Just before Gaddafi took over in 1969, Libya was poised then on becoming a major trade and industrial center. Honk Kong of North Africa was in the making helped by the oil wealth, the outstanding international reputation, and by the experienced Libyan business men. Gaddafi had something else on his mind. He had a few assignments on hand to take care of. Among them were:
I) Local, the dismantling of Libya and the destruction of all political, social, economic, educational, agricultural, and moral institutions
II) Regional, the dismantling and the destruction of the notion of Arabism and Arab unity,
III) International, tarnishing the Libyan image abroad
Local: The Destruction of a Country from inside out :
Well done. The Libyan pride seized to exist. Libyans were transformed to become one of the most corrupted societies. Prior to his arrival, officials refused to take gifts from clients and considered such an offering as a personal insult. Today clients have to pay their way through to get any kind of service. Bribes are a standard procedure in negotiating any project. Contracts are awarded to the highest 'commission' bidder. Nothing is done without a payoff.
On one of his televised addresses, Gaddafi swore to work hard on making the Libyan Dinar worthless and useless and Libyans would then have a better use of the bills like rolling cigarettes, he said. The Dinar value took nose dive in a few years from his open attack on the currency to reach one twelfth its value. By that, the Libyans were deprived of an important source of pride and independence. They used to be very poor before the advent of oil but they were rich with pride, dignity, honor, and social values. Stripping the citizens of the wealth alone, Gaddafi figured, would not achieve his goals. Destroying the human values that sustained the Libyans during the limited income years would probably do the job. Starting in the mid seventies and continuing through the next quarter of a century, he set the Libyans on an unprecedented disgraced course of humiliation, oppression, and manipulation. How did he achieve that?
He began his crusade with hitting hard on many national fronts. In Zuara in April 1973, he set up the agenda in his infamous Zuara Speech to dismantle the country. He must have set priorities and followed a pattern that described his course of action. His first step was to empty the country of its intellectual class: doctors, engineers, professors, lawyers, writers and artists, the technocrats running the government's systems, and businessmen. He set the required mechanism to achieve his goals. He devised the cultural revolution, declared war on bureaucracy, nullified the laws and created polarization mechanisms to cause social cracks by creating peoples committees instructed to over run the administrative institutions and in the process humiliate the class of technocrats who have been running the system for the past years. Scores of intellectuals and businessmen were jailed. That was a critical point in time at which the Libyan brain drain process commenced. The upheaval went on unabated and continued to this day. Throughout the years it got fueled up by the unending streams of ideology of hatred. It was an ugly process of purging the educated and qualified sons of Libya. They were cornered to chose between leaving the country or facing an uncertain future.
Places of gathering like educational institutions came next on his agenda. In the mid seventies he concentrated his power on the dismantling of the backbone institution of the country, the education. He created an atmosphere of fear and terror in schools, he destroyed the student environment of creativity and seeking a better position in the society and in life. He performed public hangings of student leaders in the sanctuaries of the top schools in the country, the universities, in broad daylight while classes were canceled and students were forced to watch the hanging of the beloved friends and colleagues who were only a few days before chatting with them about their hope for a better future. The process of hanging was repeated every year in the month of April. It has become known as the season of death.
Gaddafi went further to send his revolutionary committees to overrun all schools in the country, dismantle old administrations built through years of valuable experience and replace them with inexperienced zealots who had no academic or professional experience to run those institutions. It continued until today. Schools are run by unqualified under educated revolutionary committee members.
Schools, including universities have become places of the walking dead. Students think about no future and do nothing about it. They go to school because they have to go to school. Do what? They really do not know. Classes are over crowded. 45 students per class is standard. Seats are in short supply, windows and doors are all but broken. Toilets are over flooding. Once a week, students are forced to clean the toilets and sweep the floors. Gaddafi required students to clean the schools. Text and note books are in short supply. The curriculum keeps changing every year. Text books are printed somewhere in Latin America in a printing press belonging to a security agency of Gaddafi's. The new text books usually arrive to schools by February or March. Teachers can not give notes while waiting for the books to arrive because they do not know what subjects the new books are talking about. Some headmasters who still have some residual of commitment left from the past take the question up to the education committees. They get conflicting reports on when the books would arrive and what they contain. They draw no conclusions but to go back to their schools realizing that the conspiracy is much bigger than the delay they are experiencing. In schools, teachers do not teach because they can not spend time in schools. They have to look for a source of income. They have to wait for months before they get paid by the school. By the way, pay delay is a widespread phenomenon throughout the public sector. Buying and selling vegetables was found to compensate for the lost revenue and would probably offer an alternative for the government work force to keep surviving.
