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Memo to dictators: never outstay your welcome

If Gaddafi had followed this simple rule so many lives would have been spared

By on Friday, 26 August 2011

Muammar Gaddafi pictured during a visit to Rome in 2009 (ANDREW MEDICHINI/AP/Press Association Images)

Muammar Gaddafi pictured during a visit to Rome in 2009 (ANDREW MEDICHINI/AP/Press Association Images)

As I write this, Muammar Gaddafi is still at large, probably somewhere in Libya, and certainly causing trouble. If, back in March or April, when the people of Libya first revolted, he had taken a plane to Venezuela or Zimbabwe, much of the infrastructure of Libya would have been saved, not to mention many lives preserved. But no: the outcome will be the same (for it is hard to see Gaddafi returning to power at this stage) even though the fight will be needlessly, pointlessly drawn out. And why? All because of the selfish self-obsession of the man.

Dictators are rarely humble people, and politicians find it notoriously hard to retire from the scene. General Porfirio Diaz, who ruled Mexico with an iron hand for over 35 years (not quite as long as Gadaffi’s near record-breaking 42), did eventually throw up his hand and retire to France. He was at that time over 80 years old, and his retirement was only brought about by the threat of revolution, so it was hardly a gracious retreat – but it was at least a recognition of the facts on the ground.

General Primo de Rivera, who ruled Spain from 1923 for seven years, was not forced out, but withdrew from power voluntarily, realising he had lost the support of both the King and the military. He too went to Paris, which seems to be the traditional refuge of fallen dictators. Certainly France is where Jean-Bedel Bokassa (someone who shared Gaddafi’s love of flamboyant costume) and Baby Doc Duvalier took refuge, though the French seem to have become more fussy of late about whom they let in. It must be rather humiliating for Gaddafi and his hangers-on to know that they could face the rest of their lives in Harare, along with General Mengistu, the famous mass murderer. Moreover, Harare may not be a safe refuge for very long, given the advanced age of Comrade Mugabe.

For dictators and for the rest of us, there seems to be a simple rule: never overstay your welcome. When Gaddafi first overthrew the Libyan monarchy back in 1969, he was perhaps genuinely popular. What support he once had has long been expended. One should quit when one is ahead: but sadly, egomaniacs, who need to learn this lesson more than most, find it the hardest lesson of all to learn.

I have been to Libya, as a tiny child, and growing up in Malta was educated with many Libyans and knew many Maltese who worked in Libya. Poor Libya, it has suffered enough. We must all hope and pray that the final agony is not prolonged.

  • http://twitter.com/josephja Joseph J Anthraper

    “One should quit when one is ahead: but sadly, egomaniacs, who need to
    learn this lesson more than most, find it the hardest lesson of all to
    learn.”

    Very true, yet one of hardest truths that most men(women) struggle to come to terms with. Be it Blair, Schumacher, Nixon, Saddam or Gaddafi, we have a problem with letting go, specially if we think we are successful.

  • Michael McManus

    I can think of some one else who should let go, Thats this pope, Just been reading an article from 2002 , That shows just how mentaly sick the last pope was , And this one and others think he should be a saint, He forgives child abuse victims for enticing priests and others to have sex with them  

  • Michael McManus

    I will try again,This  Is from a speech by the last pope, who this pope and others what to make a saint, Calling forgiveness “one of the highest virtues taught to us by Jesus,” Pope John Paul II issued a papal decree Monday absolving priest-molested children of all sin.”Though grave and terrible sins have been committed, our Lord teaches us to turn the other cheek and forgive those who sin against us,” said the pope, reading a prepared statement from a balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square. “That is why, despite the terrible wrongs they have committed, the church must move on and forgive these children for their misdeeds.”, In the statement there is not one words about how priests raped and abused children, Its the childrens FAULT , A mother of an 8 year old blames her son for tempting a priest to abuse him, And you mr priest thinks this pope is a great man

  • Michael McManus

    I will try again,This  Is from a speech by the last pope, who this pope and others what to make a saint, Calling forgiveness “one of the highest virtues taught to us by Jesus,” Pope John Paul II issued a papal decree Monday absolving priest-molested children of all sin.”Though grave and terrible sins have been committed, our Lord teaches us to turn the other cheek and forgive those who sin against us,” said the pope, reading a prepared statement from a balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square. “That is why, despite the terrible wrongs they have committed, the church must move on and forgive these children for their misdeeds.”, In the statement there is not one words about how priests raped and abused children, Its the childrens FAULT , A mother of an 8 year old blames her son for tempting a priest to abuse him, And you mr priest thinks this pope is a great man

