Events are fast outpacing the best laid plans of both dictators and mere toli mongers, thus, although the theme fits the bill, I have had to bring forward the piece I promised almost four years ago as a follow up to the theater of that secret video of Gaddafi that was leaked to me. The current atrocities and low rent circumstances however necessitate light verse, or even doggerel, rather than the intended prose poem. Thus I give you another entry in the Things Fall Apart Series, file this under the banner of Fallen Angels.
I. He of The Little Green Book
He of The Little Green Book was in Paris the other day
A grand tour, part of an awakening some might say
Hospitality and social graces were extended his way
Amnesty International had to make do with dismay
Inconvenient topics, blood and sin, never to be discussed.
He went hunting, or, as his hosts put it, faire la chasse.
The tumult of the entourage and the ceremonial band
The customary bodyguards, as always, were close at hand.
He pitched his travel tent on the lawn of the Grand Palais
And lectured his hosts on human rights throughout the day
An oasis of oil and gas under his land
He'd built up a legacy of blood-soaked sand.
Self-importance, one can always understand
The revolutionary principles, however, damned the man.
Epigrams, ludicrous even without translation
And with translation, worthy of the blandest corporation.
Claimed to be a Guide with revolutionary notions
To life, the Brother Leader presented solutions
You've heard no doubt about the "Third Universal Theory"
And of course "The Solution of the Problem of Democracy"
"The Authority of the People" was his starting point
His modus operandi however was blood, from joint to joint
The social and economic basis of this here distributed theory
Was, in practice, a political axis of corruption, not the first in history
Newspapers throughout Libya were organs of adulation
He of The Little Green Book, officially venerated as a philosopher-king
Back home in Ghana at the depth of our despair
When books were scarce, and food shelves were laid bare
He of The Little Green Book made a donation
A token of the good Colonel's appreciation
A thousand copies of The Little Green Book
Brotherly solidarity, extended to the Ghanaian pocketbook
The generosity of his wisdom, to be shared far and wide.
Our universities, the recipients of his vacuous bromides
We'd learned heavy lessons about what he called revolution
"Crush the dissent", "Don't brook any opposition".
Thus, ever since the Flight Lieutenant's arrival
We'd had to develop a new philosophy of survival
At markets, we would fight over corned beef and sardine tins
Throughout I kept asking myself: why are these men laughing?
He of The Little Green Book was in Italy the other day
Introducing good old Silvio to a rarefied kind of play
Bunga bunga parties were on the menu
Gas and oil deals discussed, and matters of revenue
On Putin's bed, it was eroticism incarnate
Sexual gymnastics, the orgies very articulate
They were men who thumbed their noses at everyone else
Impunity their lifeblood, they were enamoured of self
A cushy life, lived surrounded by buxom Ukrainians
They were gremlins and parasites, or rather, rogue authoritarians
Mercurial, the journalists would call him, and I think it was a cop out
For he was severe in the application of power, of that there can be no doubt
Adept at the shell game of diplomacy in latter times
Don't forget the expedient dumping of allies at the drop of a dime
There's even an opera about him, Gaddafi, do take a look
Although it points out inconsistencies in The Little Green Book
Fear not, in the pantheon where Chairman Mao had his Red Book
You can share the luminous thoughts of He of The Little Green Book
A slight never forgotten, that's what brought him here
The clannish sensibility of a cold-blooded dictator
He of The Little Green Book thus always made it clear
He'd kill you and your family no matter when or where
Stories of plots to bomb dissidents in Kenya, Egypt or Saudi Arabia
Only made it clear to everyone that the world was his oyster
In newspapers, the subject was always elided:
The khat, and other drugs that made him funeral minded
Conspiratorial notions were his living condition
He ascribed drunkenness and drug-taking to any opposition
He of The Little Green Book met Vladimir Putin the other day
It was the usual circus, the large retinue come what may.
Luxurious modesty was how he liked to call it,
He lived for the bustle around him, confident he could take Putin's judo hit
Like a palm tree rising in an oasis surrounded by blight.
The other leaders would be shown in their proper pedestrian light.
The desert savvy, the endurance of those who were truly able
By sheer will to conquer the shifting sands, of that he was quite capable
For months at a time he would go out there on a bend
Then emerge seemingly untroubled if not exuberant.
Men of will who forced their views on clans and the whole world.
The caliber of revolutionary, visionary men on the road to hell.
Take The Little Green Book - a blueprint for life itself,
To be studied and internalized, it even dealt with public health!
An unbroken chain of leadership, he outlasted Chairman Mao.
Who else had such a claim? He even beat Omar Bongo.
And that kleptocrat, only the French cared about him
The real prize, as you know, was to indulge in blood and sin.
No, it was only right, he belonged in the history books.
In any gathering he would stand out, opinions as sharp as his looks.
And he had put them down - the opinions that is,
Distilled them for present and future generations.
The Little Green Book, the wisdom for the ages.
A guide for the world, a guide for revolutions.
Battle-tested in countless countries, comprehensive and worldly
Luminous as only the folk wisdom of desert guides could be.
He of The Little Green Book met Tony Blair the other day
That sad sack, for whatever reason, again thought he'd have some sway
He of The Little Green Book couldn't believe the ease of the bamboozle
Of course, we could have told him he was dealing with Bush's poodle
Then later, remember, there was an audience with Condoleeza
And a call subsequently for a United States of Africa
US policy to the dictator was clear: coddle and let's make nice
His gifts, in return, were choice to the talented Miss Rice:
Diamond trinkets, a locket, and a copy of The Little Green Book
A sidelong glance, oil and gas contracts were the inevitable hook
Those Swiss bank accounts, how prosaic wouldn't you think?
