Moammar Gadhafi, R.I.P.

The grisly scenes of Gadhafi’s body being dragged through the streets of Sirte, and the unseemly celebrations of the Libyan dictator’s death in the Western media, are enough to make any decent person wince. Yes, he was a brutal dictator, and I hold no brief for him or his works, but is this kind of savagery really what we want to see in the “new” Libya? 

Whether or not we want it, it is coming: the crew in charge of that unfortunate nation is no better, and perhaps worse, than Gadhafi. The fate of the rebels’ former commander-in-chief, Abdul Fatah Younis, prefigures a revolution that eats its own, and the ferocity of that revolutionary fervor is hardly abated. 

Gadhafi loyalists include the largest tribe in the country, and after the smoke clears and the new regime extends its grip over dissident pockets of resistance, nostalgia for the relatively peaceful days of Gadhafi’s reign is more than likely to set in. Worse, the arsenals of the Libyan military have been systematically looted, with missiles and other sophisticated weaponry falling into the hands of radical Islamist militias. These militias are not fringe elements in the Libyan revolution, but rather they are in charge, with one of their number taking the place of the slain Younis as head of the rebel “armed forces.”  

Indeed, the rebels’ military leadership consists largely of members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which is still prominently featured on our official list of designated terrorist organizations. Now we are allied with them — under a new name, the “National Transitional Council” – and US taxpayer dollars are pouring into their coffers. That money will be used to consolidate the rebels’ rule, a regime that promises to be every bit as repressive as the one that preceded it – albeit friendly, at least at first, to its Western sponsors. 

There are several lessons to be learned from this episode. The first is directed at those anti-American despots still left standing in the region, and it is this: make no concessions. Gadhafi, it will be recalled, had his Great Reconciliation with the Western powers, earning Tony Blair’s and Gordon Brown’s imprimatur in the process – and look where it landed him. This lesson is not lost on Bashar al-Assad, the beleaguered Syrian dictator, nor is it lost on pro-American despots, like the King of Bahrain, the Saudis, and any of the other pro-Western crowned thugs who lord it over their long-oppressed peoples. What these royals have learned from the example of Gadhafi’s – and Mubarak’s – fall is not to expect any help from Washington if they suddenly find themselves hiding in a drain pipe. Quite the contrary: they can fully expect to feel the wrath of the West, as it sides with the rebels and calls in its drones to rain death from the skies. 

As the rulers of Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and the sheikdoms of the Gulf contemplate the full meaning of the events in Libya and Egypt, one can easily imagine them making arrangements for a quick escape.  

To our cynical and ruthless policymakers, however, such considerations are merely a side issue. The real significance of our foray into Libya is that it signals the advent of a new African initiative, the thrusting of American power into the heart of the dark continent. With military bases in Djibouti, and now Ethiopia, Africa is the latest addition to several new fronts in our endless “war on terrorism.” 

Ambition, ideology, and opportunity are taking us ever-deeper into a region that has been inexplicably neglected by US policy planners: the Obama administration apparently seeks to rectify that, and rather quickly, with a contingent of US special forces being sent to Uganda, purportedly in order to rescue the country from the grip of a crazed “Christian” guerrilla army. It’s just a coincidence that this intervention – and the subsequent flow of “foreign aid” dollars – will prop up the increasingly unpopular rule of President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, in power since 1986. 

Museveni is a “former” Marxist revolutionary, who received military training from the Soviet-backed Frelimo guerrilla army: he wrote his student thesis on Franz Fanon’s theory of revolutionary violence. A political survivor, he rose to the top of the anti-Amin “liberation” front, and after a series of coups and counter-coups, became president in 1986. In the 2006 elections, Museveni’s main opponent was arrested and charged with treason and rape. The brazen manner in which Museveni routinely steals elections has come under heavy criticism from the European Union, as well as from those members of the Ugandan opposition not sitting in jail. His rule has been pockmarked by various regional insurgencies, with the “Lord’s Resistance Army” the least of them. Under the pretext of fighting these "Christian" cultists, Museveni’s security forces will be strengthened and aid money will pour in.  

Somalia has long been a focus of US “anti-terrorism” efforts, and the latest development on that front is the establishment of several military bases in the region, including in Ethiopia, where our ally is yet another “former” Marxist-Leninist despot and election thief who rules the country with an iron fist. Like Museveni’s Uganda, President Meles Zenawi‘s Ethiopia is riven with dozens of regional insurgencies, as religious and tribal minorities try to assert some measure of independence against a distant and tyrannical central government in Addis Ababa. US aid and political support is essential to maintaining Zenawi’s power, which has faced several serious challenges. Ominously, Zenawi’s expansionist dreams of a “Greater Ethiopia” extend into Somalia, where the regional Ethiopian-supported “government” of Puntland provides a base for further military incursions.  