Along the way, Gaddafi reduced the academic year from 9 to 6 months. So it does not take long before the school year ends. Two months are chopped off, one at the school start and another at the end, two weeks spent in the 7th April celebration, one week as an open week. At the end you find that students did not have clear two months actually spent in school. In the final exams, answers of the test questions are made readily available to students. Many times, the answers are written on the black board but many students do not know how to copy the answers, teachers take turns to do the copying for them. Students keep on moving up the educational ladder until they graduate and move in to join the work force. As for how many students should move from one educational level to another is a matter of a phone call made to the minister of education by Gaddafi. Gaddafi decides the quotas for each next level of education each year. Many Libyans think the word education should be replaced with a more descriptive word……Mission accomplished.
Libyans well known for their pride and bravery. Once upon a time, mothers told legendary stories of Libyan bravery to their young. Libyans talked and joked in one time or another about how a Libyan somewhere in the world did some heroic action. Bravery was another target on Gaddafi's hit list. It has to be destroyed. But how?. Libyans used to be proud of their army and that is why they overwhelmingly welcomed him when he removed the old government. Most of the citizens wanted to join the service. Deep in their hearts they wanted to serve their country by all means. He made sure to make their wishes come true in his own right and teach them the lesson of their life. In the mid seventies, he introduced compulsory general military training. Once the recruits were in the barracks they were humiliated to the point where they wished they were never born. Trainees were subjected to harsh and inhumane treatments they never imagined would happen. It was the experience of their life. The army lost the popular support it once enjoyed. To make matters worse, Gaddafi ordered whoever remained in the administrative government services after the purge of 73 to join the army. They were told at first they would be trained only for few days and released. They remained against their will for years. Some of them still there until today.
Transforming love into resentment and hatred was another great setback of the Libyan psychology. These feelings were further reinforced when compulsory service was introduced at the end of the seventies. The process took an ugly approach that deepened hatred even further. In the early 80's he flew unprepared old Libyans and dumped them in a local tribal strife in the jungles of Uganda. Most of them were in their late forties and fifties volunteered to join the people's militia. Gaddafi probably saw a good opportunity there to hit a great target of pride and history. Once they were on the planes they were told the were going to be entertained for a few days in the Kufra agricultural project. After long hours of flying they realized they where going to no Kufra especially when the saw the young army officer who was in charge of them crying. Not much longer they found themselves in a hostile environment. Jungles, crocodiles, wild animals, black soldiers some shooting at their direction. Many lost their lives. Very few made it home on their own after so many months but not the injured. Gaddafi ordered the injured be dumped from flying transport planes to their tragic deaths into the Mediterranean sea. He repeated the same with the injured in the ugly desert war of the early and mid 80's with Chad to cover up his acts. There is no one in Libya with a disabilities as a result of the Uganda conflict or the Chad war. Those wars and their outcome left deep scars in the Libyan memory. No more bravery talked about, no more legendary stories about the Libyan heroism told to the young……Mission accomplished.
Now he is done with bravery. It is the turn of pride. Humiliation has been the favorite tool Gaddafi used to attack the Libyan pride. He has been constantly on the attack of Libyan history each time singling out a family group accusing them of performing treason somewhere along the history lines. His aim was to tarnish the image of existing family groups who enjoy outstanding social position among their fellow citizens. The Libyan population consists of family groups. In his public speeches throughout the last 3 decades, he accused almost every family group in one speech or another of involvement in shameful acts throughout the history. Literally he accused the whole population of being traitors.
In addition to his verbal attacks, In the early 80's, Gaddafi decided to go down to the individual level to knock intellectuals and technocrats off the national stage disgracefully. He unleashed his committees to overrun Libyan embassies and diplomatic missions and schools abroad and replace the old staff with a new unqualified and inexperienced revolutionary committee members. Many veteran diplomats and school managers got beaten and insulted. It was the best way, Gaddafi figured, to humiliate those highly qualified and experienced individuals. (A foot note about who joins the rev committees. Only the individuals who long for power and could not get it through the equal opportunity process. Only the ones who could not make it in school or could not achieve their goals through standard approaches. Those are who join the committees. You can rarely find anyone of them with a higher level of education. You may find some members with university degrees but many of them got those in return of spying on their fellow students and not through hard genuine work. The general public view the committees with suspicion. No one trusts them or likes them.)
