Nightly News | February 21, 2011
>>> the nation of libya is about the size of alaska. it has about the same population as new york city . it's 90% desert and the median age of the population is 24. the young have been driving these revolutions, and in this case they're going up against an icon, a character, a sometimes cartoonish, often outlandish and very well- known world figure. the man who calls himself colonel gadhafi . here is nbc's andrea mitchell .
>> reporter: moammar gadhafi has always been eccentric, but on his most recent trip to the united nations two years ago, he outdid even himself. he raged on for 95 minutes and 8 seconds waving a copy of the u.n. charter and then pretending to rip it up. cables show that gadhafi fears flying over water , prefers staying on the ground floor, and almost never travels without his trusted ukrainian nurse.
>> it is trying to appeal to a domestic audience.
>> despite his bizarre behavior less than two years ago, he was exchanging handshakes and dining with president obama and other leaders at an economic summit. and in 2006 it was george w. bush 's state department that removed libya from its list of nations that sponsor terror. gadhafi had agreed to end a suspected nuclear program, and turned his equipment over to the u.s. he also agreed to pay millions of dollars to the families of victims of pan am 103 , bombed by libyan agents in 1988 . it was a diplomatic truce after years of hostility. in 1986 libya was accused of bombing a berlin nightclub frequented by u.s. soldiers . ronald reagan retaliated, ordering an air strike against gadhafi 's tent, accidentally killing his young daughter. gadhafi escaped unharmed.
>> today we have done what we had to do. if necessary, we shall do it again.
>> reporter: all through the 1980s , the u.s. said gadhafi was letting plo and ira terrorists train in libyan terror camps. his hold on his people was absolute. gadhafi 's iron grip began when i overthrew the king in 1969 . now gadhafi himself appears close to being on the losing end of another historic change. andrea mitchell , nbc news, washington.