Statement on the Death of Moammar Qaddafi

Rudy deLeon and Peter Juul comment on the death of the Libyan dictator and the tough road ahead for the country as it transitions.

Former Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi is seen during the Arab Summit in Damascus, Syria, March 29, 2008. (AP/Hussein Malla)
Former Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi is seen during the Arab Summit in Damascus, Syria, March 29, 2008. (AP/Hussein Malla)

Moammar Qaddafi’s demise today represents a measure of justice for the countless individuals he and his regime terrorized in Libya and around the world during his 40-year rule.

Qaddafi brutalized the Libyan people for decades, establishing a tyrannical police state and cult of personality based on his bizarre political ideology. His domestic reign of terror even extended abroad as he assassinated Libyan dissidents in Europe, the United States, and the Middle East.

But Qaddafi sowed terror around the world, too, with his regime directly implicated in deadly terrorist attacks like the Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 that killed 270 people, and the bombing of UTA Flight 772 in 1989 that killed 170. He also sponsored a variety of terrorist groups including the Irish Republican Army, the Red Army Faction, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, providing them with safe haven, training, and weapons.

Qaddafi’s malign international influence wasn’t limited to terrorism, though. A perennial bad neighbor, Qaddafi sowed death and destruction across Africa, fighting wars with Egypt and Chad in the 1970s and 1980s and supporting war criminals Charles Taylor in Liberia and Foday Sankoh in Sierra Leone as they waged vicious wars against their own people in the 1990s and 2000s.

Moammar Qaddafi leaves behind a bloody legacy of murder and chaos from Tripoli to Lockerbie and Benghazi to Freetown. His death creates hope for a truly new Libya that can be responsive to its people and responsible in the world. But it won’t be easy. Qaddafi may be dead but the hard work of transition is just beginning, and the people of Libya and the international community face enormous challenges in ensuring the aspirations of the Libyan people become a reality.

Rudy deLeon is Senior Vice President for National Security and International Policy and Peter Juul is a Policy Analyst at American Progress.

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Rudy deLeon

Senior Fellow

Peter Juul

Former Senior Policy Analyst