In the mid 80's, Gaddafi moved down to the next level in his anti social campaign. Family, the nucleus of the society, was his next target. There was no better way to hit the Libyan pride than attacking the family values and honor. He created a new movement called the revolutionary nun movement. In televised speeches, he called on young women to revolt against their families and join the movement. He promised the to be nuns several privileges including protection against family reprisals.
In the same period commodities were intentionally made in short supply and could be only obtained through the newly formed Gaddafi's shops called establishments. It was either by strategy or a product of corruption, people had to form lines in front of every establishment to get some of their basic needs. The lines grew longer by the day. In a televised speech, Gaddafi defended the long lines by describing them as a civilized phenomenon. A conventional wisdom was going around then saying 'if you find a line join it even if you do not know what you are waiting for, for sure it is going to be something you will need'. At the early stages, in front of every establishment usually one long line of men and a short one of women would form . Women were served better and faster. In a short time lines changed proportions. Many women described how they were manipulated and forced to pay a high price for something used to be their natural right. Rev committees, who ran those stores, described to their acquaintance how many times they scored in each day and with who. Many women resisted but were forced to submission just because they had no other choice. The total monopoly of the economy made it possible for Gaddafi and his rev committees to penetrate the most sacred part of the Libyan social principle.
Gaddafi added to his ugly campaign of pride destruction by forming in the early nineties special committees to recruit wives and sisters of certain individuals and families with certain social and intellectual outstanding. Either forcefully or willingly, the victims got engaged in some immoral acts while they were unknowingly on camera. The economic woes and poverty helped such actions to succeed.
To deal a final blow to the Libyan pride, dignity, and honor, he eased restrictions on single young foreign women entering the country. They filled, cafes and hotel lobbies. They were trading in the open. Some officials in the police department with an old sense of duty thought it was getting too much in a country not long ago was so pure. They picked up the ladies and started the deportation process. Just before putting their plan into effect, Gaddafi went live on TV condemning their actions and demanding immediate release of the women and lecturing " You have to understand the needs of these poor sisters coming from so far away looking for a loaf of bread. If you get seduced by them it is your problem". Instead of coming overland in taxis a special sea line was rapidly opened to bring more by boat loads. He literally imported prostitution into the country.
Throughout the eighties and nineties he kept on squeezing the Libyans to the last drop of their vital savings and fortunes. He squeezed them out of even the slightest opportunities of supporting the minimum requirements of a decent life; thus he created the perfect environment for the growth of all types of corruption including moral. By the mid 90's the competition was fierce between local and foreign flesh.
Libyans do not talk about bride or honor any longer. If a head of a big family, who lost all means and ways of supporting his family, passes by his teenage daughters while negotiating a street deals to provide life support for their family would feel deeply hurt but would be helpless to take act. Gaddafi left no alternatives for him to take. He no longer considers himself as a father or the man of the family. He lost his manhood long time ago, probably since the days when his wife got from the establishments what he could not get…….. Mission accomplished.
The Mice Sack
In the mid 70's, gaddafi installed what he calls the third universal theory. To many scholars and politicians abroad, it appeared that he was installing a new system of governing. As a matter of action and history that theory was only a cover under which he went on with his plan of systematic dismantling of the country and depleting its natural resources. To execute his plans over time and to remain in power as long as it takes, he had to run a huge propaganda machine of misleading, misconception, oppression and terror. He had to create smoke by giving an endless stream of ideas and projects that kept the local population busy debating them in the popular congresses whose attendance was compulsory. If anyone does not attend may face some sort of reprisals and punishment. When they go they merely watch a long boring play that has been repeated million times by his rev com. Throughout the social cross section of Libya, every one knows what it might have seemed to the outsiders that the ingredients of of policy making were made right in the basic congresses, actually were made and executed on Gaddafi's desk. It is well known among the people that the mice will never see the chance when the rocking of the sack in which they are held stops as long as Gaddafi remains in power. He knows very well that if he stops rocking the mice will settle down and chew their way out of the sack.
