The Devils We Knew

25 February 2011

I know, I know…. I was supposed to post “A New Beginning, or a New Bum?” several days ago. Bloody day job gets in the way now and then. I’m here in London for a couple of weeks, working on getting FINCA UK organized. Even after doing dozens of start ups, I always forget how much is involved in birthing a new organization.

Stop carping. Get on with it.

Watching the evacuation of foreign citizens trapped in Libya on the BBC took me back to the time I did a consulting gig for the UN in South Yemen in the late 80s. The country was still communist back then, and when I called up the U.S. State Dept about getting a visa they told me “We don’t talk to them, and they don’t talk to us. If you get there, you’re on your own.”

Ah, for those good old Cold War days! During that trip, our delegation met with the Russian Ambassador, and as his young KGB adjutant served us tea, our mission leader, a Pakistani, asked if the Russians would be interested in co-financing some projects in the country. The Ambassador pointedly looked at everyone in the room except me and said “You don’t understand. The money that Russia contributes to the UN comes from the Russian people. It’s not like in the U.S., which takes it from developing countries.”

What I wished I’d said, but didn’t think of until later, was “Now come on, Comrade Ambassador, you know these days our colonies are more of a drain on our resources than a source of them.”

The UN Res Rep at the time was a Canadian, and was something of a hero in the UN for having managed the evacuation of the UN staff after a period of civil unrest a few months before I arrived. Nothing serious, just a few northerners trying to overthrow the government. The buildings around the hotel where I stayed still had tank round holes punched through the walls where the tank rounds passed through. But the Res Rep very upset with the British government, as they had sent a warship into Aden harbor, to the cheers of all the ex pats gathered on the beach, only to announce “Sorry, UK citizens only.” What! And the rest of us?

Back to our Devils/Bums. It looks like Muammar is not going down without a fight. Few people know this about Ghaddafi: he’s a pracitioning Equal Opportunity Employer, which is uncommon in the Arab world. Forty of his closest security guards are female, all virgins. He has a Ukrainian nurse, Galyna, described as “a voluptuous blonde.”

That pretty much does it for his good points.

The question is, after we’ve seen the Backs of the Bums in the Middle East, who will succeed them? It all depends on what rises from the embers over the next critical months and years. One would hope that our governments in Europe and North America are assembling teams of people to help in the rewriting of national constutitions, striking out those “President-for-Life” clauses in the existing ones. But democracy can produce unpredictable leadership (how well we know!), and too many “elections” produce leaders who ensure that the one they rode to power will be the last free and open one.

To be a fly on the wall of the war rooms in London and Washington right now.

Rupert Scofield


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