In nine days’ time, it will be 42 years since Muammar Qaddafi seized control of Libya and took it into a grim fantasy world where politics and economics were forced to follow his own unworkable ideas and those who dared disagree were brutally eliminated.
The end of the Libyan nightmare has arrived. Even if there are still pockets of resistance to what is the most inspiring people's revolution to occur in recent Arab history and the dictator himself is still at large, the ridiculously named Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya has been consigned to the garbage heap of history. The wilderness years when the very name Libya meant just one man are over. Qaddafi's own delusional boasts that his people loved him, that his forces were chasing the fighters from city after city when the exact opposite was happening could not save him. He has been deserted by almost everyone from his prime minister downward.
Even so, the speed at which the end came is amazing. After months of stalemate, the uprising went into hyper-drive. To have captured most of Tripoli in less than a day, including two of Qaddafi's sons, was inconceivable just two days ago. That it happened says two things — that Qaddafi's hold over Tripoli was based purely on fear that vanished when the opposition forces arrived and that those forces, or at least a section of them, were better organized than had been imagined. According to the Transitional National Council, the assault on Tripoli was coordinated by itself, NATO and anti-Qaddafi forces in the city. The spearhead brigade had been trained by foreign forces.
These details say much about the new Libya that is now taking form. As TNC officials point out, the revolution could not have succeeded without NATO. It is inconceivable that it will not be close to those who helped it to freedom — specifically the French, British, Italians, Turks, Americans and those Arab states that took an anti-Qaddafi stand.
Inevitably there will be fears about what happens next. Who will take over? Will pro-Qaddafi forces sabotage peace by a well-armed insurgency? Will the victors fall out among themselves? Will there be a spate of revenge killings? Will the shadow of militancy fall across the country as happened in Iraq after the US invasion and destruction?
There is every reason for guarded optimism. The Libyan uprising appears deeply committed to the notion of democracy. The fact, too, that pro-Gaddafi forces, when captured, have largely been well treated is also encouraging. The basis for reconciliation is there. As to who takes over, that will be for the Libyans to decide.
There will be tough times ahead; inevitably there will be differences of opinion among the winners. But at least there is a road forward rather than the prison walls of the past 42 years. So for the moment, let us leave fears about Libya's future to another day. Right now, it is a time to share in the euphoria of the Libyan people — a people oppressed for so long and who are now masters of their own destiny.