“All glory is fleeting,” thus sayeth the Roman Emperors returning from their conquests. If you believe the Hollywood version of “Patton,” that is. Last week, yet another tyrannical despot learned that lesson the hard way — along with a more important lesson, humans, even despots, are mortal. Everybody dies.
It is always interesting to observe the behavior of these bullies in their final moments. None seem particularly brave when they have to face their enemies without benefit of the goons they have hired to protect them. Hitler, for instance, took the coward's way out and committed suicide, once he realized his demise was imminent.
Saddam Hussein was taken alive, hiding like a rat in a spider hole. It is interesting that he had almost a million dollars in cash with him. Dollars, mind you -- not Euros. He was also armed, but chose not to shoot it out with the American soldier who took him prisoner. It is reported that he identified himself as "Saddam Hussein, president of Iraq" and then offered to negotiate.
It has also been reported -- or at least rumored -- that the soldier who pulled him out of the hole responded, "I am from the United States Army. President Bush sends his regards -- and you are under arrest, you SOB." I have no idea if that is true, but I hope it is.
Saddam terrorized millions of people and was responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of others, but in the end he was just another two-bit dictator with a hood over his head and a rope around his neck. He didn't look particularly powerful, wealthy or intimidating standing on the gallows.
Osama bin Laden looked fearless during his hate-filled rants aired so frequently over the Al-Jazeera television network. Some reports say he tried to hide behind a woman when Navy Seals infiltrated his lair last May. When they dumped his body in the ocean, I don't think they wrapped up any of his great wealth in the burial shroud.
And now Moammar Gadhafi is dead. Another dictator bites the dust, and like most of his counterparts throughout history, he did not go quietly into the dark night of death. He was captured, appropriately enough, hiding in a sewer, in his hometown of Sirte. Ironically he was armed with a golden gun. He reportedly pleaded for his life, begging his captors not to shoot him. He kept insisting that the actions of his captors were in violation of Islam law. He asked them, "Don't you know right from wrong?"
Now that's ironic.
In the end, the Libyan rebels denied Gadhafi the mercy he had denied so many thousands of people during his 42-year reign of terror. His pleadings fell on deaf ears and he was shot and his body dragged through the streets and paraded through nearby towns. Today, there is one less bad guy in the world. Unfortunately, there are plenty of others ready to step in and fill the void he leaves behind.
I heard the news about Gadhafi's death the same way I hear everything these days. I got a text. Honesty compels me to admit that I wasn't filled with jubilation, as I was when I heard that Saddam Hussein had been found or that Bin Laden had been killed. Those revelations came as more of a surprise. It was a foregone conclusion that Moammar's days were numbered, and it was a matter of "when" not "if" he would be found.
Do you want to know, truthfully, what my first thoughts were? The very first thing that came to mind was Ronald Reagan and his failed attempt to rid the world of Gadhafi in 1986. I don't know how things work where The Gipper is spending eternity, but I hope President Reagan is aware of what happened. Maybe he got to have a handful of jelly beans to celebrate.
Then I thought about the innocent souls who died at Gadhafi's hands aboard that airliner that exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988.
And then I thought about the late great Atlanta Constitution columnist and Southern icon, Lewis Grizzard. Back in 1986, Grizzard recorded a hilarious standup bit about Gadhafi in which he explained what the Libyan dictator's name really meant. According to Grizzard it means "do-do pot."
Grizzard also explained why Gadhafi was in such a perpetual foul mood. He just spent too much time, according to Lewis, with sand in his under-drawers. I don't know how Lewis celebrated the news of Moammar's demise, but I bet he toasted the occasion with something a little stronger than jelly beans.
Gadhafi terrorized much of the world for more than four decades and accumulated a vast amount of ill-gotten wealth. Today he isn't scary at all and all of his worldly wealth was left behind.
"All glory is fleeting."
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.