The release and repatriation to Libya of the PanAm Flight 103 bomber, Abdelbaset Ali Mohamed Al Megrahi, put me in mind of several paragraphs of Hunter Thompson’s Generation of Swine: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the 80s which came out in 1989. Thompson would have turned 73 on July 18th. Another birthday, same old shame and degradation almost a quarter century later right down to the key players. Sometimes I wonder if Thompson checked out due to sheer boredom.
… The accusation traced back to a five-year-old divorce file, and even then it was all circumstantial – a nest of gibberish, as they say in the trade … and not entirely unlike the gaggle of wild charges laid by Ronald Reagan against Col. Moammar Khadafy of Libya.
The colonel was whooping it up in Tripoli last week with a fast round of bear-baiting, breast-beating and unsettling displays of what is beginning to look like a genuinely perverse sense of humor, although not everybody saw it that way.
There were those in Washington, including some prominent Democrats, who saw the colonel’s behavior as the last stages of some deep and malignant craziness that might soon cause The End Of The World. Senator Howard Metzenbaum of Ohio, a traditionally flaky liberal with credentials suggesting some kind of awful mutation with the genes of Hubert Humphrey, Billie Sol Estes and a Stalinist camel driver from South Yemen, went on national TV to say that the time had finally come for Khadafy to be put to sleep. It was a call for a political assassination. “Maybe we’re at that point in the world,” said Metzenbaum, a longtime lobbyist for Israel, “where Mr. Khadafy has to be eliminated.”
Not even Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger was willing to go that far – not even after the colonel discussed his plans for destroying the US 6th Fleet and perhaps every oil well east of Gibraltar in a lengthy personal discussion with Ted Koppel on “Nightline.”
In almost the same breath, however, he assured Koppel that he was absolutely sincere about inviting Reagan to come and visit with him in his tent and hash things out like real men. Koppel responded by inviting Khadafy to the White House, for a long lunch without George Shultz, and al Qaid said, “Why not?” He has never been west of England – and only there for six months, long ago, which he spent hunkered down in some vile basement flat in Brixton – but when Koppel asked him to Washington he seemed gratified. It was an “encouraging exchange,” as they say in the diplomatic business, and some even called it a “breakthrough.”
Indeed. And so much for TV diplomacy. Within 24 hours the colonel had shifted back to his Mr. Hyde mode and was calling Reagan a Nazi pig who should be put on trial for international crimes. He reverted to his earlier assessment of the president as a “stinking rotten crusader” and an “aging third-rate actor” who is even worse than his old movies, which are shown constantly on Libyan TV.
Khadafy also called for help in the form of a new International Brigade of volunteers to join terrorist “suicide squads” to wreak havoc all over the world, if the US attacks Libya.
Koppel had no comment and Shultz laughed all night in his office in Foggy Bottom, and Khadafy claimed he got 10,000 applications in less than 48 hours.
Who will our Hunter Thompson of 25 years from now be? Who will we read then to look back on what’s happening now in hindsight, horror interspersed with giggling fits and deja vu?
Update: It should be said that we could read HST 50 years from now and things will be the same with the names slightly changed. The man wasn’t particularly prescient, although he wrote for the ages; the reality is that America hasn’t fundamentally changed since the 1950s. As long as there is fear …