A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, February 25, 2011

Qadhafi: Mercurial, Eccentric, or "Just Plain Nuts?"

I really hope I don't get a copyright takedown demand for publishing a favorite Gary Larson Far Side cartoon (used purely for editorial purposes), at left, but Brother Leader's rant on a TV call-in show yesterday raises (and hardly for the first time) the question of the man's grip on reality. His worldview is a bit askew at the best of times, assuming this is his home planet. But as the circle closes on his hill at Little Bighorn, his public statements have grown exceeding strange.

I haven't seen a full English transcript, or even a full Arabic one, of his call-in stream-of-consciousness conspiracy theory, since he tends to defeat translators (it's said the simultaneous translator of his UN address quit at about an hour in). But at one point or another he seems to have asserted ("seems to" since no one ever gets all the points he touches on in any language) that:

  • Usama bin Ladin is the instigator of the rebellion.
  • In league, of course, with the United States.
  • (His earlier speech included Israel and Al Jazeera) so we have the old US-Bin Ladin-Israeli-Al Jazeera axis.
  • All the protesters are on drugs, and under 20 years old to avoid legal responsibility.
  • Bin Ladin and al-Qa‘ida put drugs in Libyans' coffee, in mosques, to drug them into rebellion. One version I saw said he referred to drugging their Nescafe. Nescafe is often Arabic shorthand for Western versus Arabic coffee, but since Qadhafi has a major feud with Switzerland (which sought to arrest one of his sons for felony assault), and Nestle is Swiss, well, who knows? Why is Nescafe served in mosques?
  • He is like Queen Elizabeth II. If he'd actually asserted that he was the Queen, the speech would have been only marginally stranger. (A ditty to the tune of "The people's flag is deepest red": The colonel's flag is deepest green/The colonel thinks he is the Queen.) (Sorry: I just couldn't resist that.)
Those who have interviewed him through the years have sometimes suggested he is himself using drugs. I wouldn't know, but the man has always seemed extremely strange. I know the Internet rule known as Godwin's law, which says that the first person in a discussion to compare the opponent to the Nazis loses the argument, but aren't we starting to sound like we're in Führerbunker territory here?

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