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The Crimes of Col. Qaddafi
August 26, 2011 3:11 AM   Subscribe

The Crimes of Col. Qaddafi An original essay by Christopher Hitchens, that starts: In George Orwell's 1939 novel, Coming Up for Air, his narrator, George Bowling, broods on the special horrors of the new totalitarianism and notices "the colored shirts, the barbed wire, the rubber truncheons," but also, less obviously perhaps, "the processions and the posters with enormous faces, and the crowds of a million people all cheering for the Leader till they deafen themselves into thinking that they really worship him, and all the time, underneath, they hate him so that they want to puke."
posted by growabrain (57 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I feel sorry for Col Qaddafi, in that people never call him by his real name, which is Colin.

No wonder he's so "mad".
posted by the quidnunc kid at 3:32 AM on August 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


In the euphoria of the current celebrations, we must not lose sight of the former leader's foul deeds.

Isn't the euphoria BECAUSE of the former leader's foul deeds?

I for one am sorry to see the Colonel leave the world's stage. Yeah, I'm happy for the Libyan people and all, but as dictators go, he was one of the real ones, he oppressed his people with style, and never felt the need to promote himself above colonel whilst yielding the power of a king.

The tents, the sunglasses, the bedouin garb, the utter disrespect he showed towards other world leaders... coolness such as this is hard to find nowadays.

Although there have been some intermittent noises from the International Criminal Court, it ought to be said in very unequivocal tones, by our government and others, that the Qaddafis and Assads and their accomplices are on notice. They should be told that the names of their military and security officers have been taken down, as have the names of their victims, and that prosecutions are even now being readied for a range of serious crimes. The continuing slaughter of those who will be needed in the rebuilding of Libya and Syria will not be countenanced. This is no longer a matter of asset seizures or sanctions, or of statements saying that the Baath Party has lost its legitimacy. It is a matter of raising the cost of war crimes, and of doing so while there is still time.

Double-secret probation for the lot of them, eh Hitch? And a fair trail and quick hanging like Saddam Hussein got? After his absurd support for the invasion of Iraq, the Middle East is one area where Mr. Hitchens should STFU.
posted by three blind mice at 3:40 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


The thing that I most remember about Coming Up For Air is how much it reminds me of Howards End by E,M. Forster, or Hobbiton in the Lord of the Rings novels. They all lament what each writer sees as the passing and destruction of English agrarian society, and the rise of Modernity. Anyway, that's what I got out of Orwell's book.

I'll go read this essay now.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:54 AM on August 26, 2011


I'll go read this essay now.

Save you the trouble, the neo-con talking points have been distributed... ONWARD TO SYRIA!
posted by ennui.bz at 4:12 AM on August 26, 2011


three blind mice, how can you forget the Colonel's Amazon Guard? For that alone he will go into history.

Apologies to the Libyan people, who have suffered under this madman. His excesses might not be as funny to them...
posted by Harald74 at 4:12 AM on August 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Daily Mash: Gaddafi palace disappointingly tasteful.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 4:17 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


we already have your cash ha-ha
the people have taken control hee-hee
were will they go from here ho-ho

With Syria by the nose Hear, Hear.
posted by clavdivs at 4:20 AM on August 26, 2011


this guy will never be george orwell. give it up kid.
posted by the mad poster! at 4:34 AM on August 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


So, because Hitchens doesn't like him... sending assassination squads across international borders to suppress internal dissent and attempting genocide on an indigenous culture are no big deal?

Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.
posted by valkyryn at 4:51 AM on August 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


how can you forget the Colonel's Amazon Guard?

Well, that was less a matter of coolness than a result of the Colonel's commitment to gender equality.

Call it women's Libya. Though Muammar Gaddafi is generally criticized as an eccentric and dangerous tyrant who has terrorized his own people as well as the Western world, the women of Libya have actually enjoyed a surprising amount of progress under his reign. They were given the right to vote and encouraged to take part in politics. But perhaps the most famous marks of female progress under Gadaffi are his Amazonian Guard, his personal bodyguard made up entirely of highly trained female soldiers.

