Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Colonel's Fair Weather Friends

All in all, the West turned to this dictator for the reason they turn to all dictators. It is simply easier to do business with one man who rules with an iron fist, than a messy fledgling democracy in a mineral-rich but cash-poor state.


It was just after 2003 invasion of Iraq and Gaddafi knew in order to survive he would have to play ball.

And play he did.

He signed away his almost non-existent nuclear programme, implicitly admitted Libya was behind the Lockerbie bombings and even went so far as to order an arrest warrant for al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

An absurdity, given that Bin Laden was the world's most wanted man at that point, but an absurdity that occurs everyday in international politics.


Then Tony Blair, the UK prime minister, visited the man himself. The British leader, relishing his role on the world stage, sat in the shade of a bedouin tent and smiled all the way through a meeting.


That same year and George Bush also restored full diplomatic relations with Libya. Meanwhile its people were harassed, foreign journalists stopped from entering the country, and Gaddafi's family squandered Libyan wealth like it was going out of style.


In 2008 Gaddafi receives Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state at the time, into Libya. No tents this time but the Libyan leader was famously enamoured of Rice.


In 2010 Italy invited the man on a state visit. Dressed in full military regalia he hobnobbed with Italian politicos and was feted by a country who had paid the Libyan regime $5bn in reparations for colonial policies.


How soon before they miss him?

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