  • http://reflectingonthebeach.blogspot.com/ Ignatius

    Fr Lucie-Smith I am very disappointed that you actually believe the blatant lies we are being told by our corporate mainstream media. Contrary to what many people outside Libya think, Gadhafi had considerable support within his country. How else could he have survived in power for so long? You have to remember Libya is a tribal society where the tribes put their trust in one leader. A couple of months ago hundreds of thousands of people in Tripoli (some say 1 million) marched in support of Gadhafi. That’s a quite a lot of people in a country of just 6 million. Why was this not covered in our media? The media is clearly biased.

    Despite what you think of him, Gadhafi has done a lot of good things for his country. He built homes for the poor, provided free education (dramatically increasing Libya’s literacy rate), provided free health care, gave women more freedom than most Muslim countries, and allowed freedom to minorities. Libya was the most prosperous state in Africa, and far more productive than any other monarchical Arab regime. I do not condone the crimes he has committed but he’s has been made into a bigger monster than he actually is.

    The rebels on the other hand seem very unsavory characters. Some of them are clearly the Al Qaeda type – a fact that has been under reported. Another thing their blatant racism. There are gruesome videos on Youtube of rebels lynching black Africans. Shouldn’t we be asking more questions about supporting such a group of people come to power? We’ll see their true colours in the months and years ahead. The defectors of Gadhafi’s regime are mainly corrupt opportunistic individuals with an eye on profit.

    Although NATO’s stated goals were to ‘protect civilians’ by enforcing a no-fly zone, they have clearly overstepped their remit. They have taken sided with the rebels; some of their bombs have fallen in civilian areas. What about the countless number of people killed by the NATO’s rebel proxies?

    Although this intervention is legal (because of UN Resolution 1973, I think the action is illegitimate. What started as a relatively small uprising has been exploited by NATO to achieve its geostrategic goals of securing more oil resources. Now the country is plunging into civil war. I’m afraid Libya is heading for dark days ahead.

  • Michael McManus

    Sorry every one , Just found out my earlier post is from a Satire site , First time i have been on it , It will be the last

  • Anonymous

    You call yourself a religious person and someone learned in moral theology and yet you help perpetuate the lies of western governments and their puppet media.
     
    It is estimated that here are about 1000 rebel fighters and yet the media would have you believe that this unelected, ragtag horde was able to defeat a trained military of 60 thousand soldiers with superior weapons in a country with over 6 million people.  It is truly absurd.    If people can be made to believe absurdities, then they can be made to accept atrocities.  NATO has flown over 17 THOUSAND bombing runs.  This ‘humanitarian mission’ is a giant farce.  Oil addicts don’t care about humans.
     
    Why does a humanitarian mission bomb television stations and jam Internet sites and texting?  Why do western governments have as many covert special forces on the ground as there are rebel fighters?  If we are so concerned with the people of Libya why did we wait over 42 years to come to their aid?
     
    If you have any morality or at least some interest in the truth start thinking for yourself.  One day the media tells us that Gaddafi’s sons have been captured and then they aren’t.  They tell us Gaddafi is surrounded and then he isn’t.  The presstitutes have told us ‘the end is near’ more often than a homeless guy on Hollywood Boulevard. They try to portray this war as if it is some sort of party while the death and destruction that is just outside camera range (if indeed these honorable ‘journalists’ ever left Benghazi) goes unmentioned.  They tell us two young government guards kept 300 esteemed members of the press hostage at the Rixos hotel.  It defies all credibility.
     
    One way to lie is to accept at face value what are known to be official lies, uncritically passing them on to the public without adequate confirmation.  People’s minds are battlefields in which the MSM bomb biased reports, propaganda and disinformation on a daily basis. AND you Father Lucie-Smith choose to provide moral support for these people.  You need to pray to God for guidance as you have most definitely lost your way.
     

  • http://www.facebook.com/benxyz Ben Hall

    mutex7 you have been proven a full-time troll on many forums from AJE to spectator etc and have many aliases
    there are 25,000 to 35,000 libyan freedom fighters, not 1000.
    who is paying you to spread such lies?