What Gaddafi accomplished through his deep rooted hatred of the Libyans:
Health: A Sample:
Citizens pray to God not to get sick while in Libya. If they do and have to go to a hospital they know they will either die there or, if lucky enough, come home with another disease. Hospitals are nothing but ghost buildings roamed by rats and roaches. The smell of death is everywhere. Many Libyans sell their precious belongings to afford a medical treatment in the neighboring countries. Many believe Gaddafi's secret agents were behind the infection in a benghazi hospital of the some 400 children by HIV. It took place shortly after the Green Mountain uprising. He revenged in a vendetta style.
Education : A Sample:
As he was outlining his policies after receiving his new post as minister of education in the early eighties, a relative of Gaddafi announced his education's mile stone policies first among others was to sacrifice two generations of Libyan children by not providing them with the proper education so they would qualify for street cleaning and garbage collection to replace, as he said, the North Korean workers. That plan has been executed to the word.
Public Services : A Sample:
Corruption is widespread. One has to pay his way through to get a driving license test arranged or a document authenticated or a bill paid and a service returned. Public transportation seized to exist years ago. Waiting lists of getting a telephone service grows longer by the year. 10 years must pass before one may get his service installed if the technician is kept happy. This is not because of increased demand but because of the deterioration of the outdated communication systems and telephone networks. Once the line is installed it will not be long before the service goes dead either because of a technical problem in the networks that have been in service since the Mussolini days, or because the bill is due. This is Gaddafi's way of mailing bills. Mail delivery has all but seized to exist shortly after he took over. He once declared in one of his annual meetings with his rev committees, that improving citizen to citizen communication would form a big threat to national security. As for roads and highways, Libya is 30 years behind compared to the neighboring countries.
Public Security :A Sample:
If one smiles his teeth may get snatched off his mouth. This is a saying that has been going around lately. It illustrates the deterioration the state of public security has reached. One gets up in the morning and he switches on electricity and says thank god if the lights go on , thank god if he turns on the tap and finds water (not any longer, most of the dwellers bring their water needs in Jerry cans from other places), thank god if he finds his car in the parking lot which he wired the night before and used every anti stealing devise he may find in the market, thank god if he drives to his office without being arrested in a check point for a reason he is not aware of, thank god if comes to the office building and finds it still there, because some buildings Gaddafi ordered razed overnight, thank god when he arrives to his office block and makes it in without a guard telling him the building has been taken over by one of Gaddafi's sons or his rev. committees, thank god if he makes it home before it gets dark because he may simply get stopped, robbed, beaten or if his wife or sister with him, chances are they get attacked, raped, or abducted, if he complains to the police, chances are they will not do anything about it either because of indifference or too scared to pursue the attackers. They will simply ask him, 'if you insist on filing charges make sure you come back and close the case when you are done'.
If you are traveling abroad, your heart beats increase hundred times at the passport control window. You are not sure that you are going to make it out this time. Why? You do not know. All options are open. Many like you got picked up at that window and still in Busleem without knowing why they were there. You feel relieved only after you cross the border. History repeats itself on the return. You feel relief only after you pass the last security check point..
If you hear knocking on the door while you are home, million episodes rush to your mind, most of them are to do with the terror stories you hear every day about other citizens and you just wonder 'when am I going to be next?' You try to find a reason why would they go after you, you will not find one, and you start to guess may be it is the car you are driving or the house you live in or your bank account or you said something to someone that was misunderstood or somebody just did not like the way you talked or the way you looked or just the way you are. May be they are the cleansing committees. May be your name is in the list of the 100,000 names of intellectuals, teachers, professors, engineers, doctors, business men which Gaddafi ordered made April 99 when he described them as the parasites of the society who made fortunes in the time of the air embargo and must be eliminated. You are in a state of constant fear, you do not think right any more. You would grab the first chance that takes you away from the place you used to love so much to a safer country at least for a while. This is the state of the public security that Gaddafi has worked to create. It is definitely no peace of mind. It is sheer terror.
