Rights groups say at least 300 people have so far been killed by Muammar Qaddafi's regime in a brutal crackdown on swelling antigovernment protests. Pro-Qaddafi forces were reportedly opening fire randomly in the streets in the latest instance of violence, which comes amid growing international outrage and UN warnings that attacks on civilians "may constitute crimes against humanity."
But the second son of the embattled Libyan leader, Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, is "the stuff of Shakespeare and of Freud," explains Professor David Held, one of Qaddafi's former academic advisers at the London School of Economics (LSE). "The man giving that speech wasn't the Saif I had got to know well over those years," he says.
Maybe, but recent events in the country do not do much to support real interest in democracy promotion on the part of the Libyan leadership. (In a cable released by WikiLeaks, a U.S. official observes that "creating the appearance of useful employment for al-Qadhafi's offspring has been an important objective for the regime.")
LSE was useful in that regard, having nurtured close ties to Libya in recent years in the form of special grants and scholarships. The university has since issued a statement saying those links are being "reconsidered" as "a matter of urgency" in light of the unrest. LSE students, meanwhile, are today holding a sit-in in protest demanding that the school return the £300,000 it accepted as part of a scholarship funded by a charity wing of the regime.
Of course, the school was also responsible for guiding the young Qaddafi in his doctorate. His thesis, titled "The Role of Civil Society in the Democratisation of Global Governance Institutions," argues for ways that nongovernmental organizations can make multinational corporations "more democratic."
"Civil society," Qaddafi wrote -- ignore allegations of plagiarism and controversial research methods for a moment -- "has for centuries played a major role in pushing governments to reform."
Ph.D.? Or prophecy?
-- Kristin Deasy