Qaddafi has rather bizarre clothes sense, bad hair and appears to indulge a little nepotism but much of what is believed by the chattering classes is either factually incorrect or a spin on an existing factoid.
Qaddafi deposed the British appointed King Idris in a bloodless coup in 1969. Idris had managed, during his twenty year rule, to keep Libyans the poorest people in the world with an annual per capita income of less than $60 despite the discovery of oil in 1957 and production that reached 15.4% of OPEC’s total (7.5% of the world’s total) in 1968.
The flamboyant Qaddafi conceived and installed a non party system of Government he called “Jamahiriya”. Put simply, 6000 Basic People’s Congresses (District or tribal Councils) elect 2,700 representatives to the General People’s Congress which elects the General People’s Committee (executive), Secretary General, Prime Minister, then the President.
Qaddafi no longer holds public office or title, he is accorded the honorific “Guide of the First Great Revolution” in government statements and the official press. Here is a brief introduction to Jamahiriya in video format.
No mainstream media can resist adding "the Libyan Dictator" to Qaddafi's name yet Libya had a full compliment of Ministers elected by the General People's Congress. He had power but it was not dictatorial.
Qaddafi wanted to introduce female enlistment into the armed forces. The Congress turned him down (that, incidentally is why he created his female personal guard, in a thumb to nose gesture). The most striking example involves the present puppet Head of the TNC, Mustafa Jabril. This character was a Public Prosecutor then an appeals Court Judge, known for his decisions against the Government. In 2007, he was appointed Justice Minister. This is not possible under a dictatorship.
Qaddafi offered U.N. supervised elections in an effort to appease NATO. This was rejected despite there being no poll upon which NATO relied to justify regime change.
Lockerbie deserves a mention. Libya paid compensation to the victims but denied responsibility. It was all part of a deal to get Libya out of rehab. Qaddafi also said it was because of the possibility that some of the plotters may have been Libyan.
Al Megrahi was released because his appeal was about to expose perjury and false evidence at his original trial. This has been admitted "off the record" by Scottish authorities. John Pilger, Gwynne Dyer and U.N. Observer Dr. Hans Koechler are convincing.
The size of the Libyan Military was estimated at 76,000 rather poorly equipped personnel. They were deliberately recruited from every tribal group - not common among "dictators" who tend to rely on one clan - their own.
Until this conflict, the Libyan people enjoyed one of the highest standards of living in the Arab world. Most Libyan families (92%) owned their own home and and a car.
The free public health system in Libya included travel and expenses for procedures not available domestically and Libya’s free education system up to the graduate level also paid for overseas post-graduate study. 1.7 million of Libya’s 6 million population were students enrolled in either compulsory primary and secondary education or one of the 80 some odd Universities and Advanced Technical institutions provided by the State.
The State provided interest free loans for housing and business, subsidies on food, gas was 70c per gallon. Mean incomes were around USD15,000 pa.
On the Human Development Index, Libya rated 53 - ahead of Brazil, Russia and 113 other countries - well in the top third of the World. One should also be aware that the index penalised Libya for straying from the norms of Western party-based democracy yet an argument can be made for its "direct democracy" model delivering a fairer society.
So why this “popular uprising”?
On the 23rd of March, the NY Times reported:
the army that rebel military leaders bragged about consists of only about 1,000 …..Those frank admissions came from Ali Tarhouni, who was appointed to the cabinet of the rebels’ shadow government..
NATO had begun bombing on the 19th.
No poll of the Libyan people exists (which raises questions about the NATO rationale) but widespread support for the Qaddafi regime was evident in July. In August, independent journalist Scott Taylor reported
On a fact-finding trip into Tripoli earlier this month, I was able to ascertain first-hand that Gaddafi has solidified his control over the capital and most of western Libya. Foreign diplomats still based in Tripoli confirmed to me that since NATO started bombing, Gaddafi support and approval ratings have actually soared to about 85 per cent.
There was a massive pro Qaddafi rally on 2 July this year. Independent journalist Mahdi Nazemroaya estimated a million and a half participants.
Obviously Empire cares not for living standards, education and health so it seems that NATO relies on the “Human Rights” to justify its attack.
According to the dubious Human Rights Watch, Qaddafi killed 1200 at Abu Salim in 1996. Yet even their estimate is based on the account of a single former inmate:
In June 2004 and again in June 2006, however, Human Rights Watch interviewed a former Abu Salim prisoner who claims to have witnessed the killings. Now living in the United States, where he has applied for asylum, Hussein al-Shafa’i said he spent 1988-2000 in Abu Salim on political charges, but was never brought to trial, and he worked in the prison kitchen in June 1996. Human Rights Watch could not verify his claims, but many details are consistent with a report from an “migr” Libyan group, based on another witness account."
"The only other description of the incident comes from a report by the National Front for the Salvation of Libya, an opposition political group based outside Libya. Drawing on the account of an anonymous former prisoner who witnessed the incident (not al-Shafa'i), the report largely corroborates al-Shafa'i's account.
The Libyan Government position is that the incident took place amid a confrontation with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, and that some 200 guards were killed.
The protests upon which the "rebels" and NATO piggy-backed began in Benghazi, supposedly on the anniversary of what Amnesty International called "a brutal crackdown on a public protest"
Here is a description of that event from (I kid you not) Fox News:
Libyan security officials said 11 people were killed or wounded during the riot in the eastern city when police firing bullets and tear gas tried to contain more than 1,000 demonstrators hurling rocks and bottles. The casualties included police officers.
Protesters set fire to the buildings, which are on the same street in central Tripoli, early on Sunday, an AFP reporter said, adding that the mob at the Italian embassy ripped down the Italian flag and threw it into the street."
Rioters charged the consular compound and set fire to the first floor of the building, the Italian Foreign Ministry said.
Domenico Bellantone, an Italian diplomat, said 10 or 11 people — all Libyan — had died......
The Italian ambassador to Tripoli met late Friday with the Libyan interior minister "who expressed the condemnation of his government for the acts of violence occurring in Benghazi," the Italian Foreign Ministry said.
One can only wonder what Amnesty International would have reported had the Libyan Government allowed the rioters to thoroughly sack the Italian Embassy. It is also worthy of note that the riots were in response to the Italian Consul wearing a "Danish Cartoon" T-shirt.
[The Fox report has now disappeared. Here is another]
Compare with this May 2011 report:
"Britain expelled the Libyan ambassador Sunday following attacks on the British and Italian embassies in Tripoli, saying Colonel Muammar Qaddafi’s regime had failed in its duty to protect diplomatic missions.
Empire will have its way - even if it means promoting Islamic fundamentalists.
As at today's date, Qaddafi seems to be holding his own and controls the route to Niger, Algeria, Chad and the major Libyan oil fields. Time is on his side. One can imagine many loyalists quietly slipping away to join him if he wins a few more skirmishes like those of Sirte and Bani Walid in the past few days. There are also rumblings from African States whose traditional rulers crowned him Africa's 'king of kings' - a title derided in the popular press as just another grandiose Qaddafi fantasy. Wrong. Qaddafi is worshipped by struggling African states for his initiatives RASCOM (Regional African Satellite Communication Organisation) and African Development Banks which he funded to the tune of about $70 billion. It was they who bestowed the title on him. He seemed a little embarrassed about it at the time but it served to aid his ambition to unite Africa in a commonwealth. The rebels pogroms against black Africans (about a third of the Libyan population) may well be aimed at discouraging other Africans from coming to his aid. It may not succeed. Qaddafi might well have stockpiles of weapons in the desert with which to arm a potent guerrilla force.
Pepe Escobar who has called this game perfectly from the off reckons "The real war starts now".
Damn. I wish Frank Herbert was still around. Muad'Dib and the Fremen would give these fellows short shrift.
Here's a joke courtesy of the NTC.
Other leads I am following up. Any opinions welcome: