Belfast Telegraph

Monday 24 November 2014

Libya's Gaddafi is completely bonkers, a crackpot on the level of Ahmadinejad and Lieberman

Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stout (DDG 55) as it launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn from the Mediterranean Sea . The US fired more than 100 cruise missiles from the sea while French fighter jets targeted Moammar Gadhafi's forces from the air on Saturday, launching the broadest international military effort since the Iraq war in support of an uprising that had seemed on the verge of defeat. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, Petty Officer 3rd Class, Jeramy Spivey)
Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stout (DDG 55) as it launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn from the Mediterranean Sea . The US fired more than 100 cruise missiles from the sea while French fighter jets targeted Moammar Gadhafi's forces from the air on Saturday, launching the broadest international military effort since the Iraq war in support of an uprising that had seemed on the verge of defeat. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, Petty Officer 3rd Class, Jeramy Spivey)
MEDITERRANEAN SEA - MARCH 19: In this handout image provided by the U.S. Navy, The USS Barry launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn March 19, 2011. This was one of approximately 110 cruise missiles fired from U.S. and British ships and submarines targetting about 20 radar and anti-aircraft sites along Libya's Mediterranean coast. (Photo by Jonathan Sunderman/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
MEDITERRANEAN SEA - MARCH 19: In this handout image provided by the U.S. Navy, The USS Barry launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn March 19, 2011. This was one of approximately 110 cruise missiles fired from U.S. and British ships and submarines targetting about 20 radar and anti-aircraft sites along Libya's Mediterranean coast. (Photo by Jonathan Sunderman/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
MEDITERANEAN SEA (March 19, 2011) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stout launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn.This was one of approximately 110 cruise missiles fired from U.S. and British ships and submarines targetting about 20 radar and anti-aircraft sites along Libya's Mediterranean coast. (Photo by Jeramy Spivey/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
MEDITERRANEAN SEA - MARCH 19: In this handout image provided by the U.S. Navy, The USS Barry launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn March 19, 2011. This was one of approximately 110 cruise missiles fired from U.S. and British ships and submarines targetting about 20 radar and anti-aircraft sites along Libya's Mediterranean coast. (Photo by Jonathan Sunderman/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
MEDITERRANEAN SEA - MARCH 19: In this handout image provided by the U.S. Navy, The USS Barry launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn March 19, 2011. This was one of approximately 110 cruise missiles fired from U.S. and British ships and submarines targetting about 20 radar and anti-aircraft sites along Libya's Mediterranean coast. (Photo by Jonathan Sunderman/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
German Tornado fighter jets are a parked on the tarmac of the Italian Airforce airbase in Decimomannu on the Italian Sardinia island, Sunday, March 20, 2011. NATO's top decision-making body is poised to decide whether the alliance will join in the coalition onslaught on Libya. Diplomats said NATO's military planners are due to present on Sunday final action plans to the North Atlantic Council. The body should then decide whether the alliance will join the coalition operation or just provide logistic, intelligence and other support to the nations taking part in the intervention. (AP Photo/Enrico Locci)
An F-16 jet fighter flies over the NATO airbase in Aviano, Italy, Sunday, March 20, 2011. NATO's top decision-making body is set to decide whether the alliance will join in the strikes on Libya. Diplomats said NATO's military planners are due to present final action plans to the North Atlantic Council on Sunday. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Libyan government soldiers stand guard at Moammar Gadhafi's Bab Al Azizia compound in Tripoli, Libya, Saturday March 19, 2011. President Barack Obama authorized limited military action against Libya Saturday, saying Moammar Gadhafi's continued assault on his own people left the U.S. and its international partners with no other choice. The Pentagon said 112 cruise missiles were launched from US and UK ships and subs, hitting 20 targets. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
This Saturday, March 19, 2011 photo provided by the U.S. Navy shows the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) as it launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn from the Mediterranean Sea . The U.S. fired more than 100 cruise missiles from the sea while French fighter jets targeted Moammar Gadhafi's forces from the air on Saturday, launching the broadest international military effort since the Iraq war in support of an uprising that had seemed on the verge of defeat. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, MC3 Jonathan Sunderman)
Aisha Gadhafi, center, daughter of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, is surrounded by supporters at the Bab Al Azizia compound in Tripoli, Libya, Saturday March 19, 2011. President Barack Obama authorized limited military action against Libya Saturday, saying Moammar Gadhafi's continued assault on his own people left the U.S. and its international partners with no other choice. The Pentagon said 112 cruise missiles were launched from US and UK ships and subs, hitting 20 targets. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
