Peter Hoskin

Gaddafi’s lethal sort of madness

Gaddafi's lethal sort of madness
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If Muammar al-Gaddafi weren't still in charge of a country, then his speech for Libyan State TV would have been straight-up hilarious. There he was, all spittle-flecked bombast, rattling on and on about the "bunch of rats and cats" who are trying to depose him, and blaming their actions on, erm, hallucinogenic drugs. "We Libyans have resisted the US and Britain in the past," he said, "and will not surrender." He also, predictably, mentioned Israel. It was like some living caricature of a mad dictator.

As it is, though, we ought to dwell on some of the more ominous aspects of Gaddafi's address. He is not standing down, he said – giving the remarkable excuse that, as he is not a President, he has no position to resign from. And he reaffirmed his intent to meet the protestors head on: urging his "supporters" to take to the streets, and warning, with grim regularity, that the death penalty was in effect for those who "undermined the constitution". If the Libyan situation wasn't alarming enough already, then Gaddafi has ensured that it is now. His is a madness that is bent on killing.

The only real concession to the protestors was laughable: a network of "social committees" where the Libyan people could resolve their differences. But the belligerent tone of his speech, overall, suggested that Gaddafi has conceded something else: that he has a fight on to remain in power. For all his sneering about the protestors, this speech was a very real sign that the uprising is taking hold.