Today’s news is that the Libyan dictator Muhammar Gaddafi was allegedly killed in a gun battle in his birthplace, Sirte, by rebels supported by NATO.
While the White House didn’t comment on the rumor yet, the Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi used the Latin saying quoted in the title, which literally translates to “Thus passes the glory of the world”.
Using Facebook’s lingo, the status of the relationship between Italy and Libya has always been “complicated”, and it’s been so for a very long time.
In the 1910s, in fact, the Giolitti government occupied at the time Ottoman territories of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica and created a new colonial state by the name of “Italian Libya”, a possession that was consolidated and expanded during the dictatorship of Mussolini.
In 1947, at the end of WWII, Italy had to give up all of her colonies, which lead to disorders and instability until Gaddafi’s coup in 1969, when the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya was established.
“Jamahiriya” means “massocracy”, a new form of socialist government of the masses as Gaddafi envisioned it in the Green Book, the Libyan constitution and revolutionary gospel, a collection of the ideological foundations for the military coup and for the new state of Libya.
After Gaddafi seized the power, the 20,000 Italians of Libya were forced to leave the country and all their possessions were confiscated and nationalized.
Berlusconi, who once insisted in reinforcing the Italian-Libyan partnership and cooperation on economic and illegal immigration-related issues (to the point that Gaddafi was welcomed in Rome and allowed to pitch his Berber tent in Villa Pamphili park, and to meet with 500 Italian girls to motivate them to convert to Islam), didn’t have a nice day when a turnaround on Libya was required by the circumstances, as the tensions in the country escalated and the international community was ready to take a violent stance against Gaddafi.
At the end of July, indiscretions on Italian newspapers circulated about a very worried Berlusconi declaring that reliable sources had informed him that Gaddafi was seeking revenge and wanted him dead.
Berlusconi readily issued a denial, but less than a month later he met with the Head of the Libyan rebel cabinet Mahmoud Jibril, expressing his hope for a successful transition to democracy and offering that Italy releases 350 million Euro ($505 million) in frozen Libyan assets to help the cause.
Sic transit gloria mundi, and thus passes trouble too.
Wise journalist Oriana Fallaci, who interviewed Gaddafi in 1979, commented on the Libyan dictator in her trademark scathing and straightforward style at the Charlie Rose show:
Read a summary of Fallaci’s interview to Gaddafi here.