Crowds of school boys leaned over fences festooned with banners
praising Lybian leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi.
They dawdled in streets decorated with the country's green flag
and pictures of the "Brother Leader," as Colonel Qaddafi calls
himself, to gawk at the best show in town - foreigners and their
government minders brought to this desert town in southwest Libya to
observe celebrations marking 30 years of The Green Book.
Qaddafi laid out his hybrid socialist and Islamic political
system here 30 years ago Friday. And while access to Libya has been
limited to Western journalists, now its leaders are eager to show
off to the world the longevity of its "great revolution" as this
country returns from international isolation.
Quotes from Qaddafi's manual for "direct democracy" are posted
along roadsides and on buildings. They extol the virtues of his self-
professed partyless, leaderless system in which people govern
themselves through a "direct democracy" of committees and
Signs in Arabic, English, French, and Spanish read: "Partners not
wage workers; no democracy without popular congresses and committees
everywhere; party's abort democracy; representation is a
falsification of democracy."
But the celebration of the anniversary and endurance of Qaddafi's
political system and his revolution's ideals this week comes at a
time when Libya is seeking to improve its image with the West.
The state was once bombed by the US in retaliation for an attack
on a Berlin disco. It sought weapons of mass destruction and was
labeled a sponsor of terrorism. It was sanctioned by the US and UN
until it allowed two Libyans to be tried for their role in the
downing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988. And now, it is finding a
receptive ear in the United States.
That said, it still faces international pressure on a number of
issues. Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor were
sentenced to death last December after being found guilty of
deliberately injecting more than 400 children with HIV. Leading
international scientists found that the charges were groundless, and
that the infections began before the medics arrived.
Qaddafi's son, Seif al-Islam, told a Bulgarian newspaper recently
that Libya would not carry out the death sentences.
On Feb. 26, the nurses pleaded not guilty to new charges of
slandering security officers, a result of statements they made that
they were tortured during police interrogations. …