ABC News gives us a refresher course on the weird, weird world of Moammar Gaddafi this morning as fighting in Libya continues. The liberation of the eastern part of the country allowed access to one of Gaddafi’s presidential palaces, and Libyans might find the dictator’s reading choices illuminating. Like more than one brutal dictator, Gaddafi seemed obsessed with the occult, with books on witchcraft lining the shelves. But the public oddities already known hinted at this already, and as this report finally states, the strangeness of Gaddafi was almost certainly strategic as well:
Had Gaddafi been just another mundane Arab strongman — say, like Ben-Ali in neighboring Tunisia –he might never have garnered the kind of media attention and following that helped entrench him in power. Ben-Ali did all right, too, but the Tunisian dictator never made himself into a leader of pan-Arabism the way Gaddafi did. Before Saddam Hussein’s military might eclipsed Libya, Gaddafi made himself into the Arab rallying point, and well before Iran became an exporter of terror, Gaddafi was aggressively supporting international terrorism for socialist Arab ambitions.
The global media focused more on Gaddafi’s quirks than his crimes, at least until now, and it’s hard to say that Gaddafi didn’t plan that as a strategy all along … even if it turns out that he was more mad than quirky all along.
Perhaps it runs in the family, too. Christiane Ammanpour interviewed Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who appears to be honing a Baghdad Bob impression:
In an exclusive interview with “This Week” host Christiane Amanpour, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, the son of Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi and one of his chief advisers, insisted Libya was calm, the military has not attacked any civilians and reports of Libyan diplomats abandoning their posts were simply a ‘miscommunication.’
There was a “big, big gap between reality and the media reports,” Gadhafi told Amanpour. “The whole south is calm. The west is calm. The middle is calm. Even part of the east.”
Saif says the family won’t leave Libya, and scoffed at Barack Obama’s declaration of sanctions, which is to be expected. But Saif offered this very strange rebuttal to Obama’s declaration that any government that has to open fire on its own populace to remain in power has lost all legitimacy:
“The President of the U.S. has called on your father to step down. How do you feel about that?” Amanpour asked.
“It’s not an American business, that’s number one,” said Gadhafi, who was dressed casually as he spoke with Amanpour. “Second, do they think this is a solution? Of course not.”
“[Obama] says if a person can only keep control by using force, then legitimacy is gone,” Amanpour pressed. Gadhafi responded, “Right, but what happened? We didn’t use force. Second, we still have people around us.”
They didn’t use force? Perhaps the Gaddafis have cut off their own Internet access, but there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. Why bother to deny it? Is it that the Gaddafis are so used to lying that they just can’t help themselves, or are they so removed from reality that they don’t know where the truth ends and the lies begin? I vote for the former.
Meanwhile, in Zawiya, Gaddafi’s security forces have seen the writing on the wall:
Anti-government protesters took to the streets Sunday in Libya’s western city of Zawiya — including former security forces who said they have switched sides and joined the opposition.
Some buildings showed signs of damage, including a freshly burnt-out police station.
At least several Libyan cities are now in the control of the opposition, including Zawiya, about 55 kilometers (35 miles) from the capital city of Tripoli.
Perhaps it’s time for the Gaddafis to stop the Baghdad Bob impressions and start looking for a really good spider hole.