Fiddling While Libya Burns?

Muammar Qaddafi, the Libyan chief of state, at...

Image via Wikipedia

Watching the events in Libya this week, it’s kind of interesting how journalists et al seemed to be searching for an appropriate ‘crazy imperator’ label to fit Qaddafi with. Shortly after his strange speech on Tuesday, Arab News picked the obvious:

Watching his TV speech to the Libyan people and the world on Tuesday night, no one could accuse Muammar Qaddafi of mere delusion. This was a bravura performance of insanity — and evil insanity at that. This was Qaddafi as the Roman Emperor Caligula or the Fatimid Caliph Hakim — even Adolf Hitler or Pol Pot.

At about the same time, Press TV (out of Iran … hmmmm) took the ‘other’ obvious choice:

The similarities between the recent actions of the Libyan dictator with Nero in the Great Fire of Rome suggest that the Libyan dictator is suffering from Caesar madness.

Nero Claudius Caesar, the fifth emperor of ancient Rome, burned down the city of Rome in the year 64 AD out of sheer madness; he finally committed suicide in the year 68 AD.

Currently, the people of Libya are faced with a complicated figure like Colonel Muammar Gaddafi who has brutally bombed public places and killed hundreds of his own countrymen.

Today, we read one of his own generals making the comparison a bit more ‘official’ in the National:

Colonel Muammar Qaddafi will resort to any means to remain in power, including the destruction of his own country, a general who defected from the Libyan army said Friday.

“Muammar Qaddafi is like Nero, who burnt down Rome. He will burn down his own country,” Major Gen Suleiman Mahmoud said in this opposition-held eastern city, where preparations were underway for retaliatory strikes by pro-regime forces as well as a possible march on the capital to unseat the Libyan leader.

The dire warning came as Col Qaddafi appeared late Friday in central Tripoli to rally supporters. Wearing a fur cap and sunglasses and speaking from the ramparts of the Red Castle, a historic fort overlooking Green Square, he told an estimated thousand people that they would “fight and win” in their defence of the country. He also said that, if necessary, weapons depots would be thrown open to arm his people for battle.

This afternoon (I think) Qaddafi made a speech and the Guardian’s ‘live’ news blog made this comment at one point:

There are no images of Gaddafi, just his disembodied voice on Al-Jazeera, adding to the surreal nature of the occasion. While his regime crumbles, he’s talking about kids taking pills. It really is like Nero fiddling while Rome burns.

Finally, the Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) seals it with a headline which doesn’t even have a Roman reference in the body of the editorial:

… which pretty much makes it official, I guess … Qaddafi is Nero … Libya is burning … but unlike Nero, I suspect his final words will be something like qualis carnifex pereo


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