It is almost like watching a game of dominoes. One after another, various Arab nations are going through national upheaval. It all started with the self-immolation of an aggrieved man in Tunisia, who had been gratuitously slapped by a policewoman. His tragic death kick-started the ‘Jasmine Revolution,’ resulting in the deposing of their long-time leader President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Algeria, Yemen, Bahrain, and Jordan began to experience civil unrest. Then 18 days of protest in Egypt succeeded in dislodging one of the Middle East’s longest serving heads of state, President Hosni Mubarak. He had been at the helm for nearly 30 years but after 18 days he was gone. King Abdullah II of Jordan has sacked his prime minister and replaced him. Now Libya is going through the greatest upheaval of all ... and the most savage reprisal.
Libya has become synonymous with its mercurial leader, Mu’ammar Gadaffi (his name has various English transliterations, eg. Qaddafi). After he seized power in a coup on 1 September 1969, it is as if Libya had no earlier history. But it does. In the New Testament, the man named Simon who helped carry Christ’s cross came from the city of Cyrene. In the Book of Acts 2:10, it speaks of Jews coming from ‘...the parts of Libya about Cyrene...’ In more modern history, the Ottoman Empire extended its influence to Libya and remained there until 1911. In that year, Italy, longing to have an African foothold, replaced Ottoman rule and remained there until 1943. Independence was granted in 1951 but King Idris was deposed by Gadaffi in the above-mentioned 1969 coup.
Gadaffi wanted to be like Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro: a socialist revolutionary, albeit an Arab and Muslim one. As Mao had a ‘little red book,’ Gadaffi has a ‘little green book.’ As Moscow has a ‘red square,’ Tripoli has a ‘green square.’ Even the Libyan flag is one solid green rectangle. Green, of course, is the colour of Islam
He espoused the ‘Third Universal Theory,’ which combines Islam with socialism. Accommodating Libya’s tribal background, Libyan Muslim socialism practices a form of ‘direct democracy.’ Yet Gadaffi, who holds no no official title, has the de facto Chief of State for 41 years and, like his role models Mao and Castro, rules with a rod of iron. Repression, disappearances, and summary executions were part of his method of operation.
With large oil revenue and small population, Gadaffi has plenty of money to splash around on his agenda. He liked to interfer in the affairs of other African nations, most notably Chad, where he involved himself from 1973-1987. He was a great supporter of terrorism, like the Black September movement who were responsible for the massacre of Israel’s Olympic athletes at Munich in 1972. In 1986, he bombed a disco named La Belle in Berlin, frequented by American soldiers. President Ronald Reagan responded by bombing Gadaffi’s personal compound, resulting in the death of his 15 month old daughter. Not to be outdone, Gadaffi masterminded the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988, resulting in the death of 259 people in the air and 11 on the ground.
Eventually, Gadaffi changed his ways. He condemned Osama bin Laden and his September 11th attacks. He renounced terrorism and weapons of mass destruction in 2003. He took responsibility for the Pan Am Flight 103 disaster and agreed to pay compensation for the Lockerbie, La Belle disco, and UTA 772 bombing, something to the tune of $2.7 billion. America agreed to remove the designation, ‘State-sponsor of Terrorism’ from Libya in 2006, and exchanged ambassadors with Gadaffi in January 2009, for the first time since 1973.
Yet despite Gadaffi’s makeover and reconciliation with the United States and the West, all has not been quiet on the home front. Protests and riots have broken out nationwide. Some cities in the east, including Benghazi, have fallen into the hands of pro-democracy protestors. There have been high-profile defections by governmental, diplomatic, and military personnel. In the capital of Tripoli and elsewhere, Gadaffi has been using foreign mercenaries, death squads, planes, to stop and even gun down the protestors, including mourners at the funeral. These act are receiving universal world condemnation; even the United Nations will meet regarding Gaddafi’s excessive crack down. Despite his brutal approach, chaos is reigning in the capital. He has even talked about become a ‘martyr.’
Of all the shaken governments of the Arab world, no one has been more ruthless than Gadaffi. His people, smelling the air of ‘change’ and ‘freedom,’ are seizing the moment. While at the time of this writing, the outcome is not yet clear, it appears that the Colonel’s 41 year old grip on his country is loosening beyond his control ...
Will the protestors prevail ... or will they be bombed into submission?
If a new Libyan government arises, will it go democratic or tyrannical?
Will a victory for the pro-democracy Libyans create more momentum for change in the Middle East? Short answer: yes.
What affect will the current revolt have on oil prices and regional stability? They are already at a 2.5 year high ... will they go higher.
What stance will Barack Obama and the United States take?
No matter what the outcome, Libya, like the rest of the Arab world is going through a political earthquake which will mean that life is never the same again. While we in the west (and westernized) world can be deeply grateful for our democratic freedoms and national stability, let us who are praying people spare a thought -- and a prayer -- for the people of Libya ... and the citizens of the Arab world. Amen!