An Arab Spring first sprung late last year, when Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor, set himself on fire to protest the humiliation heaped upon him by government officials.
Protests flared across Tunisia afterwards, toppling the local tinpot dictator and inspiring people in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and many other countries to take to the streets against their governments.
While there were several Big Moments from the Arab Spring this year - think the Egyptians occupying Tahrir Square and Hosni Mubarak finally giving in to protesters - the moment The Punch believes said the most about the promise, pitfalls and pragmatism of the Arab Spring was the ousting and killing of the “Mad Dog of the Middle East”, Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
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It is easy to feel repulsed by the gruesome details of Colonel Gaddafi’s final moments as they continue to flood the airwaves in the wake of his burial. Yet it is also easy to identify sloppy moral relativism when it creeps into ethical public discourse.
It is easier still to ignore it when you see it in print. For a change, I thought I might not let a recent example of this slide. There were important operational and ethical differences between the deaths of Osama bin Laden and Colonel Gaddafi. The prospect of peacefully arresting and extracting a death-seeking jihadist barricaded in a fortified compound was always going to be slim.
This situation stands in contrast to the one faced by the militarised and murderous rebel mob who callously refused the surrender of a wounded and shaken 69-year-old armed only with a comically bling ‘golden pistol’ in a drain pipe in broad daylight.
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World leaders and of course, many Libyans, have celebrated the death of Colonel Gaddafi. Many suffered under his brutal regime. There is no doubt Gaddafi was a tyrant and the head of a government known for torture and mass killings of dissidents.
He was either complicit or directly aware of major human rights abuses happening under his rule. He also took power of a country without the mandate of his people. He was eccentric and unpredictable and many world leaders accepted him and treated him as their equal, yet none truly admired the man. His death was a cathartic moment for many.
But even though he was a mass murderer and rightly despised, his death should not have been treated in the undignified manner that we saw again and again on our screens.
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While the world is rightly celebrating the death of the tyrant Gaddafi today, here in the chicken coop the mood is more sombre. Across the world, millions of my fellow hens continue to be slaughtered daily in the name of another colonel.
These two colonels lived different lives, on different continents, in different eras. But the hens and I had a scratch around in the dirt today, and we came up with a few similarities. Begeeeeerrrrk!
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The situation in Libya is constantly changing. For the latest updates see news.com.au.
It is hard to agree with the Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd on many things these days, but his efforts to effect a no-fly zone over Libya three weeks ago struck a controversial, but important, note. A pity, then, that the usual international politics surrounding the Western alliance and the United Nations bogged down the process to the point that the rebels in Libya were on their last legs when the UN Security Council vote was taken on the matter.
Centre after centre of opposition were lost to Gaddafi’s reorganised forces, and his family-led offensives bit into what seemed like a promising revolutionary movement late last month.
The Colonel is a seasoned campaigner both within Libya itself, and in global politics. Ronald Reagan tried to take him out by a surprise missile attack on his palace in 1986. The missiles didn’t harm him, but were said to have killed an adopted daughter and some other members of his extended household. He reportedly took to spending his nights in shifting tents from then on, blending traditional culture (he was born in a tent) with forms of security which have been most effective.
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What next in Libya? The initial demonstration of strength we saw yesterday is really just the beginning. (Follow live updates here.)
As US Defence Secretary Gates has rightly observed “a no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defences”. This underscores the inevitability of escalation for which a no-fly zone has set the scene, one way or another.
Even if Gaddafi, out of character, orders his aircraft or ground installations not to engage the foreign forces from here on, or they revolt out of fear or relief, that is not the end of it.
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So Kevin Rudd reckons he’s a better bet to captain the Brisbane Broncos than run for Prime Minister again.
Julia Gillard, who once laughed off her Lodge aspirations by claiming she was more chance to play for the Western Bulldogs, could be forgiven for taking that as a declaration of war.
From earthquakes and tsunamis to violent insurrection in the Middle East, 2011 has borne witness to enormous devastation – which, while tragic for those involved – has certainly enabled Rudd as Foreign Minister to suddenly become more ubiquitous on Australian television than the Daddo brothers.
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The internet is emerging as one of the big heroes of the pro-democracy, anti-despot movement in the Middle East.
It’s regarded as being right up there with that courageous Gaddafi impersonator who’s been suggesting absent members of the Libyan army are simply retreating to rest and relax.
Thanks to the cybersphere, Arabic members of generation TXT are using mobile phone cameras to film political violence and then uploading the footage online.
This, in turn, is leading to more civilian fury and more amateur surveillance.
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Like every other family values-oriented Australian I have been deeply impressed this week by Charlie Sheen’s commitment to his children and his efforts to avenge their removal from his custody by removing their mother’s teeth.
You rarely get that sort of passionate parenting these days.
As many people will know, Sheen’s two-year-old twins were placed in the care of his ex-wife Brooke Mueller and taken away from the house he shares with two porn stars.
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Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, visiting Egypt this week, tweeted that it was “inspiring standing in Tahrir Square with young people who stood up for democracy in Egypt”.
Mr Rudd’s sentiments are shared across the world. It’s very hard not to be inspired by the way in which the Egyptian people have claimed control of their own future. Just a month ago, even as pressure on Hosni Mubarak mounted, very few people would have predicted such a speedy and relatively smooth transition of power.
Certainly the Egyptian example has inspired similar uprisings against neighbouring dictators, most notably Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. However, those who expect a similarly speedy and successful resolution of the conflict in that country are likely to be shocked by what is about to unfold in Libya.
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So now the bastard bombs his own people to cling to power. But who didn’t already know that Libya’s Moamar Gaddafi was a terrorist and a despot?
The United States sure did.
US sanctions - and its toppling of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein - so terrified Gaddafi in 2003 that he surrendered his secret nuclear weapons program to avoid being America’s next target.
But what did the United Nations do about this man whose regime has sponsored terrorists, blown up a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, bombed a Berlin disco, armed the IRA, looted Libya’s national wealth, rewarded Holocaust-deniers, jailed dissenters and ruled by fear since Gaddafi, a colonel, seized power in a coup more than 41 years go?
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