Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar Gaddafi was born in either 1942 or 1943 to illiterate Bedouin parents who maintained no birth records. Rising from unimaginable poverty Gaddafi eventually amassed enough wealth to become the eighth richest person in human history. The sordid state in which he both entered and left the world stands in stark relief against the opulent splendor of his time in the sun.
Gaddafi’s early education was grueling. He slept in a mosque and walked twenty miles on weekends to visit his parents. He finished his first six years of school in four. He was popular in school despite his humble upbringing, and many of his earliest school chums received plum government positions when later he came to power.
Gaddafi dropped out of university to join the Libyan military, then being trained by a cadre of professional British officers. He chafed at the British influence, viewing the English as imperialist interlopers in Libyan affairs. In 1963 he was suspected in the assassination of the commander of his Libyan military school. This was a portent of bloody things to come.
In 1969 the Middle East was still reeling from the trouncing Israel had given her Arab neighbors two years earlier. Amidst this unrest, Gaddafi led a consolidated military movement to overthrow the Libyan monarchy. The resulting coup was decisive and relatively bloodless. Addressing the Libyan people by radio, Gaddafi announced the formation of the Libyan Arab Republic. He proclaimed that the revolution would bring “freedom, socialism, and unity.” One of his first official acts was to promote himself from Lieutenant to Colonel, a title he wore proudly for the rest of his days.
Socialism is yet again in vogue among the less enlightened these days. How many times must this intrinsically flawed method of governance be tried and subsequently fail before these people will appreciate its manifest irrevocable weaknesses? In December of 1971, Gaddafi began nationalizing the nation’s oil infrastructure, and the fuse was lit.
In the near term, Gaddafi’s socialist initiatives were successful, increasing the Libyan gross domestic product and enhancing the national standard of living. Gaddafi’s reforms poured oil revenues into public works projects and education. Over time, however, something dark and sinister began to arise within Muammar Gaddafi’s soul. As seems always to be the case with totalitarian regimes, absolute power began to have its corrosive effect.
A Love Affair with Terrorism
The details are tedious. Suffice it to say Gaddafi supported terrorist organizations around the globe. The Black Panther Party, the Nation of Islam, the Provisional IRA, the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, Action Directe, the Red Brigades, and many others received extensive financial backing from Gaddafi and his government. By the mid-’80s, Gaddafi’s terrorist pals had agitated the Gipper.
In response to the Libyan bombing of a Berlin disco that killed an American serviceman, President Ronald Reagan authorized Operation El Dorado Canyon. A total of 45 Navy and Air Force aircraft deposited 300 bombs and 48 missiles on a variety of targets, including Gaddafi’s home. A warning from the Italian Prime Minister Bettino Craxi saved his life.
This operation was to be the combat debut of the F117 stealth fighter. However, this third arm of the attack was scrubbed an hour before takeoff out of fear of compromise of this radical technology.
France, Spain, and Italy refused permission to transit their airspace, so the Air Force F111 fighter-bombers staging from England were forced to fly a laborious route with multiple air-to-air refuelings to reach their targets. One of the few non-military installations damaged in the raid was the French embassy in Tripoli. The F111 crews had to do something to entertain themselves during that unnecessary 1,300 miles on the ingress. Perhaps they just refined their target selection.
Ultimately the Libyans apologized for their terrorist antics and paid American survivors a total of $1.5 billion. As a result in 2008 full diplomatic relations were restored between the United States and Libya.
Gaddafi considered himself a fashion icon. He once stated, “Whatever I wear becomes a fad. I wear a certain shirt and suddenly everybody is wearing it.”
Gaddafi was a serial womanizer and a proper sexual villain. He kept one young woman locked up and sexually abused her for six years. Throughout it all, he was protected by an eclectic all-female VIP security unit.
I couldn’t make this stuff up. The Western media named them the Amazonian Guard. Their formal name literally translates The Revolutionary Nuns. These attractive young women were hand-picked by Gaddafi himself. They were afforded extensive weapons and martial arts training and were required to take an oath of chastity.
By now Gaddafi had resigned as formal head of state and bequeathed upon himself the title “Brotherly Leader and Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.”
Falling From a Great Height
By 2011 socialism had taken its inevitable toll. Unemployment ran 30%, and nepotism and corruption pervaded the government. Buoyed by the Arab Spring movement, a coalition of anti-Gaddafi factions called the National Transitional Council (NTC) launched a full-fledged civil war. Government forces fired on demonstrators, arsenals were looted, and Libya descended into chaos. Gaddafi eventually went into hiding around Sirte, his hometown and the residence of his most loyal followers.
With his back metaphorically against the wall, Gaddafi announced that he was finally ready to negotiate a peaceful transition of power. The NTC was having none of that. Hounded by NTC artillery Gaddafi fled Sirte in a joint military and civilian convoy. NATO air assets destroyed 14 of the 75 vehicles and scattered the occupants. Gaddafi, his son Mutassim, and some of his closest cohorts fled to a construction site. One of Gaddafi’s security operatives deployed a grenade that bounced back and injured the Libyan despot. Rebels then pulled Gaddafi, filthy and bloodied, out of the drainage pipe where he was cowering and proceeded to tear him apart.
The chaos was captured on cell phone video though the details are still in dispute. Before it was over, members of the mob had sodomized Gaddafi with a bayonet and shot him to death. There are those present who claim Gaddafi was ultimately executed with his own gold-inlaid Browning Hi-Power pistol. His body was subsequently put on display for curious passersby. It was an ignominious end for such an avowed narcissist.
Gaddafi’s Hi-Power was a later Mark III sporting extended bilateral safety levers and extensive gold inlay. The dictator was enthralled with gold and surrounded himself with it.
Other gold implements he acquired included a gold plated AK74 assault rifle, a gold tea trolley, a gold flyswatter sporting the head of an elephant, and a gold chaise-lounge in the shape of a mermaid.
The Hi-Power was John Moses Browning’s last handgun. The story goes that the great man keeled over from heart failure at his workbench toiling over the design in Liege, Belgium, in 1926. His Belgian counterpart and fellow firearms savant Dieudonne Saive completed the weapon. It was ultimately released in 1935.
The Hi-Power has the distinction of having served with both the Allies and the Axis during World War 2. The Canadian Inglis firm produced the gun for use by Canadian, British, and Nationalist Chinese forces, while the captured plant in Belgian churned them out for the Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe, and Waffen SS.
More than 1.5 million copies were manufactured before production ceased in Belgium in 2017. The Hi-Power saw service with dozens of nations and remains in active use around the globe.
The Hi-Power was the first handgun in widespread use to feed on a double column, single feed magazine. A Saive contribution, this type of feeding device now drives every high capacity combat pistol in the world.
A single action design, the otherwise superlative trigger on the Hi-Power is adversely affected by the addition of a magazine disconnect safety originally stipulated by the French specifications that drove the original design. Removal of the magazine disconnect components will improve the trigger’s personality.
The argument could be made that Muammar Gaddafi rose higher and then fell farther than any other human being in history. He was born a nomad in the Libyan desert during World War 2 to parents too poor and ill-informed to document his birthday. He amassed unimaginable wealth and subsequently used it to foment chaos around the globe while grotesquely oppressing his own people.
In the end, he was dragged out of a culvert by an angry mob, violently abused, and likely executed with his own weapon, a gaudy abomination of one of the finest combat pistols ever conceived. The two timeless lessons to be learned are that socialism never, ever works and that being a tyrannical despot seldom offers a decent retirement plan.