The Libyan Revolution has succeeded, and I’m glad. With reservations, I was in favour of the intervention of Britain and France. Gadaffi was an evil dictator and is guilty of appalling crimes. I would have wished, for the sake of the Libyan people’s nascent democracy that he had been captured and brought to trial.
I understand why young men who have taken huge personal risks to free their country from a murderous tyrant, who have seen their comrades killed in battle, have perhaps lost members of their family and who have witnessed the horrors of Gadaffi’s regime at first hand, in the heat of the moment - in their rage and euphoria - killed him. It was wrong, but I neither judge them nor condemn them – no one who has not experienced what they have may do so.
But I am revolted by the behaviour of the British media, not in their immediate coverage of the manner of his death, but in the subsequent gloating triumphalism and the publication today on the front page of almost every newspaper of his dead face, and the almost medieval celebration of the brutality of his end. Short of bringing his head back and displaying it on a spike on Westminster Bridge, the primitive instincts of sectors of our ruling classes could not have expressed more satisfaction.
We claim rightly that ours is a more civilised society than the regime of terror that Gadaffi presided over for over forty years. Some claim Britain as a Christian society, and it is certainly a society that reflect many faiths, including the three great religions of the Abrahamic tradition – Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Nothing in this behaviour accords with the core tenets of these religions at their best, whatever the horrific political manifestations of their dogmatic differences have been historically and in our own time.
There is something obscene in the prospect of our politicians – some of them – rejoicing in the manner of Gadaffi’s death from the safety and comparative security of Westminster. At least we have been spared the spectacle of Liam Fox gloating over the tyrant’s bloody end.
I hope the so-called spiritual leaders of the nation speak, if they have not already done so.
Sampling opinion of friends and neighbours, the reactions I have got range from a similar kind of primitive satisfaction in the brutal end of an enemy to a feeling that such photographic evidence was necessary “to prove he was really dead”. Given that any television and film special effects company could have produced an effective ersatz corpse - on the CSI television series model, or any number of British pathology-based TV series, allied to the 21st century to capacity to manipulate an image - I don’t see that the image alone ‘proves’ anything.
But I do believe he is dead, based on all the reports and the facts, just as I believe that Hitler is dead, Kennedy is dead, John Lennon is dead, etcetera, without having to see press photographs of the corpse. He is gone, and whatever the manner of his death, Libya – for the moment – is a better place for his demise. Whether our world is a safer place, or the West’s oil supply is more secure remains to be seen …