Sic Semper Tyrannis

Paul Greenberg

10/24/2011 3:04:00 PM - Paul Greenberg

"When the wicked spring up as the grass, and all the workers of iniquity do flourish, it is that they shall be destroyed forever."

-- Psalms, 92:7

So may it be with all tyrants and enemies of the United States. Or do I repeat myself? Let's hope so. For the American cause should always be freedom's.

However wayward the means or distasteful some of our allies in coalitions or convenience, let there never be any doubt that America will always be a friend to freedom. Around the world, America and freedom have been associated, even synonymous in our finest hours.

Now another dictator is gone, and others must shiver. As if a shadow had crossed their path. Moammar Gadhafi's fate cannot much assure his fellow tyrants. In Damascus, Bashar al-Assad must have trembled at the news. Is his turn next? As for the Castros and Chavezes, the bell tolls for them, too.

On a lonely road somewhere outside Tripoli, rushing to save his skin, another tyrant who thought he could always hold his people in thrall has met his end. The details may still be sketchy, but there is no doubt he has been dispatched, and the people of Libya are free, free at last, from his grip. And free to wage the struggle that faces every free people, day after day, crisis after crisis.

In Libya, that struggle may only have begun. Here, it continues. Welcome to the wilderness, which is the only real alternative to slavery, for the Promised Land is never reached. It always shines in the distance, like a city on a hill.

All of us seeking freedom around the world are on the same, never-ending journey. It will be marked by defeat as well as victory. Let us not pretend otherwise. Freedom, as they say, is not free. Its price is clear at every military cemetery, in every VA hospital. That's where the real heroes are.

History is never as tidy as it appears in the textbooks, those rear-view mirrors in which objects are closer than they may appear, and still hurtling toward us like an 18-wheeler.

Now another bloody chapter of history has come to a close, and such endings are never pretty. Moammar Gadhafi was a killer who imagined himself a prophet, the author of a green book whose every page was red with the blood of the innocent. His end can now be added to the grisly album of dictators' final hours. Denied the swift and decent burial that Islamic law requires, his body was dumped on a bloodstained mattress and put on display in a meat locker. Long lines formed immediately. As at some macabre carnival. ("Come one, come all!")

The test of a true republic is whether its creation enhances human dignity rather than degrades it. No one can take pride in this ghastly show in Libya, or at least no one should. Libya's nascent democracy has failed its first test.

The chronicles that record the end of tyrants are long and sobering, full of such grim vignettes. Osama bin Laden sent to the murky depths, all rites duly observed. Saddam Hussein hanged in a mob scene that might have made a lynching look dignified. Mussolini and his mistress dangling from a scaffold in Milan. Doktor and Frau Goebbels doing away with themselves in that sordid f├╝hrerbunker under the chancellery of a new Reich that was going to last a thousand years. But not before the Goebbelses had killed their six children, too. Their innocent children. Consistent to the end, Nazis. If they could no longer kill others' children, they would kill their own.

There is still a freedom tide in the world, but it ebbs and flows. And it is anything but even. No one can expect to see it progress by the day or even the year. It gains and then retreats again.

But there is an arc to history, and it bends toward freedom. And justice. Or let us hope so. And more than hope. Let us now praise those men -- and women -- who fight for freedom around the world. Despite the "realists" who are always urging retreat, they keep fighting. They keep advancing. This time to the shores of Tripoli.