Reflecting On Gaddafi, His Toupee and Last Days

There’s a great deal of coverage of Gaddafi’s death, but not so much on how Libyans view him, Ted Anthony considers those issues:

“Whatever ultimately happens with Gadhafi’s body, the impact of its visibility will endure. Christopher Hitchens, writing in Slate about his objections to the Libyan leader’s end, nevertheless acknowledged the sentiment of many in the Arab world: “At the close of an obscene regime,” he wrote, “it is natural for people to hope for something like an exorcism. It is satisfying to see the cadaver of the monster and be sure that he can’t come back.”

That’s the very definition of “habeas corpus” – “you have the body.” And now, in an age when a device we keep in our pockets can reveal a dictator’s demise, it has never been more relevant. Whether it’s Saddam hanging from a rope, Nicolae Ceausescu dead in his suit and tie, or Gadhafi beaten and confused and then dead and gone, the sight of the body is one of the most powerful political and emotional totems of all.

Gadhafi’s former subjects attested to that in the city of Misrata this weekend. In long lines curling around corners and into the street, they waited to enter a produce locker in a run-down shopping plaza. There, upon that blood-stained mattress, they saw a man they held responsible for years of misery and ruined lives.

They looked down upon his shirtless remains, his toupee gone, his slight pot belly visible, his oft-facelifted visage sagging. They smiled and they ogled and they wept. They were the ones who had the power now. The man who had carefully built himself into a curious myth was rendered unto those he once ruled as something diminished and frail, hurtling toward impermanence and irrelevance.

Great and terrible in life, in death these mythologized despots and masterminds are revealed at last as the much smaller men behind the curtain – shorn of the outsized facades that frightened and mesmerized so many for so long. The stars, in the end, are just like us.”

A cousin of Colonel Gaddafi adds to the story:

“MISURATA, Libya — After 42 years of absolute power in Libya, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi spent his last days hovering between defiance and delusion, surviving on rice and pasta his guards scrounged from the emptied civilian houses he moved between every few days, according to a senior security official captured with him.

Under siege by the former rebels for weeks, Colonel Qaddafi grew impatient with life on the run in the city of Surt, said the official, Mansour Dhao Ibrahim, the leader of the feared People’s Guard, a network of loyalists, volunteers and informants. “He would say: ‘Why is there no electricity? Why is there no water?’ ”

Mr. Dhao, who stayed close to Colonel Qaddafi throughout the siege, said that he and other aides repeatedly counseled the colonel to leave power or the country, but that the colonel and one of his sons, Muatassim, would not even consider the option. “

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