The moment in the sun for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was anything but fleeting and it was glowing and brilliant to boot, and historic not only for the Arab world, but for Africa as well. It began when he staged the Fateh Revolution in September 1969 and continued through a murky mix of trials and tribulations as well as triumphs -- the bombing of Tripoli by the orders of Ronald Reagan, 1986, in retaliation for the Libyan role in the blasting of a Berlin discotheque. And, the fracas and sham trial and kangaroo court that following the hushing up of the scandal of the Lockerbie disaster. Gaddafi's travails may not be over, just yet. Just when it seemed as if things could not get any worse for the Libyan leader, they did.
This week the saga took an even more troubling turn for Gaddafi. Insults are being lobbed back and forth across the Gulf of Sirte. The National Transitional Council (NTC) stalwarts were jubilating in Benghazi even as Gaddafi's devotees in Tripoli were mourning and vowing to take revenge for the assassination of Gaddafi's son Seif Al-Arab and three of the Libyan leader's grandchildren by the fighter jets of NATO's merciless airstrikes.
Picking a fight with the other may also suit both parties, because each is in trouble at home. Gaddafi's political future is in limbo. The NTC, too, is befuddled.
The mesh of money and politics had a terrific twist on Libyan politics. It served Gaddafi well to begin with and then degenerated into farce. That could be particularly problematic in a country where the rule of law is feeble. The scenarios can plausibly be sketched out for a post-Gaddafi Libya -- prosperous, neo-colonial and democratic.
There are sadly strong reasons to doubt such an outcome anytime soon. There is an irony there. NATO charged ostensibly to save civilian lives. Instead, it picks and chooses its victims. The West's murderous juggernaut has been unleashed this week. First, a NATO airstrike on the television centre nearly finished the fearless leader off during his delivery of a nationwide address in which he vowed never to step down. In typical maverick manner, he simultaneously offered to negotiate a truce.
Next came the callous execution of his youngest son and three grandchildren. On both occasions the grand old man was collected, composed and dignified. Indeed, after a shaky start at the beginning of the uprising in February, he has continually surprised friend and foe with his forbearance.
That the vital necessity of Gaddafi keeping his cool at these most trying moments would determine his capacity to satisfactorily solve the gruesome case of the Libyan uprising is difficult to overstate.
Does this mean that Gaddafi will confine himself to Bab Al-Azizia, skulked in his own capital city? The unprovoked NATO aggression against Gaddafi's Libya reduced his celebrated public appearances -- but never the regard in which he is held for a considerable record in Libyan public life, above all by his diehard supporters in the country and by leftist sympathisers abroad. It all depends on how persuasive Gaddafi proves to be.
Revolutionary rhetoric made his faults appear pretty petty and dwelling on them unseemly. Predictably this strategy backfired. So is the Libyan leader a democrat, a dynast or a deal-maker? Even Gaddafi's own people do not know for sure.
His defense was forthright, but the political tide had already turned back towards the religious bigots and reactionaries in Libya. Much of that is true, but it misses important points. That said, Gaddafi's Libya offers a text book example of how not to run an oil-rich, underdeveloped, desert and sparsely populated country.
This is not the time for pro-democracy activists in the Arab world to pat themselves on the back and celebrate the Libyan version of the "end of history". Life goes on, with or without Seif Al-Arab.
The Libyan uprising has its weak points and braving Gaddafi's well-honed skills in fury management will be a test to their real strength. The leaders of the NTC claim that Gaddafi is now devising more cunning strategies to tame his detractors at home and abroad. Few inside the country or outside it believe them. Of all the Arab democracy uprisings, the Libyan NTC has been most tainted by the crimination of acting as a neo- colonial stooge. The West, too, has its suspicions concerning the NTC's Islamist credentials.
Those making the moral case for exterminating the Gaddafi clan do not have a leg to stand on. Moreover, Gaddafi still believes that it is possible that diplomacy could bring an end to the Libyan civil war. Gaddafi is not one for showing any doubts. That strategy is likely to be tested in the coming months.
Will his desperate efforts pay off? They might. Those who have pinned their hopes on Gaddafi's political survival believe that a compromise might be worked out. Their reasoning is simple. Savvy Western businessmen frequented Tripoli and other Libyan cities in search of disgruntled elements and a quick buck respectively. They spent huge amounts of time and energy trying to identify and cultivate collaborators who might join in the rebellion to oust Gaddafi from office. It has become increasingly difficult to see how the Libyan leader can make the atmosphere in Tripoli a bit more uplifting. It is doubtful if the NTC is the better choice for Libya.
