An interview with Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the Libyan leader


Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the second son of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, talks to The Washington Post in an exclusive interview late on Saturday. In it, he said his government had done nothing wrong and would not back down against “terrorists.” (Simon Denyer/THE WASHINGTON POST)
April 17, 2011

The following are excerpts from a Washington Post interview with Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi.

On an international conspiracy to destabilize Libya:

“But you know what happened exactly? Maybe we will say this for the first time. On that Sunday, it was on [February] 17th, you know what happened? Libyans heard the British foreign minister say Gaddafi is on his way to Venezuela. Al-Jazeera breaking news, ‘Gaddafi left the country,’ and then another breaking news, ‘Saif got killed. His brother killed me.’ You know the story. It was two famous breaking news. ‘My father left the country. I got killed.’ It was a big conspiracy. We captured them now. They recruited some people here in the Libyan Post and Telecommunications Company, they created a false traffic, like millions of channels. Everything is fake. The whole network went down. You heard about the shutdown? You know, even my friends left the country at the time. You know why, because they said ‘Libyan TV was so stupid, playing music’. Jazeera breaking news, ‘the British foreign minister said Gaddafi left the country, Saif got killed,’ the network got shut down, the phone network got shut down, so everything is over. That’s why people, police escaped, soldiers escaped, and everyone went back home. And then you got those people who went to attack the ammunition sites, military barracks, and stole the ammunition, the arms and start the armed revolt. So everything was orchestrated. But now people are waking up.

“Our intention is not to kill people, we want to build our country, we want to live in peace, we want law and order. It is not in the interests of anybody to see chaos in Libya. But unfortunately Arabic countries like Qatar, they are playing this role.”

On why he thinks the U.N. Security Council was wrong:

“Even the Security Council resolution was based on — what? Based on the Libyan air force is bombing Tripoli, and bombing Tajoura and Fashloom, two districts [in the capital]. They mentioned two districts. Show me one trace, one evidence that we bombarded Tajoura. Zero. We took the diplomats, the journalists, they went there. So now you have an embargo, you are bombing us, you are killing us every day, we have sanctions from the U.N., based on what? Based on rumors. Because they said the Libyan air force is bombing Tripoli, districts in Tripoli, killing thousands. So you go there and ask anybody. So everything was based on rumors. It’s exactly like the WMD. WMD, WMD, WMD, go and attack Iraq. Now, civilians, civilians, civilians, go and attack Libya. It’s the same thing, it’s a repetition of history.”

On YouTube videos of protesters being shot in Tripoli:

“They played this video, a very famous one. This happened one year ago, in the city of Ras Lanuf. It was summertime, people were wearing T-shirts. And they are talking about winter time. That film was shot one year [ago] in the city of Ras Lanuf. It was a problem between two tribes fighting for a new housing project.”

“But they said the Libyan air force is bombing demonstrators, Libyan air force is bombing Tripoli, completely destroyed two districts. Two districts were eliminated by the Libyan air force. We brought thousands of mercenaries.”

But were mistakes made? Were some people shot?

“One, two, three, 10 people, 20, 30, maybe, maybe nobody knows, maybe by accident, but first, there was no intention. Second, people are talking about hundreds and thousands. There is a big difference between two or three and two or three thousand.”

On reports of widespread arrests of opposition activists:

“It happened, because it was a big tsunami here in Libya. You know we lost a huge amount of arms and ammunition in Libya. It was very serious, you know, so arms were everywhere. . . . But the police have started releasing them one after another. Yeah, yeah, yeah, there is a big word now on this. They are releasing them and I am supervising this. Because, listen, those are my people. We are living in the same country. It is not in our advantage to humiliate them to kill them or to torture them. Even the people who fought us were releasing them.

“You can go to the prison and you can meet them. They are in a good condition, no torture. Eating well, showers, clothes, everything. There is no violation of human rights. Now there is a big business in Libya to release them. Even the criminals, we start bringing psychiatrists now, imams, to bring them back, in the next days you will see a big surprise, hundreds of them are joining us in this fight.”

On the siege of Misurata and evidence that government forces are shelling civilians:

“You know what happened in Misurata? It’s exactly what happened in the Cold River, in Tripoli, Lebanon. The Lebanese army went and attacked three or four civilian districts in Tripoli to fight Jund al-Sham, the soldiers of Islam, you know that terrorist group in Lebanon. They destroyed maybe half the city, they didn’t kill civilians there, but they fought the terrorists because they were inside the buildings. The Americans, the West, they supplied the Lebanese army, and it is a legitimate mission to fight terrorists inside Tripoli of Lebanon. You remember? And I remember they sent an airlift with the Hummer vehicles, arms and munitions. The same thing in Grozny in Chechnya, when the Russian army fought the terrorists, because the terrorists went inside the buildings in Grozny. The same thing happened with the Americans in Fallujah. You know Fallujah? It’s exactly the same. You are not fighting or killing innocent people or civilians, because it is not in the interests of anybody to kill civilians, but the terrorists are there, the terrorists are there.

