Saturday, March 19, 2011


Charlie Manson in Libya

Phil Mershon

     The real reason Muammar Gaddafi has been such a difficult person  with whom to get along for so many years boils down to one thing: no one can seem to agree on how to spell the man's last name. This week (and not for the first time) I have read it spelled Gaddafi, Qaddafi, Gathafi, Kadafi, Khadafi, and even Gadify. Some of these spellings simply have to be incorrect. I know the man can read newspapers and TV monitors, so it must make him mighty upset that no two sources can agree on a single spelling. Even the staid Christian Science Monitor did an article on the subject, evidently deciding upon Al-Gaddafi, since that is the most common way that the name appears on Muammar's website. 

     As for myself, I'm now calling him Charlie Manson in Libya. Don't you want to know why? There are many things that justify this. First of all, both men were virtually unknown until the autumn of 1969. In Manson's case, he was arrested for mass murder. In Al-Gaddafi's situation, he led a coup d'etat against the king of his own country. Both men consider themselves revolutionaries. Both men love to make speeches more than to engage in simple conversation. Both men have a small group of supporters and a humongous group of people who hate them. Both men prefer to live in the desert. Both men impersonated hippies. Both men employed female bodyguards. Both men have indicated that they believe themselves to possess supernatural powers. And both men give every indication of endorsing serial killings.

     In the case of Manson, he was convicted of murdering nine people. He probably played a role in many others. In the case of Muammar,  Amnesty International claims that between 1980 and 1987 he was responsible for twenty-five assassinations. While that was only the beginning, it sort of brings me to the main point, which is that both men have demonstrated a problem in what I suppose one might call impulse control. Hey, we all get angry. But when you or I get angry, we flip somebody off or quit our jobs or just suck it up. When either one of these characters gets upset, people die. So, yes, I believe this sets them apart.

     Egypt signs a peace treaty with Israel? Gaddafi starts shooting. The African nation of Chad has a civil war? Gaddafi starts shooting. Idi Amin--remember him? He gets in trouble for eating people and Muammar loses his temper because the Ugandan dictator's diet began to disturb his neighbors. People in the eastern section of Libya complain because they don't have enough food, Gaddafi impoverishes his entire country. I'm telling you, this guy is very easily upset.

     Now the United States, along with Great Britain, France, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Columbia, Gabon, Lebanon, Nigeria, Portugal and South Africa all voted to enforce what they are calling Resolution 1973. What this resolution says is that Gaddafi has to stop shooting people. It also calls for the establishment of a "no-fly zone," which I gather has nothing to do with men's cotton briefs and instead intends to curtail the traffic of planes in and out of the country. President Obama was very clear when he said that we will provide air support but no ground troops. That is kind of like a contemporary David saying to Goliath and the Philistines that he won't be using slingshots any more, but automatic weapons will be fine. If you don't care who gets killed so long as you're killing someone, fighter jets and offshore battleships are really all you need.  As of noon (PST) today, we had launched 121 missiles against 20 Libyan targets. 
     But if I am really sincere in my Manson-Gaddafi comparison, why would I not be in total agreement with the Coalition of Confusion that is launching this "humanitarian assistance" against Muammar and his lunatic supporters? The real reason this situation makes me uncomfortable is a pesky document that has taken quite a beating in recent years. I mean, when George W Bush was in the White House, this document to which I am referring was installed as toilet paper in the Oval Office restrooms. I am speaking, naturally, of the Constitution of the United States. It's really quite a document. One of the things it says is that the Congress must make decisions and declarations pertaining to matters of war. Back in 1964, Lyndon Johnson decided he didn't like that particular part of the Constitution, so he tricked a willing Congress into passing the War Powers Act. That rule said that the Constitution, while a very well-meaning piece of paper, would no longer be applicable to matters of true importance, like killing Vietnamese people. 

     So here we are again. Only this time we have decided not to call it a war. We are not aggressing. We are "providing humanitarian assistance." I have to admit, that does have a nice sound to it. I imagine there were people in the Truman Administration who believed we were doing something just like that when we dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. "No, we're not murdering hundreds of thousands of people! Silly! We're liberating the Japanese people from a nasty Emperor who is too stubborn to step down!"

     Of course, it won't be enough for Charlie--I mean Muammar--to simply die. Once we make a commitment to providing humanitarian assistance, we stick to it. Just ask the people of Afghanistan. Or Iraq. 

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