No Comment — March 2, 2011, 4:27 pm

Qaddafi’s Dilemma

The Arab Revolution of 2011, still in progress, started in Tunisia, continued to Egypt, and is now being played out in Libya, the nation that separates them. Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak were both dislodged after mass popular uprisings when the military made clear it could no longer support them. But Libya’s Muammar el-Qaddafi had developed an eccentric governance style: a vicious, dictatorial inner regime was cloaked in the illusion of a people’s democracy with political power diffused into local committees. Libya’s military was also relatively weak, probably because Colonel Qaddafi, who used a military coup to come to power, was determined not to see that example repeated. He built a private security apparatus to offset it, controlled tightly by himself and his sons, and he made heavy use of foreign mercenaries, loyal to him and his payroll. All of this has set the stage for a bloody endgame. Qaddafi’s son Saif has pledged that the family will “live and die in Libya.” It appears that Qaddafi directed or approved the use of anti-aircraft guns and mortars against peaceful demonstrators. Defecting pilots and the captains of Libyan naval vessels have reportedly claimed that he directed them to bomb or shell cities in the hands of the rebels. His own justice minister has deserted him and revealed that Qaddafi personally ordered the Lockerbie bombing.

Now Qaddafi is making history in more ways. He is the first sitting head of state to be subject to asset freeze orders throughout the world in peacetime. And he is the first sitting head of state to be referred to the International Criminal Court for investigation and prosecution for likely crimes against humanity by unanimous vote in the Security Council. He seems likely to spend his final hours deserted by nearly everyone, alone in a bunker.

Past antics leave Qaddafi little hope for refuge. Saudi Arabia, a destination of choice for deposed dictators in the Arab world, was fairly generous when it came to security arrangements, and the Saudis slammed a tight door in the face of the International Criminal Court. But Qaddafi would never be welcome in Saudi Arabia, because he has been convincingly tied to a plot to assassinate then-Crown Prince (now King) Abdullah. Lebanon may also be inhospitable. A prominent Lebanese imam, Musa Sadr, went to visit Qaddafi in 1978 in his palace in Tripoli, together with two colleagues. The three were never seen or heard from again, and now a Libyan colonel who has gone over to the opposition states that they were shot on Qaddafi’s orders. Other regimes in the Arab world probably now view Qaddafi as radioactive—his violence in suppressing the Libyan uprising might spark similar demonstrations in any state that shelters him.

Qaddafi has friends in Latin America. Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega stood up for him when the troubles in Libya began, and British foreign minister William Hague was quick to accept rumors that Qaddafi was fleeing to shelter with his equally eccentric friend in Caracas. But both Chávez and Ortega drew a storm of ridicule from domestic opposition over their embrace of a man with so much blood on his hands. A Venezuelan voice once raised aggressively in Qaddafi’s defense was, by Monday, calling on Qaddafi to begin negotiating with his domestic rivals. It is increasingly difficult to see how either of these governments could give Qaddafi refuge.

That leaves a handful of outliers as candidates for asylum. Alexander Lukashenko’s Belarus, which now shelters deposed Kyrgyz dictator Kurmanbek Bakiyev, appears to have slipped a vital shipment of arms to Qaddafi just as the meltdown began. Lukashenko has shown little hesitancy about incurring the wrath of the international community in the past, but then “Luka,” as his people call him, is just as mercurial and violent as Qaddafi himself—a fact which should give the Libyan some pause. And then there are Qaddafi’s African client states, such as Burkina Faso, Chad, and Zimbabwe. They have taken Libyan money in the past and have broadly supported Qaddafi’s initiatives in the Organization of African Unity. They might well be willing to play host to Qaddafi (or more precisely, his money), but then none of these states is either stable or particularly hospitable–and Qaddafi’s billions are quickly being quarantined by international asset freeze orders.

Much as Qaddafi’s posture may be driven by his own failure to appreciate the depth and determination of his domestic opposition, it is also the product of forty years of wanton and at times irrational violence that made him a pariah among world leaders. Qaddafi is cornered. He has no place to run. And his end may well serve as a cautionary tale for future despots and human-rights violators.

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

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 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

“Big, fat zero, unfortunately,” Degen said, making a 0 with her fingers. The last doctor who provided abortions in Rapid City retired in 1986, three years before Ashley was born.

The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

In the exam room, she perched on the table with her feet crossed at the ankles, her blond hair brushing the back of her pink hospital gown. “I don’t know what’s available for me here,” she told her doctor, Katherine Degen, who sat facing her on a stool. “I figured nothing.”

 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

“Big, fat zero, unfortunately,” Degen said, making a 0 with her fingers. The last doctor who provided abortions in Rapid City retired in 1986, three years before Ashley was born.

The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

It would be too difficult to attend school as a single mother of two, Ashley knew. She had made an appointment for three weeks from now at the nearest abortion clinic, in Billings, Montana, 318 miles away. But just a week and a half ago, her husband had said he wanted to get back together and offered to raise the child as his own. Was it a sign that she was meant to continue the pregnancy? As a rule, Ashley approached her problems with resolve. She was capable and tough; she liked shooting guns and lifting weights. She kept track of her stats and checked off her goals as she achieved them one by one. Yet the dilemma before her had shaken her confidence. She leaned back and turned to watch the ultrasound screen. The black-and-white image danced. A sharp, fast thumping emerged from the machine. As Degen removed the wand, Ashley wiped the corner of her eye.

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"She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. 'Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.'"
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