Friday, 14 June 2013

Dictators Follies

One of the stranger aspects of a dictators fall (if the fall is absolute), are what happens to their idiocentricities and follies after the inevitable fall from power of them or their descendants.

Chairman Mao for example banned real pets as symbols of “bourgeois decadence”. Under his rule dogs were killed, hidden, or even smuggled out of the country. Cats were allowed, but only as they killed rats and mice, and therefore were in balance with his "four pests" campaign. The idea of this campaign was to eradicate rats, flies, mosquitoes, and sparrows .... but as with most things under Maoism, it all backfired when the extermination of the sparrows upset the ecological balance, and enabled crop-eating insects to proliferate, which helped contribute to the great famines that killed 70 million Chinese.
Hitler Planned The Volk Halle As A Show Piece

Hitler had his architect Albert Speer plan tremendous buildings (in size not taste), for the Berlin he wanted to be the capital of the '1000 year Reich' - they had only built a few of the buildings towards this vision - but the centre piece of this plan was to be a domed hall so vast, that it would allow clouds to form inside - it would have been visible for miles and miles, and required the flattening of vast swathes of Berlin. The 'Volk Halle' or 'Peoples Hall' would have been a wonder of the world - well in size.

Ceausescu Built This Monolithic Monstrosity

Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania, famously bulldozed hundreds of rural villages at virtually a whim, and then built the 'House of the People' in Bucharest. A building, so vast that famously nobody actually knows how many rooms there are inside. Some suggest there are 2,500, while others put the figure closer to 3,000 - its also rumoured to have tunnels wide enough to run army tanks through them, under the floors. The construction of this building and realisation of a dictators megalomania, involved the demolition of more than one fifth of the centre of Bucharest - a city formerly known as the Paris of the Balkans.

Even after his execution, Ceausescu's Chambers dominates the city and is a massive (in every sense of the term), drain on the country's limited resources and a constant headache to its rulers. After all what do you do with a palace that is the second largest administrative building in the world (after the Pentagon), when you are a small poor country in Europe?

Saddam's 'Hands of Victory'

Saddam Hussein (before the first of the Iraq wars), famously had many buildings built and created, in honour of himself - for example the hands with swords, that crossed the main highway in to Baghdad, were said to be modelled on his own. Of course little still stands of his buildings as the bombings, wars, and general decay since he fell, has destroyed the 'legacy' he hoped to leave the country he had ruled.

The Two Kims

North Korea is a whole state built to sustain the worship and adoration of a communist family dynasty of 'great, glorious' or otherwise entitled 'leaders' - and all buildings reflect this simple fact. Currently the demi-gods latest incarnation in the form of the 3rd generation of Kim iL 'demigod' is ensconced on the throne ..... but nothing lasts forever, and at some point this regime will fall and probably so will all the buildings of aggrandisement that the family have put up to themselves.

Turkmenbashi, chief of the Turkmens

Turkmenbashi, chief of the Turkmens - ruler of Turkmenistan produced a hundred building follies in a personality cult that could stand its own with the best of the worst .....  perhaps the best of these was the towering statue of the great man revolving with the sun on the capital's main square, but he also built palaces and massive waterfalls, in a manner that had no equal outside North Korea or Iraq.

But perhaps the strangest of these dictators folly's was the one featuring not buildings, but people - the North Koreans may have women border guards in high heels, but what about Gaddafi and his 'Amazon' guards?

Gadaffi's 'Amazon Guards'

The body guard group was formed in the early 1980s, shortly after Gaddafi 'officially' resigned as Libyan head of state in favour of some grandiose 'great leader' style title. It was probably about the time that he started sporting opera style uniforms with cardboard shoulder pads - for the record he was now called "Brotherly Leader and Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya". Apparently Gaddafi claimed that having a cadre of faithful women body guards was a good idea, because he believed that  'an Arab gunman would have difficulty firing at women' ..... a rather laughable idea.

Now given that Gaddafi and his own followers employed the tactics of the rape and murder of women as a part of the regimes civilian controls, its hard to believe that he seriously thought this, so a better explanation is that, along with his face lifts and bad hair dye jobs, he, like a lot of Arab males, seriously believed that young women were:

(a) fascinated by older Arab men, and
(b) that women could be used for sex as they wanted.

Certainly after his demise, many of the women who had been in the unit, claimed to have been regularly raped by him, his sons, and other high up cronies. Oddly part of the training was a requirement to take an 'oath of chastity'. In a deeply conservative Muslim country like Libya, where girls are not allowed sex outside marriage, its a strange thing to make them swear on oath on .. it gave them a nickname of "The Revolutionary Nuns", but was probably only to act as cover for the abuse being performed by Gaddafi and his sons. .

So what happened to this group of 'toy soldiers?'

Well sadly for them, such was the hatred of the regime, that many of the girls have since been hunted down and killed. Most have been tortured, beaten or raped to death, their bodies have turned up all over the country. I know that some of them did terrible things to people, but I can't help suspecting that most of this was under duress themselves, with some of these Amazonian Guards also claiming that they were forced to execute rebels, or be killed themselves.

They were probably as much victims as anyone else in that country, but as a little footnote in history, they illustrate the folly of tying your fortunes to that of a dictator.


  1. Both Caligula and Nero created large statues and buildings to commemorate themselves. They were also toppled after their fall from power.

    Theres nothing new under the sun.

    1. There's nothing new under the sun ..... The greater the paranoia, the more likely to treat pets as confidantes

  2. Quite a tale about those Amazon guards. I agree that they are just a little footnote, but I can't help but feel a little sorry for their terrible fate. They were only young girls after all.


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