Qaddafi as controversial in life as in death

by Claude Salhani

Long-time Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi was a controversial character throughout his long rule of the oil-rich North African country.

Like many dictators, he managed his country’s revenues erratically while the economy and many of his people struggled to get by. Personal whim and illusions of imperial grandeur determined his major foreign policy decisions.

He had particular ambitions in Africa where he anointed himself “King of Kings.” Bribes to African leaders helped him get his way in the continent. At home, no dissent was tolerated and Libyan prisons were packed with political opponents and anyone even hinting at disagreement with the dictator.

During his reign, Qaddafi alienated friends and foes alike. His far more powerful next-door neighbour, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, referred to Qaddafi as “That mad boy from Libya.”

Eight years after his death, Qaddafi continues to be controversial. The reason for his brutal ousting from power remains as controversial as anything related to Qaddafi while he was alive.

In this era of so-called “fake news” that has become a favourite tool of people trying to discredit their political opponents, one must tread carefully.

With that in mind, consider a report stating that Qaddafi was killed at the behest of Western countries because he was planning to supplant France as the dominant power in the Francophone Africa region.

I don’t buy into this argument for two reasons: First, to be a leader in Francophone Africa one needs to be capable of conversing in French. That is hardly the case with Libya. Second, quite a few African countries had experience dealing with Qaddafi and, to put it mildly, they did not cherish the experience.

Now, declassified e-mails claim Qaddafi was killed because France wanted to maintain its financial stranglehold on African Nations.

NATO forces participated in Qaddafi’s overthrow, that is clear enough. What is cloudy, however, is why Western European powers were so eager to remove the Libyan leader from power.

The overthrow was seemingly not for the protection of the Libyan people but, allegedly, to thwart Qaddafi’s attempt to create a gold-backed African currency to compete with the Western central banking monopoly.

The report states that an e-mail sent in April 2011 to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by long-time Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal with the subject line “France’s client and Qaddafi’s gold” reveals predatory Western intentions.

The message indicates the French-led NATO military initiative in Libya was driven by a desire to gain access to a greater share of Libyan oil production and to undermine a long-term plan by Qaddafi to supplant France as the dominant power in the Francophone Africa region.

Foreign Policy reports that the e-mail identified French President Nicolas Sarkozy as leading the attack on Libya with specific purposes in mind: to obtain Libyan oil, ensure French influence in the region, increase Sarkozy’s reputation domestically, assert French military power and prevent Qaddafi’s influence in what is considered “Francophone Africa.”

Most astounding is a lengthy section delineating the threat that Qaddafi’s precious metal reserves, estimated at “143 tonnes of gold, and a similar amount in silver,” posed to the French franc circulating as a prime African currency.

The e-mail makes clear that intelligence sources indicate the impetus behind the French attack on Libya was a calculated move to consolidate power, using NATO as a tool for imperialist conquest, not a humanitarian intervention as had been publicly stated.

Not included in the report is a rumour circulated at the time indicating that Sarkozy wanted Qaddafi because he did not want the Libyan leader standing trial in The Hague and revealing how much money he had contributed to Sarkozy’s re-election campaign.

He upset Libya’s Arab neighbours and US and Western European powers who tried to maintain good relations in order to access Libya’s oil. Also, like other dictators, he had a hard time realising that the people did not like him the way he imagined they did.

When the end came, Qaddafi had a hard time believing that a crowd gathered outside his palace was there to kill him.

Qaddafi was controversial in life and continues to be controversial in death. There have been many stories about how and why he was killed. As it was the case with his life, elements of truth in his death might remain shrouded forever in myth and fake news.

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