Robert Fisk: Gaddafi raved and cursed, but he faces forces he cannot control

 

Share
Related Topics

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.



React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Tony Abbott: A man most Australian women would like to pat on the back...iron in hand

Caroline Garnar
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea performs in California  

Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting

Yomi Adegoke
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there