I. Blood Brothers
Apropos strange bedfellows, I came across the following report this week:
Tripoli. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte left Libya on Wednesday without meeting leader Muammar Gaddafi after becoming the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the country in half a century, officials said.Dig: Gaddafi presumably refused to meet Negroponte because the esteemed cold warrior was involved in Ronald Reagan's attempt to kill him in the 1980s (the bombing ostensibly killed Gaddafi's adopted daughter amongst others). There is honor among rogues it seems, and there are still some lines that mustn't be crossed. As we have seen, "he tried to kill my dad" was cited as a motivating factor in the geo-politics of the past 6 years. It stands to reason that "he tried to kill me" would provoke scruples even among those not noted for possessing consciences.
Negroponte said he held "excellent" discussions with Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdel-Rahman Shalgam and Ali Triki, Libya's envoy on Chad and Sudan, during a 24-hour visit aimed principally at discussing the crisis in Sudan's Darfur region.
Tom Stoppard in Travesties imagined the scene in 1917 in the Zurich public library at the point where Vladimir Lenin, James Joyce (working on Ulysses) and Tristan Tzara (father of the Dada movement) might have run into each other. The result was inspiration itself.
In this vein I imagine Gaddafi, Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan, and Negroponte all in the same room. You might think that it is unfair to place Negroponte in such exalted company since he's an enforcer and not an idea man; a mere civil servant and career diplomat. He's just doing his job after all, scion of John Foster Dulles. And yes, it would be unfair, not to mention a case of "insinuendo" as it were. And a matter of blood.
Still, Negroponte floating the "El Salvador option" in Iraq in recent years was iconic, and his statements were followed in the ensuing months by, well lets put it this way, a plethora of death squads dumping dead bodies at night with gruesome efficiency in the streets of that sad country. I'm reminded that General "Gitmo" Miller's visit to Iraq and emphasis on Gitmo-izing things obviously had nothing to do with all that Abu Ghraib hullabaloo that also followed. Several Pentagon investigations affirm that insight, right? There's no proven connection. It's all shades of gray when the gloves come off. Necessary exoneration.
One wonders what happens when these lords of war get together. Oh to be a fly on the wall of such encounters. Imagine: the architect of the CIA in El Salvador meeting with the architect of almost every malfeasance in the Middle East and Africa for a good generation. The Good Shepherd meets El Capo, rogue division. Death squads in Latin America meet death squads in West Africa. On Monday: mighty masters of macabre mayhem. The high priests of collateral damage tangle in the desert. Live exclusively on pay-per-view. The Great Game.
Further one wonders: are they truly ideologues? At what point does collateral damage itself become the prime motivation for their misdeeds? What ultimately separates these guys from the blood lust of Ayman al-Zawari and company? There is a difference to be sure. But is it simply style or rhetoric? The panache or subtlety with which they dispatch enemies, real and imagined? For indeed, even at a remove and intentions notwithstanding, their body counts are impressive.
And could one even shed a micro-tear for a millisecond for al-Bashir? Good Lord, you prompted Negroponte to seek out Gaddafi, the first high level meeting in decades. What world class malfeasance must you be orchestrating in Darfur? Carnage of champions. Hell froze over. The enemy of my enemy and all that. The rough beast.
I've often wondered what it was like to attend, say, an OAU meeting circa 1989. That must surely have been a rogues gallery sans pareil. Could you shake hands with everyone in that room and look at yourself in the mirror the next day? For that matter, could you sleep that night? And what did the small talk of the nifty fifty sound like? Scratch that, what exactly was their big talk? Inquiring minds want to know.
Comparing notes about fiscal looteries past
Idle boasts of military efficiencies
The minutiae of collateral damage
II. Excellent Discussions
The following is a rush transcript of the secret meeting held between John Negroponte and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya on Wednesday April 18, 2007. The videotape was leaked to the toli and was immediately handed over to the relevant authorities for authentication. All transcription errors are mine.
[Inside a tent. Decor is well appointed, if not luxurious. Purple silks, indigo cloths etc. Soothing sounds. Negroponte and an aide are shown in by Libyan foreign minister and envoy. Inaudible exchange of pleasantries as they take up seats and are served cups of tea. After a minute or so Gaddafi walks in, flowing robes as usual. Takes up his seat opposite Negroponte. Stares. Long silence... They appear to be sizing each other up. Eventually, after a few false starts, they begin their conversation.]
Gaddafi: Brother Leader of the Great Socialist Arab People's Jamahiriya.
Negroponte: Deputy Secretary of State
Gaddafi: Guide of the Revolution
Negroponte: Director of National Intelligence
Gaddafi: Grand Commander of The Order Al-Fatah
Negroponte: US ambassador to Iraq and Honduras
Gaddafi [indignant]: He of The Little Green Book
Negroponte [impressed, but not wanting to show it.]: Skull and Bones... [Low steady voice] Death squads in Honduras.
Gaddafi: Death squads in Liberia.
Negroponte: Massacres in El Salvador.
Gaddafi: Small boy units. Charles Taylor. 'Nuff said.
[both men seem to relax... become expansive in their gestures]
Negroponte: El Mozote.
Gaddafi: Sierra Leonean amputations. Heard about Foday Sankoh? Trained a few miles from here.
Negroponte: Special intelligence units, Nicaragua..
Gaddafi: Semtex for the IRA. Provisional and Real IRA. Training camps.
Negroponte: Weapons for Savimbi. Hosting Unita via Mobutu. Heck: Mobutu. The fat lady sang.
