Colonel Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi (circa 1942 – 20 October 2011) staged a bloodless coup d'état of Libya on September 1st 1969, where he led a small team of junior officers and overthrew then-King Idris, while he was in Turkey for medical treatment. Disposing of Crown Prince Sayyid Hasan ar-Rida al-Mahdi as-Sanussi (Idris' nephew), they abolished the monarchy and proclaimed the new Libyan Arab Republic. This was likely fueled by the frustration and shame felt by Libyan officers, who stood by helplessly at the time of Israel's swift and humiliating defeat of Arab armies on three fronts in 1967. Under Gaddafi, Libya was considered a pariah state by the West; among the allegations were bloody oppression of internal dissidents, acts of state-sponsored terrorism, assassinations of expatriate opposition leaders, and crass nepotism exhibited in amassing a multi-billion dollar fortune for himself and his family. Despite initially presenting himself as a socialist, Gaddafi was a highly capitalistic leader during his later years.
Muammar Gaddafi's attempts to procure weapons of mass destruction began in 1972, when Gaddafi tried to get the People's Republic of China to sell him a nuclear bomb. In 1977, he tried to get a bomb from Pakistan, but Pakistan severed ties before Libya succeeded in building a weapon. After ties were restored, Gaddafi tried to buy a nuclear weapon from India, but instead, India and Libya agreed on the peaceful use of nuclear energy, in line with India's "atoms for peace" policy. Several people around the world were indicted for assisting Gaddafi in his chemical weapons programs. Thailand reported its citizens had helped build a storage facility for nerve gas. Germany sentenced a businessman, Jurgen Hippenstiel-Imhausen, to five years in prison for involvement in Libyan chemical weapons. Inspectors from the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) verified in 2004 that Libya owned a stockpile of 23 metric tons of mustard gas and more than 1,300 metric tons of precursor chemicals. Disposing of such large quantities of chemical weapons was expected to be expensive.
Following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein by U.S. forces in 2003, Gaddafi announced that his nation had an active weapons of mass destruction program, but was willing to allow international inspectors into his country to observe and dismantle them. U.S. President George W. Bush and other supporters of the Iraq War portrayed Gaddafi's announcement as a direct consequence of the Iraq War. Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, a supporter of the Iraq War, was quoted as saying that Gaddafi had privately phoned him, admitting as much. Many foreign policy experts, however, contend that Gaddafi's announcement was merely a continuation of his prior attempts at normalizing relations with the West and getting the sanctions removed, pointing out that Libya had already made similar offers starting four years before one was finally accepted. International inspectors turned up several tons of chemical weaponry in Libya, as well as an active nuclear weapons program. As the process of destroying these weapons continued, Libya improved its cooperation with international monitoring regimes to the extent that, by March 2006, France was able to conclude an agreement with Libya to develop a significant nuclear power program.
In regards to Israel, Gaddafi announced that any Arab wishing to volunteer for the Palestinian insurgency "can register his name at any Libyan embassy [and] will be given adequate training for combat", even promising financial support for attacks. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Gaddafi sent one armored brigade, two fighter squadrons, and financial aid to Egypt.
After the 1986 Bombing of Libya and the 1993 imposition of United Nations sanctions, Gaddafi established closer economic and security relations with the west, cooperated with investigations into previous Libyan acts of state-sponsored terrorism and paid compensation, and ended his nuclear weapons program, resulting in the lifting of UN sanctions in 2003. In 2009, he made his first appearance at the UN to give a rambling 90-minute speech about Western aggression that was so incoherent that it became legendary at the UN.
In early February 2011, major political protests, inspired by protests in Tunisia, Egypt and other parts of the Arab world,note broke out in Libya against Gaddafi's government, quickly escalating from protests into a full-blown civil war. Gaddafi vowed to "die a martyr" if necessary in his fight against the rebels and external forces. He fled Tripoli when rebel forces captured the city, and his whereabouts remained unknown until October 20, 2011. On that day Gaddafi was critically wounded in Sirte, either in a firefight with rebel forces, or by a NATO airstrike, and was captured, beaten, possibly sodomized and finally summarily executed together with some of his last remaining supporters. His last recorded words were, depending on the source, either "Don't kill me, my sons!", or "What did I do to you?" His corpse was put on display in a freezer for a few days, before being buried in an unmarked grave in the desert.
