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"He has a split personality - both parts evil."
—Sudanese President Gaafar Nimeiry, on Gaddafi.

Colonel Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi, born June 7th 1942, staged a bloodless coup d'état of Libia on September 1st 1969, where he led a small team of junior officers and overthrew then-King Idris, while he was in Turkey for medical treatment. Disposing of Crown Prince Sayyid Hasan ar-Rida al-Mahdi as-Sanussi (Idris' nephew), they abolished the monarchy and proclaimed the new Libyan Arab Republic. This was likely fueled by the frustration and shame felt by Libyan officers, who stood by helplessly at the time of Israel's swift and humiliating defeat of Arab armies on three fronts in 1967. Under Gaddafi, Libya was considered as a pariah state by the West; among the allegations were oppression of internal dissidence, acts of state-sponsored terrorism, assassinations of expatriate opposition leaders, and crass nepotism exhibited in amassing a multi-billion dollar fortune for himself and his family.

Muammar Gaddafi's attempts to procure weapons of mass destruction began in 1972, when Gaddafi tried to get the People's Republic of China to sell him a nuclear bomb. In 1977, he tried to get a bomb from Pakistan, but Pakistan severed ties before Libya succeeded in building a weapon. After ties were restored, Gaddafi tried to buy a nuclear weapon from India, but instead, India and Libya agreed on the peaceful use of nuclear energy, in line with India's "atoms for peace" policy. Several people around the world were indicted for assisting Gaddafi in his chemical weapons programs. Thailand reported its citizens had helped build a storage facility for nerve gas. Germany sentenced a businessman, Jurgen Hippenstiel-Imhausen, to five years in prison for involvement in Libyan chemical weapons. Inspectors from the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) verified in 2004 that Libya owned a stockpile of 23 metric tons of mustard gas and more than 1,300 metric tons of precursor chemicals. Disposing of such large quantities of chemical weapons was expected to be expensive.

Following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein by U.S. forces in 2003, Gaddafi announced that his nation had an active weapons of mass destruction program, but was willing to allow international inspectors into his country to observe and dismantle them. U.S. President George W. Bush and other supporters of the Iraq War portrayed Gaddafi's announcement as a direct consequence of the Iraq War. Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, a supporter of the Iraq War, was quoted as saying that Gaddafi had privately phoned him, admitting as much. Many foreign policy experts, however, contend that Gaddafi's announcement was merely a continuation of his prior attempts at normalizing relations with the West and getting the sanctions removed, pointing out that Libya had already made similar offers starting four years before one was finally accepted. International inspectors turned up several tons of chemical weaponry in Libya, as well as an active nuclear weapons program. As the process of destroying these weapons continued, Libya improved its cooperation with international monitoring regimes to the extent that, by March 2006, France was able to conclude an agreement with Libya to develop a significant nuclear power program.

In regards to Israel, Gaddafi announced that any Arab wishing to volunteer for Palestinian terrorist groups "can register his name at any Libyan embassy [and] will be given adequate training for combat", even promising financial support for attacks. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Gaddafi sent one armored brigade, two fighter squadrons, and financial aid to Egypt.

After the 1986 Bombing of Libya and the 1993 imposition of United Nations sanctions, Gaddafi established closer economic and security relations with the west, cooperated with investigations into previous Libyan acts of state-sponsored terrorism and paid compensation, and ended his nuclear weapons program, resulting in the lifting of UN sanctions in 2003.

In early February 2011, major political protests, inspired by recent protests in Tunisia, Egypt and other parts of the Arab world,[1] broke out in Libya against Gaddafi's government, quickly escalating from protests into a full-blown civil war. Gaddafi vowed to "die a martyr" if necessary in his fight against the rebels and external forces. He fled Tripoli when rebel forces captured the city, and his whereabouts remained unknown until October 20, 2011. On that day Gaddafi was reportedly critically wounded in Sirte, either in a firefight with rebel forces, or by a NATO airstrike, and died soon afterwards (the exact circumstances of his death are still unclear).


