Col. Moammar Gadhafi has been ruling Libya for 42 years, ever since the 27-year-old army captain seized power from King Idris in a 1969 coup. Just think about it! The same person in charge of a country for over four decades! Even if he were a benign and progressive leader, it would still be an outrage because that long a reign inevitably brings about political stagnation and economic sterility. Unless there is a change in leadership every five years or less, a society loses its dynamism and national atrophy sets in. The catastrophe is magnified manifold considering that, far from being a benign and progressive leader, Gadhafi is a despot whose eccentric behavior masks a diabolical mindset.
Inspired by Tunisians and Egyptians, Libyans have now risen in revolt and, in response, Gadhafi has unleashed his army and air force on the protesters. Tripoli and Benghazi, the two major cities, are aflame. The autocrat has flown in foreign mercenaries who are killing Libyans indiscriminately. Close to 300 are already reported dead and hospitals have run out of supplies to treat the wounded.
Ali Aujali, Libya's ambassador to the U.S., broke with Col. Gadhafi on Monday and called for him to step down. The deputy head of Libya's delegation to the United Nations said he had stopped taking orders from the government and is asking the international community to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya's airspace so it couldn't bring in more mercenaries.
Other Libyan embassies are also deserting Gadhafi. Libyan diplomats around the world, including Libya’s ambassadors to Tunisia, India, Bangladesh and Indonesia, said they had resigned to protest the murderous crackdown on unarmed civilians and mourners by Gadhafi's warplanes, soldiers and mercenaries. Also on Monday, two Libyan Air Force pilots defected, taking their Mirage jet fighters to Malta and seeking political asylum in the small Mediterranean nation. The pilots said they had escaped to Malta after refusing orders to bomb protesters in Benghazi. Meanwhile, there are reports of many soldiers and policemen throwing in their lot with the protesters.
Gadhafi's son Seif al-Islam Gadhafi declared on TV that "we will fight until the last man, the last woman, the last bullet." He didn't specify against whom, though. That would have been embarrassing because he was referring to the Libyans themselves.
Of all the dictators in the Middle East, Gadhafi appears to the most dangerous and delusional, even more so than Hosni Mubarak. "I will not leave Libya," he asserted today. That's what tyrants say when their fall is imminent. He also threatened to kill the protesters, and his goons armed with machetes and machine guns are conducting a house by house search in Tripoli to carry out his order. "I will fight on to the last drop of my blood," the dictator ranted in his second televised speech. He is, however, safely cocooned in his palace while his hired mercenaries do his bidding.
Fossilized Arab regimes that thrived in a culture of defeat and paranoia are on their way out. The Arab street is aggressively waking up to the truth that freedom is a birthright and victimhood is not destiny. The change in the Arab psyche is irreversible.
The U.S., the U.N., the EU, and other nations must exert diplomatic pressure and, if necessary, apply force, to stop the Libyan madman from slaughtering his own people. Gadhafi can still get out of town with his corrupt clan but time is running out. A trial for crimes against humanity should commence immediately against the colonel, for what is taking place in Libya now is nothing less than genocide.