Mixed feelings on manner of Gaddafi’s death

By Isaac Himmelman

In an age where the plot of a major movie sequel revolves around human beings being sewn together in a graphic orgy of torture porn, one might think that society has grown desensitized to the point where we can now calmly and without any major objections watch the now infamous cell-phone video depicting the killing of Muammar Gaddafi. However, that’s not true.

Courtesy IL LI/Flickr

I’ll be the first to admit that there is nothing pleasant about watching footage of a helpless older man, bloodied and near death, pleading with his captors as he’s dragged nearly naked over rough desert terrain. As you watch Gaddafi on the ground, moments from death’s front door, his head split open, his insides pouring out onto the sand, his eyes staring up at the camera like a wounded puppy as men deal him substantial blows to the head all the while chanting “God is Great,” it becomes harder and harder to suppress those default-mode feelings of pure untainted sympathy.

The manner in which Gaddafi was killed has received condemnation from varying intellectuals and world leaders. Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez said that the people of Venezuela “shall remember Gaddafi our whole lives as a great fighter, a revolutionary and a martyr” and Fidel Castro had some critical words both for NATO and Gaddafi’s captors in regards to the treatment and subsequent display of Gaddafi’s body.

If I were part of the mob that managed to capture Gaddafi surely I would have advocated on behalf of keeping him captive and putting him on trial for crimes against humanity. That being said, had Gaddafi been responsible for the killing one of my older brothers, or my sister, or my best friend, perhaps my views would have been different.

I imagine there were men who were part of the mob that dragged Gaddafi through the street naked and bloodied who had relatives or friends who’d died at the hands of the Gaddafi regime. I imagine that amongst the Libyans who waited for hours outside a storefront for a chance to see Gaddafi’s cold corpse in an industrial freezer, there were those who also had been directly affected by the Gaddafi regime.

I am not commending the killing of Gaddafi. Yet, at the same time I cannot condemn it either, or even suggest that it should have been carried out in a different manner. People have been executing their brutal leaders and publically displaying their bodies for centuries. Bennito Mussolini was executed along with his mistress, their bodies hung outside in a public square in Milan. The brutality of these executions should be seen as a reflection of that leader’s regime.

In 1989, the people of Romania watched footage of the execution of their former leader Nicolae Ceausescu by firing squad on national television.

It should come as little surprise that the most vocal critics of Gaddafi’s public execution have been dictators themselves. Gaddafi’s public execution, like the public execution of dictators before him, will serve as a Nostradamus-like warning to sitting dictators: Your time is limited. Your days are numbered.

Isaac Himmelman is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]