Are you all watching this Gaddafi speech right now?

He seems like a pretty cool guy. Completely and entirely rational and coherent. Totally with it, for sure. Very well-prepared and thoughtful. Definitely qualified to run a country. Cool guy. Very cool.

[At what point, if you’re his translator, do you just give up?]

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55 comments for “Are you all watching this Gaddafi speech right now?

  1. Slouching Toward Globalization
    February 22, 2011 at 11:47 am

    OMG, thank you for posting this link and drawing my attention to Al Jazeera at this particular moment.

    I work in anthropology, and I spend a lot of time watching subtitled ethnographic film. We talk about the problems of translation often, and this is a great example of a problem…as you say…when do you just give up?

  2. craftydabbler
    February 22, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    I couldn’t view the Al Jazeera link, but I found a CBS version. Wow.

  3. Michelle the Red
    February 22, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    I tried to watch all of it, I think he’s still going on, but he just sounds/looks CRAAAZY. I am sick of the news commentators talking about the protests in the Middle East/N. Africa is going to make gas go up. I thought Freedom wasn’t free? I will GLADLY pay more for gas if it means MILLIONS of people can live freely, but hey, I’m a hippy atheist.

  4. PrettyAmiable
    February 22, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Three comments until we got to the inevitable ableism because apparently you can’t be NT and an asshole.

  5. February 22, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    I find it funny that, at the end of the post, there’s a link to the previous post “Where have all the good men gone?”

    Did you plan that?

    • February 22, 2011 at 12:50 pm

      Ha, I wish. No, it’s just a standard blog thing that happens automatically.

  6. Gretchen
    February 22, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    I am worried. He believes in a world where he is a hero, a ‘king of africa’ and loved by all Libya, and the delusion is unravelling. He’s clearly not coping and keeps mentioning executions, these are not empty threats.

  7. G Newman
    February 22, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Too many readers are going to miss your touch of irony, Jill… Especially the right-wing bloggers, who will quote you verbatim.

    • February 22, 2011 at 1:22 pm

      …even though I tagged the post “genocide” and “war criminals”?

  8. Mandolin
    February 22, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    I think the bracketed comment makes the irony pretty clear. Rightwingers might take quotes out of context, but I shudder to think what would happen if everyone wrote so that no given part of a sentence could be misconstrued if taken out of context…

  9. February 22, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Mandolin: I but(sic) shudder every part out.

    I don’t even know what you’re talking about anymore Mandolin.

  10. February 22, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    I typically ignore the tags, but I think the use of “pretty cool guy” makes the irony as plain as day. Also, every single other sentence in the post, except for “Very well-prepared and thoughtful” which I guess could be construed as serious if taken completely out of context.

  11. February 22, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    The protesters have been given psychedelic drugs! War is Peace! Freedom is Slavery! 2 + 2 =5!

  12. SunlessNick
    February 22, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    Whatever else, credit to Mr Dabbashi and his colleagues at the UN.

  13. Byron
    February 22, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Question for you, Jill: is Obama a war criminal too, or is that title only reserved for crazy Africans and not Harvard-educated bullshit artists?

    • February 22, 2011 at 4:18 pm

      Ah yes, equating Obama with Gaddafi. That’s helpful.

    • February 22, 2011 at 4:48 pm

      No, Obama is not a war criminal. No, the title is not only reserved for “crazy Africans.” Does that answer the question?

  14. Byron
    February 22, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    I didn’t equate anything, but way to avoid the question.

  15. Kristen J.
    February 22, 2011 at 5:01 pm


    Would quote for emphasis if I could quote on my blackberry. So quoting in spirit.

  16. David
    February 22, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    Question for you, Jill: is Obama a war criminal too, or is that title only reserved for crazy Africans and not Harvard-educated bullshit artists?  

    If Obama is a war criminal, then any active president during wartime was a war criminal as well. Abraham Lincoln, FDR, Harry Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan.

    Shit, and I suppose I’m a war criminal too for paying my taxes. Ship me off to the Hague!

