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

Robert Fisk
Wednesday 26 October 2011 00:30 BST

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".

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