Nothing defines the post-Gaddafi National Transitional Council (NTC) regime better than the shockingly brutal manner in which Colonel Moammar Gaddafi was literally beaten to death after his capture on Thursday in Sirte. To reiterate the cliché that all is fair in love and war in this context is no comfort. The reports and footage of Gaddafi’s last moments are nothing short of hair-raising. This was a barbaric act in the extreme. With its usual expedient blinkers where its interests are concerned, the west, whether governments or the media, have tucked away their moral compass somewhere out of sight and convenient. The NTC pro-west regime they are triumphantly supporting is less likely to be, as the Libyan Ambassador in London claimed, a state ruled by law so much as a western imperialist satrap. Given that this treatment of a captured leader was not the first manifestation of the brutality of the NTC fighters (note the violence perpetrated against unarmed migrant African workers captured by the NTC and accused of being Gaddafi mercenaries without any proof), what is the explanation for this barbarism?
The NTC forces include al Qaeda affiliated groups who have been trying to overthrow Gaddafi through armed uprisings (especially in eastern Libya) over the years. Ironically, the very west that claims to be fighting al Qaeda worldwide turned a convenient blind eye to the troubling inclusion of these extremist jihadi groups in the NTC ranks. One faction of these al Qaeda affiliates was held responsible for the murder of a Gaddafi regime senior general who defected to the rebels and was leading their military campaign. Yet to date, no one has been held accountable for this murder. Libya presents the picture of the pattern likely to be used by the west from now on to take out regimes that oppose its imperialist ambitions. The model is to use local dissident or rebellious forces on the ground, supported by the US and Nato’s overwhelming technological superiority in air power, missiles and other ‘remote’ weapons to help crush regimes that do not play ball with the west. US President Obama boasted after Gaddafi’s brutal end was confirmed that not one American life had been lost in the Libyan campaign. What he conveniently forgot to mention was the role of covert special forces attached to the NTC rebels that arguably helped and directed their relatively amateur military efforts. Obama’s triumphalism pulled whatever thin fig leaf was put up by Washington under the rubric ‘leading from behind’.
Like in any detective novel, the two critical questions to be asked are: motive, and beneficiary, to determine the villain of the piece. Libya’s oil and gas riches are what the US-led west has been slavering over for a very long time. Gaddafi’s support to anti-imperialist movements worldwide earned him more than a fair share of the ire of the powers that be in our (still) post-Cold War unipolar world. France and Britain, that led the anti-Gaddafi pack, are licking their lips over the lucrative ingress they have gained through bringing the NTC to power into Libya’s oil and gas. As in Iraq, energy sources and imperialist intervention have a symbiotic relationship.
It may be too close to these horrific events to judge Gaddafi’s place in history. However, a few tentative conclusions can be tendered even now. Colonel Gaddafi’s coup in 1969 that overthrew the decrepit monarchy and established a popular Arab nationalist regime openly declared its support of all anti-imperialist movements in the world. Sometimes, his uncompromising stances and criticism of other third world countries that betrayed their ostensible support to such movements because of ties to, and pressure from, the west, invited retaliation and even relative isolation for Gaddafi. He was however, undeterred for a very long time. It is only when the west was able to orchestrate a virtually total isolation of Libya because of the Lockerbie bombing and other incidents, that Gaddafi attempted to compromise with the west. He gave up his nuclear ambitions, support for already dwindling anti-imperialist movements, and tried to craft an acceptable modus vivendi with the western powers. However, if there is one lesson to be drawn from his fate, it is that empires have long memories and are totally ruthless in achieving their goals. Gaddafi joins a long list of the victims of the rapacious greed and domineering imperialist ambitions of the west that litters the history of the modern world. Rest in peace Colonel.