QADHAFI: MY PART IN HIS DOWNFALL
In the area of the United Nations where I work, one reason to add to the long list of why Colonel Muammar Al-Qadhafi must go should be his title: Leader of the Revolution of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and King of African Kings. Quite apart from its typically bombastic and inflated implications—and I do not mean this to be disrespectful of the hugely tense and frightening position the people of Libya have found themselves in during the last few weeks—that title takes up at least three lines in the official U.N. meeting records. Add to that the almost 13 pages in those records that Qadhafi’s, er, epic last address to the General Assembly occupied—he spoke for 96 minutes instead of the requested 15—and you have a lot of dead trees.
The interpreter gave up
However, more costly to his reputation and likely support—even, I would think, among those who have up to now ignored his repression of his own people—are the insanity, irrelevance and total disregard for others of which that 2009 speech was a distillation. Who knows if he had a written text? It was clear from the start that this man had the floor and he was going to make everyone present listen to every disconnected thought that he felt like expressing. Ali Abdussalam Treki, the unfortunate President of the U.N. General Assembly at the time, is a Libyan; he spent most of those 96 minutes holding his head in his hands in a classic pose of despair. Qadhafi’s simultaneous interpreter—supplied by the Libyan delegation, not one of the U.N.’s own staff Arabic translators, which is usually done because the dialect of Arabic that Qadhafi speaks is difficult for non-Libyans—broke down after 90 minutes, saying he couldn’t stand it anymore.
Unlike the interpreter, those of us in my department—which produces those official meeting records I referred to—were unable to quit; somehow the show had to go on. Though each of us only works on 10 minutes of a meeting at any one time, Qadhafi’s speech was so long that all of us ended up transcribing at least one chunk of it. I missed the memorable spot near the beginning where he suggested that the H1N1 influenza virus began as a lab creation for biological warfare, the part where he ripped up a copy of the Charter, the U.N.’s founding document, denouncing all but the Preamble as a front for the superpowers’ purposes, and the bit where he accused President Reagan of sending Libyan children poisoned roses.
However, my moment in the spotlight of madness arrived when the Leader unleashed his wrath on the Security Council, which, he said, is “political feudalism for those with permanent seats, protected by them and used against us. It should be called, not the Security Council, but the Terror Council.” That line—transcribed by yours truly—was quoted in all the papers and news shows the next day. From then on, he continued as I typed, Libya would no longer be committed to implementing the Council’s resolutions—not that it had before, as far as we knew. And on he went. Others, after me, got to record this (rightly) paranoid man’s rantings on those who might have really been behind the deaths of everyone from President Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. to Dag Hammarskjöld and Abu Jihad; on relocating the U.N. so that heads of state wouldn’t have to suffer jet lag when they came to speak in New York; against banning landmines because they’re “defensive weapons”; and against punishing Somali pirates because the rest of the world are the real pirates. Capping it all was his solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: a combined state named “Isratine.”
Of course, sadly, I can’t claim to have really helped bring Qadhafi down—indeed, as of this writing, he’s still holed up in Tripoli and bombing his own people. But I do believe that his days as “Leader” of Libya are numbered, and that his crazy speech and rambling “Terror Council” accusations are all part of the hatred and disrespect for the lives and opinions of his own people, not to mention the rest of the world, that have finally alienated all but the most cynical of onlookers, and left him with no real support beyond his desperate mercenaries. Let’s hope we can soon say good riddance.—TAMARA GLENNY