Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011

Muammar Gaddafi and Sons

Gaddafi seized power in Libya in 1969, but for decades thereafter insisted the leadership of the country was not about him. His quixotic jamahiriyah, or "state of the masses," meant he had no official head of state designation. This, like much else boasted by his regime, was nonsense. The Gaddafis were for over forty years effectively the Libyan state — Muammar and his children controlled most of the levers of power, had their purse strings wound around the country's lucrative energy industry and directly commanded Libya's most elite military units. The scale of their preeminence led in part to the dramatic, violent nature of their fall in 2011. A rebellion inspired by Arab Spring upheavals elsewhere in North Africa was met by brutal repression; Gaddafi breathed fire at those who opposed them, prompting a U.N. resolution and subsequent NATO-backed intervention. Months of aerial bombardments and grinding, attritional battles between rebel and Gaddafi forces eventually led to the rout of the regime. Gaddafi himself was cornered and slain in his hometown of Sirt on Oct. 20; the majority of his family fled to safe haven in Algeria, but military men sons Khamis and Mutassim both died defending their father. Gaddafi's heir apparent, Saif al-Islam, a man once considered a potential reformer who ended up sticking by his father until the bitter end, is now in rebel custody and awaits prosecution, either in Libya or the Hague.