Tracers from anti aircraft fire are seen above the hotel where foreign media and government officials are staying in Tripoli, Libya, Sunday March 20, 2011. Anti-aircraft fire erupted in the Libyan capital on Sunday, marking the start of a second night of international strikes as a defiant Moammar Gadhafi vowed a "long war." The U.S. military said the allied bombardment so far, using a rain of Tomahawk cruise missiles and strikes by long-range bombers, had been successful in diminishing Gadhafi's air defenses. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
A Libyan rebel celebrates on a tank belonging to the forces of Moammar Gadhafi in the outskirts of Benghazi, eastern Libya, Sunday, March 20, 2011. The tanks were destroyed earlier by NATO planes. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)
An RAF Tornado GR4 aircraft flies into RAF Marham, in Norfolk. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday March 20, 2011. See PA story POLITICS Libya. Photo credit should read: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Handout photo dated 19/03/11 issued by the Ministry of Defence of final preparations being made to an RAF Tornado GR4 aircraft for the first UK air combat mission in support of UN Resolution 1973. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Sunday March 20, 2011. See PA story POLITICS Libya. Photo credit should read: SAC Lisa Conway/MoD/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
Handout photo dated 19/03/11 issued by the Ministry of Defence of final preparations being made to an RAF Tornado GR4 aircraft for the first UK air combat mission in support of UN Resolution 1973. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Sunday March 20, 2011. See PA story POLITICS Libya. Photo credit should read: SAC Lisa Conway/MoD/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
Previously unreleased photo dated 19/03/11 of an RAF Tornado GR4 aircraft accelerating up the runway at the end of the runway at RAF Marham, in Norfolk. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Sunday March 20, 2011. Three RAF Tornado jets left the UK on Saturday night, the first of the British strikeforce tasked with enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya. See PA story POLITICS Libya. Photo credit should read: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
A bus burns on a road leading to the outskirts of Benghazi, eastern Libya, Sunday, March 20, 2011. The U.S. military said 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from American and British ships and submarines at more than 20 coastal targets to clear the way for air patrols to ground Libya's air force. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)
In this Saturday, March 19, 2011 photo provided by the U.S. Navy, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn from the Mediterranean Sea . The U.S. fired more than 100 cruise missiles from the sea while French fighter jets targeted Moammar Gadhafi's forces from the air on Saturday, launching the broadest international military effort since the Iraq war in support of an uprising that had seemed on the verge of defeat. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Sunderman)
This Saturday, March 19, 2011 photo provided by the U.S. Navy shows the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stout (DDG 55) as it launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn from the Mediterranean Sea . The U.S. fired more than 100 cruise missiles from the sea while French fighter jets targeted Moammar Gadhafi's forces from the air on Saturday, launching the broadest international military effort since the Iraq war in support of an uprising that had seemed on the verge of defeat. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, Petty Officer 2nd Class, Nathan Pappas)
This Saturday, March 19, 2011 photo provided by the U.S. Navy shows the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stout (DDG 55) as it launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn from the Mediterranean Sea . The U.S. fired more than 100 cruise missiles from the sea while French fighter jets targeted Moammar Gadhafi's forces from the air on Saturday, launching the broadest international military effort since the Iraq war in support of an uprising that had seemed on the verge of defeat. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, Petty Officer 3rd Class, Jeramy Spivey)
This Saturday, March 19, 2011 photo provided by the U.S. Navy shows the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) as it launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn from the Mediterranean Sea . The U.S. fired more than 100 cruise missiles from the sea while French fighter jets targeted Moammar Gadhafi's forces from the air on Saturday, launching the broadest international military effort since the Iraq war in support of an uprising that had seemed on the verge of defeat. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, MC3 Jonathan Sunderman)
This Saturday, March 19, 2011 photo provided by the U.S. Navy shows the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) as it launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn from the Mediterranean Sea . The U.S. fired more than 100 cruise missiles from the sea while French fighter jets targeted Moammar Gadhafi's forces from the air on Saturday, launching the broadest international military effort since the Iraq war in support of an uprising that had seemed on the verge of defeat. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, MC3 Jonathan Sunderman)
