Gaddafi’s speech: the highlights

The Libyan dictator’s speech yesterday was defiant, yet incoherent. Here are the key quotations.

 

In a characteristically bizarre appearance on Libyan state television yesterday, Colonel Gaddafi was like a caricature of a crazed dictator. His tone was defiant – yet the speech frequently verged on the comic. Were it not for the power he wields and the bloodshed he is not afraid to initiate, moments from this would have been laugh-out-loud funny.

Here are the key quotations from the rambling address.

Striking a defiant tone, Gaddafi signalled that he will refuse to flee Libya or to stand down, as the UN, his own diplomats and the Arab League have urged him to do:

I am a fighter, a revolutionary from tents . . . I will die as a martyr at the end.

Muammar Gaddafi is the leader of the revolution, I am not a president to step down . . . This is my country. Muammar is not a president to leave his post.

Despite this fighting stance, he offered a risible reason for not standing down:

I am not president so I cannot stand down.

Ominously, despite the signs of shocking violence coming out of Libya (link behind paywall), he claimed that we have seen nothing yet, and threatened his own people with civil war.

I have not yet ordered the use of force, not yet ordered one bullet to be fired . . . when I do, everything will burn.

Gaddafi also appeared to incite violence against protesters from his supporters:

You men and women who love Gaddafi . . . get out of your homes and fill the streets. Leave your homes and attack them in their lairs . . . Starting tomorrow [Wednesday] the cordons will be lifted, go out and fight them.

In one of the more laughable sections of the speech, he compared the demonstrators to drug-fuelled mice, suggesting that the uprising was incited by an unnamed group supplying them with drugs and money:

A small group of young people who have taken drugs have attacked police station like mice . . . They have taken advantage of this peace and stability . . . However it is not their fault, these young people; they tried to imitate what happened in Tunisia . . . However, there is a small group of sick people that has infiltrated in cities that are circulating drugs and money.

And it was not his only bizarre description of the protesters. He also called them:

This bunch of greasy rats and cats.

While he appeared rambling, incoherent and belligerent (Paul Waugh quipped on Twitter that he "put the rant in ty-rant"), this speech was a clear indication that Gaddafi does not plan to back down without a fight. His madness, though amusing from an detached perspective, makes it all the more worrying for those inside Libya, who face the all-too-serious enactment of this rage.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

Getty
Show Hide image

Leader: Trump's dangerous nation

From North Korea to Virginia, the US increasingly resembles a rogue state.

When Donald Trump was elected as US president, some optimistically suggested that the White House would have a civilising effect on the erratic tycoon. Under the influence of his more experienced colleagues, they argued, he would gradually absorb the norms of international diplomacy.

After seven months, these hopes have been exposed as delusional. On 8 August, he responded to North Korea’s increasing nuclear capabilities by threatening “fire and fury like the world has never seen”. Three days later, he casually floated possible military action against Venezuela. Finally, on 12 August, he responded to a white supremacist rally in Virginia by condemning violence on “many sides” (only criticising the far right specifically after two days of outrage).

Even by Mr Trump’s low standards, it was an embarrassing week. Rather than normalising the president, elected office has merely inflated his self-regard. The consequences for the US and the world could be momentous.

North Korea’s reported acquisition of a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on an intercontinental missile (and potentially reach the US) demanded a serious response. Mr Trump’s apocalyptic rhetoric was not it. His off-the-cuff remarks implied that the US could launch a pre-emptive strike against North Korea, leading various officials to “clarify” the US position. Kim Jong-un’s regime is rational enough to avoid a pre-emptive strike that would invite a devastating retaliation. However, there remains a risk that it misreads Mr Trump’s intentions and rushes to action.

Although the US should uphold the principle of nuclear deterrence, it must also, in good faith, pursue a diplomatic solution. The week before Mr Trump’s remarks, the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, rightly ruled out “regime change” and held out the possibility of “a dialogue”.

The North Korean regime is typically depicted as crazed, but its pursuit of nuclear weapons rests on rational foundations. The project is designed to guarantee its survival and to strengthen its bargaining hand. As such, it must be given incentives to pursue a different path.

Mr Trump’s bellicose language overshadowed the successful agreement of new UN sanctions against North Korea (targeting a third of its $3bn exports). Should these prove insufficient, the US should resume the six-party talks of the mid-2000s and even consider direct negotiations.

A failure of diplomacy could be fatal. In his recent book Destined for War, the Harvard historian Graham Allison warns that the US and China could fall prey to “Thucydides’s trap”. According to this rule, dating from the clash between Athens and Sparta, war typically results when a dominant power is challenged by an ascendent rival. North Korea, Mr Bew writes, could provide the spark for a new “great power conflict” between the US and China.

Nuclear standoffs require immense patience, resourcefulness and tact – all qualities in which Mr Trump is lacking. Though the thought likely never passed his mind, his threats to North Korea and Venezuela provide those countries with a new justification for internal repression.

Under Mr Trump’s leadership, the US is becoming an ever more fraught, polarised nation. It was no accident that the violent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, culminating in the death of the 32-year-old Heather Heyer, took place under his presidency. Mr Trump’s victory empowered every racist, misogynist and bigot in the land. It was doubtless this intimate connection that prevented him from immediately condemning the white supremacists. To denounce them is, in effect, to denounce himself.

The US hardly has an unblemished history. It has been guilty of reckless, immoral interventions in Vietnam, Latin America and Iraq. But never has it been led by a man so heedless of international and domestic norms. Those Republicans who enabled Mr Trump’s rise and preserve him in office must do so no longer. There is a heightened responsibility, too, on the US’s allies to challenge, rather than to indulge, the president. The Brexiteers have allowed dreams of a future US-UK trade deal to impair their morality.

Under Mr Trump, the US increasingly resembles a breed it once denounced: a rogue state. His former rival Hillary Clinton’s past warning that “a man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons” now appears alarmingly prescient.

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear