubers (and Al Jazeera) simply gave us a reality we didn't normally experience from the "professional" satellite boys. Perhaps, in the end, it takes a dictator with his own monopoly on cameras to tell the truth. "I will die as a martyr," Gaddafi said last night. Almost certainly true.Cruel. Vainglorious. Steeped in blood. And now, surely, after more than four decades of terror and oppression, on his way out?
Robert Fisk on Muammar Gaddafi, tyrant of Tripoli
Tuesday, 22 February 2011http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/cruel-vainglorious-steeped-in-blood-and-now-surely-after-more-than-four-decades-of-terror-and-oppression-on-his-way-out-2221687.html
So even the old, paranoid, crazed fox of Libya – the pallid, infantile, droop-cheeked dictator from Sirte, owner of his own female praetorian guard, author of the preposterous Green Book, who once announced he would ride to a Non-Aligned Movement summit in Belgrade on his white charger – is going to ground. Or gone. Last night, the man I first saw more than three decades ago, solemnly saluting a phalanx of black-uniformed frogmen as they flappered their way across the sulphur-hot tarmac of Green Square on a torrid night in Tripoli during a seven-hour military parade, appeared to be on the run at last, pursued – like the dictators of Tunis and Cairo – by his own furious people.
The YouTube and Facebook pictures told the story with a grainy, fuzzed reality, fantasy turned to fire and burning police stations in Benghazi and Tripoli, to corpses and angry, armed men, of a woman with a pistol leaning from a car door, of a crowd of students – were they readers of his literature? – breaking down a concrete replica of his ghastly book. Gunfire and flames and cellphone screams; quite an epitaph for a regime we all, from time to time, supported.
And here, just to lock our minds on to the brain of truly eccentric desire, is a true story. Only a few days ago, as Colonel Muammar Gaddafi faced the wrath of his own people, he met with an old Arab acquaintance and spent 20 minutes out of four hours asking him if he knew of a good surgeon to lift his face. This is – need I say it about this man? – a true story. The old boy looked bad, sagging face, bloated, simply "magnoon" (mad), a comedy actor who had turned to serious tragedy in his last days, desperate for the last make-up lady, the final knock on the theatre door.
In the event, Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, faithful understudy for his father, had to stand in for him on stage as Benghazi and Tripoli burned, threatening "chaos and civil war" if Libyans did not come to heel. "Forget oil, forget gas," this wealthy nincompoop announced. "There will be civil war."
Above the beloved son's head on state television, a green Mediterranean appeared to ooze from his brain. Quite an obituary, when you come to think of it, of nearly 42 years of Gaddafi rule.
Not exactly King Lear, who would "do such things – what they are, yet I know not, but they shall be the terrors of the earth"; more like another dictator in a different bunker, summoning up non-existent armies to save him in his capital, ultimately blaming his own people for his calamity. But forget Hitler. Gaddafi was in a class of his own, Mickey Mouse and Prophet, Batman and Clark Gable and Anthony Quinn playing Omar Mukhtar in Lion of the Desert, Nero and Mussolini (the 1920s version) and, inevitably – the greatest actor of them all – Muammar Gaddafi. He wrote a book – appropriately titled in his present unfortunate circumstances – called Escape to Hell and Other Stories and demanded a one state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which would be called "Israeltine".
Shortly thereafter, he threw half the Palestinian residents of Libya out of his country and told them to walk home to their lost land. He stormed out of the Arab League because he deemed it irrelevant – a brief moment of sanity there, one has to admit – and arrived in Cairo for a summit, deliberately confusing a lavatory door with that of the conference chamber until led aside by the Caliph Mubarak who had a thin, suffering smile on his face.
And if what we are witnessing is a true revolution in Libya, then we shall soon be able – unless the Western embassy flunkies get there first for a spot of serious, desperate looting – to rifle through the Tripoli files and read the Libyan version of Lockerbie and the 1989 UTA Flight 722 plane bombing; and of the Berlin disco bombings, for which a host of Arab civilians and Gaddafi's own adopted daughter were killed in America's 1986 revenge raids; and of his IRA arms supplies and of his assassination of opponents at home and abroad, and of the murder of a British policewoman, and of his invasion of Chad and the deals with British oil magnates; and (woe betide us all at this point) of the truth behind the grotesque deportation of the soon-to-expire al-Megrahi, the supposed Lockerbie bomber too ill to die, who may, even now, reveal some secrets which the Fox of Libya – along with Gordon Brown and the Attorney General for Scotland, for all are equal on the Gaddafi world stage – would rather we didn't know about.
And who knows what the Green Book Archives – and please, O insurgents of Libya, do NOT in thy righteous anger burn these priceless documents – will tell us about Lord Blair's supine visit to this hideous old man; an addled figure whose "statesmanlike" gesture (the words, of course, come from that old Marxist fraud Jack Straw, when the author of Escape to Hell promised to hand over the nuclear nick-nacks which his scientists had signally failed to turn into a bomb) allowed our own faith-based Leader to claim that, had we not smitten the Saddamites with our justified anger because of their own non-existent weapons of mass destruction, Libya, too, would have joined the Axis of Evil.
Alas, Lord Blair paid no heed to the Gaddafi "whoops" factor, a unique ability to pose as a sane man while secretly believing oneself – like miss-a-heart-beat Omar Suleiman in Cairo – to be a light bulb. Only days after the Blair handshake, the Saudis accused Gaddafi of plotting – and the details, by the way, were horribly convincing – to murder Britain's ally, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. But why be surprised when the man most feared and now most mocked and hated by his own vengeful people wrote, in the aforesaid Escape to Hell that Christ's crucifixion was a historical falsehood and that – as here I say again, a faint ghost of truth does very occasionally adhere to Gaddafi's ravings – a German "Fourth Reich" was lording it over Britain and America? Reflecting on death in this thespian work, he asks if the Grim Reaper is male or female. The leader of the Great Libyan Arab People's Popular Masses, needless to say, seemed to favour the latter.
As with all Middle East stories, a historical narrative precedes the dramatic pageant of Gaddafi's fall. For decades, his opponents tried to kill him; they rose up as nationalists, as prisoners in his torture chambers, as Islamists on the streets of – yes! – Benghazi. And he smote them all down. Indeed, this venerable city had already achieved its martyrdom status in 1979 when Gaddafi publicly hanged dissident students in Benghazi's main square. I am not even mentioning the 1993 disappearance of Libyan human rights defender Mansour al-Kikhiya while attending a Cairo conference after complaining about Gaddafi's execution of political prisoners. And it is important to remember that, 42 years ago, our own Foreign Office welcomed Gaddafi's coup against the effete and corrupt King Idriss because, said our colonial mandarins, it was better to have a spick-and-span colonel in charge of an oil state than a relic of imperialism. Indeed, they showed almost as much enthusiasm as they did for this decaying despot when Lord Blair arrived in Tripoli decades later for the laying on of hands.
As a Libyan opposition group told us years ago – we didn't care about these folks then, of course – "Gaddafi would have us believe he is at the vanguard of every human development that has emerged during his lifetime".
All true, if now reduced to sub-Shakespearean farce. My kingdom for a facelift. At that non-aligned summit in Belgrade, Gaddafi even flew in a planeload of camels to provide him with fresh milk. But he was not allowed to ride his white charger. Tito saw to that. Now there was a real dictator.