    Back to the real world:

    It sounds like Gaddafi is nearly at the end of his rope. If it weren’t for the fact that he’s been wholesale slaughtering people during the revolts, I’d be more amused. At least that clown will (hopefully) be out of office soon.

  17. RD
    February 22, 2011 at 5:04 pm


  18. RD
    February 22, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    (Re: Obama and torture)

  19. February 22, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    Byron, can you define “false dichotomy”? Jill’s a nicer person than I am. At my place, that crack would get you banned.

  20. Byron
    February 22, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    Targeted assassinations aren’t war crimes? And that’s just one of many. Face it, Jill: Obama could strangle a toddler in plain sight and as long as he quoted MLK while doing it, you’d pretend it didn’t happen. You like his personality and the fact that he’s a Democrat, and that’s enough for him to be able to do no wrong in your eyes.

  21. Byron
    February 22, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    Thomas, I don’t doubt that Jill’s really nice. I’m sure she’s nicer than I am. But a lot of really nice people are also really gullible too. I just think it’s hypocritical to mock some far-off crazy dictator for war crimes and yet never take the time to criticize the guy she voted for who’s also technically a war criminal, though not in the same way as Gaddafi.

  22. February 22, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    Byron, you’ve used in intellectually disingenuous false dichotomy in service of a naked attempt to threadjack.

  23. David
    February 22, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    Targeted assassinations aren’t war crimes? And that’s just one of many. Face it, Jill: Obama could strangle a toddler in plain sight and as long as he quoted MLK while doing it, you’d pretend it didn’t happen. You like his personality and the fact that he’s a Democrat, and that’s enough for him to be able to do no wrong in your eyes.  

    Disclaimer, I have a cold right now and am in a slightly annoyed mood:

    Actually I sorta hate to be arguing this, but: Targeted assassinations in and of themselves aren’t war crimes. Ever heard of the plot to assassinate hitler? I hate to make Godwin cry, but who is being killed actually matters. Otherwise any military sniper with any kills would be a war criminal. Your position actually makes no fucking sense.

    Now, targeted assasinations of civilians are war crimes but you didn’t specify in your post so the point is moot. Besides, I’m not going to go ahead and make your argument for you. Do good dilligence next time, and make sure to put the words “civilian” in that sentence before you go making a fool of yourself.

    Incidentally it is also not hypocritical to *not* do something. Otherwise you are a hypocrite for suggesting that Jill is a hypocrite, but not “denouncing all the other hypocrites”. See how that works? If you do anything, it makes you a hypocrite, because you didn’t simultaneously say the same thing for all other things to which the definition could apply.

    • February 22, 2011 at 10:39 pm

      Face it, Jill: Obama could strangle a toddler in plain sight and as long as he quoted MLK while doing it, you’d pretend it didn’t happen.

      Um, no. He’d have to be quoting Gloria Steinem.

  24. RD
    February 22, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    Slaughtering protestors is so horrible and I’m sure worse than anything Obama’s ever done, and Qadafi is genocidal and delusional about it, but they can actually both be war criminals. You think war criminal vs. not war criminal is a false dichotomy? What are the other options? Sort-of war criminal?

    I was going to say i’d stop contributing to the derail now but the false dichotomy bit is bothering me.

  25. Tony
    February 22, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    The main difference between Gaddafi and Obama is that Gaddafi is a dictator. That’s why he’s been in power since Obama was 8.

  26. RD
    February 22, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    And he’s a dictator. No argument from me.

  27. RD
    February 22, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    Targeted assassinations in and of themselves aren’t war crimes.  

    Torture and extraordinary rendition, on the other hand…

  28. JP
    February 22, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    It is not at all obvious that Gaddafi is responsible for more civilian deaths than Obama, Bush, or Clinton.

    That doesn’t mean that Gaddafi does not deserve the strongest condemnation (he does), or that Obama does not deserve matching condemnation for the undeniable war crimes under his command in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Pakistan, among other places (he does; and that he is merely continuing the criminal policies of his predecessor is not exculpatory), or that US citizens should no vote for Obama over his Republican alternatives (they should).

  29. Tony
    February 22, 2011 at 8:30 pm


    In Thomas’s defense, I think he meant exactly what you are saying: that saying Gaddafi is a war criminal does not imply you think Obama is not one, so Byron’s initial comment assumed a ‘false dichotomy’.

