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Review Mummar Gadaffi Story. by BhbHoLLAH (m): 10:13pm on November 10

How can you adequately describe someone like
Col Muammar Gaddafi? During a period that
spanned six decades, the Libyan leader
paraded on the world stage with a style so
unique and unpredictable that the words
"maverick" or "eccentric" scarcely did him
justice.

His rule saw him go from revolutionary hero
to international pariah, to valued strategic
partner and back to pariah again.
Gaddafi developed his own political
philosophy, writing a book so influential - in
the eyes of its author, at least - that it
eclipsed anything dreamt up by Plato, Locke
or Marx.

He made countless show-stopping
appearances at Arab and international
gatherings, standing out not just with his
outlandish clothing, but also his blunt
speeches and unconventional behaviour.
He spent his life reinventing himself and his
revolution: one Arab commentator called him
the "Picasso of Middle East politics", although
instead of Blue, Rose or Cubist periods, he
had his pan-Arab period, his Islamist period,
his pan-African period, and so on.

But even Gaddafi was not able to withstand
the tide of popular feeling that had already
swept away his two authoritarian neighbours
in a momentous year for the Arab world.

Early promise
In the heady days of 1969 - when he seized
power in a bloodless military coup - and the
early 1970s, Muammar Gaddafi was a
handsome and charismatic young army
officer.

An eager disciple of President Gamal Abdel
Nasser of Egypt (he even adopted the same
military rank, promoting himself from captain
to colonel after the coup), Gaddafi first set
about tackling the unfair economic legacy of
foreign domination.

For Nasser, it was the Suez Canal. For
Gaddafi, it was oil.

Significant reserves had been discovered in
Libya in the late 1950s, but the extraction
was controlled by foreign petroleum
companies, which set prices to the advantage
of their own domestic consumers and
benefited from a half share in the revenue.
Gaddafi demanded renegotiation of the
contracts, threatening to shut off production
if the oil companies refused.

He memorably challenged foreign oil
executives by telling them "people who have
lived without oil for 5,000 years can live
without it again for a few years in order to
attain their legitimate rights".

The gambit succeeded and Libya became the
first developing country to secure a majority
share of the revenues from its own oil
production. Other nations soon followed this
precedent and the 1970s Arab petro-boom
began.

Libya was in a prime position to reap the
benefits. With production levels matching the
Gulf states, and one of the smallest
populations in Africa (less than 3m at the
time), the black gold made it rich quickly.

Political theorist
Rather than persevering with the doctrines of
Arab Nationalism, or following the glittering
excesses of Gulf consumerism, Gaddafi's
innately mercurial character led him and Libya
on a new path.

Born to nomadic Bedouin parents in 1942,
Muammar Gaddafi was certainly an
intelligent, resourceful man, but he did not
receive a thorough education, apart from
learning to read the Koran and his military
training.

Nevertheless, in the early 1970s he set out to
prove himself a leading political philosopher,
developing something called the third
universal theory, outlined in his famous Green
Book.

The theory claims to solve the contradictions
inherent in capitalism and communism (the
first and second theories), in order to put the
world on a path of political, economic and
social revolution and set oppressed peoples
free everywhere.

In fact, it is little more than a series of
fatuous diatribes, and it is bitterly ironic that
a text whose professed objective is to break
the shackles imposed by the vested interests
dominating political systems was used
instead to subjugate an entire population.

The result of Gaddafi's theory, underlined with
absolute intolerance of dissent or alternative
voices, was the hollowing out of Libyan
society, with all vestiges of constitutionality,
civil society and authentic political
participation eradicated.

The solution to society's woes, the book
maintains, is not electoral representation -
described by Gaddafi as "dictatorship" by the
biggest party - or any other existing political
system, but the establishment of people's
committees to run all aspect

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