This Saturday, March 19, 2011 photo provided by the U.S. Navy shows the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) as it launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn from the Mediterranean Sea . The U.S. fired more than 100 cruise missiles from the sea while French fighter jets targeted Moammar Gadhafi's forces from the air on Saturday, launching the broadest international military effort since the Iraq war in support of an uprising that had seemed on the verge of defeat. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, Fireman Roderick Eubanks)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 20: (NO SALES; NO ARCHIVE) In this handout image provided by CBS News, U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, appears on "Face The Nation" March 20, 2011 in Washington, D.C., Mullen spoke about the U.S. and coalition airstrikes strikes in Libya. (Photo by Chris Usher/CBS News via Getty Images)
LAKENHEATH, ENGLAND - MARCH 19: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been reviewed by U.S. Military prior to transmission.) In this handout image provided by the U.S. Air Force, 492nd FS commander, prepare to taxi their F-15E Strike Eagle prior to their departure from RAF Lakenheath in preparation for Operation Odyssey Dawn missions March 19, 2011 in Lakenheath, United, Kingdom. Approximately 112 cruise missiles fired from U.S. and British ships and submarines targeting about 20 radar and anti-aircraft sites along Libya's Mediterranean coast. (Photo by Lee A. Osberry Jr./U.S. Air Force via Getty Images)
MARHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 20: Weapons are moved on a trolley at Royal Air Force (RAF) Marham on March 20, 2011 in England. The Pentagon says that United States and United Kingdom military gorces have fired more than 110 missiles, with French planes attacking pro-Gaddafi forces near rebel-held Benghazi. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
MARHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 20: A Tornado GR4 aircraft takes off from Royal Air Force (RAF) Marham on March 20, 2011 in England. The Pentagon says that United States and United Kingdom military forces have fired more than 110 missiles, with French planes attacking pro-Gaddafi forces near rebel-held Benghazi. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
MARHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 20: A Tornado GR4 aircraft takes off from Royal Air Force (RAF) Marham on March 20, 2011 in England. The Pentagon says that United States and United Kingdom military forces have fired more than 110 missiles, with French planes attacking pro-Gaddafi forces near rebel-held Benghazi. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
NORFOLK, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 19: (NO SALES NO ARCHIVE) In this handout from the Ministry of Defence, a RAF Tornado GR4 aircraft is prepared for launch, the first UK air combat mission in support of UN Resolution 1973, at RAF Marham on March 19, 2011 in Norfolk, England. Col Muammar Gaddafi has vowed a "long war" against the "crusader aggression" after over 100 missiles were fired by the US and UK, during multi-national action. (Photo by SAC Lisa Conway/MoD via Getty Images)
BRIZE NORTON, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 19: (NO SALES NO ARCHIVE) In this handout from the Ministry of Defence, Royal Air Force VC10 and Tristar air-to-air refuelling aircraft support the first UK air combat mission in support of UN Resolution 1973 in flight on March 19, 2011. Col Muammar Gaddafi has vowed a "long war" against the "crusader aggression" after over 100 missiles were fired by the US and UK, during multi-national action aimed at enforcing a UN-mandated no-fly zone. (Photo by SAC Neil Chapman/MoD via Getty Images)
BRIZE NORTON, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 19: (NO SALES NO ARCHIVE) In this handout from the Ministry of Defence, Royal Air Force VC10 and Tristar air-to-air refuelling aircraft support the first UK air combat mission in support of UN Resolution 1973 in flight on March 19, 2011. Col Muammar Gaddafi has vowed a "long war" against the "crusader aggression" after over 100 missiles were fired by the US and UK, during multi-national action aimed at enforcing a UN-mandated no-fly zone. (Photo by SAC Neil Chapman/MoD via Getty Images)
MARHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 20: Two Tornado GR4 aircraft taxi for take off from Royal Air Force (RAF) Marham on March 20, 2011 in England. The Pentagon says that United States and United Kingdom military forces have fired more than 110 missiles, with French planes attacking pro-Gaddafi forces near rebel-held Benghazi. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
MEDITERANEAN SEA (March 19, 2011) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stout launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn.This was one of approximately 110 cruise missiles fired from U.S. and British ships and submarines targetting about 20 radar and anti-aircraft sites along Libya's Mediterranean coast. (Photo by Jeramy Spivey/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
