October 24, 2011
“What’s going on, what’s happening,” a wounded, dazed Muammar Gadaffi reportedly asked just before he was murdered in Sirte, Libya.
The “Brother Leader” had once asked me something similar. A year after the US sought to assassinate him by dropping a 2,000lb bomb on his bedroom in Tripoli’s Baba al-Azizya barracks, Gadaffi took me by the hand, guided me out of his trademark Bedouin tent and walked me around the ruins of his private quarters. He showed me the bed on which his two-year old adopted daughter had been killed by the US laser-guided bomb.
With a plaintive look, he asked me, “Why, Mr. Eric, why are the western powers trying to kill me?” I was stunned. Gadaffi appeared to be sincere. Could he not understand why he had become a hate figure and target number one. A leader Ronald Reagan called, “the mad dog of the Middle East.”
The answer, I told him, was punishment: first, for shaming his brother Arab leaders into raising the price of oil to a fair trade value. Second, his naïve, unquestioning support for all sorts of violent “anti-colonial” movements: among them, the IRA, Basque ETA, killer Abu Nidal, Philippine Muslim rebels, Nelson Mandela’s ANC. Any group that called itself “anti-colonial” or “liberationist” and got to Tripoli came away with bags of dollars and Gadaffi’s support.