Still you are right, Haradld74, pretty cool.
posted by three blind mice at 4:54 AM on August 26, 2011


the women of Libya have actually enjoyed a surprising amount of progress under his reign

Yes, I seem to remember some interview where he poured scorn on Saudi Arabia for banning women drivers. In Libya, he said, we understand it is perfectly fine for women to drive; they just need to ask their husband's permission.
posted by Segundus at 5:14 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


the women of Libya have actually enjoyed a surprising amount of progress under his reign. They were given the right to vote and encouraged to take part in politics.

Women have been giving the right to vote, as long as they vote for Qaddafi. What progress!

Really, focusing on the goofy, kitschy (and decontextualized) aspects of Qaddafi's rule seems to be a little disrespectful to the people who actually had to live in Libya under the "regime".
posted by KokuRyu at 5:15 AM on August 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't doubt that Gaddafi was a horrible person -- most world leaders seem to be, and he's certainly been a thorn for some time. But Jesus I am so tired of having each one of them we suddenly decide are no longer useful to us transmogrify into Darth Voldemort, most sinister being of all time, with a horrific record of doing either what we ourselves do on a regular basis or what we don't give a shit when someone else (oh, let's just say Saudi Arabia) does it. And then, when we finally take out our misbehaving puppet and storm his golden Xanadu palace (which demonstrates his obvious corruption and tyranny since how else could you explain this unfair conglomeration of wealth without libertarian pundits to assure you he earned it rightfully by his own ingenuity) we pick some absurd thing to teehee about (in this case his Condi Rice scrapbook) since we can no longer parade him through Washington in a cage to further humiliate and demean him.

I'm not defending Gaddafi in the slightest, I am just sick to death of this narrative being repeated over and over, especially with monsters like Dick Cheney getting money from books where they boast proudly of their torture records.
posted by Legomancer at 5:19 AM on August 26, 2011 [13 favorites]


So, because Hitchens doesn't like him... sending assassination squads across international borders to suppress internal dissent and attempting genocide on an indigenous culture are no big deal?

Enemies of enemies are friends around here...
posted by BobbyVan at 5:24 AM on August 26, 2011


Dismissing what someone has to say without even listening makes you an asshole. Read the fucking article.
posted by nestor_makhno at 5:33 AM on August 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


Dismissing things a priven pompous asshole is saying without listening makes one's life easier. I've read so much of his crap over the years I know what he is going to say just by reading the lede.
posted by spicynuts at 5:51 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dismissing what someone has to say without even listening makes you an asshole. Read the fucking article.

No. My job in life is not to stroke his preening little ego
posted by the mad poster! at 6:15 AM on August 26, 2011


Turns out he had a crush on Condoleeza Rice and kept a photo album filled with pictures of her.
"I support my darling black African woman," he said. "I admire and am very proud of the way she leans back and gives orders to the Arab leaders. ... Leezza, Leezza, Leezza. ... I love her very much. I admire her, and I'm proud of her, because she's a black woman of African origin."
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:16 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jeez. I tell you, the only people more shrill and annoying than the so called "New Athiests" are the people who have to rush in and decry their every word, I was reading an ethnography of suicide terrorists and the author had to interrupt the book to complain about the "Four Horsemen". It never fails either. Dawkins or Hitchens could drink a glass of water and there would be at least five people waling about this or that which is offensive about them before agreeing with their basic proposition.
posted by fuq at 6:31 AM on August 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is very interesting.
The adopted daughter of Muammar Gadafy, whom he claimed died as an infant in the 1986 US bombing of his Tripoli compound, appears to be alive and worked as a doctor in the Libyan capital, documents discovered by The Irish Times indicate.
posted by BobbyVan at 6:35 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Save you the trouble, the neo-con talking points have been distributed... ONWARD TO SYRIA!

