Goodbye, Gadhafi!

Is this for real, or fake? The struggle has gone on for half a year, and just when people are about to lose all interest, Gadhafi falls from power? Fortunately, as soon as I went online to catch up on the news I found a statement from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “The other day the Libyan opposition forces pushed into the capital city of Tripoli . . . On this matter, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said: China respects the choice of the Libyan people, and hopes that the situation in Libya is returned to stability as quickly as possible, and that the Libyan people can live normal lives . . . ”

Back at the time when the United Nations voted on the Libyan situation, Old Yang was really concerned that the Ministry of Foreign affairs would go and cast a no vote, besmearing the faces of all Chinese. The fall of the Gadhafi regime was just a matter of time, and anyone with a basic sense of history and common sense is clear about that. Fortunately, this time the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did the right thing.

So we still don’t know what deep hole Gadhafi is hiding in, and our [foreign ministry] gets a jump-start on respecting “the choice of the people.” But having repeated that phrase, it leaves me a tad uncomfortable. What does it mean to “return to stability” and “live a normal life”? Was the Gadhafi era what one might call stable? Was that normal life? If that was normal life, then we can say that pretty much the whole world lives in an abnormal state. And what’s more, when are we going to respect the choice of the Chinese people?

Talking about the whereabouts of Gadhafi recalls the time when Saddam Hussein was found hiding away in a hole, and some people wondered why he would subject himself to such humiliation. What had happened to all of those lofty sentiments about leading the country in opposing America and the West? Was he not willing to sacrifice himself for his righteous cause? How is it these tyrants are all the same? And in talking about Iraq, we can’t help but remember the words we’ve seen on so many websites in China lately: “We’re concerned that Libya might become another Iraq . . . ”

“Another Iraq”? This definitely means seeing Iraq as a negative example. After the American invasion of Iraq there certainly was a time of chaos and killing, but was that not because the dictator Saddam was unwilling to give up his absolute rule and continued to put up a resistance? Try asking the Iraqi people: How many of you are unwilling to make these sacrifices and would rather return to the era of Saddam Hussein? Was there less mass murder and chaos in Iraq under Saddam than there is now?

Iraq today is certainly not a negative example. Just look at the way major television news networks no longer have news to broadcast about mass killings and you know. Particularly in comparison to the era of Saddam Hussein, Iraq is heading towards brighter times.

When we hear international media reporting again and again on continued chaos and violence in Iraq, however, and when see Iraqis saying on the television that times aren’t as good as they once were, this in fact shows us the biggest difference between Iraq in the time of Saddam and Iraq today. In the Saddam era, did we ever see Iraqis looking into the lens of international media and daring to express their dissatisfaction with political leaders? Those who see Iraq as a textbook of bad examples should look at North Korea, which the American military never has managed to topple. Are the people there harmonious? Are there no killings? Is there no chaos?

America is the world’s preeminent political, economic and military power, and it is also the base camp for so-called freedom and democracy. These actions to overthrow political despots can’t happen without America’s participation. But from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to Iraq to Egypt to Libya, there have been many differences. In the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the United States seemed to pull up its sleeves and cast aside all pretense, giving the impression that it wanted to push democracy into all corners of the world where tyranny reigned. After Iraq, though, it stopped its advance.

Still, history would not slow its steps even as America rested. Egypt and Libya are both old friends of the United States, and revolutions have now happened there. What does this tell us? Everyone take note: the concepts of freedom and democracy are not monopolized by the United States, and without the support of America, or quite the opposite, even as America is supporting despots like Mubarak, the people will eventually rise up and throw them down.

I would also say to calm those who think that the violence and chaos that followed the American occupation of Iraq will be replayed in Libya: these kinds of things could not happen in Egypt and Libya. The reason is very simple. The Libyan opposition party that has seized power in Libya is not the American military, and those followers of Gadhafi who dared to terrorize their own citizens will definitely face bloody retribution and be completely routed.

It may seem a bit politically incorrect for me to say that, but that’s the way it is. Six years ago, an American military officer recently returned from Iraq told me that all the United States had to do was pull out of Iraq and within three months there would be no terrorist attacks in Iraq. Why? Because Iraqi leaders felt that the American military was too meek, and they would employ the most extreme means of burying the old remnants of Saddam’s units, eliminating all terrorist activities. [Portions following were not translated, but we recommend them for readers of Chinese.]

In writing on this topic my heart feels heavy and conflicted. On the one hand, I feel some unwarranted anxiety, that if all of the tyrants pass on the world might somehow be a less interesting place. What use would there be for a “democracy huckster” like me? On the other hand, I really hope we can bid farewell on this earth to all tyrants, and all forms of undemocratic rule, never to see them again.

