Sami Moubayed: Gaddafi ... Mad Dog of the Middle East

Roundup: Talking About History

[Sami Moubayed is editor-in-chief of Forward Magazine in Syria.]

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was new to the scene when he marched into the Arab summit in Cairo in September 1970, exactly one year after he had staged a successful coup in Libya, at the young age of 27, ousting his predecessor, the ailing King Idriss, aged 80.

Dressed in military uniform with a revolver strapped around his belt, the flamboyant young man wanted to come across as an "Arab Che Guevara". The Arabs assembled in Egypt were busily trying to hammer out a solution to a bloody showdown in Amman between King Hussein and the Palestinians, known as Black September.

Gaddafi, a protege of Egyptian president Gamal Abdul Nasser who was ostensibly committed to Arab nationalism, was furious with Hussein. In words that seem strangely appropriate today, Gaddafi barked, "We are faced with a madman like Hussein who wants to kill his own people. We must send someone to seize him, handcuff him, stop him from doing what he is doing, and take him off to a mental asylum!"

King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, a wise old man, gently said, "I don't think you should call an Arab king a madman who should be taken to an asylum." Gaddafi snapped back: "But he is mad! All his family is mad! It's a matter of record!" Gaddafi was making reference to Hussein's father King Talal who abdicated in 1951 because he was mentally unfit to rule Jordan.

The wise Faisal remarked: "Well, perhaps all of us are mad." Nasser intervened, "Sometimes when you see what is going on in the Arab world, your majesty, I think this may be so. I suggest we appoint a psychiatrist to examine us regularly and find one which ones are crazy."

Days later, Nasser was dead - but apparently Gaddafi dodged the mental check-ups...

comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:

Arnold Shcherban - 2/24/2011

Note, how the author spins characterization of three heads of state: King Faisal representing an essentially medieval theocratic regime and downplaying terrible abuses of human rights by King Hussein is "wise",... but, unfortunately, Gaddafi's and Nasser's sanity, who condemned Hussein have not been checked?
Does it make any sense to read further?