Still Crazy After All These Years

Some years ago Dennis Miller described North Korea’s Kim Jong Il as the “Chia pet of dictators” for his implausible hairstyle, and numerous people have called Qadafi the “Michael Jackson of dictators” for his King of Pop wardrobe. And increasingly Libya resembles a dysfunctional Neverland even by African dictatorial standards. It turns out–who would have ever guessed??–that Qadafi has billions socked away in the usual foreign bank accounts, now mostly frozen by our suddenly emboldened Western leadership.
There always seems to be a correlation between tyrants who sequester wealth for themselves and never spend much of it improving their country. Keep in mind that Libya is not a poor nation like Egypt; it has a vast oil income and a relatively small population (a little over 6 million people) over which to “spread the wealth,” as The One might say. Victor Davis Hanson noted the decrepitude of Libya in a recent NRO Corner posting (“It was like no other country I have ever visited: wet garbage and sewage in the streets; an oil-exporter with massive pot-holes and no asphalt to fix them; almost every room, office, or hallway in Tripoli with peeling paint, exposed wiring, and something broken; the airport a disaster; almost every human action a possible violation of some government statute”). And our own guest blogger Michael Totten reports much the same in a New Republic article last week. (“I was one of the first Americans to legally visit the country in decades, and what I saw there was appalling.”) And yet like tyrants everywhere, Qadafi claimed in his “Green Book” that “I have created Utopia here in Libya, not an imaginary one that people write about in books, but a concrete Utopia.”
The lemmings of the news media are just now telling us what should have been evident for decades: this guy is a first class loon, and always has been. As far back as the early 1970s wanted to use an Egyptian submarine on temporary loan to torpedo the ocean liner Queen Elizabeth II, en route to Israel for Israel’s 25th anniversary celebration. Anwar Sadat–still on speaking terms with Qadafi at that point¬–had to talk him out of it. (Sadat later wanted to invade Libya and depose Qadafi by force, but Jimmy Carter dissuaded him.) Qadafi routinely sent assassination squads to murder Libyan exiles overseas. “It is the duty of the Libyan people constantly to liquidate their opponents . . . at home and abroad, everywhere,” Qadafi declared. Sometimes his assassination plots extended to American diplomats; in 1977 Qadafi ordered the assassination of Hermann Eilts, the American ambassador to Egypt. Only a blunt warning from President Carter, who had got wind of the plot, forced Qadafi to abandon the plan. Qadafi’s murderous ways were reciprocated. In the spring of 1981 the Soviets tipped off Qadafi to a plot hatched among a handful of Libyan military officers to shoot down Kaddafi’s airplane on his return from a trip to Moscow. Qadafi foiled the plot by sending a decoy plane, which was indeed shot down. More coup attempts would follow, each unsuccessful.
By 1981 Qadafi was linked to guerilla insurgencies and terrorism in 45 countries, including all of his immediate neighbors (with the exception of Algeria), and his arms purchases from the Soviet bloc were so enormous that much of the equipment sat in the desert uncrated. The Reagan Administration thought more than once about toppling Qadafi by force, either directly or through a covert operation, but the usual bureaucratic infighting and leaks always scuttled plans before they got very far. The only two concrete measures were backing a guerilla faction in Chad that opposed Libya, and of course the 1986 bombing raid that damaged the French embassy. Speaking of which, doesn’t that suggest at least a minimal course of action today?