[Marxism] Lifestyles of the rich and infamous
lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Aug 28 07:55:02 MDT 2011
NY Times August 27, 2011
Gilded Traces of the Lives Qaddafis Led
By ANTHONY SHADID and KAREEM FAHIM
TRIPOLI, Libya — His name of choice was the Brother Leader, though his
nearly 42 years of rule were rarely brotherly, and his leadership left a
country with plentiful oil in shambles.
Now, as the former subjects of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi comb through his
family’s estates, farms and seaside villas, the properties are revealing
the details of lives lived far removed from the people, and ones filled
with the signs of their peccadilloes and rivalries.
At one farm, horses wandered by marble statues of lions, tigers and
bears, and on a sun-baked day, reindeer grazed by the deck of an empty
pool. At the home of one son, Saadi, there were signs of a life mundane
in its seeming frustration. A man who drifted through stints as an
athlete, soldier and Hollywood producer, Saadi kept the English-language
self-help book “Success Intelligence” in his master bedroom.
Given Colonel Qaddafi’s noted flamboyance, the residences of the House
of Qaddafi were not quite as grand as people might have supposed.
They lacked the faux grandeur of Saddam Hussein’s marbled palaces. There
are no columns that bear the colonel’s initials, or fists cast to
resemble his hands or river-fed moats with voracious carp.
But in Baghdad and Tripoli, the physical remains of the leader’s rule
still projected the distance between power and powerlessness. As rebels
and residents started to pick through the detritus of the Qaddafis’
lives in recent days, there was a sense of laying claim to a country
commandeered by the Arab world’s longest-ruling leader — and speaking
their minds without fear about the country they have inherited, and the
leader they hope they have left behind.
“For somebody who’s very rich, he was very cheap,” Fuad Gritli said as
he drove through a sprawling parcel near the airport known as the Farm,
where Colonel Qaddafi lived.
There was also a sense of something incomplete. Even as people pulled
back the cloak on the Qaddafis’ lives, the colonel and his children
remained at large.
In the sanctum of the Farm, there are rolling, irrigated fields. Camels
wandered unattended. Still standing was a tent where Colonel Qaddafi met
foreign dignitaries, its canvas decorated with pictures of camels and
palm trees. NATO bombers seemed to have no idea where he was; their hunt
destroyed an unfinished Moroccan-style house, other tents built with
more expensive canvas and a knot of bunker-style concrete buildings for
As Mr. Gritli and a friend drove along roads that seemed to lead
nowhere, they shook their heads. Rebels rolled through a compound still
not secure. So did looters.
“We weren’t allowed to get anywhere near, not even the gate,” Mr. Gritli
said of the years before the revolt that shattered the colonel’s hold on
“Qaddafi was not living like a rich man, I admit that,” said Malik
el-Bakouri, a 27-year-old doctor from Tripoli, as he drove past a
guesthouse where water cascaded from a broken pipe in a city suffering
from a shortage of it. “But his sons, all the people in his tribe, and
all the families around him lived good, and they lived good for 40 years.”
Colonel Qaddafi’s sons’ behavior would have made reality show producers
proud — Hannibal repeatedly had brushes with the law in Europe. And Seif
al-Islam, the heir apparent, began his ascent with promises of
democracy, then ended his tenure with a pledge to turn Libya into a
country “like Saudi Arabia, like Iran.” (“So what?” he added.)
The villas of some of the sons on a sand bluff overlooking the
Mediterranean, though, failed to match the ostentation they displayed in
other facets of their lives. They were not lavish; the brown paint on
the patio decks was peeling, and they had a distinctly 1970s feel. But
to the young fighters roaming through Hannibal’s quarters — furnished
overwhelmingly in whites and blacks, and ringed with plastic grass —
there was just enough luxury to inspire envy in a country whose wealth
“We’ve got to take this over!” said Bahaeddin Zintani, a 23-year-old
fighter who took turns with his brother lying in bed and posing for
pictures before a home gym fitted with a mirror. “This is the first time
I’ve even seen anything like this.”
On a black granite bar, there were cases for Johnnie Walker Blue Label
and Dom Pérignon Rose, all empty. The patio opened to a spectacular view
of turquoise waters.
“All I can ask is why?” said Mr. Zintani’s older brother, Serajeddin,
carting an Israeli-made rifle. “Why can’t we live like this, the good
life? Every day you walk out and see the sea.”
Muatassim, another of Colonel Qaddafi’s sons and the country’s national
security adviser, surrounded himself with more luxury. He regularly
arrived in a convoy of cars to a farmhouse in the Ain Zara neighborhood
of Tripoli protected by high walls and gates on four sides that were
made to look like cinder-block walls. A driveway with a fountain
featuring four horse-drawn carriages led to an ostentatious pool
bungalow, with Roman columns at the entrance and topped by gold domes
that looked like Hershey Kisses.
On Saturday, fighters from Misurata toured the house, stunned. “It’s
like some Aladdin castle,” one said. “He doesn’t care about the Libyan
people. Just living in heaven.”
Another fighter walked out with a book of stamps depicting the Brother
In a diplomatic cable from 2009 released by WikiLeaks, Muatassim was
described as “ambitious and competitive,” and as being groomed as
another potential successor. “Considered little more than a playboy two
year ago, Muatassim has surprised many observers by the seriousness with
which he has taken his new responsibilities as the national security
adviser,” wrote Gene A. Cretz, who was then the United States ambassador
In the charred remains of his house, limes littered the floors of a
barroom. A painting of samurai doing battle was the only one not ripped
from its frame. Chinese lanterns hung on long deck by a massive pool,
with a gazebo in the middle. Mohamed al-Hutmani, who lived nearby,
walked around the grounds, through the lemon trees and olive groves that
covered several acres.
“We were not allowed to stop our cars on the street,” Mr. Hutmani said.
“It was impossible to think that I would enter this place.”
Rebel guards closed the former home of Colonel Qaddafi’s daughter Aisha
because too many Libyans were wandering through, having their pictures
taken and looking for souvenirs.
Through his long reign, Colonel Qaddafi posed as an ever-struggling
revolutionary, his ideas encapsulated in the Green Book. (In one
memorable passage, he defended freedom of expression, even if a person
chooses “to express his or her insanity.”) But the avowed simplicity
never matched his lifestyle, prone as he was to epaulets, billowing
robes and shirts emblazoned with green maps of Africa. His all-female
contingent of guards was said to be sworn to celibacy. Interspersed in
his ravings were the words of a man with the healthiest of egos, even as
health, education and housing in his country crumbled. “King of kings,”
he once declared himself.
At his former residence in Bab al-Aziziya, his leadership’s fortresslike
preserve in the heart of Tripoli, there was a white binder with hundreds
of pages of clippings about him.
Graffiti on a wall nearby taunted the Brother Leader, now nicknamed for
another distinguishing trait: unmanageable grooming. “Where’s the guy
with the crazy hair?” it said.
David D. Kirkpatrick contributed reporting.
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