How crazy is hopefully-soon-to-be-deposed Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi? Why don't we check Wikileaks to find out? (Spoiler alert: He is pretty crazy.)
Wikileaks, the secrets-sharing website that began to release a huge cache of classified diplomatic cables last year, has several messages about Qaddafi and Libya. As, we guess, some kind of retrospective of corruption, despotism and derangement, both The New York Times and ABC News combed through the state department's Qaddafi-related cables, trying to flesh out our picture of Qaddafi's regime. And, wow! It's pretty awful. Obviously, there is some charmingly flamboyant eccentricity, as in this now-classic cable:
Qadhafi appears to rely heavily on XXXXXXXXXXXX and reportedly cannot travel with his senior Ukrainian nurse, Galyna XXXXXXXXXXXX. He also appears to have an intense dislike or fear of staying on upper floors, reportedly prefers not to fly over water, and seems to enjoy horse racing and flamenco dancing.
Or, in a cable intended for then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice preparing her for her visit to Libya (emphasis ours):
Muammar al-Qadhafi is notoriously mercurial. He often avoids making eye contact during the initial portion of meetings, and there may be long, uncomfortable periods of silence. Alternatively, he can be an engaging and charming interlocutor, as he was during NEA A/S Welch's meeting on August 14. A self-styled intellectual and philosopher, he has been eagerly anticipating for several years the opportunity to share with you his views on global affairs. We've been told that issues he might raise include Sarkozy's Union for the Mediterranean proposal (which al-Qadhafi opposes), the Georgia conflict, illegal migration (Libya is a key transit country), Iran, Iraq and the Arab-Israeli conflict (including his "Isratine" one-state solution), and Africa.
But for every "Isratine," there are ten cables about the regime's corruption and brutality. Like this one:
Qadhafi often speaks out publicly against government corruption, but the politically-connected elite has direct access to lucrative business deals. This commercial access can easily be cut off when individuals fall out of favor. The Qadhafi family and other Jamahiriya political favorites profit from being able to manipulate the multi-layered and regularly shifting dynamics of governance mechanisms in Libya. They have strong interests in the oil and gas sector, telecommunications, infrastructure development, hotels, media distribution, and consumer goods distribution. The financial interests of Qadhafi and his key allies present both opportunites and challenges for reform efforts in Libya. Any reform is likely to be cyclical over the long-term.
Or, if that wasn't depressing enough, you can read about Libya's shady arms deals, or the country's attempts to "blackmail" foreign embassies for visas. Or about Qaddafi's kids:
All of the Qadhafi children and favorites are supposed to have income streams from the National Oil Company and oil services subsidiaries. Saif is involved in oil services through One-Nine Petroleum and other Qadhafi family members and associates are believed to have large financial stakes in the Libyan Tamoil oil marketing company based in Europe and Oil Invest.
The kids are of special interest because, as Ambassador Gene Cretz points out in one cable,
the sharp rivalry between the al-Qadhafi children could play an important, if not determinative role, in whether the al-Qadhafi family is able to hold on to power after Muammar al-Qadhafi exits (one way or another) the political scene.
It's looking increasingly likely that Qaddafi will be leaving the political scene, in one way or another. But it also seems unlikely that any of the Qaddafi family will end up holding on to power. And based on those Wikileaks cables, that is very good news.