The videos that show what appears to be Gadhafi being lynched are impressive, and they’re sickening.
They say the former leader of the Jamahirya, that attempted mutant of a “government of the masses” that he himself proclaimed, died from a bullet while saying “haram…haram” (an Arabic word that means something like “forbidden” or “taboo”).
Spoken in this way, this is an exhortation to others not to commit a sin, though at the same time it’s an appeal to a certain basic level of empathy. In a more common language, the free translation would be “mercy.” But no one paid any attention.
A human being who is slaughtered is a human being who is slaughtered, even if they were a serial killer.
One can find in Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago tremendous scenes of how the fury of murder seized people and slaughter ensued.
In the case of Tolstoy, he goes so far as to give an excellent psychological characterization of opportunistic thinking that often drives such “incidents.”
I recalled a string of “revolutionary” executions (*):
Charles I, England
Louis XVI, France
Nicholas II, Russia
Benito Mussolini, Italy
Nicolae Ceausescu, Romania
Saddam Hussein, Iraq (was this execution “revolutionary”?)
Muammar Gadhafi, Libya.
The last assassination was undoubtedly the most cruel and violent of all. By its moral aspect, it was comparable to that of Mussolini’s (this writer is a convinced anti-fascist). Il Duce was hung upside down from a meat hook after having been shot by the partisans. Dangling beside him was his former lover, wearing a dress. As she hung in the same position as the man with whom she had shared a bed and a cause, one could see her crotch. This incident became a coveted object of ridicule by the Italians, with them even printing postcards of the scene.
For its political position within the succession of events hitting the Arab world, Gadhafi’s destiny is similar to what happened to Ceausescu in that fateful year of 1989 in central Eastern Europe.
The Romanian and the Libyan movements have been the most violent (so far) of the transition in (post) “socialist” Europe (1989) and of the “Arab Spring” (2011).
But the “Conduc?tor” (Leader) was shot (along with his wife). His body was filmed dead and then he was at least buried in a grave, one which bears a red star and an Orthodox cross.
The transitional government of Romania (formed — like in Libya — from a sub-fraction of the previous government) immediately ordered the abolition of the death penalty, a decision that gave the earlier occurring execution a shade of “theater of cruelty.”
However the Libyan leader/dictator was literally lynched and his body put on display for days at a supermarket along with that of his son’s, until they began to rot. This was something absolutely contrary to Muslim customs; the religion guides believers to almost immediately bury the dead, preferably before sundown.
The hatred fanned by this media event has been hard, sad, cruel and terrible.
Attacking that hatred should not, however take away our ability to analyze, to ask ourselves how was this caused or induced, and what experiences brought it on.
We need to study lynchings, despite all the disgust and pain involved, just as we study the terrible and almost forgotten genocide in Rwanda and the one (even less remembered) in Kampuchea.
To be continued…
(*) Particularly striking is the absence from the list of the last Chinese emperor, which as we know from the Bertolucci film died while tending to his flower garden in the capital. He was also a member of a sort of “social forum of civil society” in the Popular Republic. The undoubted honor that belongs to the Chinese revolutionaries for not having executed the last monarch of the Celestial Empire should not prevent us from paying attention to the millions of deaths during the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution,” probably the bloodiest political process (in total numbers and in a single country) in all the twentieth century.
In Cuba, even when there were legal executions starting in 1959, there is nothing that has occurred that has been equivalent to murder.