November 30, 2004

Home From Libya

Well, it’s a police state. You knew that already, I know, but it’s obviously a police state when you’re walking around in it. I saw more pictures of Ghaddafi during a week than in all the rest of my life put together. The colonel says he can’t help it if his people love him so much they put up his portrait all over the country. What a card that guy is.

Some of you will appreciate the fact that Ghaddafi’s picture wasn’t the only one plastered all over Tripoli. I saw at least 100 posters of Jacques Chirac (he was in town with much fanfare for Lord only knows what kind of business) and also Comrade Hugo Chavez who came by to pick up his “human rights” prize. Chavez professed solidarity between Venezuela and Libya because, as he put it in Spanish, “our roads go in the same direction.” God help the people of Venezuela. (And Libya, too.)

I have a lot to say about the country, but you’ll have to wait a while for the whole story. The LA Weekly paid me to go, so they get the scoop. You will, of course, get a link to the piece when it is published.

In the meantime, I have to find the dealie that connects my digital camera to the computer so I can upload my pictures. I will post a photo tour and some commentary, hopefully later today. Libya has some eerily beautiful scenery, but the Soviet-style urban planning is ghastly. You’ll see.

I'd also like to publicly thank Jeremy for filling in for me while I was out. It's nice to know my blog is still kicking when I'm in a place where blogging is either reckless or impossible. Good work, bro. Thanks a bunch.

UPDATE: Here's the photo gallery.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at November 30, 2004 09:24 AM

Glad to see you made it home safe and sound. Can't wait to see pictures.

Posted by: Kim at November 30, 2004 09:43 AM

More importantly - did you wind up getting the Ghadaffi watch?

Welcome back.

Posted by: Independent George at November 30, 2004 11:23 AM


Oh, I got the watch alright. And the hour hand is broken, just like almost everything else in that country.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 30, 2004 11:39 AM

Well, it’s a police state.

If the police were anything like this I imagine it wasn't all that bad - especially if you're a suspicious looking westerner that they decide to stop and frisk.

A Colonel can't be too careful these days, anyway.


Welcome back, MJT.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at November 30, 2004 12:05 PM

From another police state in the Islamic World:

Reporters Without Borders: Five webloggers jailed in Iran.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at November 30, 2004 02:53 PM

Chavez professed solidarity between Venezuela and Libya because, as he put it in Spanish, “our roads go in the same direction.”

Yep, and soon the good old US of A will be there too, Michael.

There is a lot of money to make. And we all know money talks.

Of course, as we know, the US, Brazilians and the Cubans regularly cosy up to the Chinese. So God help the Americans, Brazilians and Cubans! ;-)

Its a funny old world.

Posted by: Benjamin at November 30, 2004 06:13 PM


The Chinese have just built the largest shopping mall in the world in Beijing.

Money talks. Those political prisoners abused in China's prisons don't.

I live in Hong Kong. Recently the Chinese govt squashed all hopes of full democracy here by 2008. Barely a whimper from the USA.

I turned on CCTV the other day (the Chinese state broadcaster) and an American was on there - the mayor of Washington D.C (twinned with Beijing BTW) - who was being particularly sycophantic about the Chinese dictatorship.

Remarkably (and this takes some skill) he even talked about Tianamen Square without mentioning democracy or the demonstration there. That's some going.

Posted by: Benjamin at November 30, 2004 06:34 PM


Sorry, I think you misunderstand me. My confusing use of language, admittedly.

I meant, along with assorted countries, the USA will be in Libya, making money and deals with the Libyans.

Posted by: Benjamin at November 30, 2004 07:45 PM

Yes, Benjamin the US will be in Libya. But the US will not claim America and Libya's "road go in the same direction" and win the Ghaddafi "human rights" prize.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 30, 2004 09:52 PM


DAVID T: Good luck finding the women and children to bomb, my friend. It looks like Michael only found one and she'll be dead in a few years, anyway. God, what a wretched existence.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at December 1, 2004 01:56 AM

Michael, you seem to be a bit, shall we say, selective in choosing the targets of your outrage. Not so long ago Tony Blair offered his "hand of partnership" to Gaddafi and spoke of a "common cause in fighting terrorism", while simultaneously securing a multi-million $ contract for BP. Human rights abuses were only mentioned retrospectively. The British public was not too happy about all this.

Posted by: novakant at December 1, 2004 03:48 AM

And of course here comes Novakant to defend Allende...oops, I mean Chavez.. Tony Blair = Hugo Chavez, 2+2=5, etc etc.

Anyhoo, here is a legitimate question: If Ghadaffi is so powerful, how come he never promoted himself from Colonel to General? Was he really a Colonel or is it just a honorary term like Colonel Sanders, founder of KFC?

Posted by: Winger at December 1, 2004 11:24 AM

Grant: I agree with your analysis. And clearly you are looking at it rationally, while Novakant seems more interested in demonization.

Posted by: Winger at December 1, 2004 01:57 PM

Look guys, it's one thing to do business with a dictator. (The entire world now does business with Libya.) It's another thing altogether to win a "human rights prize" from a totalitarian regime because you and it have the same goals in mind. There is absolutely no comparison between Tony Blair and Hugo Chavez. None. Zero. Zip. Nada. Zilch.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 1, 2004 05:48 PM
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