  30. PrettyAmiable
    February 22, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Byron: Face it, Jill: Obama could strangle a toddler in plain sight and as long as he quoted MLK while doing it, you’d pretend it didn’t happen.

    … Everyone else laughed, right?

    Face it, Jill: ridiculous hypothetical is ridiculous.

    Like JP@32. RD, is torture a war crime? The US isn’t remotely quiet about our use of torture. I’d very much like the people responsible to be held accountable by an international body given how grossly reprehensible it is.

  31. JP
    February 22, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    On the other hand, Jill’s subsequent insistence that Obama is not a war criminal, and that he is in no way equal to Gadaffi, goes rather a long way towards showing that Byron was on to something. An absolute prohibition on equating a leader of a third world country shooting masses of his own unarmed citizens and a leader of a world power shooting masses of unarmed citizens of third world countries is not ideologically innocent. And for all the talk of false dichotomies, it’s surely hardly a surprise that many of us who are not Americans will find any condemnation by Americans of independent third world leaders grating if they are not followed in the same breath by a recognition that the US has been elbow-deep in the vast majority of global atrocities in the last half-century, with nobody responsible ever being held to any real account.

    In this way, the case of Libya – whose regime has been thoroughly ghastly, especially in the last two decades – is different than that of US clients like Egypt of Bahrain; however misguided or depraved, the Libyan regime has been an enemy of sorts of imperialism, and well-meaning imperial subjects had better add a disclaimer to their criticisms, lest they, not without justification, be taken the wrong way.

  32. Mandolin
    February 22, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    I suspect the false dichotomy lay in the implication that saying “Obama is not a war criminal” necessarily leads to “that title [is] only reserved for crazy Africans and not Harvard-educated bullshit artists.”

    One could believe that Obama was not a war criminal, and that some war criminals were not “crazy Africans” or even that some war criminals are “Harvard-educated bullshit artists.”

    • February 22, 2011 at 10:36 pm

      What Mandolin said.

      Also? The definition of “war criminal” is not “someone who kills unarmed citizens of third-world countries.” I think that a lot of what Obama has done is wrong and immoral and evil; I’m not so sure that anything he’s done amounts to a war crime. The closest thing is the predator drone strikes, and I’d have to have a lot more information to conclude that those strikes qualify (although I suspect they very well might). If we define “war criminal” as any leader who inadvertently kills innocent civilians in war, then anyone who ever leads a country at war is culpable. I’m not sure we want to go down that road.

      I do think there’s a big difference — morally and legally — between shooting and bombing unarmed and peaceful protesters in your own country because you want to maintain your dictatorship, and inheriting a war and the attendant strategies which necessarily kill civilians. That doesn’t mean that the lives of Afghan civilians are less worthy than Libyans; it means that the level of culpability is different. (And again, targeted assassinations complicate this argument, so I’m not saying that there’s no-way no-how that war crimes were committed under Obama’s leadership. I am saying that the Gaddafi comparison is ridiculous).

      • February 22, 2011 at 10:40 pm

        …and also this is a huge de-rail that I am no longer going to engage. This post is not about Obama’s war crimes. It is about Libya, and what’s going on over there. Perhaps we can de-center ourselves for five minutes to talk about that?

  33. JP
    February 22, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    Jill: …and also this is a huge de-rail that I am no longer going to engage. This post is not about Obama’s war crimes. It is about Libya, and what’s going on over there. Perhaps we can de-center ourselves for five minutes to talk about that? Jill

    De-centre ourselves? That’s pretty rich. As is your fastidiousness over the supposedly legally ambiguous drone strikes (setting aside the continued torture, illegal detention, and command responsibility for run-of-the-mill rape and murder by US soldiers and mercenaries) – fastidiousness simultaneous with calling the mass-murderer Gaddafi a war criminal, an absence of a state of war in Libya notwithstanding.

    As I said earlier, you are in no position to justifiably shrug off suspicions of ideological hypocrisy as de-railing. You can only do so by stipulation.

