Monday, August 29, 2011
Gaddafi’s Appointment With February 17
By Mohammad el-Ashab
As Libyan Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was signing the founding treaty of the Maghreb Union in Marrakesh in 1989, it never occurred to him that this day, February 17, would also be the day a popular movement would be launched and would overthrow his regime forever.
Nothing connects the two dates except a remarkable historic coincidence. Those who appoint themselves to create history are incapable of understanding its deception and contradictions. What is certain is that the first February 17 that marked the birth of the Maghreb Union could have canceled out the ensuing repercussions had the Maghreb Union actually become a reality; one that is concrete and stems from the deep aspirations of the region’s people for freedom, dignity, and progress.
However, for several reasons affecting the process of the experience, events evolved in a way as to make Col. Gaddafi the last witness of the birth of the Maghreb Union. Former Algerian President, Chadli Bin Jadid, was forced to step-down in order to save face, as he was hesitant in giving his loyalty to the army or to the voting ballots.
Former Mauritanian President, Maaouya Ould Taya, had a similar fate, as he was overthrown by a military coup in the summer of 2005. The coup was launched by military men from within the presidential palace. However, the fall of their third companion, Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, came for different reasons and givens. It also signaled the beginning of popular intifadas with unknown dimensions. In reality, when Gaddafi started to defend the “good” Tunisian president, in his own words, he was actually defending himself before he was “sandwiched” between Tunisia and Egypt.
Except for the Late King Hassan II who passed away before having the chance to witness the birth of the stormy revolutions’ era, the Maghreb leaders who witnessed the birth of the Maghreb Union all belonged to the military institution. In addition, it is no coincidence that the leaders who have been ousted so far are also military people who came to power on tanks, while Hosni Mubarak escaped the famous platform incident.
These characteristics might only indicate the collapse of the hypothesis of change brandished by the Arab military people who wrote the early coup statements. This change ended up consolidating a completely rejected reality, one that left the populaces with no choice but to try their luck in leading a change that remained absent. What Col. Gaddafi failed to realize is that the uprising of the Libyan people is not only directed against the corruption of the regime, but also against the exception that he wanted to impose through theories, tendencies, and whims. Indeed, he not only imposed an iron fist rule, which was supported with slogans from the Green Book; but he also went beyond this in the direction of imposing an unnatural status that he created through his descriptions of the Libyan Jamahiriya. However, it later turned out that there is no “Jamahiriya” outside the will of the populace, which is aspiring for freedom, dignity, and liberation.
Indeed, the armed people, the popular committees, and the slogans of “anyone who joins a party is a traitor,” were all unable to protect Gaddafi from the blows of the judgment day.
All this was nothing but an illusion that never left the Bab al-Aziziya barracks. It is a paradox for the colonel, who is fleeing from his people and from justice, to cling to the illusion of a march that only occurs in bad dreams. During the early days of the revolution, the colonel repeated phrases about the arrival of Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. He failed to realize that he himself would be fleeing from one place to another. So where to escape?
The escaping game is not a novel thing for the colonel. He used to resort to it every time he was cornered. Didn’t he say that he would color his face black to become African, as a move to relinquish his country’s Arab and Maghreb affiliations, as if identity merely consisted of colors and make-up? Didn’t he appoint himself as a leader or a wise hypothesizer so that he would not bear the responsibility of being the president of a state while all the resolutions carried his signature without him consulting with anyone? Didn’t he order the indemnification of the Lockerbie victims from the people’s treasury, after having denied for many years his regime’s involvement in that terrorist operation?
Gaddafi is currently fleeing from himself and from his experience following the wasting of additional opportunities that knocked on Libya’s doors with the aim of achieving at least a small amount of fusion with the international system. It would have been enough for this small and regular country to respond to the desires of a Street that wanted to have a wide, acceptable place under the sun.
February 17, 1989 represented an alternative chance not only for Libya but also for all the countries of the entire Maghreb region. And although this entity had abundant capacities – such as the unified language, religion, and fate in addition to the economic bloc characteristics that allow for integration, as well as the possibility to open up and to democratize life and society – wasting such capacities or delaying working with them from the point of view of the historic responsibility led to the cloning of that date. This led to the Libyan February 17 that plagued Gaddafi’s sleep. So who will solve the secrets of the game of numbers and dates except for History, which gives time but never forgets?
This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 29/08/2011