In the Holy Bible Jesus Christ says: “all those who live by the sword, shall die by the sword.”
I recalled this quote as the news of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi’s death reached me, and as the images of his blood-splattered corpse ─ bearing the same strange facial expression that we became used to ─ were broadcast around the world.
We are not sure who killed him exactly, or even how he was killed precisely. Was it the Libyan rebels or NATO? Was he executed after his capture or did he die of his wounds? So far, nobody can be sure.
But this is beside the point, what is important is that Qaddafi has passed beyond the veil of the living and into the realm of the dead.
Qaddafi, for more than 40 years, pursued a policy of murder, terrorism, and mass detentions, and he died in the manner that he lived; violently.
Qaddafi was responsible for thousands of deaths, and even his brothers-in-arms and revolutionary comrades, like Captain Omar al-Meheishy [a member of the Libyan Revolutionary Command Council] were not safe from him, not to mention respected guests like Imam Musa al-Sadr. In addition to this, there were the dozens of Libyan dissidents living abroad ─ whom Qaddafi dubbed “stray dogs” ─ who were assassination, as well as the victims of the infamous Abu Salim prison massacre.
Qaddafi stayed in power through the sword, and so he died by the sword.
At the time of writing, small pockets of resistance may exist under the leadership of Colonel Qaddafi’s remaining sons; however it seems clear that the sun has finally set on the Qaddafi family’s presence in the Libyan skyline, and they are now nothing more than a part of Libya’s past. What is vitally important today is to look ahead to Libya’s future.
In Iraq, Saddam Hussein was killed after being captured. However he faced a controversial trial and was sentenced and executed in a manner that incited sectarian and pan-Arab passions.
Will Qaddafi’s death create divisions in the same manner as Saddam Hussein’s execution, or are we facing a different scenario? In other words, will Gaddafi's death serve a catalyst for national unification and rallying to build a new Libya or not? We must also take into account the fact that Libya does not suffer from acute sectarian, doctrinal or ethnic divisions [in the same manner as Iraq], despite the presence of Berber minorities and others.
With his death, the page has been turned on Qaddafi. All that remains to be said is that he met his deserved end, and this reflects the bloody and brutal approach that he embraced throughout his life. Now that the page has been turned on Qaddafi, how will the new Libya manage its affairs and future? The tradition of dissidents joining forces to face a common enemy is a well-known one. The enemy’s presence represents the key reason for this unification, but what happens when the enemy disappears and the underlying differences begin to surface?
These differences have already begun to emerge in Libya today in the debate between the liberal Islamist and secular trends. For example, we have seen the conflict between radical Libyan cleric Sheikh Ali al-Salabi and liberal politician Mahmoud Jibril, to name but one example.
It is clear, from the footage that we see and the reports that we hear, that the fighters on the ground in Libya are closer to al-Salabi than Jibril, in the cultural, social, and ideological sense.
Will Qaddafi's death mark the eruption of the ─ deferred ─ differences between Qaddafi’s enemies, or will it serve to help bridge the gap and build common grounds between those who joined together to fight the most eccentric dictator in modern history? By the way, the differences I mentioned above might not just exist between radicals and those with different ideological interpretations, but also between different clans and tribes.
We sincerely hope that the Libyans will unite in order to start rebuilding their country. However, this does not detract from our fears that Qaddafi’s death might loosen the thin ties that bound together these disparate forces to confront the Libyan tyrant!
(The writer is a columnist for Asharq al-Awsat newspaper where this article was first published on Oct. 23, 2011.)