The news from Libya is horrifying: tales of machete-wielding shock troops dispatched as death squads to go door to door in Tripoli and slaughter as many residents as necessary to reimpose the peace of the cemetery on the Libyan capital. Bodies strewn in the streets, residents too terrified to haul them away. Khaddafy makes ancient troglodytes like Mubarak and Ben Ali look humane as the crazed tent dweller aspires to join the great criminals of modern history, the Saddams, the Korean Kims, the Salvadoran fascists backed by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s and the anonymous genocidaires of Rwanda, all those modern Caligulas and Tamerlanes willing to put entire villages to the sword to feed their psychotic narcissism.
Even these tactics out of a child’s nightmare won’t be enough to save Khaddafy’s miserable skin, but it’s not clear that the country will survive him either. A political revolution, by pulling the broad mass of the population together as occurred in Tunisia and Egypt, lays the groundwork for a functional civil society that can evolve into a state. Massacres, a split military, free-lance murderers on the loose, civil war, on the other hand, all set the stage for the opposite. Khaddafy’s refusal to budge may well lead to the outcome he warns of—Somali-style anarchy or Afghan warlordism.
A less hated figure who still had a friend in the region might have opted for flight, but not even the Saudis, who welcome tyrants like Idi Amin with ease, will touch this outcast. (Only comrades Daniel Ortega, Fidel and possibly Hugo Chávez sounded willing to put out the welcome mat.) All hail the people’s revolutionary socialist leaders of Latin America.
If Khaddafy has to be brought to justice physically to put an end to the carnage, the consequences will be more terrible and less predictable than in Egypt or even the Gulf. It is hard to imagine anyone in that unlucky country being in a forgiving mood for a long, long time.