As Libya and Gaddafi move to a more prominent place in the news, I thought I’d point to a few posts on the topic. As an Africanist Archaeologist, I’ve got a special interest in Libya (though I’ve never worked there or visited). Haua Fteah is there. Haua Fteah is a cave facing north and overlooking the Mediterranean. It has sediments in it dating to over 120,000 years ago, which thus transcend the entire recent ice age, going all the way back to the last full interglacial. It was excavated by the guy who trained, at that site, two of the three archaeologists whom I had as advisors, Ofer Bar-Yosef and Glynn Isaac, along with a bunch of other people. Another interesting connection: A friend of mine who has helped fund some of the research I’ve been involved in (especially this work) was serving as a volunteer amateur archaeologist in Libya some years back, working on classic era sites. While doing so, she found herself hanging out with the King of Libya (or Sultan or whatever) on the day that the Royal Palace was overrun by the rebels, and only barely escaped with the help of some CIA guys who were also hanging around there. That was some years ago.
But enough trivia. One of the things I’ve been struck by, being an American Citizen as well as an Africanist who has worked more with non-Americans while working there than with Americans (or at least so it seems) is the huge difference between how American feel about Gaddafi vs. others. While most people do see him as being something less than sane, and no one thinks he leads or supports a democratic government, compared to many other dictators of the region, Gaddafi has served his people better. For example, outside of the near east, most oil producing countries are essentially owned by the big oil companies, and the countries themselves get very little of the profits. When Gaddafi/Qaddafi threw out the international oil companies that was a plus for Libya, but also started a strong anti-Libya campaign that included making certain that a number of terrorist events got blamed on them with rather questionable links, such as the kidnapping of the OPEC oil ministers and, possibly, Pan Am 103.
Without further ado:
Flight 103 from Frankfurt
Scene: Berkeley, California, April 1986. A bar. Five conference attendees, myself included, grabbing a hamburger and a beer in a fern-bar on or near Telegraph.
All eyes are on the TV’s mounted over the bar, where we watch footage of an air strike against Libya. This is the retribution by Ronald Reagan against Insane African Leader Muammar al-Kadafi. The White House was issuing statements about al-Kadafi’s involvement in bombings in Europe, the OPEC oil ministry kidnapping, linkage to the infamous Jackal, and so on. Nikki, a friend and colleague, said something, and I remember asking her to repeat it. Nikki is a low-talkier. You’ve got to lean in really close. So I leaned in and heard her say, “Lybia is the only country in Africa where the people get to share in the national wealth. They love Kadafi. Others should take a lesson from him.”
Muammar al-Gaddafi: Not a bad speech (for the sake of controversy)
No one will take Muammar al-Gaddafi’s speech at the UN seriously because he is generally seen as a raving lunatic. And he might be. However, he made numerous valid points (not all of which I agree with). I loved the part where he threw the book over his shoulder.