Here We Go Again: The Side We Missed

Source: The Daily Telegraph

Here we go again.

Told you it would happen again and here it happens again. It’s the same old cycle with the same old thing happening over and over again with the completely same consequences over and over again and it is so pathetic that you could actually accurately predict all that if you wanted to. Such is the lunacy of this situation.

As Albert Einstein said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

In the same manner, we have yet another “publicly recognized blasphemy” and yet another insane reaction to it. This time around it’s Sam Becile’s film called “Innocence of Muslims“, which arguably falls under the propaganda category. It has sparked violent protests across the Middle East and the Indian sub continent.

Source: nydailynews.com

The riots sparked by it has even cost the lives of four US diplomats, including Ambassador Chris Stevens in Ben Ghazi, Libya. Though the attacks in Libya and Tunisia are thought to have other reasons as well such as American occupation and attacks in the Middle East, they were certainly sparked by the blasphemy craze.

May I remind you that Muslim community, it is a community nevertheless made out of more than 1.5 billion people around the world, of various ethnic and linguistic backgrounds and cultures, has been hijacked by a bunch of extremist psychopaths which represent their entire image, much to the delight of those who want a conflict on both sides.

Source: Libya Al-Hurra Facebook Page/Huffington Post

Gawker recently raised this point by mocking Newsweek’s Muslim Rage cover by putting together harmless images of common people from the Muslim community around the world and also highlighting the #MuslimRage twitter trend. I found it interesting because I do believe that most of the Muslim community honestly has no representation in the mainstream media and they really are peacefully behaving folks, just like any other community.

I think what we do miss in these violent protests is the fact that hardly 1% of the Islamic world’s population is actively taking part in these protests, answering the generalizations that are usually made about them.

However, it can be very appropriately argued that the lack of criticism of such violence by the rest of the Muslim population makes them as much the part of the problem. That the rest of the population is either too insensitive to respond to these violent events or are simply too afraid to. Good that a peaceful demonstration was held in Libya to apologize for Stevens’ death.

In any case, the violent protesters find the most attention and it would be absolutely incorrect to say that their faith plays no part in that outcome. But by saying this, do we give the rest of the population a clean sheet in terms of tolerating violence and extremism justified by faith?

It is yet another lesson and another opportunity for the Muslims to reform their religion and its practice and to react to such perceived offenses in a more reasonable manner. What they also fail to realize is how much vulnerable they make themselves appear to the West when they are outraged, violently, by even a bit of an image, word or film insulting or ridiculing the Prophet. In this way, literally a 10 year old in the West can stir violent riots all across the Middle East. How fascinating is that.

There is an urgent need for reforms in this religion if it is to survive in the twenty-first century with dignity and respect and I think every member of this community should be worrying about it. Because with the presence of certain of its beliefs, it can hardly be regarded as a respectable and civilized belief system.

Muslims have a lot to think about and also a lot to answer to in this regard, to themselves, if not to anyone else.

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Writing Your Own Ill Fate

I have written earlier about Moammer Gaddafi pulling out of Libya too late and also a bit about the mistakes he had made. Well, it turns out he did not have enough friends to accept him and apart from that, he never really wanted to pull out of Libya anyway. Therefore, he lurked around his hometown of Sirte and was brutally murdered, or executed if you will, after public humiliation on October 20, 2011, which went on till his funeral in an unknown place. Maybe that’s how he thought he would have died honorably. But I have my doubts.

This brings to light even more lessons. One thing is for certain. Gaddafi was the architect of his own ill fate and if you ask me, it was he who chose his way of death. Now consider this.

 It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.

                                                                      – Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527)

                                                                         from The Prince

While you may consider Machiavelli evil, there is almost a consensus on his unmatched understanding of politics, as writers and political advisers in history go. Unfortunately, not many dictators are able to keep all that wisdom in mind. From a report in The Time Magazine, the Chinese version of this quote, though said a lot earlier, from Laozi was the favorite of Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf, the then new front line ally of the United States, in its July 22, 2002 issue.

When the Master governs, the people are hardly aware that he exists.

Next best is a leader who is loved.

