A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Qadhafi on Taliban, Vatican, US Civil War, Saving Humanity, etc., etc. [UPDATED]

I think it was either The Moor Next Door or one of the other Maghreb bloggers who once referred to Libya as pursuing the world's only "stream of consciousness foreign policy." (Yes, it was he.) I think this is what he meant (clip from YouTube):

And this is just a short clip from a much longer speech. (To be precise, a minute and a half from a 95-minute speech.)

Despite the rambling nature of the speech, I should at least give Qadhafi credit for one thing: he is wearing real clothes other Libyans might actually wear, including the traditional North African cap that Tunisians call chechia (Libyans may use the same term but I don't know for sure) and a reasonable traditional outfit, rather than, say, the upholstery he wore when he met Obama. In all honesty, this is the most relatively normal outfit I've seen him appear in in a long while. If it weren't for the content of the speech, you might think he'd mellowed. Nah.

UPDATED: Since Qadhafi's allocated 15 minutes ran 95, and since he seems to have been improvising as he went along (stream of consciousness indeed), as of now even the Libyan News Agency site (Arabic and English both) has only a series of excerpts and hasn't gotten them all assembled into a single text.

Does Qadhafi realize that, coming immediately after Obama (whom he called "our son") that people will naturally compare Obama's speech with his rambling, conspiracy theory riddled, Castro-length outpouring? I guess "Does he care?" is the real question.

And of course his speech bounced everything else far down the schedule. As a result Ahmadinejad will be speaking late. How terribly disappointing. (Kidding.)

UPDATED YET AGAIN: Don't miss The Guardian's take, with classic British wit. Best parts:
It was meant to be a day of global reconciliation, when the new leader of the free world put all the rancour of the past eight years behind him and heralded an era of unity. And 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 today 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 . . .
He tore up a copy of the UN charter in front of startled delegates, accused the security council of being an al-Qaida like terrorist body, called for George Bush and Tony Blair to be put on trial for the 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 4am, 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're all tired after a sleepless night!"
Except that other reports indicate that the JFK remark carried a hint of Israeli involvement, that report seems to do the speech justice, though I still haven't listened to the whole thing, not having had 95 minutes to spare so far today (or perhaps ever). (Another quibble: it wasn't Trump who prevented him sleeping in Bedford, but the Bedford town authorities who claimed the tent violated local zoning laws. Westchester county apparently discriminates against Bedouin tents. Perhaps they never felt they needed to zone for them.)

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