By Mike Scruggs-2011,
President Ronald Reagan once aptly described Libyan Dictator Moammar Gadhafi (AP, CNN, Fox, WSJ spelling) as the “mad dog of the Middle East.” In September 1969, the then 27-year-old Libyan Army Captain and a small group of junior officers accomplished a bloodless coup while King Idris was in Turkey for medical treatment. He immediately assumed command of the Libyan Armed Forces and control of the government as Chairman of the Revolutionary Council. In keeping with his Jacobin egalitarianism, he only assumed the army rank of colonel rather than general. Despite his many radical egalitarian statements about direct democracy, however, the flamboyant absolute despot probably has the biggest ego in the Arab world.
Gadhafi was a great admirer of Egypt’s Arab nationalist President Gamal Abdel Nasser. In addition to his nationalist sentiments, however, Gadhafi often expresses radical leftist sentiments and kept in close touch with the Soviet Union and other Communist states for many years. He was also an admirer of the Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara. Gadhafi still often blames Libya’s and the Arab-Muslim world’s problems on Western colonialism and the State of Israel.
On Muhammad’s birthday in 1973, Gadhafi called for the suspension of all existing laws and the implementation of Sharia (Islamic Law). In imitation of Chairman Mao Zedong’s revolutionary “Little Red Book,” Gadhafi, who now calls himself “Libya’s Brother Leader,” published three volumes of his own “Green Book” outlining his ideology of Islamic Socialism. (Green is the traditional color of Islam, symbolizing paradise and Muhammad’s tribal banners.) Libya soon became a haven for the most radical strains of fundamentalist Islam and a leading exporter of Islamist terrorism. Gadhafi reportedly financed the Black September Movement that massacred eleven Israeli athletes and a German police officer at the 1972 Summer Olympics.
Gadhafi, who once talked of assassinating President Reagan, had at least 25 people assassinated in Western countries from 1980 to 1987. He often orders public executions of dissidents and has them broadcast on State Television. Libyan radicals were responsible for the December 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 that fell to earth near Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 243 passengers and 16 crewmembers. The list of Gadhafi’s crimes is too long to recount here. Libyan radicals have played a major role with al-Qaeda operations in Iraq, where their numbers exceed those from Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Gadhafi has more than earned his “mad dog” label. He has that rare combination of evil, insanity, and bold narcissism that make him a Nero Class villain. But what about the opposition forces?
Libya is the 17th largest country in the world, but it has only 6.5 million people. Approximately 97 percent of them are Sunni Muslim. The vast majority of the population is spread along or near its Mediterranean seacoast. The northwestern seacoast, near the site of ancient Carthage, is called Tripolitania. The capital of Libya is there in Tripoli with a population of 1.7 million. The northeastern coastal region is called Cyrenaica and was originally a Greek colony. A man named Simon of Cyrene carried Jesus’ cross to the crucifixion. Only 29 percent of Libya’s people live in Cyrenaica, but its largest city, Benghazi, has a population of 670,000.
Libya is a tribal society with an estimated 140 tribes, but only about 30 of these are significant. Libyan politics is essentially tribal in nature.
Oil is Libya’s main industry, and about 90 percent of the productions comes from the desert areas south of Cyrenaica. The desert area of southern Libya is called Fezzan. Cyrenaica is where the rebellion against Gadhafi began. It was the home of the deposed King Idris and is associated with more austere and fundamentalist practices of Islam. It is also the home of the jihadist Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), a major contributor to al-Qaeda ranks in the past. The eastern or Cyrenaican tribes are largely hostile to Gadhafi and are beginning to operate like an independent nation of Cyrenaica.
Gadhafi’s trouble is that his repressive acts have made enemies of several of the larger Tripolitanian and Fezzan tribes, including the largest tribe in Libya, the Warfallah. In addition, the Tartuna, who are heavily integrated into the Libyan Army, have joined the anti-Gadhafi protests. The Zentan, another western tribe influential in the Army, have clashed with Gadhafi security forces. In addition, the nomadic Tauregs in southwestern Fezzan are demanding that Gadhafi step down.
Because Libya exports over 1.5 million barrels of oil per day, mostly to Europe, it is a relatively wealthy country despite the inefficiencies of its state managed oil industry and socialist economy. It has by far the largest proven oil reserves in Africa. Although average personal income is less than half that of the European Union, it is almost twice the world average. Gadhafi has accumulated personal wealth of $70 billion. However, there is 21 percent unemployment. Moreover, thousands of skilled foreign oil workers are fleeing the country, leaving much of Libya’s petroleum production shut down.
Whatever the fate of Moammar Gadhafi, the turmoil in Libya is not 1776. Of the 57 states in the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) not one is a true democracy or republic. It is time to stop basing U.S. foreign policy on the fiction that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance compatible with democracy or republican forms of government.