MEDITERRANEAN SEA - MARCH 19: In this handout image provided by the U.S. Navy, seen through night-vision lenses aboard amphibious transport dock the USS Ponce, the USS Barry fires Tomahawk cruise missiles in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn March 19, 2011 in the Mediterranean Sea. This was one of approximately 110 cruise missiles fired from U.S. and British ships and submarines targeting about 20 radar and anti-aircraft sites along Libya's Mediterranean coast. (Photo by Nathanael Miller/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 19: Anti-war protesters take part in a demonstration on March 19, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. Anti-war protesters were demonstrating marking the 8th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq and demanding for no war in Libya. (Photo by Trixie Textor/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 19: Anti-war protesters take part in a demonstration on March 19, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. Anti-war protesters were demonstrating marking the 8th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq and demanding for no war in Libya. (Photo by Trixie Textor/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 19: Anti-war protesters take part in a demonstration on March 19, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. Anti-war protesters were demonstrating marking the 8th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq and demanding for no war in Libya. (Photo by Trixie Textor/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 19: Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic speaks at the anti-war protest on March 19, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. Anti-war protesters were demonstrating marking the 8th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq and demanding for no war in Libya. (Photo by Trixie Textor/Getty Images)
AKROTIRI, ENGLAND - MARCH 20: A military AWAC aircraft lands at the British RAF Akrotiri airbase on March 20, 2011 in Cyprus. Defence analysts said the sovereign military airfield at Akrotiri could be used by the RAF to help enforce a no-fly zone over Libya against Col GaddafiÄôs offensive against outgunned Libyan rebels. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
MARHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 20: A Tornado GR4 aircraft is towed past the runway at Royal Air Force (RAF) Marham on March 20, 2011 in England. The Pentagon says that United States and United Kingdom military forces have fired more than 110 missiles at targets in Libya, with French planes attacking pro-Gaddafi forces near rebel-held Benghazi. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
MARHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 20: A Tornado GR4 aircraft takes off from Royal Air Force (RAF) Marham on March 20, 2011 in England. The Pentagon says that United States and United Kingdom military forces have fired more than 110 missiles, with French planes attacking pro-Gaddafi forces near rebel-held Benghazi. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***
A huge explosion is seen over the outskirts of Benghazi, eastern Libya (AP)
Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez condemned the allied assault on Libya
Muammar Gaddafi
Libyan soldiers loyal to Gaddafi push forward at the western entrance of the city of Ajdabiya, Libya (AP)
Libyan soldiers loyal to Gaddafi fire in the air on the road leading to Ajdabiya, Libya (AP)
SALLUM, EGYPT - MARCH 17: The Alseyed family pack their luggage onto a bus for a ride to Cairo after clearing customs after entering Egypt at the Libyan/Egyptian border crossing on March 17, 2011 in Sallum, Egypt. The family left their home in Toburk, Libya because of the fighting that is nearing that area. Opposition forces have been losing ground as government troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi press a counter-offensive to the east. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A volunteer in Libya's rebel group sits on the back of a car on the outskirts of the eastern town of Ras Lanouf (AP)
A Libyan volunteer carries ammunition on the outskirts of the eastern town of Ras Lanouf, Libya, Thursday, March 10, 2011
A warplane is seen being shot down over the outskirts of Benghazi, eastern Libya, Saturday, March 19 ... the image shows the pilot has ejected from the plane, 2011.
A warplane is seen being shot down over the outskirts of Benghazi, eastern Libya, Saturday, March 19 ... the image shows the pilot has ejected from the plane, 2011.
Member states vote to approve a resolution that will impose a no-fly zone over Libya (AP)
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister David Cameron urged European allies to be ready for all 'contingencies' in Libya
Nato has started round-the-clock surveillance of the air space over Libya amid attacks by government jets on rebels
Anti-Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi rebel rest next to his anti-aircraft machine gun, in Ras Lanouf town, eastern Libya, on Wednesday, March 9, 2011. A high-ranking member of the Libyan military flew to Cairo on Wednesday with a message for Egyptian army officials from Moammar Gadhafi, whose troops pounded opposition forces with artillery barrages and gunfire in at least two major cities. Gadhafi appeared to be keeping up the momentum he has seized in recent days in his fight against rebels trying to move on the capital, Tripoli, from territory they hold in eastern Libya.(AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
Libyan rebel fighters leave on top of an anti-aircraft machine gun towed by a loaded truck of ammunition supplied by an ammunition storage wear house, unseen in the eastern town of Brega, Libya Wednesday, March 9, 2011. Moammar Gadhafi says Libyans will fight if a no-fly zone is imposed by Western nations, saying that would show their real intention is to seize the country's oil. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

