In the Mideast, Spinning Qaddafi's Death However it Suits: Noe & Raad

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By Nicholas Noe & Walid Raad

Oct. 24 -- Almost every dramatic turn in this year's Arab uprisings has provided the Mideast's main actors a chance to indulge in utter hypocrisy. The demise of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi proved no exception.

From Lebanon, the militant Shiite movement Hezbollah congratulated “the Libyan people for turning the page on a regime that has delivered oppression and tyranny to the country for more than four decades.”

The statement failed to even mention the key role played by NATO in bringing down Qaddafi. It did warn that Libyans now “face a responsibility to preserve their resources before they are looted by greedy, big countries.”

Hezbollah was also quiet on the subject of Syria, where its strategic ally, the authoritarian al-Assad dynasty, has been in power for nearly as long as Qaddafi was. The regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is currently engaged in a brutal crackdown on dissent it attributes to “armed terrorist gangs.”

The government of Iran, also a Hezbollah patron, similarly avoided crediting NATO’s role in Libya or discussing possible parallels to Syria. Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Ramin Mehmanparast declared:

It is a divine promise: For all the dictators and tyrants of history who ignore the nation’s right during their rule, the ultimate destiny is complete obliteration. The Islamic Republic of Iran congratulates the oppressed Muslim people of Libya and the National Transitional Council for the great victory of the Libyan nation, which has been achieved with praiseworthy resistance.

Foreign forces, he added, now have “no excuses" to continue what he called "their interference" in Libya, a description that failed to acknowledge that rebel forces invited and welcomed outside military support. Said Mehmanparast:

It is necessary that these forces leave immediately. The people of this country should be allowed to exercise their right to determine their fate in an atmosphere free of any kind of foreign intervention.

Even the militant Somali Islamist group, Al-Shabaab, welcomed the killing of Qaddafi with a statement by one of its senior commanders, Sheikh Muqtar Abdirahman Abu Zubeyr, who urged the Libyan people to resist the imposition of any future dictators after their victory.

Not surprisingly, he also neglected to mention the role played by outside powers in that victory. His own fighters, who are battling the Western-backed Transitional Federal Government of Somalia for control of the country, are facing the forces of the African Union’s military mission in Somalia as well as the U.S., on occasion.

In a clear departure, commentators writing for Saudi-funded media did praise NATO's role in Libya and fixed Syria as the target of the next regime change.  These pieces were not hypocrisy-free, however. The authors were enthusiastic for democratic reform -- an odd position to find in papers rooted in Saudi Arabia, among the world's least democratic countries. While Saudi Arabia aggressively championed the drive against Qaddafi in Libya, it sent troops into neighboring Bahrain over the summer to help put down protests against a fellow monarchy.

An editorial in the Saudi-based paper Al-Watan advised Libyans:

The most important challenge at this stage is to have a specified transitional period that paves the way for holding real and democratic elections.

Libyans, the paper continued, deserve to have “a parliament that represents the people and serves as the voice that expresses their aspirations, pains and hopes,” though no such elected body exists in Saudi Arabia itself.

Al-Watan said Qaddafi's demise, in undisclosed circumstances after his capture by rebel fighters, was “a humiliating death that we hope serves as a lesson to other tyrants who still cling to power, commit crimes and cardinal sins and continue to kill their people to remain in power.”

A number of commentators regretted the way in which Qaddafi died. Videos have emerged showing him being tormented by his captors. Eyewitnesses who saw his fatal wounds say he was apparently shot at close range. In the Saudi-owned, London-based Al-Hayat, columnist Abdullah Iskandar wrote:

Killing is ugly, regardless of who is killed and who is the killer. Such ugliness is not lessened by decades of tyranny, dictatorship and arbitrary killing.

Iskandar also lamented that Qaddafi was not kept alive by his captors so that he could be put on trial.

It would certainly have provided a wealth of information, as there are numerous obscure issues on which the main protagonist could have shed some light in a serious trial. This is especially the case as many of those implicated in his dirty deals, in our region and in the world, are still alive. Some are still in power.

Walid Shuqayr, another columnist for Al-Hayat, added that some of Qaddafi’s peers “and some of his current opponents, are rejoicing over his absence. It has spared them the exposure of many secrets revealing their participation in his bloody history and in a myriad of international scandals.”

Speaking of hypocrisy, do relief and rejoicing count as one face or two?

(Nicholas Noe and Walid Raad are the Beirut correspondents for the World View blog. The opinions expressed are their own.)

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-0- Oct/24/2011 20:12 GMT