After Gaddafi: A spring of confusion in Libya

By Ameen Izzadeen
The death of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has some historic parallels to what happened 14 centuries ago.
Caliph Uthman, an honest and generous ruler of Islamic Arabia, was killed by rebels who fell into the schemes of foreign powers. As the rebellion spread, one by one the power-centres of the caliphate fell — first Egypt, then Kufa and Basra.
Though the old and feeble Caliph had his loyalists, a majority of the people in the capital Madeena took no side. Encouraged by this indifference, the rebels, who accused the caliph of tolerating the misrule of his appointees, most of whom were his kith and kin, killed him after laying a siege to his house for weeks. He was dealt blow after blow on his head until he died.
The rebels wanted to mutilate his body and prevented the caliph’s supporters from removing it for burial. The blood-soaked body was in the house for three days. Finally, after much persuasion by family members, the body was taken to Jannatul Baqee, a hallowed graveyard where many of Prophet Muhammad’s companions’ had been buried. But the rebels who gathered there forced the body to be buried at the adjoining Jewish cemetery.
The comparison between Caliph Uthman and Gaddafi may be preposterous to some, given Gaddafi’s negative side and the high esteem in which the old caliph is held by the Sunni stream of Islam, though the Shiite stream supports the rebels’ allegations.
Yet the similarities are striking. What’s more, both Caliph Uthman and Gaddafi were killed at a time when the Muslims around the world were gathering in Makkah for Haj.
A Nasserite to the core, Gaddafi started off well but later he succumbed to the disease that leaves out no dictator. He became blind to reality and began to think that only he knew what was good for the country and the people. The disease, call it megalomania or whatever, made him think he was a scholar and king of kings of Africa. In his self-assumed expertise in scholasticism, he even tried to change the structure of Quranic verses and rejected a large portion of the Hadeeth, a collection of sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad by scholars who lived a century or two after the Prophet’s demise. Although Gaddafi did much for the welfare of the people, in spite of decades of crippling sanctions, he tolerated no dissent. Perhaps, his paranoia was the result of repeated assassination attempts on him.
Many of those who fell victim to Gaddafi’s hit squads were from the eastern city of Benghazi where the anti-Gaddafi rebellion or the so-called Libyan Arab Spring began. Also hunted down were Islamists who professed Wahhabism — a puritanical version of Islam that is prevalent in Saudi Arabia. Of course, Saudi Arabia has an added reason to see the end of Gaddafi because Gaddafi kept on taunting Saudi rulers as American puppets and men in women’s robes.
But it was not only the Wahhabi Islamists who wanted Gaddafi ousted. Shiites the world over also disliked him. This was largely because of the disappearance of a highly-respected Shiite imam during a visit to Libya. Both Iran and its Hezbollah ally in Lebanon believe that Imam Musa al-Sadr, the Iranian-born Lebanese philosopher, was kidnapped by Gaddafi’s hit squad and killed.
However, in comparison to Egypti’s Hosni Mubarak and Yemen’s Abdullah Saleh, both darlings of the United States, Gaddafi was perhaps an angel or at any rate much better than the rulers of Bahrain where pro-democracy protesters are tortured to death or tortured and jailed after sham trials.
Now Gaddafi is history. With him were buried answers to many questions. One such question is: Was he responsible for the bombing of the Pan-Am flight over the Scottish town of Lockerbie? Perhaps, he was not — and perhaps the leaders of the Western world know it. The Lockerbie incident was an important turning point in the long-term plan for a regime change in oil-rich Libya. There is evidence to indicate that Lockerbie bombing was carried out by a Palestinian group led by Abu Nidal, who according to some reports was a US agent. Peace activist and one-time US spy Susan Lindauer in her book Extreme Prejudice claims that it was no coincidence that the ill-fated flight was carrying a highly-incriminating report prepared by the US Defence Intelligence about the CIA’s secret drug operations in Lebanon. Probably, burying the Lockerbie secret or getting rid of those who knew the truth was part of the game. Abu Nidal committed suicide or was killed by Iraqi police under questionable circumstances in Baghdad in 2002.
Another question that arises now is what lies ahead for Libya. To answer this question, one needs to understand the social structure of Libya. Libyans lead a life of comfort but modernity is limited to mod cons. The tribal structure is very much alive. Though Gaddafi’s Qaththafa tribe in Sirte is just a minority within Libya, the allied tribe Warfallah accounts for one sixth of Libya’s six million population. The Warfallahs largely inhabit the Bani Walid area. As the Benghazi-based rebels backed by NATO war planes and special forces on the ground was joined by fighters from Misrata, Zavia and other areas, the pro-Gaddafi tribes adopted a tactical neutrality. But in post-Gaddafi Libya, the pro-Gaddafi tribes are angry.
According to a Reuter report, the Gaddafi loyalist tribes say their men are trying to regroup into a new insurgency movement in and around Bani Walid, the strategic desert town south of the capital, Tripoli. At least, Reuters is talking now. As the war to kill Gaddafi proceeded, the western media chose not to highlight the atrocities committed by the National Transitional Council fighters. They blacked out the voices of Gaddafi supporters inside Libya in their bid to project a picture that the whole of Libya wanted Gaddafi out.
In Sirte, scores, if not hundreds, of Gaddafi loyalists were arrested and summarily executed in what could be easily termed war crimes. But the West turns a blind eye on war crimes in Libya. Perhaps, the West’s see-no-evil attitude is a quid-pro-quo for profits to be made in post-Gaddafi Libya.
Already, the NTC has pleaded with NATO not to leave Libya. So the war is not yet over? The NTC leaders entered into fresh oil contracts with western trans-nationals even before Tripoli fell. The fact that NTC leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil in his victory speech left out Bahrain, where the US Fifth Fleet is based, though he mentioned Syria and Yemen, was an indication that post-Gaddafi Libya would not hurt the West where it hurts. Will Libya’s Islamists resist the new rulers’ camaraderie with neocolonialist West, especially the United States, which is collaborating with Israel and preventing the Palestinian people realizing their right to statehood?
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)

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About ameenizzadeen

journalist and global justice activist
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