Saturday, February 26, 2011

When Muammar Gadaffi Led Me by the Hand

By Eric Margolis

Events in Libya are moving very fast, and their outcome is uncertain. “Leader” Muammar Gadaffi is hunkered down in Tripoli, defended by army units from his tribe and mercenaries from black Africa.
Watching Col. Muammar Gadaffi deliver a bombastic, defiant speech last week from the ruins of Tripoli’s Bab al-Azizia barracks brought me back to 1987 when Libya’s leader led me by the hand through the wreckage of his former residence.
On 14 April, 1986, US aircraft attacked Libya after a Berlin disco frequented by US soldiers was bombed. US President Ronald Reagan blamed Libya and denounced Gadaffi as the “mad dog of the Middle East.” 
But a defector from Israel’s Mossad later claimed the US had been duped by a false flag operation into believing Libya was behind the attack.
A 2,000 lb US bomb crashed through the ceiling of Gadaffi’s private quarters. He was outside in his trademark tent. But his 2-year old adopted daughter was killed.  Some 87 other civilians and a few French diplomats were also killed. Americans thought this raid was dandy.
“Why, Mr Eric,” a clearly confused Gadaffi plaintively asked me, “why are the Americans trying to kill me?”
“Because they think you are funding every kind of anti-western group,” I replied. “And they will never forgive you for provoking the rise in Arab oil prices.”
In those long ago days, Gadaffi, who considered himself a passionate revolutionary, supported every militant group that asked for Libyan help, including Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress, various Palestinian groups fighting Israeli occupation, Basque separatists battling Madrid, and the Irish Republican Army.   To Washington, Gadaffi was the world’s arch “terrorist.”     
After we spent the evening in his colorful Bedouin tent, I had some fun with Gadaffi. “We may bomb you, Leader, but we also think you are the best-dressed Arab leader.”   Gadaffi, dressed in a custom made, silk Italian jump suit and zippered boots, beamed with pleasure. He asked me where he could get the Ralph Lauren safari jacket I was wearing, adding,   “you look very militant, Mr Eric.”

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