A 2-minute compilation of highlights:
President Muammar Gaddafi addressed the Libyan people on state television yesterday in what was by most accounts an alarming, rambling and often incomprehensible 75-minute speech. Speaking from his bombed-out shelter allegedly in Tripoli, Gaddafi cut a desperate figure and demonstrated a psychological detachment from the reality of events in the Libyan streets. The speech was similar in many ways to Hosni Mubarak’s final address to the Egyptian people on February 10th. Although Gaddafi lacked the composure and preparation of Mubarak, the delusional, grasping and unrelenting tone remained the same.
These were some of his more coherent statements and claims:
1) The protesters have been taking drugs. Don’t destroy your country for no reason. We were living in safety, security and prosperity. We were living in happiness.
2) I will fight until the last drop of blood with the people behind me. I will die a martyr on Libyan soil. I am just a man living in a tent, I cannot resign, I hold no office.
3) I have brought you all up. Everywhere people are shouting slogans supporting Muammar Gaddafi.
4) When all those that undermined the constitution (which was suspended in 1972), and that took up arms against the state are caught, they will be begging for mercy. And we will not be merciful.
5) There will be reforms. Libya can have whatever constitution it wants. Tomorrow, a new administration will be formed.
6) The Libyan people can go to the Libyan people’s commission if they have complaints. They do not need to protest.
7) I have not given the order to use force yet, but I may give it soon.
8 ) The unity of China was more important than the people in Tiananmen Square
9) Libya will be ruled by extremists, and outsiders and will devolve into civil war if I step down.
10) I have challenged the United States. With my departure will come the bombs of the United States just like they bombed Fallujah.
These are some of Mubarak’s last words. Listen to the full speech here:
1) I am your father, you are all my sons.
2) I have served my country for 60 years.
3) I never sought false power and popularity.
4) The people’s claims and voices must be heard.
5) I will not accept being ordered around from outside.
6) I have exhausted my life defending the homeland, I went to war, I won victories, I liberated the Sinai, I have faced death on many occasions, I worked for the peace, stability, and development of Egypt.
7) The blood of the fallen will be avenged.
8 ) The majority of the people are aware of who Hosni Mubarak is.
9) I have lived for this nation, and safeguarded by responsibilities and the trust of the people, the beginning of my life and the end of it.
10) I will not separate from the soil until I am buried underneath it.
The parallels between these two speeches are glaring. Both refer to themselves in the third person as patriarchs of their states and refer to a long record of service to their citizens. Both looked to draw on anti-colonial sentiments and deflect blame onto foreign powers, with neither seeming to acknowledge the genuine popular desire for their removal. Both tried to identify themselves as ‘one of the group,’ as the embodiment of the new protest movement. Gaddafi and Mubarak also both stressed their own self-importance to the success of the movement and the future of their countries, calling their personal stays in power necessary in order to prevent a descent into chaos, even as they used their forces to violently destabilize peaceful demonstrations. Most importantly, Gaddafi refused to step down on his own, just as Mubarak did.
This was the take of Ashur Shamis, a Libyan Journalist who appeared on Al-Jazeera:
‘It is a desperate effort to maintain power, to get people to listen to him. He got into fits of anger and rage. People will no longer be frightened of him, but his intention is clearly to use force against the people and he is losing, so he is very dangerous. He can still kill a lot of people. There are shades of the last days of Saddam Hussein.’
Muammar Gaddafi’s fist-pumping and scattered presentation may have been a more extreme and threatening version, but he is still clutching at the same straws that Mubarak was ultimately unable to grab.
Watch the first 20 minutes of the speech here:
Written by Otis Pitney a student at Middlebury College who was studying at the C.V. Starr Middlebury School Abroad in Alexandria.