Next, one who is feared.

The worst is one who is despised.

                                                                                        – Laozi (c. 604 BC)

                                                                                           From Tao Te Ching

Musharraf had had this quote inscribed on a plaque adorning his residency in Rawalpindi, according to the report.

There is a good reason why Machiavelli and Laozi said this. These dictators may have these quotes inscribed on a plaque or may sleep with a copy of The Prince underneath their pillows, but they often forget the wisdom when the moment of truth arrives. A relatively smart dictator like Musharraf did well as far as studying political retreat strategy is concerned but I don’t think Gaddafi really had any concept about it whatsoever, not that I am underestimating his abilities. The moment your people stop fearing you, you cease to be a dictator. This goes to show just how delusional Gaddafi was. As I have maintained before, he was probably the bravest of the international leaders, but yet he was delusional to the extent of being suicidal.

Source: Al Jazeera English (english.aljazeera.net)

The longer he stayed in Libya, the greater became his chances of being lynched to death by a crowd. And that is precisely what happened. He had the option of giving himself up to the Western powers had he been interested in living for long. He also had the option of shooting himself before arrest, as we are told that Adolf Hitler did, but he chose not to do that either. As I wrote before, his perfect diagnosis was being stuck in the middle of being scared of losing his throne and being scared of losing his life. His son Mo’tassem Billah Gaddafi was also murdered by the rebels. Looking at their end, his other son Saif-ul-Islam has announced that he would be ready to face the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. Maybe a smart move.

As for the rebels, while some people would have disapproved of his murder like that, but expecting anything else would be a little too idealistic and unrealistic. That is swift “justice”, if you will. Who has the time for trials for crimes against humanity? They knew he was guilty and instant justice was served, the revolutionary style. The rebels celebrated and the photographs of the killed Gaddafi, which I bet would have been far more gruesome than those of the dead Osama Ben Laden, were making headlines in the mainstream media around the globe.

The Libyans were celebrating, as they should. The rebels were ecstatic. President Obama said that Gaddafi’s death was a warning for the iron-fist Arab dictators, probably passing a hint to Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad. Surprisingly, in fact not surprisingly, some publications around the world, which otherwise have a pretty “liberal” record, published celebratory headlines on Gaddafi’s death. Still, there are a few who have been disturbed by the images of the incident. While it was a moment to celebrate, it was also encouragement to people around the world to kill the leaders they do not like once they get their hands on them. Not that anything is wrong with that. It is justice after all. But many of them would be upset and outraged if many other of the world leaders, who have committed similar or even worse crimes against humanity than the Libyan dictator, are brought to a similar end.

I wonder if he we have more bloody coups and revolutions waiting to happen. And more dictators dying a bloody death. As I said in my earlier posts, if you are upset at it, think of the Romanovs.

Smart dictators around the world still have a choice to make.

Repeat Gaddafi’s mistakes and you would be writing your own ill fate.

Lessons From Gaddafi

Source: The Daily Telegraph

So the reign of the old Colonel, Moammer Gaddafi, has come to an end. Finally.

All things must pass away, they say. A man, for example. Nothing lasts forever. But perhaps these taken for granted facts were something the illustrious dictator of Libya forgot. I would not go into the political echoes of the event, but just human lessons you could extract out of it and what the historian could tell you about it. Still politics is as related to the matter as the eye is related to sight.

Everyone has a loathing for Gaddafi for being brutal and cold-hearted and cruel for bombing his very own people. But at the same time, I could also imagine what would be going through his mind and in his heart. A falling dictator is the most desperate man in the world. So while I despised him for being cruel to his own people who paid for his luxuries, I also had a bit of sympathy for him and his family. Like I had for Hosni Mobarek of Egypt and his family.

I don’t want them to flourish on the luxuries they do not deserve but I want them to live. For those who want them dead because they were responsible for the death of their loved ones is a different story. I can’t fully understand death for justice so I would leave the subject to those who do and be thankful as long as I am not the one facing the shooting squad. But I still think their families are innocent and deserve to live.