When he was in power, this leader provided examples of:

  • Arch Enemy: He seemed to particularly dislike United States President Ronald Reagan, who gave him the nickname "the mad dog of the Middle East".
    • The rebels held this view of Gaddafi himself.
  • Ax Crazy: Many, many political figures, critics and commentators called him out on his rather psychotic mindset. To repeat, Reagan called him "the mad dog of the Middle East", and Nimeiry once said he had a split personality, "both sides evil".
  • Bald of Evil: His son Saif al-Islam.
    • And possibly Gaddafi himself.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: He was mostly seen as an amusing Cloudcuckoolander by the world, until he started attacking his own people.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: While in power, Gaddafi put surveillance in government, in factories and in the education center to keep an eye on them, ordered assassinations and placed bounties on critics around the world, forbade anyone from forming political parties, made it illegal for Libyans to engage in political conversations with foreigners, and removed foreign languages from school curricula.
  • Bling Bling Bang: Favoured a gold plated Browning Hi-Power, which was found on him when rebels finally caught him.
  • Bodyguard Babes: This guy had an all-female bodyguard; western media even commonly referred to them as the Amazonian Guard.
  • The Caligula: Showed many signs of this, beginning with his extravagant clothing and speeches. On other hand, he somehow managed to stay in power for 42 years despite impoverishing his people, allowing in foreign workers while many of his own people were unemployed. He butchered the education system, removing history and going so far as to claim scientific subjects are useless.
    • He organized executions just to make an example, admitting that "some innocent should be killed to scare the real criminals", attended by college students, complete with live TV broadcasting. He kidnapped a Lebanese girl scout to make her one of his female bodyguards. Let's not get started with those guards... it seems virginity was one of his criteria.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: This doesn't begin to describe him.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The usual punishment for dissidents against his regime. Abandoned torture chambers were found by the rebels in liberated areas.
  • Colonel Badass: He saw himself as this, but was actually only a captain at the time of the coup against King Idris. In practice, his sons did most of the fighting and commanding.
  • Commie Nazis: His political ideology described in the Green Book rejected both communism and capitalism in favor of a third way. That third way, unfortunately, was this trope.
  • Cool Shades: So famous, it was parodied by The Simpsons.
  • Dodgy Toupee: Or as his former personal servant above says, "a French hair recipe was applied to his head that looked like hair."
  • Epic Fail: His attempts to destabilize neighboring Chad by supporting various rebel groups backfired so spectacularly, he actually reinforced Chadian unity by causing the rebels and the government to team up to fight him.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Sort of his thing.
  • Evil Overlord: To most of the Libyans, anyway.
  • Family Values Villain: Say what you will about his authoritarian regime, but when it comes to his family, he was shown (especially in recovered personal home movies) to be quite sweet and kind with his grandchildren. He is also said to have forgiven his son Muatassim for having once plotted against him...a charge that earned the death of people more important in the day to day workings of the regime.
  • Fan Nickname: Abu Shafshufa which translates to "Old Fuzzhead", in reference to Gaddafi's iconic hair.
  • Fisher King: Attempted to become this by manufacturing the "jamahiriya", or "state of the masses", which was supposedly meant to be a sort of direct democracy. The scary thing however is not that he tried, as many dictators often do, but that for the most part he was successful. As such, unlike the other states involved in the Arab Spring, Libyans after his death will have to rebuild their nation from scratch.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: He started off as a small-time junior officer, but then became the military dictator of Libya for 42 years.
  • Full-Circle Revolution: His career began as an idealistic army officer who led a coup in an effort to end tyranny and became... well...
    • And many an observer feared this is also what was going to happen after his fall. The rebels who overthrew and shot him are apparently no angels...
  • The Generalissimo
  • Glorious Leader: One of the real life inspirations of this trope.
  • Good Old Ways: Famous for preferring his Bedouin tent to luxury hotels when traveling abroad.
  • Great Big Book of Everything: The colonel's Green Book was intended to be this for the Libyan nation and taught in schools, but is generally regarded as a joke because of its incoherent rambling.
  • Improbable Age: Successfully overthrew the Libyan King and established himself as absolute dictator at the ripe old age of 27.
  • Insistent Terminology: Despite being a dictator and de facto head of Libya's military, he was officially only a colonel.
    • Actually, when he became a leader, he suppressed all the military grades above colonel, rather than simply promote himself. Colonel is the highest rank in the Libyan army.
    • Part of his justification for not stepping down was that he insisted that he wasn't a prime minister or president, but merely the "Brother Leader and Guide to the Revolution" and was thus powerless.
