The Boston Globe's Dictator Salon

by James Kirchick | December 29, 2008

Leave it to the Boston Globe, the paragon of bien pensant New England liberalism, to publish an op-ed by Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. And on the 20th anniversary week of the Lockerbie Bombing no less! That horrific attack, which killed all 259 passengers and crew members on the Pan-Am 103 flight bound for New York City, was perpetrated by Libyan agents in retaliation for the 1986 American airstrikes launched on Tripoli, itself a response to the unprovoked bombing earlier that year of a West Berlin nightclub patronized by American servicemen. (Like today's obsessive Israel critics, who conveniently forget 18 months of rocket attacks on Israeli civilians in their predictable denunciations of Israeli self-defense, the international Left roundly condemned Ronald Reagan at the time for striking back at the murderers and maimers of American soldiers. The memory of these people always seems to leave out the indiscriminate and unprovoked massacres carried out by terrorists, focusing only on the responses of democratic states. The more things change...) In the summer of 2003 as part of its general rapproachment with the West, Libya "accepted responsibiltiy" for the attack, though has never acknowledged it was the perpetrator. 

The subject of Gaddafi's article is Russo-American relations, a subject about which I was unaware he had any expertise (Gaddafi's fresh off a state visit to Russia, as the article's tagline informs). His defense of Russian aggression and his singling out the United States for blame sounds like something that could have been published in any number of "progressive" publications. All the usual arguments are there, from the absurd complaint that NATO expansion "echoes in Russia's long memory the painful experience of the Napoleonic and German armies storming across Europe into their motherland, hell-bent on conquest," to the assertion that the independence of tiny, formerly suppressed Soviet Republics somehow represents Russia's "encirclement." So take heart, opponents of NATO expansion. You have a major new ally on your side. 

There are some odd parts in the article as well, unsurprising for a man who traipses around the world with a squad of "virgin" female bodyguards. For instance, Gaddaffi says that the United States should "consider a return to the Monroe Doctrine," because that policy "called for non-interference in problems or relations with Europe, and non-expansion by European countries of their colonial hegemony toward America." What Gaddafi doesn't note is that the Monroe Doctrine was also used to justify all manner of American military intervention in the affairs of Latin American countries to prevent European meddling, a legacy I doubt a man who heads a regime that bore the brunt of American airpower would want to ressurect. "The Monroe Doctrine has to be broken," Gaddaffi's buddy Hugo Chavez recently said, reported dutifully by The Nation's Chief Latin American correspondent Sean Penn. Doesn't the Globe have op-ed editors to notice these sorts of things?  

The Globe is a dying paper, and the staleness and predictability of its commentary pages (embodying the "politics of a friends school") is a major reason why. But giving shrinking editorial real estate to a dictator so that he may offer his thoughts on a subject that doesn't even remotely effect the national interests of his country is a new low, not just for the general unseemliness of the exercise, but because of the more traditional and unremarkable concerns of journalistic responsibility. If Gaddafi were willing to write a signed op-ed revealing something new about Lockerbie, it would certianly be newsworthy, and the Globe would have obtained a genuine scoop in publishing it. But the thoughts of the Leader and Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya about Russia are not only irrelevant, they also happen to be just plain unoriginal and uninteresting.

Next in the Globe: the musings of Kim Jong-Il on Gaza, Hugo Chavez on Canadian-American maritime disputes and Robert Mugabe on Kashmir. 

Update: Turns out Gaddafi's piece appeared a full week earlier in the Washington Times. Perhaps the Globe might have been understaffed during the holidays, but this is just inexcusable. 

--James Kirchick

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