When cable television gets around to retelling the last hours of the life of Moammar Gadhafi, it could be titled “The Man Who Knew Too Much”, or maybe “Why He Had to Go.” In all the speculation about why the late Libyan ruler was assassinated, it seems strange that media commentators would not at least speculate that it was because more than a few world governments and leaders would not want to have risked his shooting off his mouth in a trial. He knew where a lot of bodies were buried and he took that knowledge with him to the grave. A sigh of relief undoubtedly went up in transatlantic capitals when his captors closed the lid on the supermarket freezer where they had stashed his corpse.
“Gadhafi would have been a most inconvenient guest of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, as he would have relished recalling all the hand-kissing, the warm embraces and the juicy deals the West was begging to clinch after he was promoted from ‘Mad Dog’ (Ronald Reagan) to ‘our bastard,’” wrote Pepe Escobar in the Asia Times October 21. “He would also relish detailing all the shady backgrounds of those opportunists now posing as ‘revolutionaries’ and ‘democrats’.”
As of this writing there are several competing versions as how Gadhafi met his end. Clearly, it was not the forces of the rebel National Transitional Council that brought him down. The French are claiming it was their jets that halted his 80-car convoy of fleeing loyalists; the U.S. is crediting its drones. Probably when it is all sorted out there will be an official version of the incident. However, the German magazine Spiegel suggested it “remains doubtful that an independent investigation into the cause of his death will ever be undertaken.” That should only increase the suspicion that from the time U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton arrived in Tripoli October 18 and said, “”We hope he will be captured or killed soon” the latter outcome would become more likely than the former.
“The end of the Gadhafi era is a reason to celebrate in the region—for most, at least,” said the German newspaper Berliner Zeitung October 21. “For some, though, like (Syria’s) Bashar Assad and (Yemen’s) Abdullah Saleh and other old-school Arab leaders still in power, Thursday marked a black day. It made clear that the end is near for them.”
“Of course, regrets will also be expressed,” the paper went on. “Many wanted to bring him to trial, either at the International Criminal Court or before a Libyan court. They would also have liked to see those who helped him throughout the years in court too. That included both his Libyan supporters, but also those in Europe and the United States. The relationships in recent years had become increasingly intimate and the criticism of his ruling style ever quieter. Certainly some interesting things about European politics would have come to light. It is too bad this can’t happen, but there is also a positive side: An imprisoned Gadhafi would certainly not have missed a single opportunity to create further unrest and confusion.”
“Gadhafi’s era is irreversibly finished,” said the German Die Tageszeitung. “That is certain. But will democracy prevail in Libya? We’ll have to wait and see. Much suggests that this question isn’t very important to the NATO countries, which helped along the change in power. As long as it appeared to be opportune for them, they accepted and armed both Gadhafi and Saddam Hussein as allies. As soon as it no longer appeared opportune to them, they began pointing out the — indisputably — disastrous human rights records of both leaders. They could always count on one thing though: The public at home would accept any change of course because, at the end of the day, they weren’t terribly interested in what was going on in far-away countries.
“The idea that Libya has been ‘liberated’ because the West has unflinchingly pushed for adherence to human rights is absolute nonsense.”
On October 20, Reuters correspondent Peter Apps wrote from London, “Moammar Gadhafi’s apparent death from wounds received during the fall of Sirte means a long and complex trial that could have divided Libya and embarrassed Western governments and oil firms will be avoided.”
App’s dispatch – which as far as I can tell received almost no play in major media in the U.S. or Europe – went on, “Had he been taken alive, there would have been potentially acrimonious debate over whether he should be tried in Libya or extradited to the International Criminal Court, which issued a warrant for his arrest, along with his oldest son and spy chief earlier this year.
“Any trial might have given the flamboyant, often idiosyncratic Gadhafi a podium from which to harangue both Libya’s new rulers and Western powers, as well as potentially try to embarrass them on issues they would rather forget. As Libya was nudged back from international isolation in the last decade, international oil companies signed deals worth billions.”
Apps wrote that “analysts” to whom he had spoken said “worse still for the transitional government and NATO” would have been for the late Libyan leader to have “remained at large, perhaps simply disappearing into the Sahara to form new militias and destabilize Libya and its neighbors.”
“It is hugely symbolically important,” Alan Fraser, Middle East analyst for risk consultancy AKE,” told Apps. “It helps the NTC move on. If Gadhafi has been killed instead of captured, that means they will also avoid a long drawn out trial that could have been very divisive and revealed awkward secrets.”
“International media would have jumped on any juicy details on how Western states wooed Gadhafi, helped bank his billions and rebuild his oil industry. Many large firms struck deals with Tripoli including Italy’s ENI, France’s Total, Britain’s BP and others,” concluded Apps’ report.
Carl Bloice, a member of the National Coordinating Committee of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, is a columnist for the Black Commentator. He also serves on its editorial board.