Well, even an uncommon criminal needs money to drink
A bloodthirsty murderer that we indulged like no other
Willing to shoot children before their own grandmothers
He'd even bomb bystanders, he didn't believe in innocence
The legacy of a pariah devoid of all human sense
Months later it was declared, and this was no small thing,
Colonel Gaddafi would be the king of kings
Thus, among traditional leaders on the continent, he was elected
Well, according to his bank statements, he was rather self-selected
But back to that time period I alluded to earlier
In a Ghana fraught with dubious revolution and political theater
Perhaps I should not venture into matters eschatological
As indeed my doggerel rather tends towards the scatological
Let me not lose the rhyming meter, indulge my light verse
I'm congenitally incapable of engaging in anything terse
My father, the law school dean, was very precise
And, truth be told, what he recalled back then wasn't very nice
Thankfully it flew under the radar of Rawlings' dispensation:
It was about the application of the good Colonel's donation
In Ghana's scarcity, nothing went to waste:
'Twas a grim outlook
He'd photocopy his lecture notes for students;
They'd have to do as a textbook
As he thumbed through thousands of the Colonel's pristine pages
He was minded that, in our country, there were even paper shortages
We really had no time for this Third Universal Theory
It was a undoubtedly a low moment in all of Ghana's history
The memory, then, should come as no surprise to you, Dear Reader:
The pages of The Little Green Book were used as toilet paper.
The issue was blood and sin.
III. Lest We Forget
Field notes on a legacy of blood...
Prosecutor: Was there ideology taught in the camp?
Witness: Yes, what we learned in the Mataba was about how to share the wealth of your government - about the distribution of wealth.
Prosecutor: This Mataba, did you receive any books or lesson papers in that ideology?
Witness: The ideology was taught in Mataba itself. They had a school to learn the ideology. You learned about the Green Book. How governments are cheating other governments.
— Taylor's former vice president: governments of Libya, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast supported Taylor's 1989 invasion of Liberia
Prosecutor: At what age do you say you were abducted by the RUF?
Witness: 11 years.
Prosecutor: Had you been to school up to that time?
Prosecutor: In what languages were you taught at school?
Prosecutor: From what age did you attend school up to the time you were abducted at age 11?
Witness: I don't know the age at which I went to school. I don't know the age.
Prosecutor: How many years had you been in school by the time you were abducted at age 11?
Witness: Six years.
Prosecutor: After you were abducted, at some point you have told us in evidence you had some lessons from the RUF. That's right, isn't it?
Prosecutor: Were you at some time made to read passages of Colonel Gaddafi's Little Green Book by the RUF?
Witness: The Green Book. They called it the Revolutionary Green Book. They said it was from Libya, from Mohamed Gaddafi. Yes, I read that one.
Prosecutor: In what language?
Witness: In English. Everything was in English.
Prosecutor: So you speak good English, do you?
Witness: The English that I can speak is what I am speaking here. I don't have any other English. As you hear me speaking I don't have it above that and I don't have it below that. That is what I am speaking here.
Prosecutor: So, what was taught in English apart from the Green Book?
Witness: The Green Book when they read it they would read it in English and they would interpret it, because there were people who did not understand English and so they would interpret it into Krio to them, but some of us who were able to read a little bit when they spoke the English we would understand. That was why I said everything was in English.
— Transcript of child soldier's testimony. The special court on Sierra Leone, 22 August 2008
[Moses] Blah testified about the first time he met [Charles] Taylor during his military training in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, and Tripoli, Libya. In Libya, he trained with a group of Gambians, as well as a group of Sierra Leoneans led by Foday Sankoh. Blah testified that Sankoh referred to Taylor as "chief." Blah recounted that the first time he saw Taylor, Taylor introduced himself as "chief" and named the soldiers the National Patriotic Front of Liberia. Taylor also appointed Blah as Adjutant General of the NPFL.
— Charles Taylor trial report (pdf), May 2008
After listening to 91 prosecution witnesses over the past 18 months, Taylor said people had referred to his forces as if they "were brutes and savages: We are not. I am not."He of The Little Green Book and his brothers in blood will not be missed.
Still, the former president acknowledged that skulls of Liberian soldiers were displayed at strategic roadblocks in 1990.
"They were enemy skulls and we didn’t think that symbol was anything wrong," he said. "I did not consider it bad judgment. I did not order them removed."
Taylor, who earned an economics degree at Bentley College (now University) in Waltham, said he had seen images of skulls used in many "fraternal organizations" and Western universities.
He also acknowledged that atrocities were committed in Liberia by "bad apples" and renegade soldiers, but said he had taught his small band of rebels - from their initial training in Libya - to abide by the laws of war.
"We found out that they were taking place, and we acted to bring those responsible to justice," he said. Rebel soldiers who committed excesses were court-martialed and sometimes executed, but civilian judicial institutions were left in place in areas under rebel control, he said.
— Taylor defends displaying of human skulls at roadblocks, Associated Press / July 17, 2009
Soundtrack for this note
- Miles Davis Quintet - If I Could Write A Book
- Stevie Wonder - You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover
- Betty Carter - I Could Write A Book
File under: rogues, Gaddafi, poetry, verse, humour, politics, culture, observation, blood, satire, hatchet job, Libya, cruelty, violence, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, history, Things Fall Apart, Fallen Angels, toli