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Marc Lynch has brought to my attention Benjamin Barber’s astonishing op-ed in the Washington Post about Libya and Colonel Qaddafi. Barber, the author of “Jihad vs. McWorld,” has found a kinder, gentler Qaddafi who wants to steer his country towards democracy. “Written off not long ago as an implacable despot, Gaddafi is a complex and adaptive thinker as well as an efficient, if laid-back, autocrat,” he writes. “Unlike almost any other Arab ruler, he has exhibited an extraordinary capacity to rethink his country’s role in a changed and changing world.” Not since Leni Riefenstahl filmed “Triumph of the Will” has an intellectual so cravenly toadied up to a dictator. And it gets worse as it goes.
Barber notes excitedly that “five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor condemned to death for allegedly spreading HIV among children in a Libyan hospital” were freed last month. He doesn’t mention that while being held in jail for years they were repeatedly tortured by the Colonel’s henchmen. Indeed, by Barber’s account, the Colonel had nothing to do with the arrest of the medical workers–that was the work of “Benghazi clans” over which Qaddafi apparently has no control. But wait–the Colonel must have some control because Barber gives him full credit for securing the release of the nurses, which he cites as a sign of his enlightened rule.
Barber knows Qaddafi is a good man for a very good reason: the Colonel told him so. “In several one-on-one conversations over the past year, Gaddafi repeatedly told me that Libya sought a genuine rapprochement with the United States,” he writes. “He insisted that in the Libya that comes after him there would be no new Gaddafi but self-governance.”
On his website, Lynch writes a letter to Barber, saying:
You presented some very interesting ideas about Libya in your Washington Post op-ed. I found particularly interesting your ideas about Col. Qaddafi’s experiments with direct democracy and efficient government. I know just the person you should talk to about these ideas–a brave journalist exposing official corruption in Libya by the name of Dhayf al-Gazzal. Be careful shaking his hand, though, because about a year and a half ago he had his fingers cut off before his body was riddled with bullets and abandoned in the desert. Hey, wasn’t that right around the time you were having such pleasant chats about direct democracy and the Green Book with the flexible and adaptive Colonel? How embarrassing! Anyway, since he’s dead, he might not be as vivacious a conversationalist as Col. Qaddafi. But I’m sure he’d be fascinated by your notions of Qaddafi’s enlightened rule and might even have some notes.
I can only imagine Barber with North Korea’s Kim Jong-il.
Barber: There have been media reports in the West claiming that people in North Korea are starving. Can you comment?
Kim: Look at the size of these lobsters. Waiter, more Hennessey!
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”