Mubarak- Obama
Barack Obama and Hosni Mubarak. Image: Muhammad/Flickr/CC BY

The year 2011 has not been a banner one for most of us. The economy remains sluggish in the U.S. and is getting worse still in Europe. The American political scene seemed to degenerate into to a shameless display of stalemates and ultimatums. Natural disasters devastated lives and industries in more than one nation. But the year was particularly hard on despotic rulers. One died, two were killed and one was deposed amid huge scandal.

Four of 20 fall

Susan Glasser of NPR said this week:

“Four out of the top 20 on our list have fallen this year. So it’s been a pretty extraordinary year of change. The world’s remaining strong men, names including Syria’s Bashir al-Assad and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, must be a little less comfortable today.”

Kim Jong Il

Kim Jong Il, North Korea‚Äôs enigmatic leader, died of a heart attack at the age of 69 on Dec. 17. Kim Jong Il came to power when his father, Kim Il Sung, died in 1994. His father had lived in Soviet Russia for many years while Japan colonized Korea. He brought his Stalinist, pro-military agenda with him when he regained power after World War II. Kim Jong Il continued his father’s agenda as a ruthless Stalinist with a gaudy pop star presentation. He typically wore jumpsuits and large sunglasses, sporting a puffy hairdo.

Moammar Gadhafi

Moammar Gadhafi, the deposed leader of Libya, was captured and killed by his NTC forces in a horrific incident on Oct. 20. Gadhafi came to power via a bloodless coup in 1969. He remained the country’s official leader until 1977, when he officially stepped down after abolishing the country’s constitution and setting up a harsh system of law called the Third International Theory. However, despite public denials, it is believed he ruthlessly ran the country until the end as a silent demagogue.

Hosni Mubarak

Hosni Mubarak became the president of Egypt in 1981 following the assassination of president Anwar al-Sadat. Mubarak had served as Sadat’s vice president. Mubarak continued to win election after election, amid wide speculation of election fraud. When anti-government protests began in late 2010, the ruler came under charges of ruthlessly eliminating even peaceful detractors. Mubarak stepped down on Feb. 10 and is facing criminal trials in Cairo.

Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden founded the militant Islamic group Al-Qaeda. The fierce Muslim extremist was responsible for the attack on the World Trade Center in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, as well as many other destructive acts of terrorism. He was placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted list in 1998, following the bombing of a U.S. embassy. He remained in hiding for the rest of his life, controlling his organization clandestinely. On May 2, he was shot and killed during a raid of his secret compound by Navy SEALS and CIA operatives.


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