Moammar Gadhafi: 'Mad Dog of the Middle East' No More

VIDEO: ABCs Jim Sciutto looks back at the long rule of the eccentric dictator.
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Moammar Gadhafi is watching his 42-year reign crumble from an unknown location, a demise the flamboynat despot likely believed would come at the hands of a foreign aggressor, not his own people.

Gadhafi came to power in a bloodless coup in 1969 as the 27-year-old captain who deposed a king. He fancied himself the Arab world's answer to Mao or Castro, vowing to bring "Islamic socialism" to Libya and proclaimed Libya a "Jamahiriya," an Arabic word meaning "republic of the masses."

"He aspired to create an ideal state," North African analyst Saad Djebbar of Cambridge University told the Associated Press. "He ended up without any components of a normal state. The 'people's power' was the most useless system in the world, turning revolutionaries into a force of wealth-accumulators."

Gadhafi's eight children and his wife, Safia, lived a life of luxury that included lavish parties, extravagant trips and opulent gifts. Many of his sons held government positions; Hannibal was head of Libya's maritime transport company; Saadi was special forces commander and in charge of Libya's soccer federation; Mohammed was Libya's Olympic chief.

Gadhafi's daughter, Aisha, a lawyer, helped defend Saddam Hussein during the trial that resulted in his hanging, and it is believed Gadhafi's son, Seif al-Islam, was being groomed to succeed his father.

There are reports that Saif al-Islam, Saadi and Mohammed are all in the custody of rebel forces, while their father, a man known as much for his eccentricities as his policies, tries to avoid capture.

Gadhafi's singularity begins with his name, which has more than 30 commonly used spellings and touches virtually all aspects of his daily life. His fashion choices are bizarre, he has a retinue of female bodyguards and insists on pitching a large Bedouin tent whenever he travels.

Gadhafi's foreign policy has been as erratic as his fashion sense. He has continually switched positions and allegiances throughout the decades.

Long before Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden ever made America's most wanted list, Gadhafi, 68, was the world's top sponsor of international terrorism. President Reagan called him the "mad dog of the Middle East" and said that Gadhafi's goal was "a world revolution, a Muslim fundamentalist revolution."

In retaliation for Libya's bombing of a West German disco that killed two American soldiers in 1986, Reagan ordered an air strike on Gadhafi's compound. Gadhafi survived the strike but his adopted baby daughter died.

The United States and Libya would be at odds again in 1988 after the United States determined that Libyan agents were behind the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. The bombing killed 270 people, including 189 Americans.

The terrorist attack resulted in the United States and the United Nations imposing strict sanctions on Libya. One year later, Libya would be blamed for another terrorist attack, the 1989 bombing of a French airliner over Niger in West Africa. That attack killed 170 people of 17 nationalities.

A frequent adversary of the United States through the 1970s, '80s and '90s, Gadhafi has worked to repair his relationship with America in the past decade. In 1999, he handed over the two Libyans charged in the Lockerbie bombing, and in 2001 he was one of the first Arab leaders to issue a statement of condolence to the United States after 9/11.

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