Has gone through a radical change in portrayal since the events of his overthrow: before 2011, he was mostly used as the butt of jokes about the many spellings of his name (a side effect of the vagaries of Arabic pronunciation) and for his eccentricities and medal-festooned appearance that made him The Generalissimo for North African settings and a familiar object of satire and parody during his lifetime; today, his horrible acts are more likely to be emphasized. On the flipside, considering how Libya turned out after his death, there is a not-insignificant sentiment among opponents of the 2011 revolution that he may have been Necessarily Evil.
Gaddafi in fiction
Anime and Manga
- He appears as a nuke-happy madman in Dog Soldier.
- The Colonel is present at the terrorist meeting at the beginning of The Naked Gun, advocating the bombing of Washington and New York.
- Similarly, he is also seen briefly arriving at the worlds' leaders meeting in Mafia!.
- Sacha Baron Cohen's performance in The Dictator was primarily based on Gaddafi's antics.
- Likewise the 1982 satire Wrong is Right had a WMD-craving Middle Eastern dictator who's a clear expy of Gaddafi. Ironically in a post-9/11 world the plot resembles the events surrounding a certain other dictator.
- While Gaddafi is not mentioned in Back to the Future, he would presumably be the Greater-Scope Villain behind those Libyan terrorists who wanted Doc Brown to build them a nuclear bomb.
- Gaddafi features in the World War III novel The War That Never Was, where he's killed by his own side when the Egyptians invade Libya.
- The Dale Brown book Wings of Fire predicted his deposal way ahead of schedule.
- In the 1980 thriller The Fifth Horseman, Gaddafi has a nuclear bomb smuggled into New York to blackmail the US into forcing Israel off the West Bank.
- In The Executioner novel American Nightmare, "The Colonel" (he's never named but it's obvious who it is) hires an American mercenary for a terrorist operation in the United States. Turns out it's actually revenge on some media people he paid a lot of money to film a puff piece on Libya, but who decided to expose his WMD program and keep the money anyway.
Live Action TV
- Spitting Image showed him hosting a terrorist awards ceremony during one episode from the 1980's. The more things change...
- The short-lived 1987 series Second Chance had a one off gag showing Saint Peter condemning him to spend the rest of eternity in Hell as a human bomb exploding and reforming every two minutes. What makes this notable is the given date of his death: July 29th 2011, less than three months away from the real date.
- The first shot we saw of Leo McGarry on the The West Wing was him complaining on the phone to the New York Times crossword department for getting the spelling of the name "Gaddafi" wrong.
- NCIS: Los Angeles has an episode dealing with Gaddafi's secret police trying to assassinate an LA-based rebel communications leader at the height of the war, though the episode itself only aired a few weeks after the end of the conflict.
- In the Airwolf pilot, the villain who steals Airwolf flies it to Libya. One of the favours Gaddafi asks of him in exchange for sanctuary is to sink a US warship in the Gulf of Sidra.
- Salon.com (before the end of the war and thus before Gaddafi met his ultimate fate) commissioned eight stories about how Gaddafi's final days might look like, each written by a different author.
- Has appeared in a couple of Hitler Rants, leading to a sub-meme, the Gaddafi parodies.
- Gaddafi was among several dictators that attended a pool party hosted by Peter Griffin on an episode of Family Guy.
- Parodied by The Simpsons. When Springfield Elementary attends a Model UN conference, Bart (representing Libya) wears sunglasses and a headdress reminiscent of Gaddafi's fashion style.
- A Captain Ersatz of him was the dictator of "Carbombya" in The Transformers.