He has called himself ‘an international leader, the dean of the Arab rulers, the king of kings of Africa and the imam of Muslims.’ And today, the self-proclaimed ‘king of kings of Africa‘ has a lot to celebrate.
I am talking of course of Muammar Al-Gaddafi, the ‘Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution,’ who today celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Libyan Revolution, which brought him to power.
‘Celebrate Libya’, as today’s event is called, will be one of the biggest events the African continent has seen in modern times. Tonight’s ceremony is said to be comparable in magnitude to an Olympic opening ceremony. Hundreds of thousands of spectators, 800 performers, sound and light shows, 1000 camels, military bands, acrobatic planes, flame ballet and spectacular fireworks will mark the occasion.
The celebrations can be monitored on the official Celebrate Libya website.
This year, Libya has even more to be proud of, making 2009 perhaps Gaddafi’s most successful year since the 1969 coup. Libya currently holds a seat on the UN Security Council, chairs the General Assembly and presides over the African Union. In the latter function, Gaddafi pursues lofty goals: to create a United States of Africa (USA) with one army, one passport, one currency and one leader.
Also vis-à-vis Western powers, Gaddafi is regularly clenching his fist and always seems to be getting his way. He was able to get Mr. Al-Megrahi out of his Scottish prison and back home to Libya, cooly ignoring US protests. He is playing a cat-and-mouse game with the Swiss government and seems to have a lot of fun at it . By not releasing his Swiss hostages by today’s deadline, he may well have managed to single-handedly bring down the Swiss president, who failed to honor his promise to the Swiss people and bring back the hostages by 1 September.
It must feel good to have all that power. And obviously, the man can get away with all this erratic behavior.
It is not just the high-quality oil and investment opportunities that so many powers, including the US, the UK and Switzerland so much covet that they allow themselves to be ridiculed and blackmailed by the Libyan dictator. There is a second reason, dear to the heart of the US government in particular: non-proliferation.
Libya voluntarily dismantled its WMD programs in exchange for being re-integrated into the international community. The US wants to use Libya as a model for countries like Iran and North Korea to follow suit – give up your nuclear programs, and you will be blessed with foreign investments and economic growth. Should the West decide to ostracize Libya again, Gaddafi would surely use all his theatrical and rhetorical talent to let the world know that the US is not honoring its promises it gave in exchange for Libya’s renunciation of nuclear weapons.
So, for now, let the ‘mad dog of Libya’ (as Ronald Reagan once called Gaddafi) have fun with his little games, testing the limits of how far Western powers will tolerate his excesses. As things stand today, he indeed has lots to celebrate.