Muammar Gaddafi has, for over four decades, evoked extreme reactions, both within Libya and without. After dethroning King Idris in a coup d'etat in 1969, the crazy colonel, who styles himself as the 'Leader of the September 1 Revolution', has turned Libya into a nation where fear stalks every person in every walk of life. For dictators fear has always been a handy tool - a kind of policy statement.
Gaddafi brooks no dissent, a trait reflected in the lack of any political freedom in Libya. As Lord Acton had said, 'power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely', Gaddafi's rule comes with no accountability toward Libyans, something that has only made him a power-crazed autocrat.
Gaddafi's Libya is characterised by widespread corruption, high rates of unemployment, nepotism, and human rights abuses.
Libya's enormous energy wealth - it has the 10th largest proven oil reserves in the world - has long propelled the dangerous rule of Gaddafi, who has imprisoned thousands of political activists at home. Further he has often used petrodollars to finance terror campaigns carried out by Islamist organisations in foreign lands.
International condemnation stung Gaddafi, albeit briefly, after Libya carried out the bombing of the 1988 Pan Am flight over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing over 265 persons, including several Americans, and also the bombing of a disco in Germany. Retaliation came swift: the U.S. Air Force bombed Tripoli, the Libyan capital, killing the adopted daughter of Gaddafi.
Gaddafi has long played the anti-colonial and pan-Arab rant to rally ordinary Libyans behind him and to prolong his rule; it seems the ordinary is fighting back, though with his back to the wall, against the might of a brutal dictator.
Tomorrow's post will focus on the latest developments in Libya.