What Gaddafi could not grasp was that the Western power brokers in the contemporary neo- colonial world are patrons of powerful economic, and more important political, interests on a global scale and he failed to understand that he was rubbing shoulders with his own executioners and deadly cutthroats. He was doomed.
Such revelations make independent observers nervous. Gaddafi's old-fashioned intransigence inevitably led to oligarchy and policy paralysis. His socialism was watered down. He faced the media circus squarely and feigned the part of the clown.
None of this bodes well for Libya. Perhaps Gaddafi's brush with the late US president Ronald Reagan gives pause for thought. The latter bombed Gaddafi's official residence in Bab Al-Azizia and when Gaddafi's adopted baby daughter was killed in the raid prepared him for the shock of losing his youngest son Seif Al-Arab this week in a NATO air attack on Bab Al-Azizia.
Then, the four-year old Seif Al-Arab was injured. Gaddafi took it all in his stride. If he feels he is losing his grip on Libyan politics, he does not show it.
Unlike his siblings, Seif Al-Arab who reportedly frequented the nightclubs of Tripoli and Europe on a regular basis, seemed unwilling to mix too much with his peers in the Libyan political establishment and downplayed the pivotal importance of his familial connections.
But Libya is not one happy family. The country is on the edge of a precipice. Others have reached similar conclusions. The buzzword is democratisation, an American euphemism for neo- colonialism and market liberalisation. Gaddafi had deluded himself into thinking that his Jamahiriya was democratic. He had thoroughly ignored the warning signs.
The African link has long served Gaddafi well. He was praised for his stoical embrace of austerity at home and his largesse abroad. This left his people fuming with rage. Such resentment was pusillanimous.
Nothing beats the exercise of judgement. Unrestrained and boundless power does strange things to politicians, even when they conceive of themselves as statesmen and world leaders when in reality they are the absolute rulers of neo- colonial countries. There is no doubt that the Libyan opposition's complaints are reactive. They take place in an environment in which the argument for democracy is rarely heard, and the argument against imperialism is boringly overheard.
Ali Al-Eissawi was the first high-profile Libyan diplomat to defect when he resigned as Gaddafi's ambassador to India. Al-Eissawi told Al-Jazeera's Prerna Suri that Gaddafi was using fighter aircraft to bombard his own people and that the heavy-handed tactics he was using against civilian protesters were unacceptable. Al-Eissawi also decried the deployment by Gaddafi of predominantly African mercenaries to massacre Libyans. The Black African presence in Libya, mainly as menial labourers, has of course long been a contentious neuralgic topic in Libya. Politicians usually win public support for their attacks on foreigners. And, are Libyans any less xenophobic than anyone else? Nothing got Libyans more agitated under Gaddafi than his championing of Pan-Africanism and the resultant presence of a large immigrant community of Africans from south of the Sahara in the country. The Libyan opposition forces argued that there were genuine anxieties among the indigenous Libyan population behind anti-immigrant and anti-African sentiment.
The NTC and allied insurgents will do anything to break the will and determination of the Gaddafi forces. The crucial question now is whether they can outwit and outwait Gaddafi and his henchmen, waging attrition against Gaddafi's forces and pretending to champion a wavering populace.
Unless there is a credible Gaddafi government presence in key oil producing areas of Libya and in the larger urban conurbations of the country, Gaddafi's 1969 Fateh Revolution is doomed and its leader will inevitably be consigned to the dustbin of history. Frankly speaking, there is little chance for Gaddafi to retrieve the rapidly deteriorating situation. NATO has permitted the NTC forces to operate with deadly effect from its headquarters in Benghazi.
Ironically, with the assassination of Seif Al-Arab, the NTC's drive to gain momentum has stalled. These Western proxies threaten not just Tripoli, or pro-Gaddafi forces, but the entire North African, Saharan and Sahelian region.
Like a Trojan Horse, they also pose a threat to the political stability of the Nile Basin nations of Egypt and Sudan, Libya's immediate eastern neighbours. There is a good chance that Washington will ditch its Libyan pawns, though.
Whether the Americans honour the Islamists within the NTC with a burial at sea such as they gave Osama Bin Laden remains to be seen.
Gaddafi, too, has little time to retrieve a menacing military and political Pandemonium.
by Gamal Nkrumah