  • It's All About Me: Just like another infamous Arab dictator, he plastered the capital with enormous posters of himself (they were cheerfully torn down and burnt when the rebels captured the city). Reportedly he gave a gift to his underlings of watches with his face on the dial.
  • Just The Brother Leader: Gaddafi hadn't held any formal position of power since resigning as prime minister of Libya in 1972 -- however, he was dictator all the way up until 2011, and was often referred to as "Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya" or "Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution." This was taken to absurd levels during the recent Civil War. Gaddafi kept insisting that he could not step down because there was nothing to step down from.
  • Kavorka Man: Used to bed five women a day if this is anything to go by.
    • They were probably just afraid to refuse him, what with his being a brutal dictator.
  • Large Ham: Like most dictators but, unlike them, turned it Up to Eleven by way of Crossing the Line Twice. Gave way to...
  • Large Ham Title: Very rarely did people not say his name without also calling him "Brother Leader" and/or "Colonel", regardless if they are using it genuinely or as a way to ridicule him.
  • Looks Like Cesare
  • Modern Major-General: He started wars with Egypt, Tanzania and Chad, and lost every single one. The Chad war is sometimes called the Toyota war because the Chadian army didn't have proper transport vehicles and had to make do with civilian trucks.
  • Narcissist
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: If you look at some of his quotes such as that "a woman has the right to vote whether she is male or female" or "without electricity we would all be watching television in the dark" or proclaiming himself the king of kings in Africa, it seems like he was a complete moron, but he did manage to stay in power for 42 years in a highly tribal country and survived a superpower trying to kill him in The Eighties. Read more here.
  • Our Brother Leaders Are Different: Brother Leader Evil during The Seventies and Eighties. More popularly seen as Brother Leader Buffoon after he reconciled with the West, until the civil war, when he went back to Brother Leader Evil.
  • Overly Long Name: To Westerners, anyway. In the Arab world, such long names are more common, as part of their heritage; genealogy is very important in tribal societies.
    • And Libya's name for most of his regime was Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. Note that "Jamahiriya" can be translated as "State of the Masses"[2], so literally, Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab State of the Masses.
  • People's Republic of Tyranny: Libya's official state name during his rule, see directly above.
  • Pet the Dog: In The New York Times, Gaddafi once suggested that he was in favor of a single-state solution to the Israeli and Palestinian conflicts, which looked to a unified future of shared culture and mutual respect.
    • Reportedly, he adopted a nephew as a son after he survived the 1986 bombing thanks to him. Gaddafi had reportedly just lost an adoptive daughter in the same bombing (although she may have not actually been his daughter and was "adopted" posthumously for propaganda reasons).
      • There is also evidence that the adoptive daughter survived the bombing - it was the death, not the adoption, that was made up for propaganda reasons.
    • He did agree to give up his WMD program, although whether that was out of true goodwill or a desire for the West to leave him alone is debatable.
      • Considering the drums of yellowcake found in storage, he had seemed to not completely abandon it.
    • The first recipient of his Human Rights medal was Nelson Mandela.
    • Libya is one of the richest African countries. Was it due to his regime, or despite it?
  • Qurac: What Libya under his rule turned into.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": The man had dozens of transliterations of his surname alone; Qadhafi, Qaddafi, Kaddafi, Khaddafy, Gathafi, Quathafi and Ghadhafi, among others. London's Evening Standard paper has estimated that there are a mind-boggling thirty-seven possible legitimate transliterations of his full name! Wikipedia has even had to resort to charting all the possibilities in a fairly lengthy diagram of possible transliterations! For what it's worth, "Muammar Gaddafi" is the most commonly seen transliteration in Western media, and "Moammar" and "Qaddafi" are also fairly common variations.
    • Rebels seized a passport issued to one of his sons; the document indicates that "Gathafi" was the Colonel's preferred spelling.
    • All the variations used at one time or another led to him being referred to jokingly as "Ghadafi, May His Spellings Be Many".
  • Stay in the Kitchen: The Green Book states that the proper role of women is as homemakers.
  • Stupid Statement Dance Mix: As famously done to what is now known as his "Zenga Zenga" speech.
  • Troll: In general with regards to other nations, but particularly the Arab League and once famously the UN General Assembly back in 2009.
  • The Tyson Zone: When the ruler of a country indisputably falls under this trope, you know something's a little off.
  • Try to Fit That on A Business Card: Like many dictators, he variously styled himself with such grandiose titles as "Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution of Libya".
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: Like many dictators.
  • Villainous Crush: On former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, no less. The rebels even found a sizable photo album full of pictures of her in his compound.

