Sometime during the day yesterday, we got the news that Gadaffi had been killed. There were images of wild celebrations by revolutionary forces in Tripoli, and a general feeling of satisfaction seemed to permeate the corridors of London. The US secretary of state was quick to congratulate the “people of Libya”. President Obama hailed his death as a “warning’ to iron fisted rulers in the Middle East (sic ). And France declared the (triumphant?) end to NATO involvement in Libya.
A small footnote that we are left to deduce, is that in reality NATO appears to have been monitoring his movements carefully. And when he tried to escape Sirte in a convoy, it was bombed by NATO planes and completely destroyed. A wounded Gadaffi crawled into a drain to hide from the bombing, where the local resistance was left to find him and finish the unpleasant task!
Not that one has any sympathy for Gadaffi per se, but something in this entire picture just doesn’t seem quite right. There is a disturbing quality to the images of a bloodied man being dragged around, and then being found dead. Sure, the man was a dictator and is reputed to have been a power hungry monster. And he would not have bothered with any niceties, were he on the other side of the table. But when one paints a man as a villain because he does not follow justice and the rule of law, and then we go ahead and behave in the same way as a form of retribution, what makes one side morally right. And the other wrong?
I would very much have liked to see Gadaffi captured, and brought to trial at the international court of justice, or even the Libyan courts themselves. If he was found guilty after prosecution, and sentenced to death as per the laws of the land, so be it. But there is a critical difference between following the process of law and not following it. And that is what differentiates civilized, democratic society from the other. Somehow we seem to conveniently forget this when it suits us. I guess this is basic human instinct. But one always hoped that the very purpose of a “civil” society, was to transcend some of these basic instincts. I would go so far as to say that even a sham trial, like the one that Saddam Hussein went through, is better than obliquely ignoring the law. This is obviously a highly debatable statement that we shall not get into, lest we lose our topic.
That aside, the entire situation begs the question, “now what” ? Does anyone genuinely believe that Libya is going to transform into a peaceful, democratic country? Is this the model that the West hopes to export to Syria and perhaps someday to Iran? And will this bring stability to a region that is fast turning into a tinderbox of emotions? I don’t think anyone with a modicum of intelligence can really believe this. Everyone knows that one of Gadaffi’s secrets was that he put down tribal militancy ruthlessly, and united the Libyans through force. We also know that the NTC resistance movement had close to 50 separate groups coming together to fight back. Now that the uniting objective of defeating Gadaffi is gone, who will stop them from turning their guns against each other? NATO? Not much chance of them hanging around, except perhaps long enough to install one of their “preferred” men in power. Already the eastern Libyans and the Berbers seem to be arguing about who really fought the war. The Americans are also acutely aware that the eastern majority has a strong islamic radical influence, and many of their men crossed over to Iraq, to fight the US forces not too long ago. How long before it starts calling them international terrorists?
Meanwhile, little is confirmed of the fate of Gadaffi’s eight children; seven sons and a daughter. There are uncertainties regarding all the death or capture reports. It is said that that Sayf Al Islam, who was educated at the London school of economics, and was once considered pro-reform and the west’s “best bet” has also turned bitter. Quite unsurprising. What happens when loyalist forces regroup under any or all of these children, is also a question left unanswered.
In summary, we seem to be heading for even greater degrees of instability in an already dangerous region. And the rest of the World does not seem to have helped much, so far.