The end of Gadhafi

Months after Libyan citizens rose up against the despotic regime of Moammar Gadhafi, the rebels have finally put an end to the defiant dictator. Gadhafi was killed Thursday when rebels blasted their way into the town of Sirte, one of the last bastions of Gadhafi loyalists.

For all intents and purposes, the rebels won control of Libya in August, when they seized the capital city of Tripoli. They forced Gadhafi and his followers to flee into isolated areas in the desert of this North African country.

But capturing or killing Gadhafi remained an important goal. For one thing, he was wanted by international authorities for crimes against his own people. Also the mere fact that he was still at large provoked fear among average Libyan citizens that he would one day manage to reclaim control of the country and retaliate against anyone who was perceived as having supported the rebels. Now, there can be no doubt a new government is at hand.

Gadhafi’s end is also a victory for NATO leaders, especially in France, and for President Barack Obama. Together, they committed military assistance to help the rebels and NATO bombing runs against Gadhafi strongholds to prevent the former leader from annihilating the rebels and towns that they held.

Many observers, including The Daily Sentinel, were critical of our initial intervention in Libya, especially the lack of specific objectives and the uncertain timetable. Those are moot issues now.

Like Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Gadhafi was belligerent and boastful as his regime was collapsing, proclaiming repeatedly he would prevail over what he claimed were foreign invaders. Also like Saddam, he was ultimately cornered, apparently cowering in a hole or small cave.

Exactly how he died remains unclear, due to conflicting news reports. One report early Thursday said he was shot in both legs but was still breathing. Another said he was shot in the head while trying to escape. One rebel fighter said he found Gadhafi hiding in a hole in Sirte, and the former leader begged the rebel not to shoot him. A photo and video released Thursday by people associated with the rebels appeared to show the corpse of Gadhafi, with blood running from his head.

The future for Libya remains uncertain. As recent events in Egypt have demonstrated, there is no guarantee that a populist uprising against a long-serving, despotic ruler will result immediately in true freedom for all and a democratic form of government.

However, rebel leaders in Libya have long said their goal is to establish a democracy in the country Gadhafi ruled for 42 years. They’ll have a much better chance of accomplishing that now that Gadhafi is gone.


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