This isn’t the way it was supposed to be. Western backers of the Libyan uprising against dictator Muammar Gaddafi four years ago imagined that with him out of the way the door would be open for some sort of democracy or, at least, some serious respect for human rights.
To be sure, the final demise of Gaddafi himself was a gruesome dénouement. His captors dragged him dazed and bloodied from a desert culvert west of the Libyan town of Sirte and killed him with ferocious violence. Initially the revolutionary victors lied about the tyrant’s fate, claiming he had died from injuries sustained in a firefight, but videos emerged that showed him partially stripped, beaten by rebels and stabbed or sodomized with a bayonet or stick in the rear before he was shot.
Western backers of the uprising tut-tutted a bit, but the country’s new leaders quickly reassured them this was just a sad misstep; the new Libya would observe human rights meticulously and could be trusted to hold fair trials. There could be no comparison with Gaddafi’s four-decade-long republic of fear, where torture was a fine art used with maniacal zeal on liberal and Islamist activists alike—or anyone, for that matter, disliked by “The Family.”