Washington Babylon — August 17, 2007, 8:51 am

Benjamin Barber: Qaddafi’s Riefenstahl

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!

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

August 2015

In the Shadow of the Storm

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Measure for Measure

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Trouble with Israel

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Camera on Every Cop

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
“The campaign music stopped. Hundreds of people, their faces now warped by the dread of a third bomb, began running for cover.”
Photograph © Guy Martin/Panos.
Article
Part Neither, Part Both·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Eight months pregnant I told an old woman sitting beside me on the bus that the egg that hatched my baby came from my wife’s ovaries. I didn’t know how the old woman would take it; one can never know. She was delighted: That’s like a fairy tale!”
Mother with Children, by Gustav Klimt © akg-images
Article
What Recovery?·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Between 2007 and 2010, Albany’s poverty rate jumped 12 points, to a record high of 39.9 percent. More than two thirds of Albany’s 76,000 residents are black, and since 2010, their poverty rate has climbed even higher, to nearly 42 percent.”
Photograph by Will Steacy
Article
Rag Time·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

From a May 23 commencement address delivered at Hofstra University. Doctorow died on Tuesday. He was 84.
“We are a deeply divided nation in danger of undergoing a profound change for the worse.”
Photograph by Giuseppe Giglia
Article
The Trouble with Israel·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“We think we are the only people in the world who live with threat, but we have to work with regional leaders who will work with us. Bibi is taking the country into unprecedented international isolation.”
Photograph by Adam Golfer

Ratio of money spent by Britons on prostitution to that spent on hairdressing:

1:1

A German scientist was testing an anti-stupidity pill.

A Twitter spokesperson conceded that a “Frat House”–themed office party “was in poor taste at best.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“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.”

Subscribe Today