100 minutes in the life of maverick Gaddafi

Libyan leader lives up to his oddball reputation on his first visit to US

 
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi addresses the 64th session of the UN General Assembly on Wednesday. APAnd so it might have been were it not for a short man, swathed in saffron robes and a black felt hat waving his arms around and shouting: “Terrorism!”

Muammar Gaddafi — for it was he — grabbed his 15 minutes of fame at the UN building in New York on Wednesday and ran with it. He ran with it so hard he stretched it to an hour and 40 minutes, six times longer than his allotted slot, to the dismay of UN organisers.

On his first visit to the US, and in his maiden address to the UN general assembly, Gaddafi fully lived up to his reputation for eccentricity, bloody-mindedness and extreme verbiage. He tore up a copy of the UN charter in front of startled delegates, accused the security council of being an al-Qaeda-like terrorist body, called for George Bush and Tony Blair to be put on trial for Iraq war, demanded $7.7tn in compensation for the ravages of colonialism on Africa, and wondered whether swine flu was a biological weapon created in a military laboratory.

At one point, he even demanded to know who was behind the killing of JFK. All in all, a pretty ordinary 100 minutes in the life of the colonel.

To be fair, this was a man suffering from severe sleep deprivation. The US state department, New York city council and Donald Trump had prevented him from laying his weary head in an air-conditioned tent in New Jersey, Central Park and Bedford respectively, and the resulting strain was evident.

“I woke up at 4 am, before dawn!” Gaddafi lamented about an hour into his speech, adding for the benefit of the jetlagged diplomats seated stony-faced in front of him: “You should be asleep! You are all tired after a sleepless night!”

Gaddafi certainly knows how to woo a crowd, particularly at important junctures such as this. This was after all his big chance to cement Libya’s re-entry into the bosom of the international community after 20 years in the wilderness.

The technique he chose to do so — cunningly — was to blatantly insult his audience. The representatives of the 192 nations assembled in the assembly hall were no better, he told them, than orators at Hyde Park’s Speakers’ Corner. “You make your speech and then you disappear. That’s all you are right now.” He then turned his wrath on to America, Britain, France, Russia and China — the permanent members of the security council, or “terror council” as he renamed it. Their veto was tantamount to terrorism. “This is terrorism, like the terrorism of al-Qaeda. Terrorism is not just al-Qaeda, it takes many forms.”

In case the point was lost on anyone, he tore up his copy of the UN rule book.
Having thus abused and alienated 99.99 per cent of the world’s top diplomats, he suddenly changed tack, heaping praise and devotion on the one man he appears to respect. “Now the black man does not have to sit in the back of the bus, the American people made him president and we are proud of that. We would be happy if Obama stayed president of America forever.”

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