Is this the neocon plan? Because I am not a neocon and it was my first thought. Seems a cheap and easy way to empower those being hunted down and killed.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:57 AM on August 26, 2011


Onward to Syria indeed, and may the Arab Spring continue to bloom.

I had my doubts about George Bush and his Democratic Domino effect, but it all seems to be coming together. The Iraq war may have been unpopular, but in hindsight, old GWB was right. Democracy seems to be spreading across the Middle East.

We have the Republican Party to thank for that.
posted by seanyboy at 7:15 AM on August 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


fuq, the problem with Hitchens is not his atheism. he came very late to that party. his war fetish and fancying himself as an anti-totalitarian Orwell has been going on much longer. His whole specialty on this front is in viewing the world as if he's in WWII
posted by the mad poster! at 7:17 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Onward to Syria indeed, and may the Arab Spring continue to bloom.

I had my doubts about George Bush and his Democratic Domino effect, but it all seems to be coming together. The Iraq war may have been unpopular, but in hindsight, old GWB was right. Democracy seems to be spreading across the Middle East.

We have the Republican Party to thank for that.


Democracy =/= Elections

Changing other peoples' regimes is all fun and games until the other people don't replace them with Christian Corporatocracies like you somehow assumed they would.
posted by Legomancer at 7:25 AM on August 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Onward to Syria indeed, and may the Arab Spring continue to bloom.

I had my doubts about George Bush and his Democratic Domino effect, but it all seems to be coming together. The Iraq war may have been unpopular, but in hindsight, old GWB was right. Democracy seems to be spreading across the Middle East.

We have the Republican Party to thank for that.


Wow, an old-fashioned long-form troll! Did your bridge get knocked down in the earthquake, buddy?
posted by clockzero at 7:29 AM on August 26, 2011


Democracy seems to be spreading across the Middle East.

We have the Republican Party to thank for that.


You do have to account for the fact that the Arab Spring didn't happen during Bush's administration, but during Obama's. I thought Obama's policy of generally staying out helped convince Arabs that it was safe to oppose their governments.

If your kid borrowed your car, totaled it going 95 on some backroad, and you bought a new one, would you say "Let's thank little Johnnie for the new car"?
posted by benito.strauss at 8:35 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Didn't the Spring start after wikileaks docs got into the hands of the Tunisian citizenry?
posted by zerobyproxy at 8:49 AM on August 26, 2011


What is it with Democrats and their laboured car metaphors. Is this car one that needs pushing out of some kind of ditch?
posted by seanyboy at 8:59 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


What is it with Democrats and their laboured car metaphors. Is this car one that needs pushing out of some kind of ditch?

It's the one that missed The Point a few miles back.
posted by Legomancer at 9:13 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


ONWARD TO SYRIA!

Is this the neocon plan? Because I am not a neocon and it was my first thought. Seems a cheap and easy way to empower those being hunted down and killed.


only if war with iran seems cheap and easy to you...(answer yes if you are a neocon). one of the many important differences between syria and iran is that syria borders iran and the Assad dynasty has been allied with the Iranians. Really, the only similarity between libya and iran is being on the ever shifting axis of evil.

Democracy seems to be spreading across the Middle East. We have the Republican Party to thank for that.

I mean, aside from the fact that democracy is not spreading across the middle east, what has always been bizzare about this line is the idea that somehow this was going to be good for the US. Popular opinion in the middle east seems to be fairly orthogonal to US policy goals i.e Israel, price of oil.

If Israel decides on another punitive expedition in Gaza or revenge against Hezbollah, there will be great popular pressure on the Eqyptian (essentially military) government to respond.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:15 AM on August 26, 2011


Seems like there were a lot of factors - each of which was dependent on the others. If it hadn't been for Wikileaks spilling the beans on Tunisia, that country might not have gone the route it did. If Wikileaks hadn't been basically developed to collect and spread secrets across the internet, then there would have been nothing for Tunisia.

So Al Gore who invented the internet was directly responsible for the Arab Spring. Hmmm.

