Eccentric Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi lives up to his reputation during his first visit to America
It was meant to be a day of global reconciliation, when the new leader of the free world put all the rancour of the past eight years behind him and heralded an era of unity. And so it might have been were it not for a short man, swathed in saffron robes and a black felt hat waving his arms around and shouting: “Terrorism!”
Muammar Gaddafi – for it was he – grabbed his 15 minutes of fame at the UN building in New York today and ran with it. He ran with it so hard he stretched it to an hour and 40 minutes, six times longer than his allotted slot, to the dismay of UN organisers.
On his first visit to the US, and in his maiden address to the UN general assembly, Gaddafi fully lived up to his reputation for eccentricity, bloody-mindedness and extreme verbiage.
He tore up a copy of the UN charter in front of startled delegates, accused the security council of being an al-Qaida like terrorist body, called for George Bush and Tony Blair to be put on trial for the Iraq war, demanded $7.7tn in compensation for the ravages of colonialism on Africa, and wondered whether swine flu was a biological weapon created in a military laboratory. At one point, he even demanded to know who was behind the killing of JFK. All in all, a pretty ordinary 100 minutes in the life of the colonel.
To be fair, this was a man suffering from severe sleep deprivation. The US state department, New York city council and Donald Trump had prevented him from laying his weary head in an air-conditioned tent in New Jersey, Central Park and Bedford respectively, and the resulting strain was evident.
“I woke up at 4am, before dawn!” Gaddafi lamented about an hour into his speech, adding for the benefit of the jetlagged diplomats seated stony-faced in front of him: “You should be asleep! You’re all tired after a sleepless night!”