23 October 2011

Bloodied Dawn Of A New Libya

Thursday must have begun like any other day for most people in the world. But for a former head of state it began with a rain of fire from heaven, capture at the hands of what used to be ‘his’ people and a bloody death, recorded in all its gory detail and broadcast all over the world for the world to see…and in most cases rejoice.

There are differing views of the man that was Gadaffi. To some he was the model of a Pan-African leader, a visionary who dared dream of an African free of the perceived shackles of her former colonial powers. To some he was the man who took Libya from an anonymous Middle eastern country to a leader both in Middle Eastern and African politics. And to yet more he was a dictator who took over a country forty two years ago and in those decades allowed no dissent; tortured thousands, jailed millions, aided terrorists and even managed to call himself the Imam of Imams (partly at the heart of a bitter enmity with Saudi Arabia).
But on Thursday he was just a man on the run. Hounded by NATO warplanes and shot at by ‘rebels’. He sought refuge in a drainage tunnel before he was found and dragged along the road, wounded and bleeding, before being summarily executed. What followed managed to surprise even me, celebration and euphoria erupted not only in Libya but all over the world. David Cameron, strode out of the black door of Number Ten Downing Street to announce with great pride, the role that Britain had played in the liberation of the Libyan people. Hillary Clinton erupted with a “wow” that was more befitting Lady Gaga and not the Secretary of State of the most powerful nation in the world. But at what were they so excited about?
Beyond all the rhetoric of freeing Libya, of releasing people from the reigns of oppression; there lay a bloodied body on the street of a man who was summarily dispatched from this coil without even the dignity of a trial, of at least facing his crimes, of facing his people and his family for the last time. Beyond the dictator, butcher, human rights abuser; he was still a man and deserving of every single one of the rights laid out in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. He was a human being who even in the last moments of his life deserved the dignity of a private death, of a dignified trial.
Yes I hear your howls of outrage. He did not deserve it, he did not deserve to be treated with respect, he had to pay for his crimes. But at the very foundation of human rights is the belief that there is nothing a person can do to deserve their rights to life, and the implicit statement that there is nothing they can do to un-deserve them. Even the worst of the worst dictators should be treated with the dignity and respect for human life that they failed to give to their people because we are not them. To put it in simple terms, the world sunk to the level of the Gadaffi’s of this planet as we celebrated his cold blooded execution.
Perhaps in a world where Jack Bauer takes the affairs of the world into his own hands and saves the world time and time again every twenty four hours, it is easy to be awestruck by the sight of the fluttering flag of freedom in the early morning breeze. But the world is a complex place, its history described only partially in volumes that prove time and time again that the web of events is a complex one that is not solved by a simple gunshot to the head of the bad guy. Will we be proud when the books of history describe us as the people who dragged a man through the dust of a Libyan street and then shot him for all the world to see (including his wife and children) even as he begged for mercy? Will not that new flag drip the blood of a man who died so shamefully on that dusty road?

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