Sunday, August 28, 2011

Portrait of a hedonist; the fruit of Ghaddafi's profligacy

Nick Meo’s portrait of Mutassim Gaddafi [in today's Telegraph], the son of the dictator in Libya, is sobering. Here is a personality whose life of privilege has deprived him of the ability to appreciate the how much he has enjoyed all his life, to the point where he has scarce respect for the humanity around him, especially for those who serve him. The sense of a person who lives in a bubble of privilege pervades this whole article. As he entertained his guest he displayed a pathetic ignorance of what was actually happening in the world barely outside his door, a popular movement of rebels who hated him and his father and were bent on overwhelming the regime. The article for some of us is a revelation: Could this be the way the upper 1% is able to live these days?: glamorous guests, dinner parties with eminent social figures (Princesses), annual excursions to the Caribbean via a private Boeing jet, hundreds of guests completely provided for in the most expensive hotels, the finest Italian hairdressers flown in for an affair, etc. And in order to remove him, to bring him into the real world, to experience what life is like for the people whom he seems to despise, how many will have to die?

Mutassim Gaddafi's girlfriend tells of the final days of Libyan regime: Mutassim Gaddafi's former girlfriend, Dutch glamour model Talitha van Zon, talks to Nick Meo about the dying days of the Gaddafi regime.

By Nick Meo, Tripoli6:00AM BST 28 Aug 2011
Filipino servants wearing spotless white jackets mixed his favourite Jack Daniels whisky and coke, and then Mutassim Gaddafi raised his glass and toasted the victory that he was sure was close.
Relaxing in one of his Tripoli homes just over a week ago, during a break from commanding at the front, the fifth son of Libya's ruler was in a defiant mood. Soon, he boasted to the blonde foreigner sitting with him, he would lead his father's regime to a victory over the "rats".
The woman at his side was Mutassim's ex-girlfriend Talitha van Zon, a Dutch glamour model who still regularly visited him in the Libyan capital.
Her most recent trip, however, proved to be a far cry from the luxury break she was used to - as the Libyan regime crumbled last week and her male companion took flight, she endured several days of utter terror as battles raged around her five star hotel.
On Wednesday, The Sunday Telegraph found her alone and frightened in a Tripoli hospital ward, where she was being treated for injuries after leaping from a hotel balcony - apparently fearful that a group of rebels were about to burn her alive.

Before she was evacuated from the city by a humanitarian ship to Malta on Friday, though, she gave an extraordinary account of the final days of the Gaddafi regime - an insight into a family who will fight to the death and destroy their country before they give up power.

"I was shocked when I met Mutassim. He had changed," said Miss van Zon. "It was the first time I had seen him since just before the February uprising. He had a beard, he was sitting on a couch strewn with automatic weapons, and he was guarded by unsmiling 16-year-old boys with sub-machine guns." On the wall behind was a huge portrait of his father, Muammar Gaddafi.

... A former Playboy centrefold, Miss van Zon met Mutassim in an Italian nightclub in 2004, kindling a three-month relationship that ended when she learned that she "was not the only woman in his life". ... she was drawn into a fabulous private world of luxury, showered with gifts and invited to some of the world's most exclusive destinations. In Monaco she was taken to the Grand Prix and a dinner party attended by Princess Caroline. At Christmas, there was Mutassim's annual excursion to the Caribbean island of Saint Barts, with his entourage flown there in his private Boeing. When Mutassim was in Paris or London he would book several floors of the most expensive hotels, filling them with his friends, and the finest Italian hairdressers would be flown in from Italy, at a cost of 5,000 euros per time. "I asked him once how much he spent, and he took a minute to add it up in his head," Miss van Zon recalled. "He said 'about $2 million'. I said 'you mean a year?' He said 'no – a month'."

... "Of course I knew that it was not right to spend so much money like that," she said. "I asked him many times about the welfare of the Libyan people, and he said the schools and hospitals were free, that rice and flour were cheap. It was hard for me to judge life in Libya for ordinary people – I was always staying in a gilded cage when I visited. They looked happy enough."

She did, though, see occasional flashes of temper, in particular on one occasion where a servant had brought in a meal that was cold.

"He shouted at the guy and threw plates on the floor. He put that guy like a dog in a corner and then he demanded that he eat the whole lot, there in front of us. It was humiliating. I never saw the servant again, and I don't know what happened to him.

The hedonist son also had ambitions for power, inspired by his father's example. "He worshipped his father," Miss Van Zon said. "He talked a lot about Hitler, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez. He liked leaders who had a lot of power. He always said 'I want to do better than my father'."

[Click on the title above for a link to the original article.]

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