During the Libyan Civil war, this leader and his death provided examples of:

  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: His death.
  • Ass Shove: Reports indicated he was sodomized with a knife before his death.
  • Big Badass Battle Sequence: Plenty of them happened during the civil war, particularly in Misrata.
  • Bling Bling Bang: He was allegedly carrying a gold-plated Browning Hi Power (which he's known to have owned) when he was captured and killed by rebels. According to some of the reports, he was executed with his own blinged-out gun.
  • Book Ends / Where It All Began: He was born in Sirte; he was killed in Sirte. The man is true to his word.
  • Boom! Headshot!: Yes, he was shot in the head. It wasn't pretty.
  • Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie: Averted. Though both he and his family had always insisted he be buried in Sirte, the provisional government buried him in the open desert at an undisclosed location in an unmarked grave to prevent it from becoming a Shrine to the Fallen.
  • Calling Your Attacks / Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: What eventually got him overthrown, when he announced to Libya and the world that he would massacre any who stood against him in Benghazi and everywhere else. That had acted as the catalyst the UN needed to authorize a no fly zone and have NATO carry out an aerial intervention.
  • Color-Coded Armies: During the Libyan uprising, the rebels adopted the pre-Gaddafi Libyan flag, whereas his supporters still used the Flag of the regime. Loyalist soldiers can be distinguished by the fact that they wear solid green cloth as turbans, scarves, armbands, etc.
    • On maps, loyalist-held territory was denoted as green while rebel territory was red.
  • Dead Guy on Display: His body was displayed in a freezer in Misrata after he was killed.
  • Decapitated Army: Double Subverted. About 3 months after his defeat, an uprising in the town of Bani Walid against that town's NTC authority began. Although reports initially said that it was a group of pro-Gaddafi fighters, it turned out to be a local tribal group.
  • Determinator: Through the 42 years he was in power, he was able to survive everything the Americans threw at him, and even to the end he fought on and refused to surrender to neither the NTC or to NATO. His loyalists in Sirte likewise: even though they were cornered to a tiny part of the city, they still refused to give up until the very end.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Just ask those Libyan rebels.
  • Due to the Dead: After being laid out for a few days, his body was given a proper Islamic burial (although in secret, for obvious reasons).
  • Elaborate Underground Base: His compound of Bab al-Aziziya contained an extensive network of tunnels and storerooms full of ammo and other supplies. The rebels hoped to find him there when they besieged and took over the base, but found nothing.
  • Elite Mooks: Besides his female bodyguards, there's also the infamous "Khamis Brigade" named after one of his sons.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: After losing Tripoli, there was no way he could have possibly regained the momentum in the war, but he kept fighting.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: Graphic pictures and video of his blood-soaked corpse spread all over news sites right after his death.
  • Full-Circle Revolution: Looks like it.
  • Get Back Here Boss: After the fall of Tripoli when he fled, the war effort to sweep up the remaining resistance from that point on was just as importantly an effort to chase down Gaddafi before he escaped/regrouped.
  • Glass Cannon: The loyalist town of Bani Walid wound up being this. After NTC forces pushed through the town's defenses, they managed to capture 95 percent of the town very quickly.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Even as his forces steadily continued losing the war, he continuing delivering these.
  • Have a Nice Death: Above the culvert where he was captured, the rebels wrote graffiti which roughly translates to "this is the home of Gaddafi, the rat. God is great!".
  • He Was Right There All Along: The rebels initially attacked Sirte to symbolically capture Gaddafi's hometown and finally connect the east and west coasts of Libya. It was only toward the end when the fighting became so uncharacteristically intense that the opposition realized someone important was in the city, initially suspecting his son Mutassim, who commanded the city's defense. Very few expected to capture Gaddafi himself.
  • Hired Guns: When he started suffering massive defections/desertions of his military's personnel, he didn't take the hint to give up, instead hiring Taureg and Sub-Saharan African fighters to replenish his numbers.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The rest of the world really got physically involved in the 2011 uprising after Gaddafi started threatening to blow passenger jets out of the sky if the UN didn't butt out, resulting other countries actively helping the rebels' attempt to bring him down.
    • Doubly so, since Libya has actually done this before.
    • He was reportedly fearful of military coups against him and deliberately kept his army weak to prevent this.
  • Human Shield: Each time during the war, when Gaddafi went out in public, he was surrounded by thousands of civilian supporters, serving as a human shield against bombings.
  • I Gave My Word: Unlike many dictators, he meant it when he said that he would never leave Libya, never surrender, and would die fighting.
  • Implausible Deniability: Repeatedly denied that demonstrations were happening in the streets and said that no one was against him.
  • Ironic Echo: Watch his February speech again and think of it from the perspective of the revolutionaries.
    • Gaddafi frequently called his opponents "rats". Guess where he was caught at last? A sewer. Also see Have a Nice Death.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: One theory is that the Colonel fled Tripoli in order to muster support around his hometown of Sirte and make a highly destructive Last Stand there.
  • Killed Off for Real: The only Middle Eastern dictator to die in the Arab Spring, so far.
  • Kill It with Fire: One of his many Kick the Dog moments during the war was to round up several dozen of his opponents in a cell and execute them with grenades, strictly For the Evulz. Warning: if you somehow decide you want to see images of it, they're decidedly High Octane Nightmare Fuel.
  • Last Villain Stand: After the brigade in charge of defending Tripoli surrendered without a fight, he was considered an Anticlimax Boss for a time, until his remnant made their stand in his hometown of Sirte, where they resisted the rebels for nearly a month. He was killed as the city fell.
    • The loyalists sure put up one helluva fight - according to That Other Wiki, the total number of rebel casualties is six times higher than that of the loyalists. And the loyalists were greatly outnumbered, too (1,000-5,000 vs. 16,000 rebels).
  • Motive Rant: A specialty of his, with emphasis on the word "rant".
  • Near Villain Victory: His forces were at the outskirts of Benghazi before the NATO airforce showed up.
  • Never My Fault: He and his followers in Libya refused to admit that Gaddafi had a lot of blame for the civil war, instead blaming it on al-Qaeda and claiming the rebels were all al-Qaeda members. On the other hand, a fringe left-wing organization called the Leading Light Communists blamed the whole thing on a giant Western conspiracy.
  • Noodle Implements: After the rebels claimed Tripoli, they found under its largest university a secret chamber which previously only Gaddafi and a select few associates had been allowed entry into. Among other things, it contained a bedroom, jacuzzi, and a complete gynaecological equipment setup.
  • Path of Most Resistance / Revealing Coverup: Making headways into Sirte with no sign of Gaddafi, the rebels begun speculating that he might have already left the country. And then they stumbled on a loyalist safehouse that put up a much tougher fight.
  • Pay Evil Unto Evil: His death is quite… well, see below.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: With his death and the subsequent collapse of his regime, the vast arsenal he had accumulated through his decades in power spread throughout North Africa. Among the new owners of such weapons include Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM) and the vast legions of Tuareg nomads who had fought in Gaddafi's army before taking their weapons and expertise home to fight for a homeland. This in turn has led to a coup in Mali, where the Tuareg had been fighting, due to lack of weapons for the Malian Army to resist them.
  • Rasputinian Death: The precise details are uncertain, but apparently this is how things went: his convoy was strafed by French warplanes, he was hit in the legs, he fled and was captured, and was shot at least two more times in the torso and head. It's not known if he was hit by stray fire or just executed.
  • Sinister Shades: Commonly photographed wearing them in his final years. Admittedly, he didn't do a particularly good job of looking sinister in them.
  • Villainous Breakdown / Sanity Slippage: Compare him as a small-time colonel to how he was as a dictator. Just when the world thought the guy couldn't get any crazier, he started ranting about the uprising against him by his own people being fueled by Zionist agents, imperialist foreign powers and LSD, while accusing the Western countries of orchestrating the whole thing in an insidious plot to destroy Libya's air conditioners.
    • This was just the tip of the iceberg for this trope. The more his power slipped, the more his sanity devolved. Many dictators get hit by this pretty hard when their power is threatened, and Gaddafi just fell significantly faster than most.
    • Of particular interest is the speech he gave while sitting in a broken car in a blown up building holding an umbrella, a large part of which was him commenting on the rain. No, we don't get it either.
    • After being deposed, he issued an epic rant which just screams this trope. In it he made three very conflicting points at once, including basically saying "fuck you" to Libya while encouraging them to rise up and rebel against the, well, rebels.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters / Black and Grey Morality : The whole damn war (since it's a civil war) wound up getting this treatment. Opinions agree that Gaddafi was a very evil guy, but on the subject of the rebels, opinions on whether or not the NTC rebels are, as the name implies, terrorists or freedom fighters are... divided. And let's not even talk about black migrants...

Gaddafi in fiction

Film

  • The Colonel is present at the terrorist meeting at the beginning of The Naked Gun, advocating the bombing of Washington and New York.
  • Similarly, he is also seen briefly arriving at the worlds' leaders meeting in Mafia!.

Literature

Web Original

  • Salon.com commissioned eight stories about how Gaddafi's final days might look like, each written by a different author.

Western Animation

  • Gaddafi was among several dictators that attended a pool party hosted by Stewie Griffin on an episode of Family Guy.
  • Parodied by The Simpsons. When Springfield Elementary attends a Model UN conference, Bart (representing Libya) wears sunglasses and a headdress reminiscent of Gaddafi's fashion style.
  • A Captain Ersatz of him was a dictator in Transformers Generation 1.

Notes

  1. Libya borders both Tunisia and Egypt
  2. It's a neologism based on the Arabic word for "republic", jumhuriyyah, which itself stands for "[government as a] public matter"
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