The late US President Ronald Reagan once described Colonel Muammar Gaddafi as “the mad dog of the Middle East.” Gaddafi’s theatrical and rambling speech on Tuesday, in the minds of many, carried echoes of the nickname Reagan gave him.
Gaddafi’s address may have been intended to instill fear among his opponents, but the Libyan people show no sign of stopping their protests.
In the speech, Gaddafi declared he would die a martyr in Libya, and he threatened to purge opponents “house by house” and “inch by inch.”
“The Libyan people are with me,” he said, exhorting his supporters to “Capture these rats, these terrorists [anti-government demonstrators]!”
French journalist Christian Mallard claims to have to inside information on the state of the Libyan leader’s health. He says Gaddafi is seriously ill but warns that the West should not underestimate him.
The journalist for France 3 television said: “I think we should take his threats seriously. Gaddafi is unpredictable.” Mallard said a Libyan diplomat had told him that Gaddafi “takes a number of chemical products, and is lucid for only a few hours a day.”
Despite relatively recently having appeared to make peace with the West, Gaddafi’s latest televised performance have been broadly construed to indicate that he remains as dangerous as ever.
He said on Tuesday he had “not yet ordered the use of force”, and he warned: “When I do, everything will burn!”
A number of high-profile ministers and diplomats have already defected from Gaddafi’s side, and there are reports that members of the armed forces are disobeying orders.
Many analysts believe it is only a matter of time before Gaddafi leaves power, either by force or of his own accord, though there is also his own reference to becoming “a martyr”.