October 20th, 2011: Muammar Gaddafi is dead. He was found hiding in a drain pipe under a road in his hometown of Sirte. Libyan dictator for more than 40 years, brutal, shrewd and ruthless, he wowed to go down fighting till the end, as a martyr. “I have my gun, i have my rifle to fight for Libya”, he proclaimed a few months ago. Instead he died hiding and on the run. Watching the news this morning, it struck us that some of the most despotic dictators of the modern world have not gone down in a blaze of glory, fiery in death as they were in power. Instead they have died cowardly and undignified, without honour. The media coverage in the past 24hrs has already changed the wording from the more mild drain pipe to storm drain to the less dignified sewage drain pipe. Big bullies, to put it mildly, amassing power, arms, luxuries and wealth through a campaign of fear have died alone and in fear.
2003: Saddam Hussein was dictator of Iraq for 24years (1979 to 2003). Saddam which means, “he who confronts” was ironically, found by American forces hiding in a one-man foxhole in the dessert near his birthplace Tikrit, unshaven and cowering with an AK 47 rifle and $70,000 on his person, surrendered without a fight. Pictures of a ragged disheveled man with a long beard and unkempt hair, handcuffed, were beamed across the world. This was a man who had killed at least a million of his own people. He was later found guilty of his crimes and executed by hanging.
2003 : Idi Amin. Ugandan dictator for 8 years (1971-1979) died in exile after being taken in by Saudi Arabia. He was called “The Butcher of Uganda” and killed over half a million people. Popular myth has it that he was driven to blood rituals and cannibalism as he is reported to have suffered from hypomania, a form of manic depression causing violent outbursts. He eventually died of multiple organ failure. He was never tried for his crimes.
1953 : Josef Stalin. The myth is that he died peacefully in his sleep, escaping any legal or moral punishment for his killing of millions of Russians and sending many more to the dreaded gulags. In reality he died, on the floor of his dascha in a pool of urine, from a stroke and possibly denied medical attention by KGB chief Beria. He shunned the grandeur enjoyed by other dictators and instead instilled a messianic cult of personality in Russia. Some say he was as magnetic in his personality as he was callous. He was an insane megalomaniac, an old stubborn despot building around him a culture of fear. Historians say was responsible for the death of almost 20 million of his own people.
1945: Adolf Hitler, the evil mastermind who plunged the world in to a second world war and responsible for the Holocaust is estimated to have killed between 11 million and up to 40 million as a consequence of his actions. In the end he committed suicide by shooting himself in his bunker. His wife Eva Braun committed suicide with him, consuming cyanide. Their bodies were later burned in accordance with instructions in a letter that Hitler had previously written. On the eve of their death, the two married in the bunker and on that day Hitler heard of the death of his supporter Mussolini. With the Allied forces closing in and the fall of Berlin imminent, he was a man resigned to his fate. He was found slumped over on a sofa in his private study with blood dripping from his right temple and a Walther PPK 7.65 mm pistol lay on the ground by his feet.
1945: Mussolini: Italian dictator who formed an alliance with Hitler through WW2, was a violent, egotistical vain man known for his fiery oration. He was caught trying to blend in with retreating German forces while he was escaping to board a plane to fly to Switzerland with his mistress. They were taken to a village and shot in the chest while 15 others of his facist companions were shot by firing squad. In 1945 Mussolini’s body, along with the others executed, were piled on to a moving truck and sent to Milan where their bodies were dumped in the old Piazzale Loreto. After being shot, kicked and spat on the bodies were suspended upside down by their ankles on meat hooks from the roof of an Esso gas station while the bodies were stoned by civilians below. He was later buried in an unmarked grave in a municipal cemetery.
A lot of big talk from these dictators, matched by a reign of terror and a pile of bodies, but in the end they died alone and in fear. “No longer feared or fearsome, no longer the brash, bragging villain, no more the showman turned monster – just another slain tyrant hitting the dust with a thud.“