Sunday, February 17, 2008

Our Man in Tripoli

Ruth S. King

In December 2003, Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, probably sobered by the fate of Saddam Hussein, announced that he would dismantle his weapons-of-mass-destruction programs. His gesture was followed by an easing of an economic embargo, and by June of 2004, Assistant Secretary of State William Burns opened a liaison office in Libya's capital and reestablished diplomatic relations after a 25-year hiatus. At the UN, Libya has already established a presence in the Human Rights Council and as a member and subsequent chair of the Security Council. And on January 3, 2008, capping Libya's steep ascent to respectability, Libya's ambassador was appointed President of the Security Council.

Abdel-Rahman Shalqam, Libya's Foreign Minister has made the Washington A list, breathlessly gushing: "We don't speak anymore about war or confrontation or terrorism. No, the contrary: wealth of the people, cooperation, investments, peace and stability." He got all sorts of goodies from the State Department.

But who is Qaddafi besides being the new man on Condi's block? First of all, he is a man of many spellings…Moammar Kaddafi. Qaddafi, Al Khatafi, El Ghadafi, and my very favorite, from his site, Al Ghatafi. Why the media, which has adapted names without vowels among Slavic leaders, cannot get a single spelling is a mystery – but for the purposes of this article I'll just call him Muammar.

When he was only 27 years old, in 1969, Muammar lead a successful coup against Libya's King Idris and established himself as the nation's leader. He was too modest to declare himself king, so he holds the titles of: "Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiria" or "Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution."

A fervent Muslim, he attempted to blend faith, crackpot socialism and absolute power. All foreign bases, including British and American, were closed; cutting of hands for minor theft was re- instituted; gambling and alcohol were outlawed; and to further blend into the Arab neighborhood ,all Jewish property was confiscated and all Christian churches were closed.

Muammar was a big proponent of pan Arab/Islamic unity and saw himself as the natural messiah of the movement, hoping to forge Arab unity from "the Atlantic to the Gulf." By the mid-1980s, he was widely regarded in the West as the principal financier of international terrorism. He was a funder and booster of the PLO, has been reported to have financed "Black September" and the Munich Massacre at the 1972 Olympics, and is also said to have controlled the bombing of a disco in Berlin in 1986 where a large number of the injured were United States servicemen. He has confessed to Libya's total complicity in the bombing of Pan Am's Flight 103 in 1988 where 270 civilians were killed, and promised compensation to relatives of the victims. He has had more than 300 dissidents assassinated in exile including journalists and made the top 10 in the list of the world's worst dictators.

This is how Freedom House appraised him: "The state owns all media, criticism of government policy is forbidden, political trials are secret, and torture is common." One year later he only won "honorable mention" among the top 10: Freedom House stated: "He gave up his nuclear weapons program and is opening his nation's economy to foreign investment. Yet at home he continues to run a brutal dictatorship, maintaining total control over all aspects of Libyan life. Freedom of speech, assembly and religion are harshly restricted. Entire families, tribes and even towns can be punished for "collective guilt." Political opposition and damaging public or private property are considered "crimes against the state."

However, to show he's really contrite, he released Bulgarian medics who had been jailed for "deliberately" infecting children with AIDS. After an ordeal of nine years, they were released and their descriptions of confessions extracted under torture were hair-raising.

Although his credentials as an enemy of Israel keep him well ensconced in the Arab League, other Arab rulers with ambitions of their own rejected him and he turned his attention to obsessive meddling in the affairs of other African nations. He was involved in dozens of revolutions which soaked the African soil in blood and was particularly instrumental in the disintegration of Chad, which he had invaded.

In addition to his friendship with Idi Amin, one, of his best pals is Charles Taylor, the war lord of Liberia who is responsible for the deaths of 200,000 and the dislocation of more than two million people in a nation of 6,000,000. Muammar enabled Taylor by giving him safe passage and running arms for him. He has denounced Taylor's trial for crimes against humanity at the UN War Crimes Tribunal. He said it would set "an unacceptable precedent that threatened all African leaders." Well, what are friends for?

The State Department air-brushes his history of brutality and they call him "flamboyant"….read that as nuts.

A "Brotherly Leader" grandee needs security, and like the African emperors of yore he maintains an all female army of body guards called the "Amazon" division.

Although Muammar is a devout Muslim they do not cover their faces and are well coiffed and made up…more like Charlie's Angels in flak suits. They run in place and demonstrate all forms of skills in judo and combat, prepared to kill anyone who comes within ten feet of Muammar. Of course his new buddies such as Chavez, Blair and Sarkozy are given a wider berth.

His rather interesting children own and run everything. Gaddafi's only daughter Ayesha is one of the lawyers who served as defense counsel for Saddam Hussein. The eldest son, Mohammed, owns all the telecommunication companies in Libya. Another son, Mutasim-Billah, tried to mastermind an Egyptian backed coup attempt against his father. Gaddafi forgave him and he now is national security adviser and heads his very own closely monitored unit within the army. His son Hannibal was involved in a series of violent incidents throughout Europe, including charges for beating up his pregnant girlfriend.

Anyway, boys will be boys and one of them is slated to run Libya…via elections, of course.

Muammar changes his gold threaded robes continually and has been spotted cross-dressing according to Bob Woodward in his book Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA 1981-1987, who quotes a CIA agent describing Muammar in high heels and make-up in Spain. Others have described an event where Muammar teetered when walking up to a podium because he was wearing very high heeled ladies' shoes. How sartorially splendid is our Muammar.

He is also a scholar. In 1980 he declared that Shakespeare was really an Arab poet whose real name was Sheik El Zubeir.

His Magnus Opus is the "Green Book" a guide to living, governing and everything else in three volumes which is required reading in Libyan schools. In his own words, the book is "a guide for the whole of humanity, not just Libya."

Among the thousand pearls of wisdom and erudition are the following observations:

The Arts? "If one group of people wears white clothes in mourning and another group puts on black, the sentiment of each group will be adjusted according to these two colours, i.e., one group rejects the black colour on such an occasion while the other one prefers it, and vice versa. Such a sentiment leaves its physical effect on the cells as well as on the genes in the body. This adaptation, will be transmitted by inheritance." Well, that explains it.

Biology? "Women are females and men are males. According to gynaecologists, women menstruate every month or so, while men, being male, do not menstruate or suffer during the monthly period." Do they give out Nobels for this stuff?

Religion? "Religion contains tradition, and tradition is an expression of the natural life of the people. Therefore, religion is an affirmation of natural laws which are discerned therein. Laws which are not premised on religion and tradition are merely an invention by man to be used against his fellow man. Consequently, such laws are invalid because they do not emanate from the natural source of tradition and religion." Not just a "Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution," but a theologian as well.

I could go on but you get the picture of this Renaissance man.

Shortly after the opening of diplomatic relations, Muammar issued an edict that all his opponents will be killed wherever they are. Nonetheless, he is already slated to be one of Condoleezza Rice's new "moderate" friends. Well, if she can take tea with Holocaust denier terrorists such as Abbas, it is only logical that the welcome mat will be extended to Muammar. He was even invited to Annapolis.

And, this leads me to ask again: Why do we say we are fighting a war for freedom and democracy when we encourage and abet these brutal thugs?

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