Of course Qaddafi did not foresee his tragic end when at one of the Arab summit meetings he arrogantly stood to warn heads of states of facing Saddam Hussein’s destiny. “You are next! But those outside listen more than those inside.”
Not a long time passed after he said that until the thrones of republics mistakenly thought by those sitting on them to be eternal started falling one after the other. The thrones of Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt fell, the throne of Assad in Syria is totally shaken, and the throne of Saleh in Yemen is on the verge of collapsing.
As for Qaddafi, he had never imagined he would be arrested in a tunnel and would face such a terrible death. He had never imagined that his corpse would be the talk of the world and satellite channels would vie for photographs of him dead and even be willing to pay any amount of money to revolutionaries who captured the moments of his arrest and death with their mobile phones.
People in news rooms like us were mainly keen on getting successive pictures and videos of his body: from when he appeared with long hair to what later looked like his head had been shaved after the body was transferred from Sirte to Misrata. One of the revolutionaries said he was originally bald and the hair for which he was famous was just a wig and denied shaving his head whether after his death or while he was still alive.
The Qaddafi family had its throne totally destroyed. Pictures of the body of his son Mo’tassim were all over the media and his son Khamis was killed before that while his wife Safia and his iron daughter Aisha fled with Mohamed and Hannibal to Algeria and Saadi to Niger.
The Arab world has not seen a character as cartoon-like as Qaddafi. He made people laugh throughout his 43-year-old rule whether with his speeches, his slogans, his Green Book, or his Third Theory. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was quite far-sighted when he labeled him “the madman of Libya” and it was this madness that dragged him to this tragic end.
With the removal of Qaddafi’s wig, all the wigs of the Arab republics fell. After long years of revolutionary and progressive talk about how “republics” are the salvation of people who suffered from inherited monarchies and colonization, a bold head full of scares and deformities was finally exposed.
Gamal Abdel Nasser described Qaddafi as “the guardian of Arab nationalism.” That was how titles were distributed with no warrantees or catalogues amongst the republican thrones and that was how the people and the intellectuals were deceived over the past decades.
The end of Libya’s Colonel is, in fact, the end of all Arab republics in their traditional form, where the ruler stands alone on top of a pyramid — a leader, a thinker, and a genius — while the rest sit at the foot of the pyramid singing to him and of his illusory victories and achievements.
None of the colonel’s titles were of use to him and the “kings of Africa” over whom he was a self-proclaimed king could not save him and his end was even worse than that of Saddam Hussein.
The other republics woke up to disasters as the destinies of their leaders ranged between death and prison. The citizens of those republics sustained serious losses; lives, fortunes, land, and sovereignty were lost in a series of struggles. Those citizens were the cow that was milked and sucked dry by their leaders.
Qaddafi is gone and before him Saddam Hussein, Ben Ali, and Mubarak, and maybe very soon Bashar al-Assad and Ali Abdullah Saleh will be gone too. The people will be left with the excruciating burden of resuscitating their countries and guiding them through rehabilitation.
The future is very tough. The people of those failed republics are afraid of producing the same presidents and the same republics, for history always repeats itself in our Arab world and the pages we turn we read twice and thrice and we never learn from these times.
The republics that started as a rebellion against the bequeathing of power ended up doing the very same thing, so how can the Arab Spring learn from those painful experiences?
There is no way out for Arab people other than adhering to the state of law which sets rules of justice and makes them applicable to everyone; a law in front of which all are equal and no distinction is made between the rich and the poor, the big and the small.
Otherwise, the production of tyranny and tyrants will go on forever.
The writer is Managing Editor of the Al Arabiya Arabic website. This article was first published in al-Gomhuria newspaper on Oct. 24, 2011 and translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid.