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March 1, 2011

“Mad Dog” Gadhafi

Roy Meachum

In the tens of thousands of words I’ve read or heard since revolution came to Libya, there’s been no mention of attempted assassination plots against Egypt’s late president Anwar Sadat by Muammar Gadhafi.


Two took place while I lived in Cairo; I’ve been told there were more. None reached the front page of The New York Times, or its British equivalent, The Manchester Guardian. The Egyptian Gazette is the chief news source for English-speaking residents; it was published by the government together with a French version. I never saw a mention in either paper.


With some difficulty I learned the Libyan dictator hysterically – he is that way – believed the One God (Allah) intended him to replace Gamal Abdul Nasser, the man who toppled the throne and sent King Farouk packing on the royal yacht. The general possessed illusions of his own, especially the United Arab Republic (UAR) that was supposed to be an umbrella government for the several ex-colonial countries in North Africa and the Middle East, ripped out of the failing Ottoman Empire by European powers. For a while, the former English Egypt joined the ex-French Syria, losing their ancient names to become the UAR. As can be expected, the totally diverse cultures did not remain united.


There was a king in a Tripoli palace and the hugest United States Air Force base, Wheelus Field, when General Nasser’s dream of aggrandizement appeared and vanished. My first Mediterranean visit came about a couple weeks after Israel shocked the world by the out-of-the-blue 1967 Six-Day War, wiping out Syria and Egypt’s military force and conquering Jordan’s West Bank.


How does this rate as relevant to the present day Libyan crisis?


The utter dismay that shook Amman, Damascus and Cairo reverberated throughout Muslim nations damaging thoroughly the United States foreign affairs reputation. (Because of the Six-Day War, OPEC planned first to deploy oil as a weapon; the plan went into effect, in 1973, and Americans suffered gas-price shock, when 25-cent gallons tripled. It has been climbing ever since.)


My initial trip to Rome’s Egyptian Embassy was to get a visa to reopen Cairo’s CBS bureau. The first day of the Israeli massive attacks President Nasser kicked out all foreign correspondents and their cameramen. The first visit I was asked to pay out the Italian lire equivalent of about $20; when the paper work didn’t arrive I went back to Parioli, the Roman neighborhood of embassies.


This time I was ushered into the furious presence of Cairo’s consul general who did not offer tea or coffee, not even a chair. For more than several minutes, my American journalist’s britches were torn out. He thundered Israel was totally incapable of the size, effectiveness and most of all, the damage done to his nation’s armed forces. He loudly accused U.S. Air Force jets out of Wheelus and Navy jets off Sixth Fleet carriers. I was shocked into silence when he stalked out, leaving me to find the way out past his secretary’s hateful glare.


Approximately 25 months later, with significant assistance of Egypt’s Gamal Abdul Nasser, an unknown colonel named Muammar Gadhafi displaced Libya’s monarch. And, of course, no one in the real world took seriously a member of a Berber tribe who spoke a form of Arabic. In his soul, the new chief of state knew he was meant to climb into the Cairo chair, revitalizing the hope of a republic of Arab nations.


A year later, when Egypt’s president died, his mantle descended on Anwar Sadat, who first conspired on the plot to oust King Farouk. Nobody notified the Berber colonel in Tripoli. The attempts to assassinate Nasser’s successor started. When they proved futile, various terrorist attempts started to make the world pay attention, including the TWA jet exploding over Lockerbie, Scotland, and bombing a Berlin nightclub.


When in Cairo, I never heard Colonel Gadhafi referred to by name; it was always “the crazy one:” in Egyptian, magnun; in standard Arabic, majnun. In our society, in his case, it more aptly translates “mad dog.”


In the more than 30 years, he thrust himself on the international stage, Libya’s dictator has never acted adult or responsible. To allow him to continue executing his country’s men, women and children is more than a crime; it desecrates and defiles any human definition of God in the pages of history and contemporary thought.


Muammar Gadhafi should be removed and shot like the mad dog he is.


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