Killing is ugly, regardless of who is killed and of who is the killer. And such ugliness is made no lesser by decades of tyranny, dictatorship and arbitrary killing, nor by individual revenge from the tyrant. Colonel Qaddafi staying alive may have been a source of additional concerns for the new authorities or for one of its constituents. Yet it would certainly have provided a wealth of information, as there are numerous obscure and ambiguous issues whose main protagonist could have, in a serious trial, shed some light on. This is especially the case, as many of those implicated in his dirty deals, in our region and in the world, are still alive, and some of them are still in power – which could have provided a sure service to peoples yearning, like the Libyan people, for freedom and democracy.
Furthermore, the killing of Qaddafi, in the way we have seen, after he was captured alive, in addition to its ugliness, represent a first blemish for the new authorities. Indeed, they either did not take into account that the tyrant could fall captive in the hands of fighters who would not hesitate to commit this kind of revenge, thus losing the said wealth of certainly valuable information about the practices of four decades of terrorism and dictatorship, which could have exposed those implicated, especially outside of Libya; or they wanted to get rid of him as quickly as possible to spare themselves the burden of keeping him alive in their custody, which would mean a feeling of weakness on their part towards his remaining alive, even if in prison.
The new Libyan authorities have gotten rid of Qaddafi, and of major leaders of his rule. But the Gaddafi problem may for a while continue to bother those authorities, in military operations carried out by those who still pine for the rule of the tyrant, as took place in Tripoli a few days ago. But this will not go beyond being bothersome to representing a threat.
The threat that would expose the situation a Libya to a true relapse may well come from those who have carried out the Revolution themselves. Indeed, their remaining united over the idea of doing away with Qaddafi’s rule is no longer guaranteed, after the tyrant has been killed and his regime has collapsed completely.
Perhaps what the new authorities have witnessed, after the fall of Tripoli, in terms of contradictions and differences over the structure and leadership of the government represents a prelude to what could beset the process of forming the transitional government, after liberation has been declared and the implementation of the roadmap set down by the National Transitional Council (NTC) has begun.
It is not clear so far how the shift will take place, from the phase of fighting against Qaddafi to that of building the new Libya. Indeed, it is common knowledge that those who have fought fiercely on every front do not belong to single party, under a single leadership with a single program. Moreover, there are, in addition to political and ideological differences, different regional and tribal affiliations. This means that the process of military unification, which is of critical importance to the unification of power, represents the main challenge facing the new authorities.
And the longer this process takes, the wider the rift will be between those participating in it, as each will head in a different direction, militarily, ideologically or politically – with all that this entails in terms of the danger of confrontation, as took place in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the Soviets, and in Iraq after Saddam Hussein was toppled. And if the Chairman of the NTC Mustafa Abdul Jalil enjoys a good reputation among all segments of Libyan society, such a reputation cannot alone represent a guarantee in the face of escalation, when things reach their most extreme.
Linked to the challenge of unifying conflicting military forces, and in parallel to it, is put forth the issue of the nature of the new government. If no consensus is reached, among all political forces, over the necessity for all parties to express themselves and engage in political activity within a framework of pluralism, in order to establish a secular state, the danger of infighting will give rise to a threat of no lesser importance – that of a return to a new form of dictatorship, after the Libyans have paid an exorbitant price in lives and in funds to get rid of it.
The writer is a prominent columnist. The article was published in the London-based al-Hayat on Oct. 23, 2011.