Saturday, September 13, 2008

Once more, Libya's arrogant 'King of Kings' is selling a nation's future

San Antonio Express

Mansour El-Kikhia

This week, Col. Moammar al-Qadhafi of Libya is a happy man.

It began Sept. 1, the 39th anniversary of his revolution. He kicked off the celebrations by inviting a host of African tribal kings to bestow upon him the title of “King of Kings” and present him with a golden crown and scepter. Shamelessly, the Libyan peacock forgot about his revolutionary drivel, the silly ideology with its “state of the masses” and revolutionary committees, as well as 40 years of pain and suffering. He paraded like a clown, with the crown on his head. It confirmed the calamity that everyone in Libya already knew— that they were under the dictatorship of an arrogant buffoon who has no qualms about selling Libya to the lowest bidder.

Following that show of vanity, he signed a multi-billion dollar agreement with the prime minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, giving Italy preferential access to the Libyan market, oil and construction projects. In return, Italy apologized for occupying Libya in 1912, agreeing to compensate Libya for the 34 years of colonial occupation with a $5 billion dollar coastal highway linking Egypt with Tunisia. But perhaps the icing on the cake was the Italian guarantee to protect the Qadhafi regime against domestic and foreign adversaries.

I found the whole affair very offensive because Qadhafi bargained away the rights of 1.8 million victims for a coastal highway. He seems to have forgotten that he is still paying the final installment on the $3 billion compensation for murdering 300 souls aboard Pan Am 103 over Scotland, in addition to the $500 million for his victims aboard UTA over Niger. Is Libyan life cheaper than American, British, French or any other human life?

Italian colonialism was a catastrophe for Libyans. Long before they emerged in Northern Europe, the Fascists erected three concentration camps, herding all the inhabitants of the eastern province of Cyrenaica into them. More than 50 percent of the population in the province perished within a five-year period. There are no exact figures because Italian Fascists were not as precise as their German counterparts, but a census after the war estimated the victims to be upward of 1.5 million people.

Worse yet, the survivors were in no position to govern. At the close of World War II, the illiteracy rate in Libya was 99 percent. The Fascists denied Libyan children education beyond second grade. The infant mortality rate, usually measured in one per thousand, was 45 percent.
Additionally, I have a personal gripe with the regime bargaining on my behalf. The total number of years my family members spent in Fascist jails and camps exceed 100, not to mention those who died in captivity. My father spent over 25 years in Italian prisons, house arrests and exile. Males, females and children of my family who were not incarcerated in Libya were hoarded aboard a ship and held in a camp on the island of Sicily.

Many Cyrenaicans lost all their loved ones to torture, hanging or simple starvation in concentration camps. And for this buffoon to bargain away their rights is criminal. Berlusconi is a businessman. He cares nothing about apologies or the $5 billion; after all, the money will go to Italian companies over a 10-year period.

Extracting compensation from Qadhafi has emerged as the only foreign policy success of the Bush administration. Condoleezza Rice, in the first high ranking visit by an American government official since 1953, came calling on Qadhafi to ensure that he pays the remaining Pan Am compensation sum. She spent four hours with him, but got an earful from the Libyan dictator about staying out of Africa and not lecturing him on his abysmal human rights policies.
At this stage, the U.S. has few tools in its bag, short of reversing full diplomatic recognition, and Qadhafi knows that. He probably will not release the funds until the next president is chosen. Mr. Bush has served his purpose and can now be discarded. Outliving seven presidents has given Qadhafi a good idea of how to deal with American administrations.

The losers in all this are Libyans who will now have to endure more years of lunacy, repression and desperate need under the filthy boots of a vain madman whose ego is continually stroked by Western protectors.

No comments: