The New York Times as a Family Paper: The Gadhafi Family, That Is

by Martin Peretz | September 1, 2009

Everything about the Gadhafi family is news. Everything except, of course, the 40-year chronicle of what they have done to Libya and to its people. No one looks and no one cares. Moammar is an utterly deranged man with brutal instincts that he directs and redirects as his distemper decides. He holds no public office and is, therefore, under no one's supervision--and no writ or oath either. But he has been named "Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution." Quite a revolution. Rich in oil revenues (the second highest GDP in Africa), the country is unbelievably backwards; its people live destitute; its educational system, its health apparatus, its industrial base--all of these are pathetic.

On the other hand, the Libyan literacy rate is high at 82 percent, a tribute probably to the civilizational pretenses of Italian Fascism, as the literacy rate was high in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. This is personalist rule as there exists perhaps nowhere else in the world. No, not even North Korea.

So, in a certain sense, it is reasonable that the Times is so interested in what Moammar Gadhafi thinks and what Saif al-Islam Gadhafi thinks, too. OK, give them a news story when (and if) it's salient.

But the Times does more ... much more.

On January 21 of this year, the newspaper of record published an op-ed "by" Moammar, whose other title, presumably bestowed on him by his people, is "Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya." (The Times has pioneered in pawning off stuff written by hired hands as genuine ... but not only the Times. This is another story, a wider story of the whole culture, this routine practice of public persons presenting themselves behind other people's words.)

What interested the Times in January were Gadhafi's views on "the one-state solution," a certifiably crack-pot unriddling of the conflict. A one-state solution is a formula for another Arab state. Let's be frank. The world does not need another Arab state, each and every one of which has been stigmatized as an utter failure in the five annual volumes of the United Nations Arab Human Development Report, the last of which has just been issued. These reports have been written, by the way, by tiers mondiste intellectuals, deeply unfriendly to Western democracies and Israel. So their bona fides are not at all suspect.

There is one especially intriguing paragraph that almost nobody has noticed in Gadhafi’s little chronicle:

It is a fact that Palestinians inhabited the land and owned farms and homes there until recently, fleeing in fear of violence at the hands of Jews after 1948

But then look closely at the continuation of that sentence:

--violence that did not occur, but rumors of which led to a mass exodus. It is important to note that the Jews did not forcibly expel Palestinians. They were never 'unwelcomed'.

If that is at all true, the entire moral evidence of a "right of return" collapses utterly.

What would be interesting to know is whether the Times' op-ed editor David Shipley pursued Gadhafi for this script ... or was it some Gadhafi minion who pursued the Times?

The same question should be asked apropos the appearance of the debauched son's views on the op-ed page of this Sunday Times' "news of the week." For here, Saif al-Islam has been given the opportunity to rewrite history about the return to Tripoli—free!—of the convicted murderer of 259 passengers (plus 11 people on the ground in Lockerbie) of Pan Am 103, 189 of them Americans. No "hero's welcome" of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, writes Saif in the Times. But it was a hero's welcome that we have all seen on television. The fact is that the coverage of the entire episode has been tended by premier journalism in both the United States and in Great Britain. There's also a first-rate article by Roula Khalaf and Heba Saleh in this morning's Financial Times, "Triumphal in Tripoli." But it is the Gadhafi family's criminal roguishness that is triumphal. Its rule will survive.

And, of course, the Brits and the Scots are trying, basically without success, to hide the long process which ended with the killer's ignominious release. What we don't have enough information on is how the White House behaved in this sinuous matter. And I mean the Bush White House as well as the Obama White House. Ron Radosh has written a blog about just this. In it he links to a Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed by the distinguished constitutionalist and Princeton professor Robert P. George telling a touching story and raising questions that won't, alas, be answered. "Did [the] U.S. get to weigh in on his fate?" asks George.

Gadhafi's rule has slipped through the grasp of professional social scientists. Maybe because it is so antique and also so cruel. Here is a country that lives by no predictable rules at all. But its headman is central to the very structure of international organizations. Libya has one of the precious seats on the U.N. Security Council. This year, Gadhafi designates from among his countrymen the president of the U.N. General Assembly. Yes, I know the "U.N. is mankind's last hope." Bullshit.

One more thing about Gadhafi. At his 40th fest this past weekend, the president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, was not put under arrest (as mandated by the International Criminal Court). And Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe, felt perfectly at home.

Gadhafi's involvement in the Sudanese genocide in Darfur is another matter. It started with The Arab Gathering. Look it up on Google. Keep smiling.

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