For four decades, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has been the madman of the Middle East, calling to mind brutal dictators from Adolf Hitler to Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein. Recently, he has become one of the most reviled figures on Earth, as his paranoia has led him to commit horrific acts of violence against his citizens. Now that he is gone from power, there are lessons to be learned from his destructive legacy. We must learn from these lessons so history doesn’t repeat itself in other parts of the world.
We all know the story of Osama bin Laden and his reign of terror over the middle east. Bin Laden's terrorist organization, Al-Qaeda, was one of the most dangerous threats to American security until it was finally dismantled in 2011. What many people may not know is that before this date there was another terrorist group just as threatening and even more deadly than Al-Qaeda. They were known as the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group or LIFG for short.
LIFG is an Islamist militant group founded in Libya in 1995 by Libyans who had fought against Soviet troops in Afghanistan. It has been designated a terrorist organization by NATO and the United Nations Security Council because it often targets civilians for attacks.
Early Life and Rise to Power
Moammar al-Gaddafi was born on September 1942 in a Bedouin tent near Sirte, Libya. His father, Muammar al-Gaddafi, was a Bedouin from an impoverished family in the small desert town of Janzur in eastern Libya. He grew up as one of four sons in his father's nomadic tribe and spent part of his youth living in the Sahara desert. Moammar Gaddafi studied at the University of Benghazi and dropped out before graduating. In 1969 he emerged as the leader of a group called Arab Revolutionary Brigades and attempted to overthrow King Idris I with bombings and other tactics for two years before being exiled to Saudi Arabia by King Faisal I.
Human Rights abuses
For the majority of his time in power, Libyan President Muammar al-Gaddafi ruled with an iron fist. The dictator was responsible for the human rights abuses that took place within Libya, which included torture and imprisonment. It is estimated that at least 1,200 people were killed by Gaddafi's regime during a protest in 1986. Outside of Libya, he was also responsible for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988, which killed 270 innocent people. This event became known as Lockerbie after it happened over Scotland; it is one of the most famous terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and one of only two terror attacks to be given that label by the U.S government.
In December 1988, 270 people lost their lives on a Pan Am flight from London to New York. Many of the victims were Americans. It was the worst terrorist attack on US soil before 9/11. Libya refused to extradite two suspects in the bombing, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, and Lamin Khalifah Fhimah, who was living there at the time. They were tried in an international court and found guilty but Megrahi was released due to prostate cancer in August 2009. He died three years later.
War with Chad
In the 1980s, Libya began a war with Chad over the Aouzou Strip. This strip of land is rich in uranium and oil, and it was unclear who had the right to exploit the resources. Libya's war with Chad drained valuable resources that could have been used on domestic development projects.
Instead of rebuilding its infrastructure or investing in public services, Libya spent money on weapons like tanks and helicopters which were then used in its attacks on Chad. They also recruited troops from other African countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, and Senegal to fight for them against Chad.
Support for Terrorism
Since the 1970s, Colonel Gaddafi had been supporting terrorism around the world, from Europe to Asia. He helped finance several terrorist groups and movements that were fighting against Western interests. In 1979, he ordered the bombing of a West Berlin discotheque frequented by US military personnel. In 1986, he funded an unsuccessful attempt on the life of Saudi Arabia's King Fahd. He was also accused of involvement in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland which killed 270 people.
Downfall and Death
Gaddafi was the leader of Libya from 1969 to 2011, during which time he terrorized the country, creating a powerful and oppressive dictatorship. His power allowed him to meddle in the affairs of other countries and live extravagantly on his own. He was an unpredictable dictator with a violent streak and a penchant for brutality. In 1986, he ordered the bombing of a German disco frequented by US military personnel; in 1989, he sent Libyan soldiers to fight on behalf of Iraq in its war against Iran; and on Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, 270 people were killed when their plane exploded over their heads while they slept.
Gaddafi was a madman who overthrew the government and then proceeded to terrorize his people. He ruled by terror and made it impossible for people to live in peace. In the end, he was killed at the hands of his people who had finally had enough of him. His legacy is one of fear, intimidation, and imprisonment.