Robert Fisk: You can't blame Gaddafi for thinking he was one of the good guys

The West may be celebrating his death, but that's just an accident of timing

view gallery VIEW GALLERY
Share
Related Topics

We loved him. We hated him. Then we loved him again. Blair slobbered over him. Then we hated him again. Then La Clinton slobbered over her BlackBerry and we really hated him even more again. Let us all pray that he wasn't murdered. "Died of wounds suffered during capture." What did that mean?

He was a crazy combination of Don Corleone and Donald Duck – Tom Friedman's only moment of truth about Saddam Hussein – and we who had to watch his ridiculous march-pasts and his speeches bit our lips and wrote about Libyan tanks and marines and missiles that were supposed to take this nonsense seriously. His frogmen flipped and flapped through Green Square in the heat and we had to take this rubbish at face value and pretend that it was a real threat to Israel; just as Blair tried to persuade us (not unsuccessfully) that Gaddafi's pathetic attempts to create "weapons of mass destruction" had been skewered. This, in a country that couldn't repair a public lavatory.

So he is gone, the colonel who was once beloved of the Foreign Office (after the coup against King Idris), then guarded as a "safe pair of hands", then loathed because he sent weapons to the IRA, then loved, etc, etc. Can you blame the man for thinking he was a good guy?

And did he perish so? Shot down while trying to resist? We lived with Ceausescu's death (and that of his wife), so why not Gaddafi's? And Gaddafi's wife is safe. Why shouldn't the dictator die thus? Interesting question. Did our friends in the National Transitional Council decree his demise? Or was this "natural", a death at the hands of his enemies, an honourable end to a bad man? I wonder. How the West must have been relieved that there would be no trials, no endless speeches from the Great Leader, no defence of his regime. No trials mean no accounts of rendition and torture and no cutting of sexual parts.

So let us not recall any grovelling to Gaddafi. More than 30 year ago, I went to Tripoli, and met the IRA man who sent the Semtex to Ireland and protected the Irish citizens in Libya, and the Libyans were quite happy that I should meet them. And why not? For this was a period in which Gaddafi was the leader of the Third World. We got used to the ways of his regime. We got used to his cruelty. We connived at it, once it became "normal". Thus it was important to finish the documentation of his viciousness on our behalf.

Indeed, the end of any juridical evidence of torture by Gaddafi's regime care of (of course) and on behalf of the UK government would be a good thing, wouldn't it? The UK woman who knew all about this torture – unnamed but I know her name, so make sure she does not misbehave again – will she be safe from prosecution (which she should not be)? And will we all make cosy with Muammar Gaddafi's mates in the aftermath of his demise?

Maybe. But let us not forget the past. Gaddafi remembered the Italian colonial rule in Libya, the repulsive Italian rule during which every Libyan had to walk in the gutter when confronted by an Italian, when Libya's heroes were hanged in public, when Libyan freedom was regarded as "terrorism". The oil men and the lads and lassies from the IMF are going to be treated no better with the same servitude. The Libyans are smart people. Gaddafi knew that; although, fatally, he thought himself smarter. The idea that these tribal people will suddenly "globalise" and become different is ridiculous.

Gaddafi was one of those Arab potentates for whom the moniker "crazy" was fitting, yet who spoke a kind of sanity. He did not believe in "Palestine" because he thought the Israelis had already stolen too much Arab land (correct) and he did not really believe in the Arab world – hence his tribal beliefs. He was, indeed, a very odd person.

We shall wait to find out how Gaddafi died. Was he murdered? Was he "resisting" (a good tribal thing to do)? Don't worry – La Clinton will be happy he was "killed".

React Now

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

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron's 'compassionate conservatism' is now lying on its back  

Tory modernisation has failed under David Cameron

Michael Dugher
Russian President Vladimir Putin 'hits his foes where it hurts'  

Dominic Raab: If Western politicians’ vested interests protect Putin, take punishment out of their hands

Dominic Raab
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform