Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, whose relevance on the world stage has slipped so badly he is reduced to hosting such luminaries as Louis Farrakhan, has nonetheless been quite busy this year.
In January he executed six military officers and two civilians linked to a 1993 coup attempt. Of course the good colonel never admits that there is any opposition to his 29-year rule, so the defendants were convicted of spying for the CIA. The army men were shot by firing squad, the civilians hanged.On June 2 Gadhafi reportedly escaped yet another assassination attempt when armed men opened fire on his motorcade as it was traveling the coast road to Egypt. One of his female bodyguards was killed and Gadhafi suffered a hurt elbow.
JANA, the official Libyan news agency, called the report "a flood of lies and cheap allegations." But Gadhafi's visit to Egypt was mysteriously postponed, then canceled with the explanation that he had "tonsillitis." Meanwhile, Libyan dissidents reported that 100 Islamic fundamentalists were rounded up in eastern Libya, where the attack occurred.
The last previously known attempt to kill Gadhafi was in December 1996, when a grenade hidden inside a pomegranate was thrown at him. He was unhurt.
Although Gadhafi professes to be a devout Muslim, he has outraged fundamentalists by surrounding himself with Amazonian bodyguards and expressing support for women's rights. Guerrilla groups such as Islamic Jihad and "The Martyrs" took up arms six years ago and are growing stronger despite brutal attempts to put them down.
Gadhafi also is opposed by the Warfallah tribe, which constitutes an important part of the army and security services and was responsible for the 1993 coup attempt. And many ordinary Libyans are fed up with the poor state of the economy and Libya's continued isolation from the civilized world, including a ban on air travel.
Despite $7 billion a year in oil revenues for a country of just 5 million people, store shelves are empty and civil servants go unpaid for months at a time. International sanctions remain in force because of Gadhafi's refusal to turn over two men suspected of bombing Pan American Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988.
The combination of armed resistance, economic malaise and social discontent would faze any normal ruler. But Gadhafi is not normal, and his sons have not helped.
Saadi, Mohammed and Ali Gadhafi are hugely resented for their haughty demeanors and extravagant lifestyles while the rest of the populace has to tighten their belts. Saadi, who sponsors a soccer team, is particularly despised for ordering his bodyguards to open fire on supporters of a rival team last year. The toll: eight dead and 39 wounded.
When he is not dodging assassins, Gadhafi has taken to giving the world environmental advice. Yes, Virginia, the man once accused of sponsoring international terrorism is now preoccupied with saving the planet.
In April, Gadhafi published a book of short stories titled "Escape to Hell," urging all of us to return to Mother Nature. It revealed, among other things, that Libya's mad colonel believes mental illness can be cured with an herb and has a fondness for artichokes.
Gadhafi has antagonized many former allies by periodically expelling all foreign businessmen or terrorizing them with his bizarre "purification" campaigns.
Consistent only in his inconsistency, Gadhafi is a master at making enemies of friends.