Deposed: Popular uprising in progress
Bedouin-born Colonel Gaddafi seized power in 1969 in a bloodless coup against Libya’s King Idris and has been in charge ever since. But the Middle East’s longest-lasting despot—who recently dubbed himself ‘King of Kings’ and ‘Leader of the Arab leaders’—may soon be gone. Gaddafi squandered the nation’s oil wealth, exposed Libyans to US bombs and economic sanctions, and is now killing his countrymen in a desperate attempt to stay in power. Dubbed ‘mad dog of the Middle East’ by President Ronald Reagan, Gaddafi funded African revolutionary movements, sponsored violent Palestinian terrorism and supplied arms to the IRA in the 1970s and 1980s. His regime financed the Black September movement (which carried out the attack on the Munich Olympics) and was behind the Lockerbie bombing in which 270 passengers died on Pan Am 103. However, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003 turned Gaddafi from pariah into statesman: he abandoned his support for terrorism, paid compensation for Lockerbie and allowed weapons inspectors into the country. Perversely, it may now be the west who misses him most. Venezuela is his most likely bolthole if deposed—Cuba and Zimbabwe are other supporters—but he may one day find himself on trial in The Hague. His fortune is said to be ‘several billion dollars’ but, as usual, it’s anybody’s guess. The Swiss have frozen any assets he and his family may have there. And check out his style—more Marx Brothers than dictator chic—at Vanity Fair.