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

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

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

£25,000 - £30,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a fantastic opportunity...

Neil Pavier: Commercial Analyst

£50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...

Loren Hughes: Financial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Loren Hughes: Are you looking for a new opportunity that wi...

Sheridan Maine: Finance Analyst

Circa £45,000-£50,000 + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ac...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I might be an MP, but that doesn't stop me fighting sexism with my breasts

Björt Ólafsdóttir
 

Daily catch-up: opening round in the election contest of the YouTube videos

John Rentoul
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor