(Gaddafi: 1969-2011 – continued)
Someone was in charge of Libya's military and security forces, in charge of relations with foreign countries and foreign companies working with oil and in charge of wealth distribution. Someone selected the diplomats and decided how much money went to Gaddafi and his associates and how much went to public health care and civil engineering projects. There was the 12-person Revolutionary Command Council, a permanent body with Gaddafi as chairman. Gaddafi held the title of Prime Minister beginning in January 1970, but in July 1972, three years before he published his Green Book, he dropped that title.
Libya was not being governed democratically. The Revolutionary Command Council did not stand for election. And people continued to identify themselves by their tribe, as local tribal leaders continued to exercise some authority regarding local matters. As for Gaddafi's Popular Committees and Popular Conferences, they were to be described as having no real power. Anthony Shadid in the New York Times was to quote a cleric in the city of Bayda saying of the Popular Committees that "The head of it didn't have the power to pick up a glass and set it back down." Shadid would write that In the city of Bayda, "... was Colonel Gaddafi's second wife, Safiya Farqash, who was born in Bayda and whose family, from the city's largest tribe, Birasa, acted as mediators between the city and the colonel [Gaddafi] himself." Shadid would quote a Bayda resident as saying that no one in charge did anything without the permission of Gaddafi's wife or her uncle, Jarah, who was in charge of Bayda's sole army battalion.
Gaddafi's government, meanwhile, controlled the media. Freedomhouse.org in 2009 was to rank Libya as the most censored of countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
Regarding Libya's neighbors, with the death of his hero, Nasser of Egypt, in 1970, Gaddafi saw himself as Nasser's replacement as ideological leader of Arab nationalism. He opposed what he saw as encircling, demonic forces of reaction, imperialism, and Zionism. He advocated all Arab-speaking states unifying into one Arab nation, and he extended this to a loose unity of among all Islamic peoples around the world.
Egypt and Syria would not go along. Tunisia developed a hostility toward Gaddafi, as did the Saudi monarchy, especially after the Saudis came to believe that Gaddafi wanted to resort to assassination.
Gaddafi supported attacks on Israel. In May, 1972, a Japanese "Red Army Faction" killed 25 and wounded 76 at Israel's Lod Airport. Gaddafi called on Palestinians to perform similar attacks. On June 11, he announced that any Arab wishing to volunteer for such work "can register his name at any Libyan embassy [and] will be given adequate training for combat." He also promised financial support for attacks on Israel.
In 1973, Gaddafi tried to persuade the West to end its support of Israel. To this end he played a key role in promoting oil embargoes as a political weapon. President Nixon took offense and, while still involved in a war in Vietnam, moved against Gaddafi by increasing military aid to Saudi Arabia and the Shah of Iran.
Gaddafi was in conflict with President Gaafar Nimeiry of Sudan. Their friendly relations broke down after Nimeiry began to align Sudan with the Western powers. In 1976, Sudan accused Libya charged that Libya was involved in a terrorist plot against its government.
Gaddafi supported IRA attacks on the British. In 1976, the IRA placed bombs on rail lines in England. Gaddafi announced that "the bombs which are convulsing Britain and breaking its spirit are the bombs of Libyan people. We have sent them to the Irish revolutionaries so that the British will pay the price for their past deeds."
Gaddafi was a close supporter of Uganda's brutal dictator, Idi Amin – as was the Soviet Union and East Germany. Gaddafi sent Libyan soldiers to help Amin in his war against Tanzania, and about 600 Libyan soldiers are reported to have lost their lives attempting to defend the collapsing presidency of Amin.
Gaddafi supported the military ruler Jean-Bedel Bokassa of Central Africa. After an encounter with Gaddafi, Bokassa gave up his Catholicism for Islam and changed his name to Salah Eddine Amhed Bokassa, a move presumed by some to have been to assure economic aid from Libya. The conversion lasted only a few months.
Domestically, Gaddafi's attempt at national unity was not materializing. According to Mansour El-Kikhia,
[The} new modernizers were not able to change much because the regime as unwilling to delegate power to the institutions they ran. Chairs of the popular committees were held accountable for political decisions and economic programs they had neither initiated nor were able to change. (El-Kikhia, Libya's Qaddafi,p. 50)
There was bickering "to a large degree the result of jurisdictional overlapping and the lack of defined role for each organization." And there were conflicts within the RCC. Adds El-Kikhia:
Opposition to the Libyan leader finally manifested itself in coup led by two of his colleagues, and the withdrawal of two others from the ruling body. All. who remained were those amenable to accepting the [Colonel's] means and ends. The failed coup also served as an opportunity for the victorious faction of the RCC to purge the armed forces of dissent. Twenty-one junior officers were arrested, court-martialed, and summarily executed by firing squad. The executions were accompanied by a purge of the armed forces; sensitive posts were allotted to close personal acquaintances of [Colonel] Qaddafi or to members of his immediate family or tribe. (El-Kakhia. p. 51)
In March 1979, Gaddafi made another effort at political unity. At the General People's Congress (GPC) it was announced that the country was vesting all political power "in the masses." Gaddafi relinquished his duties as general secretary of the GPC and was known thereafter as "the Leader" (a word that in Italian translates to Duce, or in German to Fuhrer). Gaddafi remained supreme commander of the country's instruments of violence: its armed forces. Gaddafi would also continue to direct Libya's foreign affairs.
In 1980, Gaddafi sent troops to intervene in the civil war taking place in Chad – Libya's neighbor on its southern border. Gaddafi had been supporting Chad's anti-government rebels – the Front for the National Liberation of Chad.
Meanwhile, an attack by Libyans against the Tunisian city of Gafsa. France supported Tunisia with transport planes, military helicopters and stationed three warships nearby. The U.S. duplicated the military equipment sent by the French. Gaddafi on December 2, 1979 allowed an irate mob to burn the U.S. embassy in Tripoli. And on February 4, 1980, Gaddafi allowed irate mobs to ransack and burn the French embassy in Tripoli and the French consulate in Benghazi. The French and U.S. retaliated by expelling Libyan diplomats.
President Jimmy Carter denounced Gaddafi as a "polecat." He remained embarrassment by his brother Billy, who had made three trips to Libya, had obtained a $250,000 loan and had registered himself as a foreign agent of the Libyan government.
Copyright © 2015 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.