So we are going to take "all necessary measures" to protect the civilians of Libya, are we?

Pity we didn't think of that 42 years ago. Or 41 years ago. Or... well, you know the rest. And let's not be fooled by what the UN resolution really means. Yet again, it's going to be regime-change. And just as in Iraq – to use one of Tom Friedman's only memorable phrases of the time – when the latest dictator goes, who knows what kind of bats will come flying out of the box?



And after Tunisia, after Egypt, it's got to be Libya, hasn't it? The Arabs of North Africa are demanding freedom, democracy, liberation from oppression. Yes, that's what they have in common. But what these nations also have in common is that it was us, the West, that nurtured their dictatorships decade after decade after decade. The French cuddled up to Ben Ali, the Americans stroked Mubarak, while the Italians groomed Gaddafi until our own glorious leader went to resurrect him from the political dead.



Could this be, I wonder, why we have not heard from Lord Blair of Isfahan recently? Surely he should be up there, clapping his hands with glee at another humanitarian intervention. Perhaps he is just resting between parts. Or maybe, like the dragons in Spenser's Faerie Queen, he is quietly vomiting forth Catholic tracts with all the enthusiasm of a Gaddafi in full flow.



So let's twitch the curtain just a bit and look at the darkness behind it. Yes, Gaddafi is completely bonkers, flaky, a crackpot on the level of Ahmadinejad of Iran and Lieberman of Israel – who once, by the way, drivelled on about how Mubarak could "go to hell" yet quaked with fear when Mubarak was indeed hurtled in that direction. And there is a racist element in all this.



The Middle East seems to produce these ravers – as opposed to Europe, which in the past 100 years has only produced Berlusconi, Mussolini, Stalin and the little chap who used to be a corporal in the 16th List Bavarian reserve infantry, but who went really crackers when he got elected in 1933 – but now we are cleaning up the Middle East again and can forget our own colonial past in this sandpit. And why not, when Gaddafi tells the people of Benghazi that "we will come, 'zenga, zenga' (alley by alley), house by house, room by room." Surely this is a humanitarian intervention that really, really, really is a good idea. After all, there will be no "boots on the ground".



Of course, if this revolution was being violently suppressed in, say, Mauritania, I don't think we would be demanding no-fly zones. Nor in Ivory Coast, come to think of it. Nor anywhere else in Africa that didn't have oil, gas or mineral deposits or wasn't of importance in our protection of Israel, the latter being the real reason we care so much about Egypt.



