TODAY   |  February 22, 2011

The many faces of Moammar Gadhafi

From young militant revolutionary to bizarre, flamboyant dictator, NBC’s Michelle Kosinski takes a look at the life of Libya’s infamous ruler.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> been the face of libya for more decades now, with standing isolation and u.s. air strikes. michelle kosinski has more on his reign. good morning.

>> reporter: since 1969 when moammar gadhafi was a young military officer and led a bloodless coup against the king he's been a leader without a title. he goes by colonel, but is widely considered to be one of the toughest, freedom crushing, longest raining rulers and one of the most bizarre. [ speaking in a foreign language ]

>> reporter: the many, many faces of moammar gadhafi over his four decades of power. young revolutionary, 1970s hipster, proud bedouin and a cross between michael jackson and phil specter . he's been a man of many names. the west just can't agree on the spelling.

>> our research department has determined that no few people spell it alike.

>> reporter: he never wavered on doing or saying as he pleased. he tried to find a place to pitch his tent before delivering a tirade to the united nations .

>> in a way he has to use himself to project libya onto the world stage.

>> reporter: he counts among friends hugo chavez and berlusconi of italy where women from a modeling agency were hired and he tried to convert them the islam. ronald reagan said --

>> this mad dog of the middle east has a goal of world revolution .

>> reporter: recent cables made public by wikileaks describe him as mercurial, avoids making eye contact, an unholy alliance of corruption and cult of personality politics. and he holds camels, an all female troop of body guards and his ukrainian nurse. he fears flying over water or staying above the first floor. hates elevators, loves flamenco. he's survived multiple assassination attempts and may now have met his match -- his own people. libya did turn from being a sponsor of terror to an unlikely partner of the west in fighting terrorist groups. it may be easy to see him as a caricature but at home he's seen oos a killer of opposition by those who want him gone at the risk of their own existence. willie?

>> he may be eccentric but