Be careful what you wish for, Moammar Gadhafi.
No sooner had the 41-year dictator and savant of the "Isratine" Mideast peace plan encouraged the Palestinians to go all Egypt on the Israelis -- "this is a time of popular revolutions," he said while egging on a revolt -- than his own people caught the whiff of freedom from the country's flanking neighbors Tunisia and Egypt. But whereas the scores of Egyptians who filled Tahrir Square in the 18-day effort to oust now-former President Hosni Mubarak found an ally in the country's much-respected military, Libyans brave enough to take to the streets in unprecedented public protest of the Jamahiriya are being ruthlessly slain by state forces. From the BBC (with disturbing video):
"Libyan troops have opened fire with machine-guns and large-calibre weapons on anti-government protesters in the second city Benghazi, witnesses say.
An unknown number of people, including children, are said to have been killed.
Witnesses described scenes of chaos as snipers shot from the roofs of buildings and demonstrators fought back against troops on the ground.
A doctor at a local hospital said he and his colleagues were treating hundreds of injured protesters.
Correspondents say Benghazi and another eastern city, al-Bayda, appear to be out of government control.
But there have been no reports of major protests in the capital Tripoli."
Instead, green-flag, Green Book-waving loyalists to Gadhafi held much-covered demonstrations (eh, of their own free will?) as the harrowing videos of crackdowns on the opposition eked their way onto the Internet. Reuters reports that "dozens" of protesters were killed by government forces in Benghazi. And the Guardian reports that state-run media (aka their only media) warned protesters that they faced "suicide" at the hands of the forces that would "violently and thunderously respond."
Like with the mullahocracy in Iran, the power of the people and revolutionary spirit in Egypt was all well and good -- Tehran even glowingly compared it to the 1979 Islamic Revolution -- until those craving democracy hit the streets in their own countries. Gadhafi may be less the globally feared strongman of the 1980s and more of a mockable eccentric these days (take a gander at his website), but the regime that has reached for global acceptance in recent years by ditching its nuclear weapons and compensating the victims of Pan Am Flight 103 is showing that its same colors are still there. The world is getting a chilling show of how Gadhafi has kept an iron grip on power for more than four decades.
(Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)