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Moammar Gadhafi in Tripoli, Sept. 1, 2010; Nelly Furtado at the Grammys in Las Vegas, Nov. 11, 2010. (Ismail Zitouny / Reuters; Julie Jacobson / AP)
Moammar Gadhafi in Tripoli, Sept. 1, 2010; Nelly Furtado at the Grammys in Las Vegas, Nov. 11, 2010. (Ismail Zitouny / Reuters; Julie Jacobson / AP)

Margaret Wente

How the Loon of Libya won the West Add to ...

What a relief that Nelly Furtado has decided to give away the $1-million fee she received for performing for the loathsome Gadhafi clan. Now that blood is running in the streets of Tripoli, other entertainers are rushing to follow her example. Mariah Carey says she feels "horrible and embarrassed" by her New Year's Eve performance for the Gadhafis three years ago, and although she has refused to donate her rumoured $1-million fee to charity, she's promising to give away the proceeds from a new single to human rights. "I was naive and unaware of who I was booked to perform for," she explained.

The same excuse cannot be made for other Westerners who've profited from cozying up to Moammar Gadhafi and his ill-gotten gains. In fact, an astonishing number of them wittingly or unwittingly participated in his rehabilitation. Before the recent unfortunate events in Libya, the reputation of the Mad Dog of the Middle East, as Ronald Reagan called him, had undergone a startling transformation. The murderous outlaw had become an enlightened, even progressive, despot. In 2004, our own prime minister, Paul Martin, famously huddled with the Loon of Libya in a tent in the desert and declared him a "philosophical man with a sense of history." In 2008, Col. Gadhafi was the guest of honour at the G8 summit in Italy, where Western leaders fawned all over him.

Well, that's business, I guess. After all, the mad dog had renounced his aspiration to nuclear weapons, and oil money had made him - if not his country - filthy rich. Mr. Martin's trip paved the way for a juicy construction contract for Canadian engineering firm SNC-Lavalin.

But tolerating tyrants is one thing, and rehabilitating them is another. Surely the worst joke in the checkered history of the United Nations was the elevation of Libya to chair the UN human rights commission in 2003. Until this week, when Libya was suspended from that august body, the nations of the world applauded its enlightened approach. In a new UN report completed this January, Canada itself heaps praise on legislation that grants women married to foreigners the right to pass on their Libyan nationality to their children. Way to go, Moammar! So what if he also throws people in jail by the thousands and rips their fingernails out? No one's perfect.

It's nauseating enough to see fellow dictators (Hugo Chavez) and nutty Nation of Islam types (Louis Farrakhan, to whom Colonel Gadhafi tried to transfer $1-billion back in the 1990s) sucking up to the Libyan loon. It's even worse to see leading statesmen (Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Silvio Berlusconi, Nicolas Sarkozy) kiss him on both cheeks. Worst of all was the 2009 British deal to release the Lockerbie bomber on compassionate grounds. (The bomber allegedly had terminal cancer, from which he seems to have made a remarkable recovery as soon as he arrived back home in Libya.) It was a snub to victims of terrorism everywhere. Some suspect the 1988 bombing of the Pam-Am flight, which killed 270 people, was directly ordered by Col. Gadhafi himself. In any event, the Gadhafis never said sorry. In 2008, Moammar's charming son, Saif (who was embraced as a young, progressive future global leader by the Royal Family, the London School of Economics and the Davoisie, among others), accused relatives who sought compensation for the loss of their loved ones of being "very greedy." In a BBC interview, he protested, "They were asking for more money and more money and more money and more money and they were talking just about money! Money, money, money, money!"

But by far the most revolting element of Col. Gadhafi's rehabilitation was the suck-up of the intellectuals. In the most depressing piece of investigative journalism I have read so far this year, Mother Jones's David Corn describes how Mr. Gadhafi hired the Monitor Group, a Boston-based consulting firm, to burnish the dictator's image. Among other things, it arranged a visit to Libya by Harvard professor Joseph Nye Jr., a famous foreign-policy heavyweight. He sipped tea for three hours with the great man and afterwards wrote a glowing account of their meeting for the New Republic. What Mr. Nye did not disclose was that he had travelled to Tripoli as a paid consultant of the Monitor Group, which was on a $3-million a year retainer to the Libyan government.

Another paid consultant to the Monitor Group was Benjamin Barber, an author specializing in democracy promotion. Mr. Barber also served on the international advisory board of a human rights foundation overseen by Saif (who can be seen on a current YouTube video in his bunker, claiming that unrest in Libya has been highly exaggerated). In 2007, Mr. Barber penned an op-ed for the Washington Post in which he wrote that Libya under Col. Gadhafi could become "the first Arab state to transition peacefully and without overt Western intervention to a stable, non-autocratic government." Then there's Anthony Giddens, a leading British intellectual, who made two sponsored trips to Libya and wrote, "As one-party states go, Libya is not especially repressive. Gadhafi seems genuinely popular." Francis Fukuyama and Richard Perle were other famous names who were "visitors," as Monitor referred to them.

At least Nelly and Mariah, along with Beyoncé, Lionel Richie, Jay-Z and Usher - who've also performed for the Gadhafi clan - held out for decent sums of money. I suspect the intellectuals came far more cheap. Nor have they (so far) admitted remorse for their shameless behaviour as the Loon of Libya's useful dupes. Perhaps they mistook a taste for Western pop music and a little window dressing for a sincere desire for reform. Shame on them. They should donate their blood money to genuine human rights, and apologize to the Libyan people.

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