In Libya, a campaign to confuse
Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, with his claims of total popular support and theatrical displays at bombing sites, treads a fine line between rhetoric and reality.
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Ubiquitous Green Book
Cornerstone to Qaddafi’s ideology, his loyalists say, is the Green Book he penned beginning in 1975. Few things in Libya are as ubiquitous. There are statues erected of it and posters that herald it. School children are required to read it and pristine copies have mysteriously appeared in rubble at bomb sites.Skip to next paragraph
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Spanning subjects as diverse as the differences between men and women – “just as all females in the kingdom of plants and animals differ from the male of their species” – to describing day nursery for toddlers as “coercive and tyrannical,” the Green Book is the ultimate guide for Libya’s true believers.
It also promises to yield the secret of true democracy and freedom with a “third universal theory.”
“In the outside world there is a misunderstanding of this book; they didn’t read it, they thought it was a dictatorial case,” says Hisham Arab, a journalist with the monthly People’s Congress magazine, published by the Green Book Center, which he says is devoted to spreading the “values” of Qaddafi’s book “to the world.”
“A lot of outsiders misunderstand Muammar Qaddafi’s character, so they do not accept Muammar Qaddafi’s thoughts,” says Mr. Arab. “Here we know it – we follow it every day in our lives.”
'Mad dog of the Middle East'
Critics deride the Green Book as a rambling and pointless screed from a man whom Ronald Reagan called the “mad dog of the Middle East.” But it is no small feat to keep atop Libya’s tribal society for nearly 42 years, even with a well-documented track record of brutally crushing dissent.
Qaddafi accuses – and his followers say they believe – that rebel forces now in control of eastern Libya and other enclaves are Al Qaeda militants or a small group of wayward Libyans radicalized by drugs and foreigners who covet Libya’s oil.
“Some people say they want Muammar Qaddafi to leave, [and they] took weapons and fought,” says Abdul Jalil, a sports TV host who now works with foreign journalists on behalf of the government. “He said: ‘Me with millions will follow those rebels street by street, room by room,’ until we clean Libya of these rebels.’ ”
“The real meaning is not, ‘We will kill Libyans one by one,’ ” says Mr. Jalil. “But we will clean Libya of these rats."
Yet such retaliation would not seem possible in the world presented by the Green Book, where every citizen has a voice. Or, in fact, it should be inevitable, since Qaddafi wrote that those citizen voices should always target authoritarian rule.
'Direct democracy is the ideal'
“The Green Book guides the masses to an unprecedented system of direct democracy,” Qaddafi wrote. “No two intelligent people can dispute the fact that direct democracy is the ideal…. All that is left before the masses now is the struggle to eliminate all prevailing forms of dictatorial governments… .”
This is precisely what Libya’s antigovernment rebels say they are doing. As well as following another of Qaddafi’s maxims: “Freedom of expression is the right of every natural person, even if a person chooses to behave irrationally to express his or her insanity."
Despite frequent use of the word “democracy” in the Green Book, and Qaddafi’s many tirades against authoritarian rule, there is a Machiavellian truth that concludes the first portion – and bodes ill for Libyans praying for peaceful change.
The “era of the masses … excites the feelings and dazzles the eyes,” wrote Qaddafi. But even though this vision of freedom marks the “happy emancipation” from authoritarianism, he warned also of a “period of chaos and demagoguery.”
Qaddafi concluded: “Theoretically, this is genuine democracy but, realistically … the stronger party in society is the one that [always] rules.”