(Actually for an interesting look at the actual development of the Internet, check this out...)

Seriously, there were an incredible number of factors at play - from satellite TV and radio showing folks that the entire world wasn't like what they were putting up with, cell phones that allowed easy access to communications, computers for the internet and printing - and just a general ability for them to see that things could be better sparked improvements. With enough time, those sparks flame up... and dictators run. (Likely to be replaced by a new one - but again, the people won't forget they ran ONE off. They can do a second. And a third, if need be, until their leaders get the idea that just maybe they're not going to be emulating a Dear Leader for Life.)

I suppose if you really wanted you could blame both Edison and Tesla, those shocking inventors! Because without electricity, little of the above would have worked.
posted by JB71 at 9:16 AM on August 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


So, because Hitchens doesn't like him... sending assassination squads across international borders to suppress internal dissent and attempting genocide on an indigenous culture are no big deal?

Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.
posted by valkyryn at 4:51 AM on August 26 [3 favorites +] [!]


Phew, it's a good thing no one actually said something as stupid as THAT! That'd be ridiculous, right? I'm sure you were just using that moment to illustrate the textbook example of what a strawman would look like when inserted into this thread. Great job!
posted by FatherDagon at 9:30 AM on August 26, 2011


Syria will and would be more complicated and difficult than Libya. Libya had an actual revolution going on, with defections from the military occurring before NATO got involved.

Libya ran an oppressive dictatorship, but not on the same level as the Syrians. The Syrians run a true police state. There is no incipient revolution in Syria, yet.

Libya's power was clearly concentrated solely in Gadafi's hands, though he had doled out responsibilities to his sons and family. Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, is almost a prisoner in his own system. If he were to quit, he would be replaced immediately by another one just like him.

The Syrian tribal and ethnic animosities are more complex than those in Libya.

Syria is seen by much of the Arab world as a counterweight to the influence of Israel. Regardless of the implications, it complicates matters.

Syria is a former Soviet client state, and the Russians still see Syria as an ally against the West. They continue to support Syria in the UN.

Under the current US administration, there will be no substantive action taken against Syria, unless the internal situation changes dramatically. Under the imminent Perry/Bachmann administration, we'll have troops there before the end of 2012.
posted by Xoebe at 9:50 AM on August 26, 2011


What is it with Democrats and their laboured car metaphors. Is this car one that needs pushing out of some kind of ditch?

Lesson learned. I shouldn't put in anything non-essential when debating, as any minor point may be seized on, and the greater questions completely ignored. Because there's a lot of room to discuss what factors led up to the Arab Spring, and I'd say Bush's wars must have had some effect. But that was your response. Oh well.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:58 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


OK, I get it. We hate Christopher Hitchens. But which of the "neo-con talking points" in this piece are we supposed to disagree with? It all seemed pretty reasonable, even self-evident. Maybe if Scott Adams could come in here and say something bad about Qaddafi, I could understand what there is to argue about.
posted by Right On Red at 10:01 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


We have the Republican Party to thank for that.\

Can't tell if you are serious or being ironic, but the only people we have to thank for the Arab Spring are the actual people on the ground getting organized, getting shot at, and making change happen.

Outside actors, including Republican administrations or Democratic administrations, are merely vultures with no actual interest in bettering the lives of foreign citizens.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:18 AM on August 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


God, it is such an arrogant, misguided way to think.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:19 AM on August 26, 2011


So, because Hitchens doesn't like him... sending assassination squads across international borders to suppress internal dissent and attempting genocide on an indigenous culture are no big deal?

Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.
posted by valkyryn at 4:51 AM on August 26 [3 favorites +] [!]


You know, our Best Pals 4Evar in Latin America have been doing similar things for many decades (in Peru, for example), yet Hitchens and others were unusually silent in the 80's and 90's about the prospects of invading Central and South America to depose of those vile, tyrannical (and solidly pro-American) dictatorships.