    • February 22, 2011 at 11:43 pm

      Actually, JP, as the owner of this blog and the moderator of this thread, I am in a position to shrug off whatever I want, insofar as it appears on this website. Back on topic, or I’m going to start deleting comments.

  34. JP
    February 22, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    Actually, that is precisely what I said.

    • February 23, 2011 at 12:05 am

      Well I’m glad, JP, that you are the arbitrator of what is and is not justifiable. It’s a tough job, but some sanctimonious dude has to do it!

  35. G Newman
    February 23, 2011 at 12:00 am

    Jill, I think it may be time to impose some Twisty’s style of discipline here. Something has to be done to prevent trolls from hijacking the thread. The disruptions are so continuous that they are probably on some company’s payroll, like HBGary Federal attempted to do. This is not an unreasonable fear: We saw similar planned, systematic disruptions of the Health Care public forums 18 months ago.

    Americans have this pleasantly naive idea, supported by the First Amendment, that if they just let everyone have their say, that the truth will eventually win out. The Germans, and others who’ve had democracy robbed from them by authoritarians, know better. Freedom must be patrolled to prevent it’s undermining.

    • February 23, 2011 at 12:02 am

      Yes, because deleting comments violates the First Amendment. Pocket Constitution, please!

  36. RD
    February 23, 2011 at 1:26 am

    Just to answer PrettyAmiable – torturing prisoners is a war crime yes.

  37. February 23, 2011 at 7:26 am

    Jill: Also? The definition of “war criminal” is not “someone who kills unarmed citizens…”

    Actually? Yes, it is.

    It’s been awhile so it seems again it’s time for a helpful reminder that noncombatant immunity isn’t just a good idea, it’s the law.

    In other words: You’re not allowed to kill civilians.

    Killing civilians is against the law. Killing civilians makes you a criminal.

    Yes, but …

    No buts about it. You’re not allowed to kill civilians.

    And, also: You’re not allowed to kill civilians.

    This is neither new nor controversial, yet putting the matter in such stark terms always seems to upset people.

    On the one hand, this isn’t surprising since the killing of civilians has become a scarcely remarkable, dog-bites-man commonplace. Yet it’s still surprising that anyone could find this elementary notion upsetting: You’re not allowed to kill civilians. If you’re one of those people who finds this upsetting, bear in mind what it is that you’re upset about. Apparently someone you feel ought to be immune from criticism has been killing civilians and you feel I’m criticizing them by pointing out — in the most abstract terms, without any mention of particulars — that this is something that no one is allowed to do. You’re not allowed to kill civilians, Slacktivist, 2006

    Open opposition to Mubarak was a problem for the Western leaders because he was “their guy in Egypt”, and had been for thirty years: Open opposition to Gaddafi has no such difficulty, he’s never been “their guy”, he’s just sometimes been less of an enemy. There are also democratic revolutions happening in Iraq, in Bahrein, and in Tunisia… but they are also less visible on the world stage.

  38. February 23, 2011 at 8:19 am

    Gaddafi is fucking delusional. I’m not-NT, and I don’t think it’s a condemnation of non-NT people to point that out. People who are in his position do often lose their grip on reality. It’s the most convenient thing for the people who are around them, their advisors and so on (hence they’re actually manipulated into not getting decent healthcare, despite their riches). There’s always a system of power in place, and that system can become very lucrative and easy to exploit if you’re in the right position and can prey on the fears of someone like Gaddafi. I was exposed to a lot of insight into his lifestyle and politics a few years ago and the details are grim. His paranoia is legendary and has long since spun out of control. The man is a wreck, and if it wasn’t for the violence and the lives lost, I would have sympathy. As such, I wish he’d get his shit together and leave.

  39. preying mantis
    February 23, 2011 at 8:55 am

    “At what point, if you’re his translator, do you just give up?”

    Maybe he’s annoyed translators as a group to the point that they’ve all agreed to translate anything he says as that sort of rambling, incoherent bullshit. It’s like real-life disemvoweling.

  40. Marksman2010
    February 24, 2011 at 2:54 am

    I can’t believe this guy is trying to use aircraft to bomb protestors. What’s he going to do if they tone things down and have a sit-in? Throw hand grenades?

