Gaddafi's weird and wasteful rule ends without a trial

  • 20 October 2011
  • From the section Africa
Media captionJohn Simpson looks back at the life of a man who "remained a one-off, an oddball right until the end"

Colonel Gaddafi was such a weird figure, so eccentric that it sometimes obscured the serious unpleasantness of the regime which he ran for 42 years.

In person, he could often be quite pleasant - even people who broke with him agree on that. But he was very odd and seemed to be half amused and half distracted when he talked to you.

In one interview I did with him, he threw up his head and laughed at each of my questions. In another, he broke wind very audibly throughout the 40-minute recording session, without making the slightest effort to hide it.

His regime was as weird as he was. For some years, he decided that shops were a nest of exploiters and abolished them. Many people came close to starvation before he relented.

The worst thing about his rule, aside that is from the appalling secret police, was the corruption which Libya's immense oil riches spawned. Every Libyan could have been rich.

Instead Col Gaddafi wasted the money on his often-crazy projects and allowed his cronies to build enormous fortunes. Hence, of course, the revolution which began on 17 February.

Fallen dictators

So Col Gaddafi, the last remaining dictator from the 1960s, has joined the other dictators of the Middle East who have fallen. Saddam Hussein, Ben Ali of Tunisia, Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, who loathed Col Gaddafi.

Media captionIn 1979 John Simpson travelled to Libya to speak to Gaddafi 10 years after the Colonel brought his Green Revolution movement to the country.

One or two are left, including Bashar al-Assad in Syria, who was sensible and calm and until recently has been pretty moderate - the news from Libya will have really worried him.

When Saddam Hussein was found, by an American soldier down his spider hole, he was brought out and put on trial.

After Col Gaddafi was found in the concrete pipe, someone shot him.

There'll be no trial, no embarrassing revelations, no involuntary sympathy for him, as there was with Saddam - 42 years of pain and deprivation end here.