An Erratic Leader, Brutal and Defiant to the End
Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the erratic, provocative dictator who ruled Libya for 42 years, crushing opponents at home while cultivating the wardrobe and looks befitting an aging rock star, met a violent and vengeful death Thursday in the hands of the Libyan forces that drove him from power.
In death, as in life, his circumstances proved startling, with jerky video images showing him captured, bloody and disheveled, but alive. A separate clip showed his half-naked torso, with eyes staring vacantly and what appeared to be a gunshot wound to the head, as jubilant fighters fired into the air.
Throughout his rule, Colonel Qaddafi, 69, sanctioned spasms of grisly violence and frequent bedlam, even as he sought to leverage his nation’s oil wealth into an outsize role on the world stage.
He embraced a string of titles: “the brother leader,” “the guide to the era of the masses,” “the king of kings of Africa” and — his most preferred — “the leader of the revolution.”
But the labels pinned on him by others tended to stick the most. President Ronald Reagan called him “the mad dog of the Middle East.” President Anwar el-Sadat of neighboring Egypt pronounced him “the crazy Libyan.”
As his dominion over Libya crumbled with surprising speed, Colonel Qaddafi refused to countenance the fact that most Libyans despised him.
By the time he was done, Libya had no parliament, no unified military command, no political parties, no unions, no civil society and no nongovernmental organizations. His ministries were hollow, with the notable exception of the state oil company.
Responding to news of Col. Qadaffi's death, US President Barack Obama said: "This marks the end of a long and painful chapter for the people of Libya who now have the opportunity to determine their own destiny in a new and democratic Libya. You have won your revolution."