The tyrant is dead, and the head of Libya's Transitional National Council, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, (who was also Gaddafi's former Justice Minister), has declared that Libya has been liberated.
What a glorious day it is when a country is liberated from its justice minister by its justice minister. If only Gaddafi had been quicker on the ball, he could have staged a revolution against himself and liberated the country from himself.
We mustn't laugh. Now that American troops are leaving Iraq and Afghanistan has declared that it will back Pakistan in any conflict with the United States, we must have the highest hopes for Libyan democracy. Didn't we declare an undeclared war on Gaddafi to have a fallback position? Even if Egypt and Tunisia go down the tubes, and Yemen declares an official Bin Laden day, we'll always have Libya.
But don't pop the champagne corks just yet. Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, who liberated Libya from himself, has also declared that it will be governed under Islamic law and that laws which contradict Islam will be abolished. So expect to see fewer female bodyguards and more women in need of bodyguards. Out with the uniforms, in with the Burqas. And the champagne is most definitely against Islam.
What can the Libyan people look forward to? In Egypt, a fellow who said something about Islam on Facebook got sentenced to three years of hard labor. Egypt, lest we forget, is a moderate Muslim state. How can you tell Egypt is a moderate Muslim state? He didn't get the death penalty, the way he would have in Pakistan.
Westerners who are always on the prowl for moderate Muslims might take caution from his example. The difference between a moderate Muslim and an immoderate one, is the difference between three years of hard labor for saying the wrong thing on Facebook... and the death penalty. Instead of searching for moderate psychopaths, we might be better off asking whether we really need moderate or immoderate psychopaths at all.
Blasphemy laws in the Muslim world are not really about cartoons of exploding turbans and the free press, those are things that don't exist and never really existed anyway. They're a convenient way to keep down uppity minorities. Back when there were still Jews living in the Muslim world, charges of blasphemy were a common way of depriving them of their property or their lives. Today Christians are the main target-- for as long as they're around.
Take the case of Batto Sfez, a Tunisian Jewish wagon driver who got into an argument during a traffic jam with a member of the Muslim master race. In an argument between a Muslim and a non-Muslim, the former always has a trump card, accuse the non-Muslim of blaspheming Mohammed. And so the wagon driver was dragged before a Sharia court by a peacefully religious mob and had his head chopped off.
The year was 1856 and the French were as interventionist as ever, but unsympathetic to Islam. And so Napoleon III dispatched a naval squadron to Tunis to urge the Tunisian regime to be more tolerant of minorities. This led to the Fundamental Compact, which gave Christians and Jews the same rights as Muslims. This horrible act of equality blasphemy has never been forgiven by Tunisian Muslims.
The Arab Spring which overthrew a moderate Tunisian government put an end to the last vestiges of tolerance. And Islamists have already been gathering outside the synagogue in Tunis and chanting the usual cheerfully peaceful slogans about the Battle of Khaybar. Which is the Muslim equivalent of snapping a Nazi salute and yelling, "See you in Auschwitz."
Back in Libya there is no Jewish community, and a foolishly optimistic fellow who traveled to rebuild the synagogue there was quickly told where he could shove his liberty, fraternity and equality.
Libya is indeed free. It's free of Jews and it will soon be free of Christians too. It is becoming free of Africans and will be free of rights for women. It will also be freerer than ever of all the freedoms that are against Islam. But don't expect that to ruin the celebrations in Foggy Bottom. Libya has been liberated from itself by itself for itself. And now that it's liberated, it is free to have fewer human rights than ever.
The Gaddafi regime was a money-grubbing totalitarian mafia, and it will be replaced by a totalitarian money-grubbing mafia, many of whose members will be alumni of the original mafia. Whoever runs the new mafia, whether it's a "moderate" like Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, Gaddafi's old justice minister, who wants to abolish all laws that contradict Sharia, or an immoderate, like Abdel Hakim Belhadj, commander of the Tripoli Military Council who's also a veteran of the local Al-Qaeda franchise, will go on hating the Great Satan and the Little, and pandering to the Islamists by tightening the noose of Sharia law around the throat of Libya.
The French, the old French back in Napoleon III's day, at least had the right idea. They understood that tyranny was the only form of government in the area, and that it was best to overthrow overly zealous tyrants and see them replaced with men whose narrow throats fit into a French gloved fist. This is the sort of attitude that the West is often accused of in its interventions, but can anyone who has sat through a Bush or Blair speech on democracy take that seriously?
Of course we want oil and trade and more pleasant relations, but we think the way to get those things is to introduce the locals to democracy until they realize that if they want the whole two cars in every garage and a son with a PhD in Greek Lit on every wall American dream-- then they need to put down the ax and open up the system.
Under our way of doing things, two cars in every garage is a much more realistic dream in Libya and the oil soaked parts of the Middle East, and a less realistic dream in the good old US of A. Forget the UK, where the price of gas would make Americans reach for their shotguns. After spending trillions on wars for democracy, we're deep in debt and the Muslim world is as democratic as mob rule and Islamist terror can possibly make it.
We mean well and that's our problem. Even when we're being greedy warmongering bastards, we mean well. Like gentlemen cat burglars whose sense of manners requires them to sign the guest book we keep invading countries to make life better for them. Looking at all our rows of tanks and jets, it's obvious that we don't quite understand how this invading business works. It's also obvious to the Libyans, who will be our friends almost as much as the Afghans, the Iraqis and the Egyptians.
Iraq has gone from whiskey, sexy, democracy to burqas, sharia and beheadings because the moment we took off our goggles, we put on our rose covered glasses. Now Tunisia, Libya and Egypt are on the way. While the champagne corks are popping in the New York Times editorial offices, in Tripoli bearded men are meeting around a table and working out a timetable.
For all the ugliness in Iraq, it ended with a trial and a hanging. Even if the hanging was overseen by the Sadr boys. Libya didn't even bother with the pretense of a trial. Its pretense of "democracy" will go about as well. But in Libya, the liberals backed a civil war without maintaining any control over the outcome.
The American death toll in Iraq was the result of an attempt to maintain control over the process. In Libya, the liberals are patting themselves on the back for a quick and easy war without the death toll or the control. Before Obama abandoned Iraq, he abandoned Libya, and while it probably wouldn't have made any difference, it is a notable difference between the Bush and Obama administrations, that the latter does not even aspire to responsibility.
The death of Gaddafi does not mean a new era of human rights, only a transition to a new tyranny. The robed maniac was not the first king, sultan, bey and tyrant to be brought down by an armed mob and some foreign backed revolutionaries. This is how it has always been. The tyrant delivers his patriotic speeches, leers into the camera, alternately panders to the mob or shoots it down, and passes down power to his son.
What brought down Gaddafi, Mubarak and the rest of them was not the mythical popular awakening, but well-funded domestic revolutions with international backing and training, and international pressure backed by bombing raids. The Islamists hope the Arab Spring will lead to an Islamic Winter, but it's more likely to lead to more chaos, more splinter tyrannies and more civil wars.
The tyrant is dead, long live the tyrant.