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Didn’t heed advice

November 8, 2011

Muammar Gadaffi,  Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution of Libya


It’s tough on the modern dictator.  He gets the job because he’s the most impulsive, dangerous, and violent man in town, and keeps it by the well tried techniques of carrot, stick and bombast.  He makes fiery speeches, bombs his enemies and appropriates the oil to reward his friends and pay the secret police.  For 40 years he rides crises out, gets the girls, and the oil keeps flowing, so no-one looks too closely at his torture chambers.  In his funny hats and gold braid, surrounded by his buxom Amazonian Guard, he becomes almost loveable.  Foreign leaders court him. And then one day a fruit seller in the next door country immolates himself and the people ask for free elections. Normally a few tanks would sort them out, but this time the West also gets involved. Soon NATO jets are shooting up his troops, and advisers counselling a quick exit to Venezuela. It was good advice, but he’d always ignored that.  Suddenly he finds himself dragged out of a drainpipe with a loaded gun to his head.  It’s tough on the modern dictator.

Things had started well.  The handsome curly-haired colonel, who seized power from King Idris in a bloodless coup in 1969, talked a good game.  Forcing up oil royalties annoyed the companies, but made him popular at home. The money went into schools, hospital and water projects, and for a bit health and literacy improved.  But Gadaffi was just a poor kid from the desert; he didn’t know how to run a country, so he was tempted by central planning. He called his policy “Islamic socialism” and wrote a Little Green Book about it – not a good sign.  Soon the people were restless.

He would have fallen prey to the next strongman, but the oil price kept going up, and the sweetest crude poured out of every hole in the desert, so cheap the oilmen could afford his extortionate royalties and still make a tidy profit.  All Gadaffi had to do was keep himself in the news as the permanent revolutionary. Any murderous nut-case could be sure of fraternal greetings from the Brotherly Leader.

Unfortunately the Leader rarely limited himself to fraternal greetings.  He sent arms to the PLO, IRA, ETA, Red Brigades, and many others.  He fell out with half the Muslim world when his agents killed the Shia leader Musa Al-Sadr, and he fell out with most of the rest when he went to war, albeit briefly, with his neighbours Egypt and Chad.  Western leaders fretted over his efforts to get hold of chemical weapons and nuclear bombs.  The general public was maddened when his diplomats walked free after one of them had shot police officer Yvonne Fletcher outside their London embassy.  By the time his agents blew up La Belle nightclub in West Berlin and planted the bomb that bought down Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988, he had become an international pariah.

But his outrages had also made his name. Unlike the Tunisian fellow who wisely went into exile six months ago, (what was his name?) he was as famous as Idi Amin, Saddam Hussain and Pol Pot.  Nevertheless by the time of the 2003 Iraq invasion even Gadaffi was feeling the heat.  Fearing invasion, he admitted responsibility for Lockerbie and his other atrocities, and paid compensation.  He even claimed to have given up his weapons of mass destruction.  Tony Blair and other western leaders came to visit, and he was welcomed back into the international fold.   He must have hoped to die in his bed, but it was not to be.  The Arab Spring, Western jets and his own pig headedness finally unseated him in the best way possible – a bullet in the head.

Amelia has been fretting about spelling his name in English.  She was right to worry.  A perfect storm of problems – Arabic letters without English equivalents, and changing phonetic transliteration conventions applied to idiosyncratic Libyan dialects, all muddled up with his refusal to speak English in public, despite alleged fluency, and the occasional trouble maker who liked the ending “daffy” – have led to at least 57 variants.  Here’s a few, together with their advocates – Gadaffi (BBC and Al Jazeera), Gadhafi (CNN), Qaddafi (Library of Congress), Al-Qadhafi (US State Dept), and El-Qaddafi (White House and New York Times).

But they’re all wrong – someone found his son’s passport in an abandoned palace last week. His family spell it Gathafi.  And his first name? Let’s not go there.

The Colonel’s coup was bloodless
Unusual for Gadaffi,
But lucky for King Idris,
Who had sold his oil so cheaply.

Paying for fresh water,
Bringing a bit of glamour,
– And not foreseeing the slaughter –
The people liked Muammar

But his Little Green Book was barmy,
Soon everyone thought he was gaga,
To be mates with Robert Mugabe
And Idi Amin Dada

Unlike his hats, he was not so smart.
He never seemed to wise up,
Making friends with Pol Pot,
Bombing a Berlin nightclub

His medals made a mockery
The people began to disaffect
When a plane blew up over Lockerbie
He was the first suspect.

Reagan and Thatcher got angry.
Even the Arabs got cranky.
Only the Russians stayed friendly
They needed the oil, see.

Surrounding himself with a buxom guard,
“Terrorists don’t shoot women”.
No-one believed a single word.
More likely he wanted to shag ’em

But after 9/11 things got hotter.
George Bush mocked his curly hair.
So he joined the War on Terror,
And made friends with Tony Blair

After lasting so long,
He must surely have wondered
If he’d prove us all wrong,
Die in bed at a hundred.

But fool to the last, he failed to heed,
The Arab Spring, advice to run,
So he ended at last, as he richly deserved
Dead in a ditch. Wrong end of a gun.

Jim Thornton 31 October 2011
This is reprinted from AO deadpool

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