Grand illusions sometimes end up in a drainage pipe. For Muammar Gadhafi, the backlash could not have been more poignant.
The four-decade ruler of Libya was pulled out of a drainage hole like an alley rat, roughed up and dragged along the street before some unknown person did him the honor of a mercy bullet.
Now, all talk is about a country finding its feet again and rejoicing. Where have all supporters gone? Throughout Libya, even in Misrata and across Sirte, the mood is celebratory. Not a sign of even vestigial, symbolic support for Gaddafi. Nobody is mourning his death in his home town. People made a beeline to the meat storage where the larger-than-life ex ruler lay in state; not to salute him but to add scorn. The graphic photographs of the dead dictator and son have gone viral on Internet.
History is being created in Libya. And we know the vanquished don’t have a role in the making of history.
The scenes these days are a far cry from the jubilant scenes in front of Gadhafi's Tripoli headquarters in March this year, when his forces retook the rebel stronghold of Ajdabiyah and the revolt looked brittle.
The Green Square was festooned with banners proclaiming support of the dictator. One poster, written in English, read: We are all willing to sacrifice ourselves for you.
In Libya, do they talk a lot more passionately than they need to? A believing tyrant dug his toes in, amid his own tribe. He defied logic, refused to flee, and continued to live inside a grandiose illusion. And met with a filthy end.
Son Mutassim is lying frozen in the meat storage, alongside Gaddafi. The dead father will probably end up having a burial at sea or at best get an unmarked grave. Another son, Khamees,
met with gory end as the real revolution got too hot for Gadhafi clan to handle. Seif-al-Islam, who was once seen as the moderate face of the regime, is hunted in the Libyan deserts.
They say they hear the first, puerile foot taps of democracy on the desiccated soil of Libya. Of course it is right. The muse of democracy always had bloody feet. They come dancing over corpses, the blood of mindless tyrants and innocents alike.
Of course history is being made in Libya, but the unheralded part of the story tells of mundane realities. Like, downfall IS the disgrace. For every tyrant, more so for Gaddafi, no sin is a bigger undoing than weakness and fall.
It's not as if Gadhafi committed more crimes since the start of the last decade than the three decades before it. Gadhafi became a convert in 1999 when he owned the responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing.
He followed it up by endorsing the U.S. war on terror following the 9/11 attacks and offering $2.7 billion in compensation to the families of the victims of Lockerbie bombing. He became a darling of the West by dumping his weapons of mass destruction programme and he denouncing al-Qaeda. Sanctions against him were eased, and President Bush restored diplomatic ties with the autocrat who was called the “mad dog of the Middle East” by none other than President Reagan.
Red carpets rolled out in Western capitals for Gadhafi. British Prime Minister Tony Blair met with him in 2004. Following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, he renewed his commitment to dismantle mass destruction weapons program.
He still spewed fire at his Arab adversaries on global forums like United Nations, but made a point to hobnob with other world leaders. French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited him in 2007 while Italian President Silvio Berlusconi signed a treaty with Gadhafi in Benghazi in 2008, the city which eventually became the rallying point of anti-Gadhafi revolt.
While he had a busy time meeting with world leaders he also found time to preach his petty philosophies to specially assembled women in Rome. He enjoyed his time in the sun, and nobody said anything about his past.
Russian president Vladimir Putin posed jolly well for a proud photograph in 2008 with the maverick clad in a funny dress. Spanish president José Luis Zapatero honoured him by attending the EU-Africa Summit in Tripoli in 2010.
Gaddafi attended the G-8 Summit in 2009 when President Barack Obama found nothing queasy about posing for a grin-all photograph with the soon-to-be-hated, good-to-be bundled-out enemy of the people.
Most of all, the CIA reportedly had deep links with the Gadhafi regime during President George Bush's time. The CIA used Libya to carry out its rendition programs under which it was trying to get to the roots of global terror. The program was beneficial to Gaddafi too as some of those renditioned were his political enemies (who now wield power in the country).
There were talking points for Qaddafi, logistical details for flights, and what seems to have been the bartering of Qaddafi’s opponents, some of whom had ties to Islamist groups, for his cooperation. One of them is now a rebel leader, Amy Davidson wrote recently in a New Yorker article.
How far will that rebel leader stomach the sting of world capitals singing paens to the popular rebel movement and demonising the now dead dictator?
For Gadhafi, the downfall was the disgrace. A fall from power was fall from grace. In other words, if rebel tanks hadn't rolled from Benghazi months ago, or if the revolt was quelled in time, Gadhafi would have remained a likeable rascal, if not a prodigal son who converted.
The hypocrisy and opportunism in other capitals don't absolve Gadhafi of the crimes he committed against ordinary Libyans, against humanity. But there is something sinister and sleazy
about the current consensus in world capitals about how utterly wretched Gadhafi was.
Like all dictators, Gadhafi believed he was the Right Incarnate, always unassailable and that his glory was eternal. He put his trust in the notion of primeval tribal solidarity and played the innately empty heroic antics of all narcissistic despots. He enjoyed his own show -- a homespun comic revolution interlaced with phantasmagorical self indulgence and serial brutality.
Gadhafi believed and made his followers believe that he was in the vanguard of an ongoing revolution. What a marvellous life to live. Nothing is as pulsating as leading a revolution -- for 42 years. Revolution is an explosive idea until the vanguard settles down and starts creating a world of make belief and illusion around it.
Power is the magnet of all revolution, and the hunger for it keeps the tail end of all great marches boiling. Exactly the reason why a revolutionary becomes an anti-revisionist first and then a consummate oppressor eventually.
He sculpted for himself the grandiose vision of a revolutionary republic of the people and then went about the immediate task of killing suspected enemies. He hunted them down not just in the alleys of Benghazi, but in world capitals.
The Jamahiriya, or the rule of the people, essentially became the rule of his family, the rule of his clan. He had ample company in that age. The region's despots rolled over in filthy opulence and spent on harems, while ordinary people lived a miserable life.
Surrounded by the cheerleaders of an insane system, Gadhafi lived his revolutionary dream to the hilt. In his tent in Tripoli he would roll in mirth looking at the way his revolution was playing out.
He donned flashy, outlandish clothes and comic headgear and hosted fawning allies in tents. On every possible public occasion he launched verbose, often acerbic, attacks on colonialists of the West. He heaped scorn on the Arab neighbors, and his incendiary outbursts at enemies closer to home made for outrageous spectacles at regional forums.
Cold sweat must have broken on the foreheads of many dictators in the region when they watched the gruesome footage of a man being killed like an alley rat. Gadhafi is not alone, the region's soil has been quite fertile for tyrants of all hues.
A leader of Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) said Gadhafi deserved the violent death. Maybe he does deserve a dose of jungle justice which he perpetrated shamelessly over the years on his people. But the region is replete with closets full of ugly skeletons waiting to tumble. And the tremor has started.
The corpse in the cold storage is yet to prove its eventual worth. Will there be mourners for him? Perhaps some in the hinterlands of Sirte would say a hushed prayer for the dictator who had the bloody end.
And possibly he would become a subject matter in teary eyed sororities and treated as a legend by his loyal fighters in their tipsy sunset years.
For sure, for the incorrigible megalomaniac, the wretched death was the biggest surprise of his life. Flashing a golden pistol, he uttered his epitaph, Don't shoot, don't shoot, before being brutalised by a vengeful mob.