With each passing day the uprising in Libya has become more shocking and with each new twist and turn the appearances of Gaddafi himself have become ever-increasingly surreal. When the protests began in Tripoli on Tuesday evening, Gaddafi made a weird, appearance that seemed to be based on Gene Kelly in ‘Singing in the Rain’ sitting in what looked like a cross between an old-fashioned Renault 4 and a Robin Reliant, whilst holding up an umbrella and wearing what appeared to be a Davy Crockett hat and a leather Jacket: “I’m in Tripoli” he declared. It must have been met with some disbelief by most of those watching that Gaddafi knew where in the world he was. The only thing we were patently aware of was that Gok had not dressed him for the occasion.
His next speech a day later, from an even more embattled Tripoli, saw him ranting, in what appeared to be a half-finished home improvement extension, that he would devolve even more powers to the masses, despite the fact that he had ostensibly devolved all such powers long ago when he wrote his Green Book, which he brandished relentlessly during his speech. He then went on to compare himself with the Queen, saying “no one criticised her for invading Iraq” (surely she would have left that to Prince Phillip?) and asserted that Bin Laden was to blame and that the protesters were all on powerful mind-bending drugs. I was beginning to wonder if it wasn’t Gaddafi that had been slipped some mind-bending Mickey Finn by the way he was presenting himself.
During the Iraq war we had Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, Iraqi Minister of Information under Saddam, who treated us to surreal, hallucinatory visions of what he thought was reality. Known affectionately as ‘Baghdad Bob’ he entertained us with his take on the invasion and many people were able to suspend their horror at the realities of war and indulge themselves in what appeared to be an attempt by Baghdad Bob to emulate Manuel from Fawlty Towers. Now Gaddafi, never the one to pass the chance of a place in the spotlight to one of his underlings, appears like a cross between Basil Fawlty and Adolf Hitler, dispensing faux largesse by proposing to devolve powers already devolved, whilst calling on his supporters to kill the ‘cockroaches’ that are out and about on his streets. Are these crazy despots all fans of John Cleese?