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Sunday, February 27, 2011
The King of Kings' speech
By Marwan Bishara
Muammar Gaddafi is dangerously in denial. Alas, he's been that way for a long time.
Gaddafi has ruled Libya for the past 42 years with iron fist, but insists he has no official role and therefore couldn't resign. Otherwise, he would have done that long ago!
He thinks of himself as Zaim -- a guru leader -- or the king of kings of Africa as referred to himself repeatedly the last couple of years.
How do you resign from greatness, he wondered! After recounting his heroism, sacrifice and courage over the last few decades.
In reality, he wasted his country's fortunes, misused its sources and violated its people. He misspent hundreds of billions of dollars in revenues from oil.
He commands the state budget along with his family, and yet he insists he has no money, no fortune and no belonging to give away.
Why would he need any of that when he de facto had claim on the whole country.
One is speechless listening to him telling Libyans: Go ahead take back your oil.
Like father like son
Gaddafi senior, like Gaddafi junior before him on Monday, went on rambling endlessly in Tuesday's televised address, with little coherence, many threats and more political blackmail.
Speaking to both domestic audience and Western decision makers, he raised the specter of civil war, bloodbath and the threat of al-Qaeda takeover in various parts of the country.
He warned he would use all or any means to prevent the breakdown of Libya.
Over the last few days, his regime has killed hundreds and reportedly using his air force to bomb Libyan cities, but insists he hasn't ordered the use of force yet.
But he did threaten to kill all those participating in the ongoing upheaval, in accordance with the Libyan law, as he put it.
Worse, he threatened to burn the land, behaving as if his rule was a foreign occupation.
For many years, Qaddafi, his family and tribe have maintained their rule through the maintenance and deformation of the very tribal order he's been warning against.
He's used political blackmail and financial bribes and unveiled threats of force to stay at the helm of the regime.
In the process, much of the country's wealth was wasted. And so was any chance of development as his dictatorship suppressed pluralism, creativity and freedom of expression.
Meanwhile, unemployment in this “rentier economy” has shot from one-fourth to one-third unemployment year after year.
Gaddafi has turned a country rich in oil to a poor country in more than one way.
Dangerous call to arms
While Gaddafi admitted that the police has refused to confront or shoot at the demonstrations, he called on his loyal and violent “popular committees” to defend his “revolution”, either individually or by joining forces with members of their tribes.
Certainly, the most deadly and dangerous force in the coming days will be those popular committees and their association with the private militias of Gaddafi's regime, his sons, cousins and tribe.
It seems that these well-armed and well-financed militias have been carrying out the worst violence against the peaceful demonstrators. Possibly aided by mercenaries from various neighboring countries.
Unless the Libyan army puts an end to the violations and violence of the militias, the ongoing confrontation might continue to escalate.
Alas, there is little information as to today's relationship between the army and the militias, but one suspects it shouldn't be a good one as the militias have been used primarily to keep the army in check.
That's why Arab and international decision makers must try and deter the escalation of violence by making it clear that those committing the crimes against the Libyan people will have no future in their country, but would eventually be punished for their crimes.
And that the army has a responsibility to protect the people and the unity of the country.
Marwan Bishara is Al Jazeera's senior policy analyst and the editor & host of Empire, which examines global powers and their agendas. He was previously a professor of International Relations at the American University of Paris and a fellow at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes et Sciences Sociales.
(Source: Al Jazeera)
Photo: Gaddafi has ruled Libya for the past 42 years with an iron fist, but insists he has no official role. (EPA photo)