|Qadhafi on September 27, 1969, just weeks after the coup|
Initially, a great many observers welcomed the coup. Nasser famously said that Qadhafi reminded him of himself, while both the US and the UK initially saw the young officers as idealists they could work with. (At the time the US had the big Wheelus Air Force Base near Tripoli and the British the Al-Adham Air Base near Tobruk; both would soon be expelled and renamed as Libyan Air Bases.) Qadhafi appeared as a young idealist, an avid Arab nationalist, and a man who saw Nasser as a role model.
Not, I suspect, a picture the Administration wants to circulate right now. Though Obama looks none too comfortable.
Lord Acton's famous dictum that all power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely is no less true for having become a (usually misquoted) cliché. A man who claimed to be merely a "guide of the Revolution" yet ruled a security state as centralized as any, who claimed to prefer living in a tent yet whose children had lavish and extravagant palaces, who in the end made war on the very people who supposedly ruled his "Jamahiriyya" (a word of his own coining, related to the word for republic but based on a plural and meaning something like "state of the masses"): how to understand this man?
Qadhafi famously said earlier this year that he would hunt down his enemies "inch by inch, room by room, home by home, alleyway by alleyway." The last phrase, zanqa zanqa, soon was turned into a viral video as Zenga Zenga (by an Israeli musician no less). But on the 42nd anniversary of the "Great Green First of September Revolution," it is the "Guide of the Revolution" who appears to be the one being hunted down, alleyway by alleyway.
Some Libyan rebels are urging that September 1 this year be the day to remove every trace of Qadhafi's 42 years: the pictures, the slogans, the names on streets and squares.
The circle seems to be closing.