  • Michael McManus

    If the catholic church had been christian many children would have been spared the horror of abuse, And many people would not have been murdered by so called christian kings

  • Michael McManus

    What about that horrible dictator who lives in the vatican and, Who claims to be a christian, Talk about women priests your thrown out of your job, But cover up child rape you can live in the vatican Or when it comes you did that you can keep your job as head of a countries church,  And the writer of this article along with all catholic priests and laity think thats ok,

  • https://openid.org/locutus LocutusOP

    The resolution was meant to enforce a no-fly zone. It also had an arms embargo.

    Arming rebels and bombing Libyan military infrastructure beyond the air force constitutes a direct breach of the resolution (http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N11/268/39/PDF/N1126839.pdf?OpenElement), making the military yet another military (mis)adventure by Western powers illegal.

  • https://openid.org/locutus LocutusOP

    Note to dictators: Acquire nuclear weapons…Now!

  • Oconnordamien

    Can some one explain to me, a dictator, a theocrat or a pope? 

  • Parasum

    “Memo to dictators: never outstay your welcome”

    Does that apply to Vatican invitations to ghastly men with blood on the hands such as – let us say – Robert Mugabe ? Or is the old murderer still welcome to attend Papal functions; and if so, why ? The Vatican has a far from attractive record for consorting with dictators. “Cor ad cor loquitur”, indeed :(
     

  • Anonymous

    In !969 Gaddafi was not, perhaps but he was the nations hero! Today he is mine for I have researched him enough to see that from world leaders, he is a genuine man of the people. In !976, he gave the country of Libya to the Libyan people with the Jamahiriya which is DIRECT democracy. They do not have parties to represent them but they represent themselves through the party. The Bedouin man brought up living in a tent is audacious and courageous and the Libyan people too for they will not submit to nato and their stooges the rebels but wish to remain a Jamahiriya in control of their own people in a freedom unsurpassed by the Western nations.
    The education all the way to PHD is funded by Libya even abroad With a living grant too! They have their healthcare and more Doctors are being trained, it was PJII whom Gaddafi turned to for help with finding staff for Libyan hospitals. Before the recent atrocities, there was not homeless, none were homeless. Only 10% are illiterate today compared with 90% in 1969. A marriage grant of $60,000 and a $5000 grant for each child, helps families when they most require it. Gas and electricity for home use is free, cars are at factory prices, gas is subsidised..like 5*  and loans are without interest. There is social security and students receive the wage for their job even if they cannot get work. I think that over generous! The people govern themselves and Gaddafi is GLAD for that. He does not have all these palaces but lives modestly..the disinfromation you and I have had is phenomenal. For the UK to prosper, we do not need the oil as much as an independent bank for the people, where we print and create money oursleves instead of asking others to loan it to us!
     Our servility and worship to the banking system has been our undoing, our slavishness in following the EU, social policies against the family and a free for all in speculations and trade as opposed to fair or judicious ethical trading, overpowerful unions and chasing after bubbles from our GREED from top to bottom have all been our undoing.
    Perfection on earth we do not have but the Jamahirya system is one fro the people and not one the Western govtss will accede to.Muammer is overwhelmingly popular in Libya..as he says, My people love me, it is true.
    The rebels ARE Al quiada, rebel released prisoners, fanatical muslims, people who may have on parent Libyan who were never born there, Qatar mercenaries, Afghan mercenaries, old and sick and afraid, those with their hands in the jar, the greedy bribed opportunists and those who want women to stay in the home cooking etc. women’s rights in Libya are better than in the West which with its immorality is hurting us. Libyan women are the strongest supporters of Gaddafi!
    Why would the Libyans not prefer to have a Libya with a Jamahiriyah and Muammer as their figurehead than to be like Iraq. All this dictatar and despot nonsense!
    We are massacring the vast majority of Loyalist Libyans who do not want rebels imposed upon them by a minority of the Libyan people who were not born and living in Libya. they see the nato stooges as puppets for the West imposing slavery upon them. They cabnnot surrender though as they have their throats slit by the rebels and nato bombs them and they are unable to flee from teh bombs. they shall thus fight to the last man and woman…by their choice and ours giving their lives for freedom rather than have colonialism on them!
    I hope the martyred will not die in vain and God will collect them to heaven.
    Am practising Catholic in UK.