When they said he was going to speak tonight, I envisioned a Mubarak-type soliloquy from behind the podium to try to look presidential. You know the look — stiff, ashen, elderly autocrat battles protesters and terrible lighting. Basically, Bela Lugosi without the cape. But I should have known better. The difference between Mubarak and Qaddafi is that Qaddafi’s not just power-mad but flamboyantly insane. So yes, of course he’s going to deliver his statement of defiance from the back of a car, in that freaky deaky hat, a big umbrella in hand even though it’s (a) dark out and (b) doesn’t appear to be raining. All that’s missing is some sort of bodily excretion and it would qualify as performance art.
Full translation via the BBC:
I am satisfied, because I was speaking in front of the youth in the Green Square tonight, but the rain came praise to God it bears well. I want to clarify for them that I am in Tripoli not in Venezuela. Do not believe these channels they are dogs. Goodbye.
Needless to say, this also explains why perfunctory western condemnations of his brutality won’t matter. After seeing what happened to Mubarak, no Arab tyrant’s going to hold back on account of White House pressure from now on, but factor in Earflaps’ evident lunacy here and who knows if he’s even in touch with reality. You can’t “send a message” to a guy who’s operating on a completely different frequency. In fact, a former British foreign secretary tells the BBC that because Qaddafi’s obviously unbalanced, the only course left is a military intervention to dislodge him. That might not be true, though: According to Al Jazeera, a “group of army officers” issued a statement urging Libyan troops to join with the protesters and take Qaddafi out. No word on who they are or what their ranks might be, but after all of today’s defections, tomorrow’s probably the litmus test to see just how loyal the military still is. Qaddafi has his own doubts: An item on AJ’s liveblog claims that “adverts appear in Guinea and Nigeria offering would-be mercenaries up to US $2000 dollars per day.”
If you’ve got a strong stomach and want to see what happens to Libyan troops who refuse to fire on protesters, click here.