Tripoli: Seven days into the bombardment of Libyan military targets, 'Brother Gaddafi' is still a hero to some in the conflict hit North African state.
That a man who boasts he lives in a tent and whom Ronald Reagan once dubbed "the mad dog of the middle east" still commands devotion four decades into his rule is one of the enduring mysteries of this idiosyncratic country, US media
reports from the Libyan capital said.
Washington Post said it is clear that Gaddafi can count on the fierce loyalties of at least a significant segment of the population in the vast stretches that lie beyond the enclave of rebel-held territory in the east.
The American media report said to enter the world of Gaddafi believers, is to enter in "Alice in Wonderland" realm in which the regime supporters are the real revolutionaries, not the rebels seeking to topple the government, because Libya is in a state of perpetual revolution.
While the urban population may have turned against him, the Post said the powerful tribal structure that forms the backbone of Libyan nationhood has remained behind Gaddafi, despite initial reports that some of the tribes had rebelled.
Unlike Egypt, the Libyan government, media report said had kept average incomes relatively high, while doling out generous social benefits including healthcare and education.
"Even Gaddafi's opponents, who dare murmur their dissent only out of earshot of regime loyalists, concede that the man who has governed Libya for nearly 42 years does command genuine support," Post said.
"Seventy-five per cent of the people are against him," said one dissident, who was in the vanguard of the protest movement that was crushed in Tripoli last month and who agreed to a furtive meeting with journalists in a downtown cafe.
"But there are some people who really do love him. They've known no one else all their lives. They think he's in their blood." And his supporters, draped in Gaddafi green and clutching pictures of their beloved leader, noisily and passionately assert their presence in near round-the-clock displays of devotion.
Hurtling through the streets in pickups or gathering in Tripoli's central Green Square, they bellow the rhythmic chant that encapsulates the omnipotence of Gaddafi's self-ascribed role: "God, Muammar, Libya: Enough!"
Gaddafi can't be toppled because he holds no formal position; he is the brother leader, a guide and a mentor, a patriarch and an uncle who advises the people and doesn't rule them is the common refrain from the people in Tripoli.
But, how deep that support runs in a populous that has been governed by fear for decades is impossible to tell. And only the events unfolding will unravel the mystery.