There is one constant when a major world leader passes from the stage, either from old age or by violent means. When death takes a Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev, or an Anwar al-Sadat The New York Times runs one of their impressive news obituaries. The same is true today for Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. The article is written by Neil MacFarquhar, and it is a great two-page historical romp.
Once the news was released Thursday morning that Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi had died I knew there was a gem of a read waiting for this morning’s newspaper. I was not wrong.
At home, though, Libyans suffered under his dictates. He switched from the standard Muslim calendar to one marking the years since the Prophet Muhammad’s death, only to decide later that the birth year was a more auspicious place to start. Event organizers threw up their hands and reverted to the Western calendar. He also decided to rename the months. February was Lights. August was Hannibal.
Given the conceit that “popular committees” — and not Colonel Qaddafi himself — ran the country, everyone was required to attend committee sessions called at random once or twice a year to discuss an agenda “suggested” by the grand guide. Every single office — schools, government ministries, airlines, shops — had to shut for days, sometimes weeks. Scofflaws risked fines.
Colonel Qaddafi once declared that any money over $3,000 in anyone’s bank account was excessive and should revert to the state. Another time he lifted a ban on sport utility vehicles, then changed his mind a few months later, forcing everyone who had bought one to hide it.