Saif al-Islam learns an historical lesson

Seif al-Islam, dressed in white traditional attire, is surrounded by guards and media personnel as he flies to Zintan in northwestern Libya after his arrest. (Photo courtesy of Zintan Media Council )

Seif al-Islam, dressed in white traditional attire, is surrounded by guards and media personnel as he flies to Zintan in northwestern Libya after his arrest. (Photo courtesy of Zintan Media Council ) Al Arabiya, 11-19-11

When Gaddafi was missing sometime back and was said to be roaming around the south of Libya with the Tuareg, I speculated that one day he would wake up by the campfire to find the Tuareg had disappeared into the desert leaving him to face the day and his enemies alone.  Yesterday, his eldest son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi,  was captured dressed as a Tuareg somewhere in the south of Libya – the Tuareg might not have left him sitting alone, but someone certainly told the Libyan army where to find him, while they slipped back into their desert home.  He was said to be on his way to Niger – strange he should have waited so long to get out of the country – he must have felt safe in his disguise.  Silly man!

That desert is a wild place and no foreign army has ever really conquered it and subjugated its people.  The Tuareg do not recognize the borders or the governments which claim sovereignty over it in any conventional way.  They move freely around their territory, sometimes in one country and sometimes in another.  Gaddafi was just the last a long line of invaders, Romans, Muslims, French, German and others whose names and deeds have been forgotten, who thought they ruled the Tuareg.  But even in the 21st century there are people who have yet to submit, although they are Muslim, to the modern world.  Today, the Tuareg woke up to the normal routine of their lives, while Saif al-Islam sits in jail awaiting his fate.  And with his father dead, Saif is sure to be the Gaddafi to be tried for all of his fathers, brothers and the regime’s crimes and excesses.

My comments are on Saif al-Islam, of course, a bit trite – his capture is very important for many reasons.  As the Gaddafi to stand trial, Saif could reveal a great deal of secret and damaging information and not just about the government of Libya.  Over the last few years, Saif al-Islam has been the chief negotiator for his father with the United States and European governments.   He negotiated the release of Libyans held in other countries and foreign nationals held in Libya – Al Jazeerah is speculating that he could reveal many secret arms and oil deals that were the secret terms of all Libya’s agreements with the west.  Libya and  Gaddafi may have been major political donors to European politicians running for office, among those who may have received the money are France’s Nicholas Sarkozy.  However, before any trial begins there will be a battle over jurisdiction – Europe would like to try Gaddafi and Libyans certainly feel they have the first right.  Unlike his father, Saif does not seem to be in any immediate danger of being shot in the head on the way to jail. Saif al-Islam’s trial could be one of the most important trials of this new century.


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