  41. Matt
    February 24, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    I had the pleasure of seeing Qaddafi in person when I attended the 2007 inauguration of Abdoulaye Wade in Dakar, Senegal. The Guide of the Revolution is a captivating speaker, a laudable regionalist (pan-Africanist and pan-Arabist), and vaunted megalomaniac.

    I don’t think that it is irrelevant to talk about the targeted killings aimed at Qaddafi that ended up killing people close to him.

    However, that fact does nothing to exculpate Qaddafi for the harm he and his cohort have exacted on Libyans.

    The two coexist as shitty torts committed in the pursuit of the real work that states do, oppression – the step-on-your-head kind.

  42. PrettyAmiable
    February 24, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    @RD – I wish it were better prosecuted. I genuinely didn’t think it was, simply on the basis of no one seems to do shit about it in the international community. It’s gross and wrong and makes me sad.

    Re: the topic of this post, here’s an interesting article I read earlier that might explain some of the more erratic parts of his rhetoric.

    Ignore the headline – I think it’s a BBC error. The article has nothing to do with the supposed bin Laden “drugging and taking advantage of protesters” thing. It’s possible that an editor at BBC called bullshit on the content of the article (which essentially points out that Gaddafi doesn’t speak “educated” or Koran-based Arabic, and that they’ve had trouble getting translators who speak the proper Libyan dialect which has resulted in quite a bit of trouble for them), and pasted the other Gaddafi headline of the day to make their point.

  43. February 24, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    This is the strangest moment for those of us who grew up there. I never thought I’d see the town I spent part of my childhood in (Breja) mentioned in a Western news article.

    Gaddafi is fairly batshit, there’s never been any doubt about that. He’s always said crazy things. Which used to make me really uncomfortable when I’d see them quoted in the Western media as part of attempts to make it look like everyone in the Middle East is nuts. Al Jazeera is better than that, but even now, in the middle of a crisis, I’m seeing “lol the wacky Arab dictator” quips in some Western news stories and it’s making me want to punch someone. People are dying. Children are dying. And it’s starting to look like Gaddafi may finally lose his grip on the country, but many more people are going to die before that happens. And it’s going to be a mess for a while after he’s gone, and I’m kind of terrified that the US, the UK, Italy etc. will step into the gap and try to take over. And that’s not what people are fighting for at all.

    Right now I’m constantly torn between excitement and fear, watching the region in which I spent my childhood trying to shake off the shitty leaders inflicted upon it for so long. Excitement because if this succeeds it will be truly revolutionary. Fear because what happens if the Western powers jump in and fuck things up (again)? The oddest thing is that, as dangerous as it is right now, I still kind of wish that I could be there to watch it happen.

    There’s no major world leader about whom I feel more conflicted than Gaddafi (unusually lacking in sexism compared to other regional leaders, yay! kills anyone who disagrees with him, not so much yay).

    (Huge eyeroll at the attempted Obama derail, by the way. I’m probably more ambivilent about Gaddafi than most people here, but still, to compare whatever you’re mad at Obama about to some of the shit he’s done to the Libyan population? Please. Get some fucking perspective.)

  44. February 24, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    @ Matt – “The Guide of the Revolution is a captivating speaker, a laudable regionalist (pan-Africanist and pan-Arabist), and vaunted megalomaniac.”

    Thank you for actually attempting to address who the man is on a more macro level. This is what’s so vexing about any conversation about Gaddafi, this tendency that people have in the West to behave as if he has never done a single worthwhile thing in his life – it’s like he’s a cartoon villain. (Now pause to think about why he’s seen that way and how that view was formed). In reality, he’s a pretty complex figure – noble in some ways, monstrous in others. And as Natalia pointed out, he’s been losing his grip on reality for a long time. He was always a megalomaniac, but he wasn’t always delusional in the way he is now. That loss of coherance and clarity is part of why he’s probably going to lose power now – the Gaddafi that I lived under in the 70s would have already succeeded in crushing this revolution. Which isn’t an endorsement of crushing revolutions, by the way, just an observation.

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