Rules of War
The misfortunes suffered by Muammar Gaddafi in Sirte on 20 October unfolded in a succession of confused online updates. A report of his capture in a firefight rapidly mutated into claims that crossfire somehow killed him as he was sped to hospital, or that his own bodyguards had shot him in the back. The fog of war was then pierced – or, more accurately, lit up – by a series of mobile phone videos. They show Gaddafi among his adversaries, dazed but alive. Slumped against a car, he wipes a livid head wound and stares bewildered at his bloody hand, before the seething crowd reduces him to a senseless pulp. Tyrant was thereby turned into victim, and the snuff movies of Sirte soon found their sequel in a memento mori in Misrata, when Libya’s victors triumphantly laid out his half-naked corpse for public viewing in one of the town’s meat refrigerators. Over a long weekend, sightseers trooped through by the thousand. It was four days before the fridge door closed, by which time visitors were wearing surgical masks to take their snapshots. Only then did the decomposing body get the burial it was due.