October 20th, 2011
07:24 PM ET

Letters to the President #1004: 'Gadhafi falls'

Reporter's Note: President Obama spoke today about the death of the Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
Dear Mr. President,

Gadhafi is gone. Finally. Strange to say it, in a way, because he has been a fixture in the world for so very long, it seemed as if he would never actually be chased from power, let alone killed. I’m not thrilled about the gruesome images of his dead body that I’ve seen on TV all day, but then again, I suppose they were necessary. When someone has survived so many attempts by people to take his power, take his life, take the country back for the citizens, we might want to forgive their need for proof that he has finally fallen.

It reminds me of the death pictures of Nicolae Ceauşescu and his wife following the Romanian revolution. They were executed on Christmas Day, 1989. I remember how awful and stunning the images were at the time, and yet seen from the distance of a couple of decades, they now seem so simple; so matter of fact.

There the Communist President and his wife, Elena, are seated at a plain table before a military tribunal. Both are wearing winter coats as if the room is cold. He speaks and gestures with great energy and animation. She rests her head in her hand as if bored.

At one point he throws his hat onto the table in apparent disgust. Then both their voices rise as they stand and soldiers approach to tie them. You can speak any language, and yet clearly understand their struggles against the bonds, and her repeated cries, “No! No! No!” Then comes the bleak courtyard. Then the roar of gunfire and the blue blur of smoke. Then there is nothing but two old people slumped in pools of blood; bodies collapsed into those impossible positions that gravity would pull us all into were it not for the latent power of living muscles and tendons.

At the time that was news of great importance. What has proven more important over the years, however, is what happened next. The story of Romania, freed from its brutal leader, has not been perfect, but it has been decidedly better. Economic, cultural, and political growth have become part of the national future; the notion of an autocratic thug ruling with an iron fist, a steadily fading part of the past.

So what will happen in Libya? No one knows for sure. But certainly the story now is not about the one who died, but rather those who live on, and what they will do with their new freedom.


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Filed under: Letters to the President • Opinion • President Barack Obama • T1 • Tom Foreman
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