So here are a few things that could go wrong, a sidelong glance at those bats still nestling in the glistening, dank interior of their box. Suppose Gaddafi clings on in Tripoli and the British and French and Americans shoot down all his aircraft, blow up all his airfields, assault his armour and missile batteries and he simply doesn't fade away. I noticed on Thursday how, just before the UN vote, the Pentagon started briefing journalists on the dangers of the whole affair; that it could take "days" just to set up a no-fly zone.



Then there is the trickery and knavery of Gaddafi himself. We saw it yesterday when his Foreign Minister announced a ceasefire and an end to "military operations" knowing full well, of course, that a Nato force committed to regime-change would not accept it, thus allowing Gaddafi to present himself as a peace-loving Arab leader who is the victim of Western aggression: Omar Mukhtar Lives Again.



And what if we are simply not in time, if Gaddafi's tanks keep on rolling? Do we then send in our mercenaries to help the "rebels". Do we set up temporary shop in Benghazi, with advisers and NGOs and the usual diplomatic flummery? Note how, at this most critical moment, we are no longer talking about the tribes of Libya, those hardy warrior people whom we invoked with such enthusiasm a couple of weeks ago. We talk now about the need to protect "the Libyan people", no longer registering the Senoussi, the most powerful group of tribal families in Benghazi, whose men have been doing much of the fighting. King Idris, overthrown by Gaddafi in 1969, was a Senoussi. The red, black and green "rebel" flag – the old flag of pre-revolutionary Libya – is in fact the Idris flag, a Senoussi flag. Now let's suppose they get to Tripoli (the point of the whole exercise, is it not?), are they going to be welcomed there? Yes, there were protests in the capital. But many of those brave demonstrators themselves originally came from Benghazi. What will Gaddafi's supporters do? "Melt away"? Suddenly find that they hated Gaddafi after all and join the revolution? Or continue the civil war?



And what if the "rebels" enter Tripoli and decide Gaddafi and his crazed son Saif al-Islam should meet their just rewards, along with their henchmen? Are we going to close our eyes to revenge killings, public hangings, the kind of treatment Gaddafi's criminals have meted out for many a long year? I wonder. Libya is not Egypt. Again, Gaddafi is a fruitcake and, given his weird performance with his Green Book on the balcony of his bombed-out house, he probably does occasionally chew carpets as well.



Then there's the danger of things "going wrong" on our side, the bombs that hit civilians, the Nato aircraft which might be shot down or crash in Gaddafi territory, the sudden suspicion among the "rebels"/"Libyan people"/democracy protesters that the West, after all, has ulterior purposes in its aid. And there's one boring, universal rule about all this: the second you employ your weapons against another government, however righteously, the thing begins to unspool. After all, the same "rebels" who were expressing their fury at French indifference on Thursday morning were waving French flags in Benghazi on Thursday night. Long live America. Until...



I know the old arguments, of course. However bad our behaviour in the past, what should we do now? It's a bit late to be asking that. We loved Gaddafi when he took over in 1969 and then, after he showed he was a chicken-head, we hated him and then we loved him again – I am referring to Lord Blair's laying on of hands – and now we hate him again. Didn't Arafat have a back-to-front but similar track record for the Israelis and Americans? First he was a super-terrorist longing to destroy Israel, then he was a super-statesman shaking hands with Yitzhak Rabin, then he became a super-terrorist again when he realised he'd been tricked over the future of "Palestine".



One thing we can do is spot the future Gaddafis and Saddams whom we are breeding right now, the future crackpot, torture-chamber sadists who are cultivating their young bats with our economic help. In Uzbekistan, for example. And in Turkmenistan. And in Tajikistan and Chechenya and other "stans". But no. These are men we have to deal with, men who will sell us oil, buy our arms and keep Muslim "terrorists" at bay.



It is all wearingly familiar. And now we are back at it again, banging our desks in spiritual unity. We don't have many options, do we, unless we want to see another Srebrenica? But hold on. Didn't that happen long after we had imposed our "no-fly" zone over Bosnia?

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