I suspect that Ghadaffi's main crime is being an anti-Western dictator, rather than a dictator per-se.
posted by Avenger at 11:18 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Didn't the Spring start after wikileaks docs got into the hands of the Tunisian citizenry?

I had my doubts about Julian Assange and his total transparency agenda, but it all seems to be coming together. The diplomatic cables leak may have been unpopular, but in hindsight, old JS was right. Democracy seems to be spreading across the Middle East.

We have WikiLeaks to thank for that.
posted by homunculus at 11:43 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


America's Radical Idealists Strike Again
posted by homunculus at 11:46 AM on August 26, 2011


Current Time Mag cover
posted by growabrain at 12:09 PM on August 26, 2011


Iraq Adopts Iran’s Backing of Assad
posted by homunculus at 12:09 PM on August 26, 2011


subtlety. homunculus has it. subtlety.

seriously, how does anyone actually rationalize a causal connection between the invasion of iraq and the arab spring? it starts with a street rebellion over joblessness in a repressive pro-western country, is gingerly encouraged by europeans and leaps the continent to a repressive but somewhat less pro-western US ally where it is gingerly ignored by American politicians (most of whom were shitting bricks the whole time, sure we were going to lose our hold in Egypt).

messy as it's been, overall I think the arab spring[/summer/fall] will turn out to be a really important and positive thing, but other folks here are right, this is not necessarily something that is obviously in our national interest as it's currently manifested. as for its relationship with neoconservative agendas, I'm reminded of the line from Citizen Kane: "The working man is turning into something called 'organized labor,' and you're not going to like that one little bit.'

as for hitchens, much as I dislike the guy and much as I agree that Avenger's got a point about his studied silence in the past, I'm not sure he qualifies as a member of teh neocon club anymore.
posted by lodurr at 1:01 PM on August 26, 2011


syria borders iran

What the what?? It's like, on the other side of the middle east, dude.
posted by smoke at 4:11 PM on August 26, 2011


What the what?? It's like, on the other side of the middle east, dude.

No it's not. Iraq may lie between Syria and Iran, but in the north there is only about 75 miles separating Iran and Syria, along the Iraq-Turkey frontier.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:22 PM on August 26, 2011


I am just sick to death of this narrative being repeated over and over

You and Disraeli père both (not to mention Polybius himself).
posted by dhartung at 4:45 PM on August 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Seriously, there were an incredible number of factors at play
True, but no one has mentioned bread becoming widely unaffordable as one? I believe that to be a primary spark of the Arab Spring, and largely an ironic, unintended consequence of loose US monetary policy (initiated by the neo-con GWB, continued under the neo-neo-con Obama).
posted by relooreloo at 6:03 PM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


in the north there is only about 75 miles separating Iran and Syria, along the Iraq-Turkey frontier.

Wow, truly, I did not realise it was so close.
posted by smoke at 8:04 PM on August 26, 2011


It's worth remembering that Parthia and Rome were neighbours at around the time of Christ.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:13 PM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Arab Awakening: Throughout the Arab world, we are witnessing nothing less than the awakening of several phenomena that are critical for stable statehood.
posted by homunculus at 2:06 PM on August 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Grim Evidence of Fighting’s Toll Becomes Clearer in Libya
posted by homunculus at 2:13 PM on August 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Scramble for Access to Libya’s Oil Wealth Begins
posted by homunculus at 2:18 PM on August 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Libya: The fight continues
posted by homunculus at 2:09 PM on August 28, 2011


'Mass Killing' Evidence Found In Libya

'Their Skeletons Were Still Smouldering'

Warning: the video is horrific.
posted by homunculus at 2:26 PM on August 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Gadhafi family members in Algeria, ministry there says
posted by homunculus at 10:40 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Gaddafi’s female bodyguards say they were raped, abused by the Libyan leader
posted by homunculus at 10:43 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Libya: Where are the 50,000 missing prisoners?
posted by homunculus at 4:10 PM on August 29, 2011


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