WHEN A DICTATOR has served a certain time in office, it becomes fashionable to ignore the less attractive aspects of his rule (arbitrary arrests, beatings, torture, crushing of all opposition - the usual roll-call of revolutionary exuberance) and regard him with a more benevolent eye. After thirty-four years spent frightening the life out of ordinary Libyans - flirting with international terrorism here, blowing up aeroplanes and discos there - Colonel Gaddafi appears to have reached that agreeable stage of life. Several billion well-placed dollars, the price of killing hundreds of innocent civilians on two airliners, have helped ease him back into the community of nations. 'You know, that Gaddafi's a bit of a character, isn't he?' goes the cry. 'Look how many American presidents he's seen off, and he's still in power. You have to admire him.' Well, no, you don't actually. The man is a dangerous criminal. Like his dictatorial brethren around the world, he has waged war on his own people.
Fidel Castro achieved cuddly-dictator status much earlier than Gaddafi. One reason for this is his greater number of years at the helm. The grand-daddy of Marxist revolutionaries, he seized power in Cuba in' 1959, a fill decade before the Libyan leader ousted King Idris. Another, more important explanation is that