13 November, 2006

Why Not to Vacation in Libya

The always fascinating Victor Davis Hanson has the tale:

...the general poverty of the country seems the logical manifestation of Qaddafi’s zealous vows to eliminate most private property, end a market economy and its “parasitical” middle class, shrink the professional elite, and ensure cradle-to-grave subsidies for everyone else—all the while supporting “liberation” movements from South Africa to Northern Ireland...

When I went over the old litany—the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, Libya’s vast weapons-of-mass-destruction program, the efforts to cause havoc in Chad, the trumped-up capital convictions of Bulgarian nurses falsely charged with deliberately injecting Libyan children with HIV, the recent plan to assassinate Saudi crown prince Abdullah after he traded slurs with Qaddafi at an Arab League summit in 2003, and on and on—Libyans looked away as if the rude stranger had ruined a long-planned reunion celebration.

...perhaps it is true—at least that is what Qaddafi supposedly told Italian prime minister Berlusconi in a phone conversation: “I will do whatever the Americans want, because I saw what happened in Iraq, and I was afraid.”

There is also real Libyan disgust over the billions squandered on revolutionary -- mostly terrorist -- movements the world over, especially the largesse given to the African insurrectionists. As one minor Libyan official put it to me, “They all cut deals with you in the West—the African National Congress, the IRA, Sandinistas, Liberians, and the Palestinians. Now you think these former killers are okay again, but not us...”

...A few hours after the lecture, I woke up, delirious... a perforated appendix... no Westerner to her knowledge... had recently experienced surgery in the state-run hospitals. Prior to departure, I had done some research on Libya and remembered coming across an old Wall Street Journal piece that referred in passing to Libya’s hospitals as “dirty death traps.” And I remembered the stories of the Bulgarian nurses and their clinic’s contaminated needles, as well as an offhand remark by one of my newfound Libyan friends that he had just returned from Tunis for “minor” surgery...

I had to be operated on immediately at the clinic—no time for the hospital—and that would require a mandatory government blood test and finding a surgeon at 2 am... I had a few memories in delirium of leaving a final phone message for my family back in California that things were not going well in Tripoli. When the nurse readied my mask, she said in English, “Put your trust in Allah.” For some reason -- I am not a church attendee -- I whispered back, “I prefer the redemptive power of Jesus Christ.”
Obviously he survived. I won't spoil the rest of unique and harrowing story.