By Arab News
By Tariq Al-Maeena
THE inglorious death of the Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi recently at the hands of his captors brought to an end one more chapter of a leader so far removed from reality that he indulged in his invincibility in open defiance of the realities on the ground.
And it did not just end with a shot to his head.
His body was grotesquely displayed, lying on the unkempt floor as curious onlookers filed past to gaze at someone who had ruled them for over three decades. And in a fitting end to many of his subjects, he was then unceremoniously dumped in an unmarked grave somewhere in the desert, without being afforded the pomp and glory that he indulged in for so many years.
He was yet another Arab leader who was forcibly deposed through the will of his people, albeit with a little help from NATO and other countries sympathetic to the will of the Libyan people. And along with his body, his grave would conceal the keys to billions of dollars that he had acquired while in power, and stashed in secret accounts in foreign lands. It would now be his people’s legacy to track and trace this wealth and return it back to their land.
Bursting on the Libyan scene as a liberator and a revolutionary who would lead his people out of the oppression of the previous monarchy, over the decades he slowly metamorphosed into a tyrant, and gave himself, his family and his cohorts the liberty to loot the national wealth and remain above any form of accountability.
It was not long before Qaddafi’s end that another ruler, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt failed to gauge the mood of his public and was unceremoniously booted out of power and into a jail cell. He now lies in a hospital bed while Egyptians decide his fate.
And preceding the revolt in Egypt was the one in Tunisia where long time President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was forced to leave the country. But such leaders are not always confined to Arab world. Asia, Africa and South America have also had their share of such characters.
The Shah of Iran whose ancestors ruled the country in a dynasty stretching over several centuries was forced to flee and fly out. While his people were starving, he spent a reported $100 million to celebrate the twenty-five-hundredth anniversary of the Iranian monarchy. During flight, and much like a pariah, his request for asylum in the US was not entertained, and he was given shelter for a limited period of time to undergo some medical check-ups. Flying from country to country, he eventually ended up in Egypt where he died. Vast billions of Iranian assets went with him.
Ferdinand Marcos ruled the Philippines for more than 21 years with an iron fist as president during which time his tenure was marked with corruption, nepotism, political repression and flagrant human rights violations. He and his wife Imelda succeeded in embezzling public funds amounting to billions of dollars and stashing them into overseas accounts in the US and Europe. His end came swift as well, as his people revolted against the excesses that marked his regime. Flown to Hawaii in an aircraft full of cash, his money was confiscated and his assets in the US were frozen. He died in the US and his corpse remained unburied for some time.
And although Idi Amin of Uganda ruled for a relatively short period as compared to other dictators, during his eight years in power Amin earned the dubious honor of being termed Africa’s worst dictator. The “Butcher of Uganda” earned his reputation for brutalities in the 1970s, using killer squads to eliminate hundreds of his opponents and the members of their families at a snap of a finger. When ousted by his people, and fearing retribution for his reign of terror, he fled Uganda in 1979.
There are Arab leaders today busily engaged in fending off the will of the masses and using the mechanism of force and violence against the protesters. It is happening in parts of the Arab world that include Syria and Yemen. If one wonders if the leaders of these countries have not taken heed to history, then perhaps one should understand that these figures move around with cohorts and lackeys who assure them that all is well, that they are loved and that the people want them there. So what if a few dissenters show up on Western television? It must be the work of some foreign powers out to grab regional dominance.
And state media, often controlled and extolling the conjured virtues of their leaders, parrots the same tune. “All is well” until reality kicks in and the truth cannot be suppressed any more.