The historic rivalry between Ethiopia and Eritrea – a dirt-poor desolate strip of land between Ethiopia and the Red Sea – will come into play as the US military is thrust into Africa, and “Africom” – the US military’s African command – assumes an increasingly important role in the Empire’s war plans. Eritrea occupies a strategically important location: across the narrowest part of the Red Sea lies Yemen, the latest target of our stepped-up drone war. 

America’s renewed interest in the region bodes ill for the Eritreans. Eritrea fought a long war series of wars against Ethiopian invaders, and in spite of support for the Ethiopians from both the US and the Soviet Union, the feisty Eritreans beat back every attempt by Addis Ababa to absorb the region. They finally won their independence in the 1980s, when a UN plebiscite installed the present government – a neo-Marxist one-party dictatorship. If Africom isn’t already looking at Eritrea the way a vulture looks down on a lion stalking a gazelle, then somebody isn’t doing their job.  

Gadhafi comes from the same generation of “Third World” despots who came to power in the post-colonial period and played footsie with the Soviet Union in part to offset a long history of Western domination. Most of these were military men, and avowed “socialists,” although their versions of Marxist theology often differed from orthodoxy the way Mormonism deviates from Protestantism. These bonapartist regimes eventually entered a period of sclerosis, and reified into tools of tribal dominance and outright kleptocracy, with some monarchist flourishes thrown in for good measure. After the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the cold war, those who survived made their peace with the West, as did Gadhafi. Spoon fed by Western “aid” and “development” programs, the corrupto-crats grew fat while the people starved – and seethed. 

You could almost hear the sigh of relief coming from Western capitals as news of Gadhafi’s unceremonious death spread around the world. Apparently captured alive, as this video shows, he was almost immediately killed by his captors, who then dragged his body through the streets of Sirte, which had been the last loyalist holdout. That a US drone first attacked Gadhafi’s convoy, and so gave the rebels the opportunity to make short work of him, is a telling detail. Odds are that NATO was tracking him, and in communication with rebels on the ground: whether they gave the direct order to off the Libyan leader matters little. What matters is that only God will judge him, and the trial will be private. The idea of Gadhafi in the dock at the International Tribunal in the Hague, testifying to his dealings with Western bigwigs over the years, is not something our leaders looked forward to. 

Now the NATO-crats can turn their attention to the problem of how to hold the country together in the post-Gadhafi era, while maintaining tight control over whatever gang rises to the top. Libya, like the “countries” in the rest of Africa, is an artificial construct, the creation of Western colonial powers as they carved up the continent. It actually consists of at least three separate entities — Tripolitania to the west, Cyrenaica to the east, and an interior province peopled by nomads and black Tuaregs – each with its own distinct history and character. Uniting these regions by fiat ensures the future of Libya under the heel of yet another strongman, albeit one less eccentric and more reliably pro-Western than his predecessor. It seems a near certainty Libya will be deemed as yet unready for national elections, and one should expect the National Transitional Council will drop the “transitional” and simply declare itself to be the one and only legitimate government. 

That this proclamation will be met with widespread resistance is also a near certainty, because Libya is afflicted with the same problem that besets the entire African continent – the illegitimacy of  present-day national borders. 

These borders are the outcome of decades of intra-mural battles between the European colonial powers, and bear little relationship to tribal and ethnic realities on the ground. As such, Africa is a tinderbox of inter-state rivalries and political and cultural tensions, which the spark of US intervention could very well set aflame.  

As we wade into the Africa savannahs, and inject Special Forces into the Ugandan jungles, we will seek allies where we can find them – and create them where none exist. Like our British forebears, we’ll “take up the White man’s burden,” and fool ourselves into believing it’s all in the name of a vague “humanitarianism.” How long before the arbiters of Political Correctness deem opposition to US imperialism in Africa to be “racist”? Not long, I assure you.  

As this administration tries to pick winners and losers in a place we know nothing about – and cannot know enough to do anything but harm – they’re bound to wind up with the African equivalent of Solyndra. From Libya to Uganda, the story is sure to be the same: all our efforts will amount to creating more chaos than order, fostering dependency instead of development. In short, like all government programs, the Obama administration’s plans for Africa are inevitably doomed to achieve the exact opposite of their intended result.  

In Libya, where we are supporting and succoring an Islamist gang, we are seeing the first fruits of this seriously misguided policy. Gadhafi himself warned against the Islamist element in the rebel hierarchy: as we barbarically “celebrate” the bloody death of a ruthless and slightly wacky dictator, we would do well to wonder if he might one day have the last laugh.  

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].