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To many Arabs, smarting from their defeat at the hands of Israel in the 1967 war, the strutting 27-year-old Gaddafi seemed to provide an image of Arab pride. Gaddafi saw himself as the heir to Nasser's crusade for Arab unity, and he would later form paper unions with Egypt, Morocco, Syria and Sudan. He engineered the ouster of British and American bases in Libya and negotiated shrewd deals with Western oil companies to yield greater revenues for Libya. With that money, Gaddafi set about to make good on his promises of free housing, medical care and education for Libya's citizens, something he largely accomplished by the mid-1970s.
In 1973 Gaddafi announced what he called his Popular Revolution, designed to eradicate all forms of the nation's bourgeoisie and bureaucracy. His revolution was based on three slender volumes of his own self-taught philosophy titled The Green Book, Gaddafi's equivalent of Mao's Little Red Book. The books outline Gaddafi's combination of Islamic zeal and Bedouin socialism in a system he calls the Third Universal Theory. The premise is that all contemporary political systems are inherently undemocratic and divisive. Gaddafi contends that capitalism benefits only the elite, whereas Communism stifles the individual.
Guided by his own principles, Gaddafi eliminated all private enterprise, all rental properties, and froze bank accounts. He mandated the creation of so-called People's Committees, which were meant to institutionalize the Koran's concept of consultation. Today the committees run virtually all aspects of Libyan daily life and help suppress any opposition to the regime. By 1978 Gaddafi declared that Libya had become the first jamahiriyah, which means a state without a government, or a people's state. Gaddafi subsequently resigned from his official positions and took for himself the title of Leader of the Revolution. Despite the vagueness of the designation, his power was still unquestioned and absolute.
He used it ruthlessly to stifle dissent abroad as well as at home. Since the late 1970s, a succession of Libyan exiles were gunned down in Europe by Gaddafi henchmen. "My people have the right to liquidate opponents inside and outside the country," he said, "even under broad daylight."
. Terrorism and the support of "revolutionary movements" are tenets of Gaddafi's foreign policy. Gaddafi in fact seems hardly to have met a terrorist he didn't like--or support. In addition to funding the radical fringes of Palestinian organizations, his hand and pocketbook have been seen behind Colombia's M-19 guerrillas, the Irish Republican Army and anti-Turkish Armenian terrorist groups. He offered sanctuary to the three surviving members of the Black September guerrillas who slaughtered eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games. Gaddafi has turned Libya into a kind of Palm Springs for despots and terrorists; he once provided a home for Idi Amin, as well as a safe haven for the Palestinian radical Abu Nidal, who allegedly masterminded the Rome and Vienna airport massacres.