David Calling

A Moment of Respite

The death of Muammar Qaddafi is a cautionary tale. He had the chance to make his native Libya a model country, thanks to its oil wealth, and very deliberately he did not take it. For him, power had nothing to do with such a humdrum purpose as improving the lot of ordinary people, but everything to do with personal aggrandizement. Looking for some way to dignify his ambition, he experimented in turn with Arab nationalism or pan-Arabism, Islamism, expansion into Africa, Soviet freelancing, and anti-Americanism. Violence was the common denominator. Misspent and wasted, the oil revenues sponsored war, invasion of neighbours, and international terror. One abiding mark of his infamy is the Lockerbie bombing.

Qaddafi took care that nobody and nothing could challenge his one-man rule. As his whims developed into daily injustices, the Libyan people paid the highest price. Those who dared to raise their voices were arrested, silenced, and sometimes killed in public. Dissidents disappeared. In one atrocity he ordered the mass-murder of prisoners. Absence of conscience was made both sinister and ludicrous by his poses of grandeur.  Medals and orders covered his uniforms. Bevies of girls acted as security guards. At home and abroad on official visits, he insisted on pitching a tent. But outward Bedouin simplicity masked inner dissolute indulgence.

The capture, trial, and hanging of Saddam Hussein first showed Arabs that they could be masters of their fate. The so-called Arab Spring is the principal consequence. In one Arab country after another, people have risen in large numbers to prove that they are ready to oust rulers who have been inflicting needless injustices and cruelties on them. Like so many other Arabs, Libyans revolted earlier this year to demand to be heard. To a man of Qaddafi’s character, reform is indistinguishable from surrender. He chose repression and rage, he cursed and threatened and set about killing. Western intervention alone has warded off what otherwise would have been the tyrant’s vengeance.

Qaddafi was found sheltering in a sewage drain, and then and there met the summary execution reserved for the Benito Mussolinis, Ceausescus, and their like. He deserved it, but the chance has been lost to bring him to court and confront him with his crimes. That might have been exemplary. The future of Libya is uncertain, and the Transitional Council now ruling in Tripoli is more than likely to have rocky months ahead. Libyans have to acquire in a hurry some experience in self-government, toleration, and equitable conduct. To put it no higher, at least they and the rest of the world have a moment of respite and relief.

David Pryce-Jones — David Pryce-Jones is a British author and commentator and a senior editor of National Review.

Most Popular

PC Culture

Hate-Crime Hoaxes Reflect America’s Sickness

On January 29, tabloid news site TMZ broke the shocking story that Jussie Smollett, a gay black entertainer and progressive activist, had been viciously attacked in Chicago. Two racist white men had fractured his rib, poured bleach on him, and tied a noose around his neck. As they were leaving, they shouted ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Strange Paradoxes of Our Age

Modern prophets often say one thing and do another. Worse, they often advocate in the abstract as a way of justifying their doing the opposite in the concrete. The result is that contemporary culture abounds with the inexplicable — mostly because modern progressivism makes all sorts of race, class, and ... Read More
PC Culture

Fake Newspeople

This week, the story of the Jussie Smollett hoax gripped the national media. The story, for those who missed it, went something like this: The Empire actor, who is both black and gay, stated that on a freezing January night in Chicago, in the middle of the polar vortex, he went to a local Subway store to buy a ... Read More

White Progressives Are Polarizing America

To understand how far left (and how quickly) the Democratic party has moved, let’s cycle back a very short 20 years. If 1998 Bill Clinton ran in the Democratic primary today, he’d be instantaneously labeled a far-right bigot. His support for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Defense of Marriage Act, ... Read More

Ilhan Omar’s Big Lie

In a viral exchange at a congressional hearing last week, the new congresswoman from Minnesota, Ilhan Omar, who is quickly establishing herself as the most reprehensible member of the House Democratic freshman class despite stiff competition, launched into Elliott Abrams. She accused the former Reagan official ... Read More

One Last Grift for Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders, the antique Brooklyn socialist who represents Vermont in the Senate, is not quite ready to retire to his lakeside dacha and so once again is running for the presidential nomination of a party to which he does not belong with an agenda about which he cannot be quite entirely ... Read More
PC Culture

Merciless Sympathy

Jussie Smollett’s phony hate-crime story could have been taken apart in 24 hours, except for one thing: Nobody wanted to be the first to call bullsh**. Who will bell the cat? Not the police, and I don’t blame them. Smollett is a vocal critic of President Donald Trump who checks two protected-category ... Read More