Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi says “damn those” who try to stir unrest in Libya. Gaddafi is currently giving a speech on Libyan state television where he declared that he will “die a martyr” before leaving Libya. I watched his speech live on AlJazeera. I am amazed at the role that AlJazeera (Qatar based) news source has played in supporting the protests throughout the Middle East. As Gaddafi is speaking – on both the Arabic and English AlJazeera station – the script that is scrolling on the bottom of the screen offers services by Google called “Speak to Tweet” for protestors who do not have access to the internet. The scrolling script says: “Google Launches ‘Speak to Tweet’ service for protestors unable to access the internet”… Phone numbers are provided for the “Speak to Tweet service” and internet access is also provided by IP proxies… Frequencies are also provided so that AlJazeera can be watched (in English or Arabic). It is still unbelievable to me that in the 21st century a country’s government is able to almost completely shut down the communication network between their people and the outside world. It seems the global community is beginning to respond – at least in word. Libyans ambassadors around the world, including the ambassador to the United States, have stepped down. Hillary Clinton, the U.S. Secretary of State says Libyan govn’t must “stop this unacceptable bloodshed.” According to Haaretz, Gadhafi (as they spell it) describes himself as a “Bedouin warrior who brought glory to the Libyan people.” Yesterday, he appeared on Libyan state television with an umbrella and wearing a hat with ear flaps made out of fur. Haaretz has described Gadhafi’s response to government protests this way: “the bloodiest crackdown of any Arab country against the wave of protests sweeping the region, which toppled leaders of Egypt and Tunisia.” More than 250 people have been killed and hundreds more have been injured. Gadhafi’s government and supporters made statements that any Libyans in the street “would be shot” (Haaretz).
Most reports that I have read about the history of Gadhafi’s regime have seemed to indicate that he has always been a little “majnoun” (crazy). He has been the leader of Libya since a coup in 1969 and is also considered one of the “longest serving rulers in history” (if Wikipedia is to be trusted). Gadhafi is a Bedouin, which is one of the most detested minority groups in the Arab world. Bedouins live a transitory life style and most are incredibly poor. He has been an advocate of Arab nationalism and followed the lead of other revolutionaries who wrote out his main ideals of leadership in a Green Book (that explains what he was waving around for a part of the speech that he still happens to be giving)! Gadhafi was a supporter of Nasser (Egypt) and also of the PLO (which later damaged Libya’s relationship with Egypt). He is reported to have been one of the main financiers of the 1972 Summer Olympic massacre that occurred in Munich against the Israeli Olympic team. He has long-held to anti-Western policies. He supported Iran during the Iraq/Iran War (from 1980 to 1988) which led President Reagan to identify him as the “mad dog of the Middle East”. Libya took responsibility for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 (which came to be known as the Lockerbie bombing because of the 11 people in Lockerbie, Scotland who were killed by the debris) where 259 people were killed on a flight departing from Heathrow headed to New York city. Gadhafi has several children – I think 8 biological and 2 adopted. One of his adopted daughters, Hanna, was killed in the April 1986 U.S. bombing of Libya. One of the “crazier” things Gadhafi has done is his choice of bodyguards. He has a 40 member team of ONLY women protected him – called the “Amazonian Guard”… the women are supposedly all virgins and are hand-picked by Gadhafi himself. They are trained in martial arts and the use of firearms before they are put on Gadhafi’s staff.
Gadhafi is still continuing speaking… it has been over an hour… he sounds crazy. One commentator made the comment about how “incomprehensible” the speech has been. All the while, the mass protests continue… Gadhafi made the comment that the bloodshed in Tiananmen Square was worth the ‘unity of China’ – a very scary thought in terms of what is yet ahead.