[Marxism] Lifestyles of the rich and infamous

Louis Proyect 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 
official use.

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 
power.

“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 
was squandered.

“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 
Leader.

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 
to Libya.

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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