Muammar Gaddafi was never your average dictator. Fueled by Libya’s oil billions, he “morphed into something more closely resembling a cult leader and quasi-mystic than a conventional Arab autocrat,” writes Jonathan Kay in Canada’s National Post newspaper.
“Dictatorships come in different flavors,” writes Kay, “Communist, fascist, Islamist. Gaddafi’s dying regime doesn’t fit any of these boxes. What we’re witnessing in Tripoli is the extinction of a one-of-a-kind creature.”
Gaddafi took power in 1969 the old-fashioned Third World way, through a military coup, deposing Libya’s corrupt King Idris. But once in control, Gaddafi kept his title as colonel, never promoting himself to “general.”
Even in the early years, he would disappear for months of self-imposed “contemplative exile,” during which time he would receive apocalyptic visions of global confrontation. Western journalists who visited him came away describing a tent-dwelling dreamer who imagined himself a pan-African king, writes Kay.
“He made clumsy passes at female reporters, and published an eccentric, all-knowing guide to life and politics – the Green Book.
“Gaddafi banned kindergartens, wrestling and many forms of professional athletics, on the theory that ‘mass sport is a social need of human beings, so it is unacceptable from either a sporting or a democratic point of view to “subcontract” to others,’” writes Kay:
Middle Eastern leaders ban all sorts of things in the name of Islam.
But Gaddafi made it plain that his philosophy of life, “Third International Theory,” superseded Islam whenever his whim dictated.
He wanted to run his nation the way Woody Allen ruled the fictional island of “San Marcos” in Bananas. In that movie, Allen’s character declared: “From this day on, the official language of San Marcos will be Swedish. In addition to that, all citizens will be required to change their underwear every half-hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside so we can check.”
Yet that is scarcely more ridiculous than Gaddafi’s 1998 edict that “I would like Libya to become a black country. Hence, I recommend to Libyan men to marry only black women, and to Libyan women to marry black men.”
Unlike Gaddafi, most “normal” Arab dictators do not aspire to become philosopher kings.
Certainly, Saddam Hussein and Syria’s Assad clan never bothered writing their own high-flown tracts: They slaughtered people to make their point.