Gaddafi’s Little Green Book

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“America can wage war against us, the West can torment us, it doesn’t matter: the world has my Green Book,” Muammar Gaddafi held in a 1979 interview. “All we need to defend ourselves is The Green Book.” More than three decades later, Qaddafi remains a pariah—and his Green Book is as irrelevant as it was the day he proclaimed its importance. He boasted then that “my Green Book has resolved man’s problems.” In fact, fidelity to it has multiplied Libya’s problems.

Penned in 1975, The Green Book reads as Qaddafi’s imitation of Mao’s Little Red Book, updated for the ’70s and tailored for the Muslim world. Whereas Black Panthers far from China peddled Mao’s Little Red Book long after it was written, Qaddafi’s little green book has transcended neither Libya’s borders nor its Marx-on-the-march, mid-seventies publication date. Children still study The Green Book in Libyan schools. Elsewhere, the slim volume is read rarely—and only then as a curiosity.

The second month into a NATO campaign that hoped to oust the Libyan strongman in days, it’s clear that Westerners don’t understand Muammar Qaddafi. Reading his Green Book is a good place to start. Though it isn’t particularly germane to the world, the work sheds light on the personality that has repeatedly drawn the ire of the world.

Unlike Osama bin Laden, whose religious-laced rants leave secular Westerners perplexed, Qaddafi speaks our language. Ruling in a region overflowing with mullahs, monarchs, and murderers, Qaddafi curiously looked West, instead of around him, for inspiration in lording over Libya.

The Green Book’s opening pages offer a half-clever critique of Western democracy. In a parliamentary system, when 51 percent captures the legislative body, then “49 per cent of the electorate is ruled by an instrument of government they did not vote for,” Qaddafi points out. “Plebiscites are a fraud against democracy,” he subsequently writes. “Those who vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ do not, in fact, express their free will but, rather, are silenced by the modern conception of democracy as they are not allowed to say more than ‘yes’ or ‘no.’”

For several pages, Qaddafi adeptly highlights the shortcomings of various aspects of Western democracy. The crescendo of criticism grows, and the reader anxiously awaits the punchline—and quite a joke it is. “Popular conferences are the only means to achieve popular democracy,” Qaddafi, presumably straight-faced, asserts. “Any system of government contrary to this method, the method of Popular Conferences, is undemocratic.” After all that buildup a letdown naturally followed. All of the pointed-out drawbacks of Western-style governance appear more glaringly in the proposed “Popular Conferences.” This sophist’s lapse in logic could only emanate from an emperor whose votaries are afraid to tell him that he wears no clothes.

The opening sections rationalize the few controlling the many by demeaning the governmental systems where the many possess a check on the few. The control-freak mentality that inspires The Green Book’s advocacy of one-man rule—called “Popular Conferences”—also inspires its section on economics. There, the state is as all-powerful as it is in the political realm.

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  • sbugiardo

    I wonder if someone who rants calling an author "Cockroach" can be said of having a non biased view about his works. Everything in this "review" is negative, even attempts to local democracy and women's rights.
    This writer is just repeating what he thought before reading the book, using its content only as starting point to regurgitate whatever propaganda he was fed in the past.

  • Matt

    Book reviews are always a matter of opinion. You don’t have to like it, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t give it. Yet there were more facts in this opinion piece than in a typical AP article.

  • Matt

    There were no “attempts” at democracy or women’s rights described for the reviewer to belittle. Just the opposite: Gaddifi explains why he is against these ideas.

  • Rvernier

    Those of a certain age may remember the bizarre 70's cult, the Children of God, led by a dirty old man and pedophile, "Moses Berg." Berg lassoed hippy Jesus freaks into his cult of free love, but as a gesture to "serious" social commitment, he also touted Qudaffi's Green Book as a statement of the kind of social reformation the cult aimed at- it was 3rd world, anti-American, revolutionary. So far as I know, the Berg cult represented the apex of Qudaffi's status in the west, until the British Labour Party embraced him in 2009.

  • Jim

    All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten………………..

  • ceejay90

    It is wonderful! The only reason to read this book is for historical purposes. Gaddafi wrote in The Green Book is the right of every natural person. I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this post.Alaska Newspapers