Everyone should have confidence — confidence in themselves, in their friends and acquaintances, confidence in the people. Believe me, no one is born hoping to be a slave, or spurning freedom and autonomy. Each person wants to be their own master. You don’t believe me? After this post I’m pasting two different news photos, both showing how people want to be their own masters. One is from Libya and the other is from China. Both photos show how the people of these two countries hope to “be the masters of their own country.” Just so everyone can see clearly, I’ve placed several of my recently published books between them (just a bit of casual advertising).

[ABOVE: At top, the people of Wuhan, China, with the hope of being masters by jamming their way into the absolute power [of the Chinese Communist Party], crowd together hoping to take the public service examination for official government posts. In the middle, Old Yang’s books. At the bottom, the people of Libya become their own masters, overturning absolute power and crowding into a public square.]

This is a translated and edited version of a post made by Yang Hengjun to his online blog on August 24.

[Frontpage Photo by “BRK Network” available at under Creative Commons license.]


5 Comments to “Goodbye, Gadhafi!”

  1. KelvinClone says:

    For example:

    “Iraq today is certainly not a negative example. Just look at the way major television news networks no longer have news to broadcast about mass killings and you know. ”

    Didn’t take me long to find this one. This was from 2 days ago. Pulled it off of Google News quick search for “Iraq bomb”:|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

    Yes mass killings and bombings are as regular as they ever were. The media just report on them less because they get burned out on them. A blast happens in Mumbai, and it’s news. In Iraq it just old hat.

  2. KelvinClone says:

    I really have to beg to differ that Iraq is a positive example of democracy/nation-building in action. I mean Iraq under Saddam Hussein was no paradise by any means. There was political persecution, murder, etc., but at least Saddam kept the warring factions in check. I think if I were given a choice between living in an oppressive but stable dictatorship or a hellish war-torn “democracy” in a country with completely devastated infrastructure, I think I would prefer the former.

    In fact, in the 1980s, prior to the first U.S. invasion of Iraq and a decade of sanctions, Iraq had a health care system that was the best in the entire Middle East. Now the country is littered with depleted uranium shells, which have caused cancer rates to skyrocket. Furthermore, the sanctions regime was also credited with killing nearly half a million children, which is a kind of mass murder that Saddam Hussein never came close to. Now, people have to live in fear of random bomb blasts that still continue to occur on a weekly basis as well as sectarian warfare in other forms. Hmmm….hard choice. Keep my mouth shut and enjoy relative peace and stability under a dictator or step out in to the street each day wondering if today is the day my head is going to be blown off.

    I think its wishful thinking on the part of democracy advocates in China who are looking at Iraq and other examples of Western-led democratization in the Middle East with rose-colored glasses. They want to believe in the narrative that bringing about democracy is worth the price of chaos and instability because they can transfer the example to China. If they think that one-party rule in China will end without something resembling a civil war, they are deluded.

  3. ltlee says:

    @Dr Jones Jr.
    And Yang appears to be right in this aspect.
    (Obama excited to see Gaddafi.)
    (McCaine and Lieberman sucking up to Gaddafi.)

    Just curious. What kind of doctor are you?

  4. Carol Wickenkamp says:

    Gadaffi could hardly be considered a friend of the US. An uneasy, standoff relationship at best.

    If instead of listening to media pundits, one goes to the statistical sites of the UN or even the CIA WorldFactbook, hardly fans of Gadaffi, either one one will find that Libyans under the ‘tyrant’ enjoyed the highest standard of living in Africa, women enjoyed mandatory emancipation (their fathers could not keep the women unmarried in order to care for them in their old age), they could drive, they enjoyed government paid education through college, government paid healthcare, a reasonable life expectancy and low infant mortality, they could dress how they wished according to the home situation, there was freedom of religion (indeed, the Bishop of Tripoli begged for a negotiated settlement), most adult Libyans held professional jobs. Libya’s gigantic irrigation project brought water from deep below the Sahara to the coastal regions so that Libyans could be self sufficient in feeding them selves.

    It was the guest workers who were dissatisfied. Why would the Libyans complain? These are not my statistics, they are there for all serious journalists to investigate, but few have.

    So yes, you are right. The situation in Libya was abnormal, the standard of living was far above the median range for countries of the world.

    I am sure that all Libyan women, in particular, will thank you and your uninformed ilk for destroying the best deal a woman could have in the moslem world. I am sure they are really looking forward to strict, repressive Sharia law.

    Go look things up next time. The facts are there for all to see. Engage research before releasing pen.

  5. Dr. Jones Jr. says:

    Interesting that he characterizes Libya (under Gadhafi, I assume) as an “old friend of the United States”. Following 9/11 there was detente with Gadhafi giving up chemical/nuclear weapons programs and terrorist training programs in order to normalize relations, but hardly makes for friendship.

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