On Monday, Moammar Gaddafi’s wife and three adult children surfaced in Algeria, and some expect Gaddafi and his son Saif al-Islam to join them. The country is not a signatory of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court — in June, the ICC issued arrests warrants for Gaddafi, Saif, and Gaddafi’s intelligence chief.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the entire family would be held accountable:
We want to see justice and accountability for Gaddafi and those members of his family with blood on their hands and those members of his regime with blood on their hands.
For decades, this was not the sentiment towards the Gaddafi family in Washington and other Western capitals. The Gaddafi extended family, particularly the children, were feted throughout Europe and in the United States — indeed, over the past decade other family members of Arab dictators have been glamorized in Western fashion magazines, by UN bodies, and by academic institutions.
Less than a year ago Saif freely mingled with Western high society, popping up in London and Monte Carlo or on a yacht off Monaco. He was considered a playboy as well as a reformer. For Saif it wasn’t about sex or money, however: as is now clear, he was mining Europe’s naive social and political leadership to advance his family’s 40-year-old dynasty.
Saif is not unique, yet he is the poster child for a kind of “softer” face of the Arab political aristocracy. He is identified as the next generation of young, super-rich Middle Eastern family members who have tried to re-brand themselves as caring, compassionate Westernized Muslims. It has been lost in the American press, but until he issued his televised “rivers of blood” speech from Tripoli in February, Saif was the darling of Europe’s political establishment. He socialized with members of the House of Lords, Tony Blair’s cabinet, Prince Andrew, and well-heeled environmental activists. Saif had seduced Europe’s intelligentsia and the Continent’s left-leaning cognoscenti.
“The political class in this country have courted him,” said Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski, chairman of a British parliamentary group on Libya, in an interview with the UK’s Guardian.
He didn’t only trick blue-blooded royalty. Saif became close friends with famous Jewish European families, including the Rothschilds. In 2009, Jacob, 4th Baron Rothschild threw a birthday party for Saif at the Rothschild home in Buckinghamshire, Waddesdon Manor. Saif also joined the Rothschild family at their private villa in Corfu. In 2008, Lord Rothschild’s other son Nat threw a party for Saifat his chic New York townhouse in Greenwich Village.
He bestowed the London School of Economics with a $2 million gift just as he was applying for a Ph.D. His thesis was titled “The role of civil society in the democratisation of global governance institutions: from ‘soft power’ to collective decision-making?” It was later revealed that all of the 40 interviews were conducted by outside consultants, and that most of the thesis was ghostwritten or plagiarized. Saif later followed up with another $2 million donation to the LSE to “train” Libya’s government civil servants and professionals. The revelations about Saif forced the resignation of LSE’s director, Howard Davies.
Gaddafi’s money also entered the United States. As reported previously by PJMedia, Boston-based PR firm The Monitor Group received a lucrative $3 million contract to promote Saif as the new “progressive” face of Libya and the Arab world. The firm of Harvard faculty members introduced Saif and his international charity — the Gaddafi International Foundation for Charity Associations — to Washington’s political and military establishment. They recruited Francis Fukuyama and anti-Western author Benjamin Barber to endorse Saif and Libya as a forward-looking country. Clinton White House insider Joseph Nye was a cheerleader for Saif: Nye is accused of helping Saif with his Ph.D thesis — he is a proponent of the idea of using “soft power” over military force.
Republicans represented Saif in Washington, too. Former Rep. Bob Livingston’s lobbying agency, the Livingston Group, escorted Saif around Washington, meeting members of Congress, American diplomats, and human rights activists. Livingston dropped Saif in September 2009.
But the most audacious plan Saif dreamed up was to capture the hearts and minds of Europe’s environmentalists. He claimed he was interested in transforming Libya into a environmental oasis, a new “green” paradise. This promise enchanted Euro-environmentalists. Here was a progressive Mideasterner, a member of the 30-something generation who would bring environmental nirvana to a North African state.
Saif commissioned British architect Lord Foster to oversee the development of the “Green Mountain” area of Libya, near Benghazi. He invited Robert Adam, Prince Charles’ favorite architect, to attend the inauguration in 2007. It had the feel of a lavish Cannes film festival in the desert — few of the environmentalists seemed to express misgivings about the rather large carbon footprint.
Adam later told the Guardian:
They laid on a dinner, a tented hotel, flights in private jets, the works.
It was hailed by environmentalists as the “world’s largest sustainable development.” Lord Foster told the attendees about the project:
This is one of the most beautiful and little-known landscapes on Earth. We’ve been give a unique challenge: to establish a sustainable blueprint for future development which will be sensitive to the history of the Green Mountain and to its conservation.
The heart of the environmentally sustainable complex was to be a series of exclusive hotels.
The attendees at the environmental gala seemed oblivious that while they partied in excess, 40% of Libya’s people lived below the poverty line. And half of Libya’s young are unemployed. This for a nation with the largest oil reserves in Africa.
Saif wasn’t the only Gaddafi sibling to deceive the West and to receive plaudits for work on behalf of humanity. Until the Arab Spring erupted, his sister Aisha Gaddafi had been an official goodwill ambassador for the UN Development Program. Aisha and her brothers Muhammed and Hannibal were the ones who surfaced in Algeria on Monday.
Hannibal was the bad boy in the family. He was nicknamed “Hannibal the Cannibal” because of his repeated acts of violence and ruthlessness against his staff and his model wife. Still, he remained a big hit throughout Europe, throwing parties with such stars as Beyonce, Mariah Carey, and Usher. He was best-known for driving his Ferrari 90 mph the wrong way on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. As with other problems with the authorities, he invoked diplomatic immunity.
Then there are the wives and daughters of Arab leaders. A month after Vogue profiled Syria’s first lady in a glowing article, Asma Assad proclaimed Syria the “safest country” in the Middle East. As my colleague Claudia Rosett wrote earlier this week in PJMedia: “It’s just six months since the first lady of Syria, Asma al-Assad, was on a roll as the plushly accessorized human face of Syria’s Assad regime.” Asma, the wife of Syria’s Bashar Assad, has disappeared from the society circuit since her husband began gunning down his own citizens. Slate cattily calls Asma “the Marie Antionette of the Middle East.” A 2009 Huffington Post slide show also put out a puff piece on Asma titled: “Asma Al Assad: Syria’s First Lady and All-Natural Beauty.”
There is Jordan’s cosmopolitan Queen Rania al-Abdullah. She was Glamour‘s woman of the year in 2010, and named in Vanity Fair‘s Best-Dressed International Hall of Fame. As Slate’s Noreen Malone notes, Rania is unfavorably compared by Jordan’s tribes to the “unapologetically spendy Leila Trabelsi, wife of deposed Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and the so-called ‘Imelda Marcos of the Arab world.'”
Princess of Qatar, Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, is one of the wives of the emir of Qatar. According to the Sunlight Foundation: “The UN recognizes Sheikha Mozah as a special envoy of its UNESCO Celebrity Advocates.” The left-wing American PR firm Fenton Communications once represented Mozah.
For decades the Eurosocialist political leadership and liberal American activists convinced themselves that by mouthing the right words and dressing right and appearing to identify with Western culture, the next generation of Arabs were moving toward reform.
Now we know many were frauds. Will it make any difference?