Diplomatic reconciliations are also characterised by warm human relations. A lesson learned by Condoleezza Rice, in 2008, during an official visit to Libya. The former U.S. Secretary of State talks about her unusual meeting with Muammar Gaddafi in her memoirs.
Despite their longstanding animosity towards each other, Libya and the United States moved from being at loggerheads to establishing diplomatic relations.
Tripoli’s promise to abandon its acquisition of weapons of mass destruction saw Washington promising to help the one time pariah state to regain its place among the community of nations. A promise that former Secretary of State Rice says the administration knew “would not be easy and not only because of Gaddafi’s long record of brutality”.
She talks about her meeting with the fallen dictator of Libya, the late Gaddafi in her biography, “No Higher Honor“, to be released on November 1, 2011, in the United States, excerpts of which were published last week after the death of the Libyan “Guide”.
In her biography, the former U.S. Secretary of State recounts a particularly warm but unusual reception reserved in her honour by the late Gaddafi in his Tripoli home in September 2008.
“Gaddafi also had a slightly eerie fascination with me personally, asking visitors why his ‘African princess,’ wouldn’t visit him.” Rice writes.
Rice had a number of issues, including “the sensitivities and needs of families” who had suffered under the regime, with Gaddafi. And because Gaddafi so desperately wanted her to visit Tripoli, her trip gave her “powerful leverage in these negotiations”.
Palestine and Israel should be called “Israeltine”
But before her visit, Rice had been warned about the Libyan “Guide’s” eccentricities. “And don’t be surprised when he says something crazy,” Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis Amado had warned prior to her visit. However, notwithstanding her expectations, Condi, as Rice was referred to, does not hide her surprise at the rather odd unfolding of events.
At a point during their meeting, “he (Gaddafi) suddenly stopped speaking and began rolling his head back and forth. ‘Tell President Bush to stop talking about a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine!… It should be one state! Israeltine!”.
According to Condi, the dictator sacked two of his translators as he railed against George Bush’s two-state solution.
Later, she was invited, against the will of her security detail, to join Gaddafi in his private kitchen for dinner after which he told her that he had “made a videotape” for her. Condi was unsettled by this situation.
But she discovered that the “videotape” was an “innocent collection of photos of me with world leaders … set to the music of a song called ‘Black Flower in the White House,’ written for me by a Libyan composer.”
“It was weird, but at least it wasn’t raunchy”, Rice writes, “I remember that I came away from the visit realising how much Gaddafi lives inside his own head, in a kind of alternate reality. As I watched events unfold in the spring and summer of 2011, I wondered if he even understood fully what was going on around him.”
“And I was very, very glad that we had disarmed him of his most dangerous weapons of mass destruction. There in his bunker, making his last stand, I have no doubt he would have used them.”
No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington
By Condoleezza Rice
784 pages. Crown. $35.
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