Gaddafi [absentmindedly]: Those Basque separatists... um... what's their name, again?
Negroponte [interrupts]: Noriega!
Gaddafi: Oh yeah. ETA.
Gaddafi [nodding... fondly]: ETA.
Negroponte: The El Salvador Option. Iraq. The latest. Militias. Pershmerga. Shia. Badr corps.
Gaddafi: Propped up Idi Amin.
Negroponte [whistles]: Ancient history... Death squads in Guatemala.
Gaddafi: A pattern. Let's see: Jammeh in Gambia, even gave him a medal.
Negroponte [air quotes]: "Dedication to democracy".
Gaddafi: Operation No Living Thing
Negroponte: Our "special project"
Gaddafi [curt]: Chad.
Negroponte [smiles broadly]: Nicaragua. Iran/Contra baby.
Negroponte: Old school... Hmm. School of the Americas.
Gaddafi: Rawlings... Campaore in Burkina Faso.
Negroponte: Small fry. New school. Black ops. Extraordinary rendition.
Gaddafi: No. No. Beat this: Carlos the Jackal.
Negroponte [a brief pause for reflection, then triumphant]: Pinochet!
[It looks like a stalemate... Both men pause to reassess. It's almost as if they are racking their brains for something that could top the other. Negroponte sips his tea. Almost a minute passes... several false starts]
Negroponte [curious]: So... was Black September one of your... affairs?
Gaddafi [wagging his finger]: No. No. Room and board only... Abu Nidal. That guy, now there was a wild one... Black September. Black ops... Let me ask: Abu Ghraib?
Negroponte [quickly]: Rumsfeld, Cambone, Miller. Axis of- [cuts himself off]... Mugabe?
Gaddafi [shaking head]: Nope, strictly business with Bob. Mining interests.
Negroponte: Yes, yes. We also have interests. The United States only has interests.
Negroponte: Cut-outs. Drill bits.
Gaddafi: Valued partners.
Negroponte: Plausible deniability.
Gaddafi: No fingerprints.
Negroponte: Our hands are clean.
Gaddafi: Clean hands.
Negroponte: Strictly business.
Gaddafi: Only interests.
Negroponte [nods]: Only interests.
Gaddafi: Burden of responsibility.
Negroponte: Noblesse oblige.
[leaning closer together]
Gaddafi: Revolutionary sanctions.
Negroponte: Executive orders.
Gaddafi: Decisive principles.
Negroponte: Deterrent facilities.
Gaddafi: Resistance procedures.
Negroponte: Presidential findings.
Gaddafi: Fraternal solidarity.
Negroponte: Covert capabilities.
Gaddafi: Preventive action.
Negroponte: Policy imperatives.
Gaddafi: Independent agitation.
Negroponte: Unitary executive.
Gaddafi: Area of operations.
Negroponte: Spheres of influence.
Gaddafi: Vanguard strategies.
Negroponte: Trade. Lower barriers.
Gaddafi: Uh-uh. Business.
Gaddafi: Business. Never personal.
Negroponte: Strictly business.
Gaddafi: Strictly business.
[A bodyguard peeks into the tent, checking on her charge. Her appearance seems to reminds Muammar of something]
Gaddafi: Oh yeah. The hare- [gestures] -em Bodyguards. Personally dedi-
Negroponte [nonplussed]: Women from Honduran villages. Just ask Wilkes. Congressmen, agents. They all want more.
Gaddafi [suppresses a look of admiration... then]: Back to business.
Negroponte: The other business.
Gaddafi: Unfinished business.
Negroponte: Business as usual.
Gaddafi: Liberation movements.
Negroponte: Preserve our liberties.
Gaddafi: Unity in freedom.
Negroponte [quickly]: Democracy.
Negroponte: Manifest destiny.
Gaddafi: Freedom fighters.
Negroponte: Freedom fighters.
Negroponte: Weapons systems.
Gaddafi [infuriated]: Lockerbie.
Negroponte [shocked, then recovers, coldly]: Your daughter.
Gaddafi [smiles inwardly at first, then acts hurt]: Blo- ... I feel... Need to...
Clean hands... That will do.
[shakes his head]
Business. Never personal.
Negroponte: Strictly business.
[Gaddafi gets up and begins to walk out... Imperceptible nod to subordinates who look attentive and acknowledge him. As he reaches the tent exit, he turns.]
Gaddafi: We never met.
Negroponte [nods]: You refused. We never met.
Gaddafi: We never met.
Negroponte : We never met.
[Negroponte sports a self-satisfied smile. He believes he got the better of the exchange. Turns towards aide. Nods. Finishes his tea. Pauses. Then hands his portfolio to aide and starts to walk out. His aide follows.]
Negroponte [to subalterns]: I think we can do business.
Foreign minister and envoy: [inaudible]
[At the exit]
Negroponte: A good meeting. Excellent. Excellent discussions.
[exits the tent]
[A song has been playing in the background throughout. Provisionally identified as Wynton Marsalis - Blood on the Fields. Revisit.]
[end of transcription]
Strange bedfellows are among my favourite subjects. Consider this note part of an occasional series. The banner is Fallen Angels.
Part III. By Way of Ionesco
Next: He of The Little Green Book
Possibly related: Recent Non-Specific General Threats
File under: Gaddafi, Negroponte, rogues, Libya, USA, Africa, war, blood, arms, politics, strategy, language, policy, play, satire, absurd, theatre, literature, hatchet job, imperialism, crime, neocons, waste, CIA, cold war, Great Game, Strange Bedfellows, Fallen Angels, toli