View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Sunday, January 19, 2003
The New York Times Magazine, apparently tired of trying to rehabilitate Saddam Hussein, has moved on to Moammar Quaddafi. (Link Requires Registration.) I hadn't realized that leopards were indigenous to Libya, but the Times evidently believes it has found one whose spots have changed. Some of us remain unconvinced.

In the first page, Scott Anderson mentions, so he can say that he mentioned, Lockerbie. He doesn't mention the German disco attack. Qaddafi's past is "checkered," as though he had been the basis for The Grifters; maybe his role model was Cary Grant in Suspicion. Such a charming rogue, that Qaddafi, the "Jack Kennedy of the Sahara," and "a still-athletic build" with "androgynous good looks" who, "from certain angles, bears an eerie resemblance to that other aging former bad-boy celebrity, Mick Jagger." Ooooooh! He's a celebrity? And I thought the Times saved that sort of drooling for Castro. Of course, we find out later, he has "outlasted 6 American Presidents," so maybe he has learned a thing or two about elections from Castro - namely the danger of holding them at all, lest you lose, or have to look like you're trying just a little too hard to win.

Mr. Anderson believes that the Benghazi Bomber has done an "about-face" with regards to Israel. Here's his about-face:

''It is no longer acceptable or reasonable to say that the Jews should be thrown into the sea,'' he explains. ''Even if you could do it, it's not acceptable. The solution is to join the two -- Israelis and Palestinians -- into one state, because once a state like this is established, then the interests of both sides are fulfilled.'' He pauses, gives a slight shrug. ''They can call it Israetine.''

"It's too bad we can't drown the Jews in their own blood, since the world won't stand for that sort of thing; no, let's just drown them in Arabs." No doubt he has the perfect governmental model for them, as well. This passes for his "new spirit of moderation." Forgive me for not feeling comforted.

It goes on. His 10-acre bunker, a "city unto itself" is "surprisingly modest" for a tinpot Third-World dictator who can't export the only thing his country has of any value. Apparently it's not only his persona that's "extremely guarded," it's his person. Like Hussein, he's "reclusive," not surprising for someone who's afraid that one of his 5,000,000 subject might get a clear shot at him.

Anderson feels that a lot can be learned from the way Qaddafi treated Silvio Berlusconi, and the way he treated a local beauty pageant contestant from the United States. (Evidently, either no Libyan journalist had the temerity to write something about Muhammed eyeing the harem, or the local Muslims couldn't find any local Chrstians to blame the thing on. As I said, Libya is a secular country.) Berlusconi is trying to keep a democratic Italy from being held hostage by oil, for reparations for an occupation that ended 60 years ago. The American would-be beauty queen just cried in shame when Qadaafi started describing the 1986 raid on his headquarters, in response for the murder of American soldiers in Germany, there to keep her free, of course. Belusconi got bupkus, while Qaddafi snubbed him for the chance to flirt with the babes. (The British babe, by the way compared the setting to something "from the Arabian Nights." She won; very lucky for her she wasn't given an actual basis for comparison.)

There's more of course. An unnamed European diplomat thinks we aren't being pragmatic enough. Pan-Arabism having proved as bankrupt as any other Arab ideology of the last, oh, 400 years, Qaddafi is now turning to Pan-Africanism. *Sigh* Such a shame his people feel more like Arabs than Africans - they just don't understand. And, of course, we need to "move on" from Lockerbie. The murder of college students and travellers on vacation is all part of that "checkered past." America needs to commute that death sentence they have out for him. George Ryan and Bill Clinton would understand perfectly, I'm sure.

The article is not entirely without value. We do find out that Qaddafi has built an essentially secular state, emancipated women, used his oil wealth for all the nice things that socialist dictators do like build schools and hospitals. We find that he does distrust the religious madmen running rampant in other parts of Islam, and that, like Hussien and Mubarak, has done his best to defang them. But couldn't he have done that without murdering vast swaths of political opposition? And couldn't we have learned that without all the celebrity-worship and self-delusional political analysis? Apparently, some papers just never learn.

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