Commentary Magazine


Qaddafi at the Council on Foreign Relations

I attended the Council on Foreign Relations meeting yesterday where Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi spoke, and I hardly recognized him from this account in the New York Times. The Times reporter made the “Guide of the Revolution” sound downright reasonable:

… the low-key, almost contemplative Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi who turned up at the Council on Foreign Relations on Thursday had nothing to do with the flamboyant, discursive provocateur who riveted, offended and finally exhausted the United Nations General Assembly a day earlier.

For an hour, Colonel Qaddafi offered polite answers to polite questions from an audience of New York financiers, business people, academics and a few journalists, in a conversation that ranged from the roots of Islamic terrorism to Libya’s desire for better relations with the West.

The Washington Post‘s Keith Richburg better caught the nutty flavor of some of Qaddafi’s pronouncements:

He only once appeared defensive, when asked why — if Libya did not support terrorism in the past — did he agree to accept responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing and pay compensation to the families of the victims. “Libya was never indicted as the culprit or the one responsible,” Gaddafi said. “We never acknowledged any guilt.” He said Libya accepted that one of its citizens was involved, but “that does not mean the state is responsible for those actions.”

When Minky Worden, the media director of Human Rights Watch, asked Gaddafi for an update on planned reforms to Libya’s penal code and constitution, he chastised her for not understanding the system in his country, where, he said, there is no government, but rather all decisions are made by the people through “people’s congresses.”

“You may not believe that,” Gaddafi said, like a teacher lecturing a skeptical pupil. “You may not have read the Green Book and the philosophy behind the Third Way theory. . . . We have annulled the government once and forever.”

I think I’m going to borrow Qaddafi’s line. Whenever I am asked a tough question in the future, I will tell the questioner to go back and read the Green Book.

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