Establishing this point, let us move forward. Royalty. which need not be hereditary and let me integrate it to the modern times despite the general despise of monarchies and the popularity of republics, bears the burden of the sins attached to its name. This is what the history tells us. Think of the Romanovs, murdered in cold blood in some oblivious house and picture the young Alexei and Anastasia and their other sisters dying, simply because they were the children of Czar Nicholas II. Cruel from a human viewpoint, but just the right thing to do maybe from the Bolshevik perspective. Maybe it was necessary because an Anastasia appeared in Germany several years later.

In the modern times, families of government figures may be allowed to live in peace if they remain quiet, just like the son of the exiled Shah of Iran. Gaddafi had a choice of fleeing Libya much earlier than he did. He could have read the writing on the wall. Even a child watching TV could. But maybe Gaddafi wasn’t watching TV or he would have known. Instead, he was hoping to cling on to the throne he had been clinging on to for nearly four decades. It is was too dear to him, maybe more than his family, which is why he lost his sons and grandsons in the battle for it.

It is not a question of right and wrong or good and evil here. It is a question of being a victor or a loser. The rebels were backed by the NATO and Gaddafi could not have expected to resist them for long, so in the end his rule was limited to his palace in Tripoli. So he retreated too late. I was keenly waiting for the news of his escape to another country, but the more it was delayed, the more I became convinced of his delusions, erratic thought process and messed up priorities. He was stuck somewhere in the middle of being a man who never wanted to give up and who was too afraid to die.

A spectator and a historian would never be able to make up their minds about whether to hate the man or whether to have respect for him. Most of them would comfortably eliminate the latter option, as you cannot really have a lot of respect, if at all, for a man who cannot really make up his mind between his family and his throne, and not sure of what was more prized to him. But maybe anyone else in his place would be torn apart in the same dilemma. Being as resourceful as he was, it is easy to say that he could have easily found his way to a safe country with his family.

For a moment, I thought Gaddafi was fighting for his pride and his glory. That he would fight to the last bullet in the barrel and the last drop of blood in his veins. The kind of dictators who would rather commit suicide than be overpowered by the enemy and captured and humiliated, like Adolf Hitler of the Third Reich or the great warrior kings of Rajputana. But no, he even wasn’t that type. A confused man or one who was caught in the whirlwind of circumstances. Who can tell but himself. But we can see where he was wrong and what he could have done to minimize the damage. The throne was already lost and there was no other way to it.

Had family been the first priority of Gaddafi, he could have left Libya with them way too early than when he really did. I heard the news that his daughter gave birth to a child when he reached with his family in Algeria. This is what the difference can mean. Life and death. I guess one of his sons died in the action, fighting against the rebels, or in a NATO bombing. Maybe they did not have to do that. Maybe he did not have to be so brutal to the public. Maybe he could have had enough foresight to realize that his end was near. He could have run away way before the Bastille was overrun. He did just that but he also assigned the task of guarding it to his loved ones, if that is the right term to use here.

Not all dictators give their power away so violently. There was Pervez Musharraf of  Pakistan, for example. Not all are too smart, recall the way Saddam Hussein ended up. Maybe he didn’t have many friends. A huge mistake for a dictator. Gaddafi was made to give up his power just like every other dictator, but he seemed more like a child separated from his toy, if you ignore the innocence part. But still you would expect him to foresee it.

I think it could be a completely seperate and dedicated area of research, how dictators should escape their impending doom. Survival can make man do crazy things and the things that Gaddafi did would go down in the history as among the craziest. So if you are a dictator and love your family a bit more than Gaddafi did or love your throne a bit less and if you are fighting against the NATO, it is better to make an early, safe and pleasant escape to a country like Algeria if Saudi Arabia refuses to accept your entry.

It remains to be seen if he will be tried for crimes against humanity. That also depends on how many friends you have, and how many you run out of. I just happened to glance past a New York Times photo feature based on the family pictures of Gaddafi found in his palace, which now lay in ruins. I have no idea why the American publication felt the need to publish it, maybe to emphasize the humiliation faced by the man and his family, but I leave you with it.

In the end, you have to come to the point when you need to decide whether you are a dictator or a human.