With news of ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi’s death came the instant comparisons to other leaders whose deaths were celebrated around the world.
Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, al-Qaeda head Osama bin Laden and Gaddafi all became immediate trending terms on Twitter worldwide.
But as people compared the U.S. role in each of the men’s deaths, the way they died, proof of their deaths and what comes next, both information and misinformation was spread. Below, we sort through what’s truly similar in the three deaths.
1. Early U.S. support of the leader:
The United States did cultivate a relationship with Hussein for more than a decade, giving him billions of dollars in aid before later going to war with Iraq.
And America’s Central Intelligence Agency certainly took intelligence from Gaddafi and worked closely with him at various points in time.
But as the Web site America.gov points out, the United States did not “create” or ever support bin Laden. While the United States “supported the Afghans fighting for their country’s freedom in the 1980s — as did other countries . . . the United States did not support the . . . Arabs and other Muslims who came to fight in Afghanistan for broader goals,” the site notes.
2. How the leaders were killed:
While the United States did not support all three leaders, it did play a role in all three deaths.
After a U.S.-led invasion to depose the Iraqi leader, Hussein was found guilty of crimes against humanity and and sentenced to death. On Dec. 30, 2006, Hussein was hanged.
Gaddafi also died as a result of a war the United States found itself involved in. However, it looks likely that Gaddafi died at the hands of Libyan forces, not NATO forces. It is unclear at present whether he was executed or died from his injuries.
Bin Laden died directly at the hands of the United States, in a covert operation in May by U.S. Navy SEALs and CIA operatives ordered by President Obama. He was shot and killed, and his body sent out to sea.
3. Proof of their deaths:
After bin Laden was killed and his body sent out to sea, the White House debated whether to show photographs of the dead terrorist. Ultimately, it decided not to release them because of the graphic nature of the photos, leading some to question whether bin Laden was killed at all.
That uncertainly did not surround Hussein’s death, whose walk to the gallows was shown on television, as well as later photos of his dead body wrapped in a shroud.
After Gaddafi’s death was announced by the National Transitional Council this morning, the media scrambled to confirm the reports. Images later came out, however, that showed the dead and bloodied leader, as well as a video that showed him dragged through the road moments before his death.
4. What’s next:
After all three high-profile deaths, the world was left with questions over what came next.
Bin Laden’s death was seen as a major triumph over terrorism and the beginning of the disintegration for al-Qaeda.
After Hussein’s death, President George W. Bush called it “an important milestone” on the road to building an Iraqi democracy, although America’s combat mission in the Iraq war did not officially end until 2010, and thousands of U.S. troops still remain.
As for Gaddafi, many of the protesters of the Arab Spring celebrated his death as a major victory for the movement.
And some people even suggested who might be next: