Thursday, June 06, 2013

The Story Of Muammar Gaddafi


The story begins back in the mid-1970s with a lonely and frustrated Colonel Gaddafi. He had come to power in 1969 with a burning ambition to transform the world – by liberating the Arab countries from the domination of the west, especially from Britain and America. But no-one would help him – or even cared. He was simply ignored.
Gaddafi was following the vision that had been set out by his hero Gamal Abdel Nasser, the President of Egypt. Nasser had promised to unify the Arab world and transform it into a new revolutionary force that would be strong enough to stand up to the western powers.

But then, in 1970, Nasser died and his vision faltered. Gaddafi tried to keep it alive by unifying Libya with other countries – first with Egypt under Sadat, then with Tunisia and Algeria in something he called “The Steadfastness Front”. He even tried Idi Amin in Uganda. But one by one the Arab countries gave up and slipped back to being the compliant puppets of America or Russia.

And Gaddafi was left all alone without any friends.

Here is some of the earliest footage of Gaddafi. It starts with his first appearance ever before the western press.

But Gaddafi wasn’t going to give up. He was determined to challenge the old colonial powers.

He was convinced that Northern Ireland was very like Libya. The Catholics, he believed, were fighting a revolutionary struggle against the yoke of British imperialism. So he offered to supply them with money and arms.
He also offered the IRA semi-ambassadorial status – and an IRA supporter went out to live in Tripoli as the “ambassador”. His Libyan handlers gave him the code-name “Mister Eddie” and Eddie lived a life of luxury in a grand mansion in the heart of the city eating his meals off the crockery of the deposed King Idris, while old trawlers took lots of guns and semtex from Libya to deserted coves on the coast of Ireland.
Gaddafi also wanted to undermine the west’s support of Israel. He supported Palestinian groups fighting the Israelis. But he also decided to do something more dramatic – to send a submarine to torpedo the QE2 that was taking a group of British tourists to visit Israel. Gaddafi mentioned this to President Sadat – who told him that he was completely mad.
And Gaddafi also funded a left-wing revolutionary party in Britain. It was called the Workers Revolutionary Party and its most famous members were the actress Vanessa Redgrave and her brother Corin. The only problem was that it was probably the most useless of all the revolutionary parties in Britain.
It was run a a paranoid Trotskyite called Gerry Healy who believed all other Trotskyites were really CIA double agents. And Healy was also secretly forcing lots of young female comrades to have sex with him “for the sake of the revolution”.
I have found a wonderful film that was transmitted just once in a general election programme in 1974 at 4am in the morning. It shows what happened that night when Vanessa Redgrave stood as a WRP candidate for parliament – against a Labour MP called Reg Prentice. It was in Newham in east London and her behaviour as the results are announced shows dramatically why Colonel Gaddafi was backing the wrong revolutionary horse.

It is also very funny and very sad at the same time.

But there was also a sinister side to this relationship with Colonel Gaddafi. Later in the 1980s the WRP held an inquiry into what really went on. The report is still kept secret, but parts of it have been published. If these bits are true, they say that in April 1976 Corin Redgrave had signed a secret deal with the Libyan government for:
providing intelligence information on the ‘activities, names and positions held in finance, politics, business, the communications media and elsewhere’ by ‘Zionists’. It has strongly anti-Semitic undertones, as no distinction is made between Jews and Zionists
In other words Corin Redgrave agreed to use the party as Colonel Gaddafi’s spy agency in Britain and feed him information about prominent Jews in British society.

Here is Mr Redgrave preparing to do a party political broadcast on the BBC – promising to abolish parliament and create a workers state. But he seems to be most interested in how his tie looks.

By the late 70s Gaddafi decided that there was only one solution to his dilemma. If all the other revolutionaries were so useless – he would have to develop his own global revolutionary theory.
So he did just that and he gave it a name. He called it “The Third International Theory”. Gaddafi had discovered what he said was a Third Way, an alternative to capitalism and communism.
Traditional democracy as practiced in Britain and America was a sham he said. It was actually a form of dictatorship. All a party needed was 51% of the vote and it could then impose its ideas on everyone for four or five years – just like clans in Libya did.
The alternative was a new kind of direct democracy in which the people governed themselves. There were no parties – instead Peoples’ Committees elected People’s Congresses that would manage things. Then there were Revolutionary Committees that made sure the Congresses and their administrators did things in a revolutionary way.
In reality it was a one-man show. Gaddafi made decisions about everything and played all the different committees and congresses off against each other to maintain his power.
But Gaddafi was terribly proud of it. He wrote it all down in what he called The Green Book which he then published in lots of languages because he believed it was a universal, global theory.

You can see just how much this idea pervaded Libyan society from these odd shots I found in some news rushes. They were filmed on a Libyan Ferry going from Malta to Tripoli in the early 1990s. Below decks there are permanent metal signs everywhere explaining the Third International Theory of direct democracy. Good music on the PA system as well.

Gaddafi wanted to tell the world about his vision. He began to invite the BBC to come to Libya and film long interviews so he could explain how important it was.
The trouble though was that every time the BBC interviewers turned up they weren’t really that interested in his theory. Instead they wanted to ask him whether he is sending arms to the IRA, and whether he was really planning to torpedo the QE2.
That’s what they are really interested in. Not the Third Revolutionary Theory.
Colonel Gaddafi starts off being grumpy about this. But then you can see his face change as he begins to realise what the submarine story is doing for him. That maybe he doesn’t need friends – what he really needs are powerful enemies that will make him, and his Third International Theory, infamous, and thus famous.
There is also a fascinating moment in one when Gaddafi breaks into English and describes his time when he came to study in Britain as a young military student. He tells how he went to Beaconsfield and was bullied by British students there. You begin to feel sympathy with him – and then he blows it. They must have been Jews, he says.

Then, in the early 1980s Gaddafi got what he wanted, a global infamy that would make him a powerful presence on the world stage. And he got it because he suddenly became useful to two groups at the heart of the power structure of the West who were facing the growing uncertainty of the time.
One was a new wave of right wing ideologues around President Reagan in America who wanted to find a way of regenerating the moral purpose of their country in the world.
The other was the secret services in both America and Britain. The spies were beginning to realise that the Soviet Union might no longer be a serious threat – and that might threaten their own existence.
What they needed was a new enemy. And the more terrifying, unpredictable and mad the better.
At the beginning of 1981 President Ronald Reagan promised to regenerate America’s moral mission in the world – above all to confront the evil empire of the Soviet Union.
But in the back rooms of the CIA, analysts were beginning to question whether this was necessary. They said that all the data they were gathering showed that the Soviet Union was in a terrible state. Even the invasion of Afghanistan, they said, was defensive. There was no way that the Russians wanted to take over the world any longer – even if they ever had.
But the new head of the CIA, William Casey, and the new Secretary of State, General Alexander Haig didn’t want to hear this. They were convinced that America had to have something to fight for.
And bit by bit, through the spring and summer of 1981 a new enemy started to emerge in the American newspapers. It was Colonel Gaddafi. State Department officials and other administration “sources” briefed journalists that Gaddafi was at the heart of “the new global disease of terrorism”
In August, American jets patrolling off the coast of Libya shot down two Libyan fighters over the Gulf of Sidra. Gaddafi was furious and began issuing all sorts of threats against America.
Then, in October, a famous journalist called Jack Anderson wrote a sensational article. It said that Colonel Gaddafi had sent a six-man hit team to the US to assassinate President Reagan. Sources in the administration, he said, had concrete evidence that they were led by the most famous terrorist in the world called Carlos “The Jackal”.
Then Newsweek said that Gaddafi had equipped them with “bazookas, grenade launchers and even portable SAM-7 missiles capable of bringing down the President’s plane”. The State department even issued photo fits of the six assassins.
But it seems that it was all completely untrue. Made up by the Reagan administration.
Here are some extracts from a documentary made later in the 1980s in which the journalist Jack Anderson explains how he was fed the story, why he believed it – and how it turned out not to be true.
It also includes an interview with one of the administration men who fed the story to the press. He was part of a committee that had been specifically set up to turn Gaddafi into the mad dog of terror. But even he admits that it was based on very little evidence.
It’s a fascinating piece because it is the earliest evidence of what would become known later inside the Reagan administration as “Perception Management”. This was the idea that you could use the press and television to tell stories that simplified the world for the American people and turned it into a struggle of good against evil. A cartoon-like picture that justified America’s policies in the world.

It didn’t matter whether the stories were completely true or not because the overriding moral aim was good.

But Colonel Gaddafi didn’t mind the lies at all – because they turned him instantly into a global figure of power and importance.
Gaddafi was a man who understood Perception Management as well, if not better, than the men around Reagan. And he now began to act the part to the hilt. His key ally in this was TV – and in particular the rise of 24 hour news. Underlying it was a shift away from considered packages and towards an exciting sense of immediacy.

Gaddafi was brilliant at it. Here are some of the best bits from the archives of that time. It starts with him appearing on a live satellite link to a mass meeting of The Nation of Islam in Chicago. Gaddafi offers to fund and arm a 100,000 strong black army in America so they can then go and shoot the whites who have oppressed them for so long.

And here is a bit from a film exposing how Colonel Gaddafi has invited German rocket scientists, some of whom had Nazi pasts, to come and build a rocket in Libya. Gaddafi appears in the film explaining that Libya wants to investigate outer space for peaceful purposes. But the film says it may be also so he can attack anywhere in Europe within minutes.
The German company was called OTRAG, and it had previously been building rockets in Zaire for President Mobutu. The BBC had reported on this the year before.
The film has a great graphic showing how the rockets could hit Israel and even Europe. It is remarkably like all the graphics produced about Saddam’s rockets attacking Europe in the “dodgy dossier” in 2003

And through it all Gaddafi plays the coy innocent beautifully. He knows just what he is up to.