Economy : A Sample:
Wealth Drain : Not a single project since Gaddafi's arrival was well planned and executed. It is a fact Libyans live with every day. The infra structure is in shambles. Nearly all projects that have been executed or on the way to be are not the objective in themselves but are the means of siphoning cash off the national treasury. Lets take the Great Artificial River as Gaddafi calls it for example. Water lines in the Libyan cities never have been so dry. It is a great political doldrums. A panel of experts has advised in the mid eighties that the costs were unjustified, the capacities were too little and the social and physical impact on the oasises in the south, the shed area of the river, would be catastrophic. A member of the rev committees with a kind heart told the panel never to make their findings public or risk severe punishment including death. They were handed a ready made report which they had to sign on the spot endorsing the project and praising the great leader.
The interests alone earned each year on the money spent on the river so far are enough to build 70 seawater desalination plants along the sea coast each year. One plant every 30 kilometers in the first year stretching from Msa'ad to Bukammash producing 7 million cubic meters daily. The maximum capacity of Great River theoretically is 4 million. Each year 7 million m3 more can be added using the annual interest alone. By year 2000, more than 120 million cubic meters would have been produced using the investment returns on the bulk of the funds that have been wasted so far. Some of the returns could be used to modernize and update the systems. By year 2004 or 20 years after the date the Great river construction started about 150 million m3 per day of fresh water would have been made available for human consumption, agriculture and storage. Great water reserves could have been created to last for thousands of years to come. After few years of operation Libya would start becoming a rain forest just like it was tens of thousands of years ago. The estimated life of the great river is 50 years, 20 have past and there is no more water already. The Libyan natural resources are smartly depleted.
A final note about assignment I:
Throughout his crusade of hatred against Libyans in the last thirty years, Gaddafi never showed mercy for the Libyans or at least giving them the impression of rallying the public behind him even in the most difficult situations he seemed to go through. On the contrary, he used those incidents as a platform to attack the Libyan even further. He, in war like in peace, always gave the impression that he had enemies around him and, therefore, must be dealt with in the harshest way possible. He never gave any impression of compromise for the good of the country and its citizens. This guy acts like a Mr. Stranger in the hostile lands. He does not feel secure. He changes sleeping places numerous times in one night. Sometimes he stays nights on the raw without sleep because it seemed to him not secure enough to close his eyes. He trusts nobody around him and changes guards quite often. His kids are badly raised with a reputation in the mud. He refuses stardom to any Libyan. If it happened someone somehow somewhere became a celebrity as a football player or a doctor or a politician it would be an invitation for trouble. He hates Libya and its people so much that in the late eighties declared angrily that anyone who will succeed him will find nothing in the country but ash. True it is now almost ash. It is like the day after. Every aspect of the being has been destroyed. The economy and the society……Job well done…… Mission accomplished.
Regional: The Destruction of Arabism and even the notion of Arab Unity,
Libya was closer to uniting with the Arab states in 1969 than 30 years after. In his many well published unification projects, Gaddafi appeared to the public as the care taker of Arab unity. He tried with Egypt and Sudan in 1970, Egypt and Syria in 1972, Tunisia 1974, and then in the 80's Morocco, Algeria, Chad, Syria again, etc. It is well published that in each attempt he did not really show he was after the nobel goal of uniting the Arabs but after something else the other parties did not understand. However, some of them went as far as they could hoping to make mutual gains of the two diversified economies, Libya with oil and the other with manpower; but it was always Gaddafi who caused his counter parts hardships that made them hate even talking about Arabism any more with anyone.
As a matter of history he fomented unrest in a few fellow Arab countries. Among them, the civil war he helped to inflame in 1983 in Southern Sudan. He caused unrest in Tunisia and went to war with Egypt. He went to verbal war with every Arab state No one trusted him. The result is the aspiration is finally dead, thanks to Gaddafi. Mission accomplished. Now it is Africa's turn.
Global: The Tarnishing of the Image of a State:
Prior to Gaddafi's arrival, Libyans used to travel the world with dignity, respect and appreciation in all countries of the East and the West, of the North and the South. Only a few countries required Libyans to have entry visas. Libyan businessmen and traders were given crate blanca for access to business opportunities. Libya was heading to be major economic center in North Africa. Libyans waved their black passports in pride at the entry points into other countries. They were like Shammama wherever they went. Now they are like shifsha wherever they go. They are treated with suspicion. They feel they are not welcomed. They wish they were not Libyans. They wish they never get asked where they where from. In the good old days they volunteered to tell where they came from. They used to walk tall and stand out. Now they walk short and hide behind…….Mission accomplished.