“Arms and ammunition and terrorists are coming every day via that port. The French foreign minister said we should allow ammunition and arms through Misurata. We shouldn’t stop them. This is the French foreign minister. He said the NATO stopped the shipment many times, and it’s wrong. We should change our policy, we should allow those ships to go there. So, excuse me, you want the Libyan government to sit and wait every day for the terrorists to get stronger? You know, the army was in dialogue and in negotiation with those people for one month. One month, trying to persuade them to lay down arms and go back home. One month, we failed. And then, they used the time to fortify their site. So you want us to repeat the same mistake again? Of course not. And by the way, those criminals, they kidnap people, they kill people, they execute people, they have their own courts, their own police, army. No government in the world will allow such a behavior.

“Today, you can go and talk to the Red Cross people. They tried today to go, to check, to assess the situation. You know what happened? They shot them. Excuse me, you are shooting at the Red Cross.

“Today they shot the Red Cross people, because the cross is crusader or whatever. So you are infidel and you should be killed. Okay, maybe they are not Muslims but they are here to help you. Don’t kill them.

“They have mortars, they have anti-tank rockets, they have anti-aircraft machine guns, they are using the Libyan ammunition, the ammunition of the Libyan army, but they are firing from houses, from shops, from everywhere. But I am not going to accept it, that the Libyan army is killing civilians. This didn’t happen, and it will never happen. This is for sure. But terrorists? Enough is enough with them. The West wants us to stay aside and just give our whole country on a golden plate to the terrorists. . . . Nobody will accept this. . . . It’s because of Libya, not because of my father, people are fighting.”

On the rebels:

“We told the whole people that there are al-Qaeda, that there are terrorist people. They said ‘No, no, no, we discredit the news.’ You heard about the statement today of al-Qaeda? It’s their own statement, it’s not my statement. ‘We are al-Qaeda in Libya, we are fighting and we have our emirates.’ In Zawiyah, in Nalut, we found Algerians, Egyptians, Pakistanis fighting with them. So some of them are terrorists, the Islamists, others are just gangsters, like in Benghazi. But the irony is the following. We take the city of Benghazi. Ninety percent of the country is okay, by the way. You know that? It’s just the city of Benghazi, the problem is just the city of Benghazi.

“You have al-Qaeda and Islamic groups, you have the gangsters and the ex-prisoners, and you have one general who has maximum 200 soldiers fighting with them, and he wants to be something. So three groups fighting each other. And now you have something new, it’s like the awakening, like in Iraq.

“We have it exactly now in Libya, they are fighting the terrorists, al-Qaeda and the gangsters. And you heard the news yesterday about the attack on the hotel in Benghazi? It was in Sky News, it was in BBC. Yesterday was two big explosions and big fighting in the middle of Benghazi. So, you have a new militia, the people they organize a new militia to fight for themselves, to fight the gangsters and the terrorists, and you have at the same time the NATO supporting them. It’s silly. How can you support like 600 militiamen and you neglect the 6 million people? If you want to support Libyan people, you should support the 6 million. And by the way, if you are supporting the gangsters, they have no future. They will be defeated soon, they will vanish soon, they have no future. The West is talking with the wrong side.

“Believe me, Benghazi will be liberated by its own people. Will be liberated by the ‘awakening groups,’ exactly the Iraqi scenario. People are waking up, and now we have the news. They are creating a strong militia, and they will fight from within.”

On former friends and colleagues who defected to lead the rebellion:

“They were my friends, we drink together, we eat together, we sit together, we travel together, they were my own people. To be honest with you. Now this is my biggest problem in Libya. I get messages from volunteers on the front, they told me: ‘After the victory, you, Saif, have no place here in Libya. Everything is because of you. Because those criminals, these traitors were your friends, and you brought them here, and you helped them to be ministers and to be big guys in Libya, and you have no place in the future, you and your friends in Libya.’

“I brought them here, I helped them, I support them. But then, Saif is over, so we have to jump from the ship like rats. We jump from the ship. Let’s go to other ship. And I am telling you another secret. Do you know some of the people who did defect are coming back now, like some of our ambassadors?

“Listen, people sometimes are weak. Those people, one month ago they were ministers and heads of security, and now they find themselves sitting with Hillary Clinton, with the British, with the French, with the whole world, Qataris sending them private jets. So okay, yesterday I was minister, today I can be a president. So the West is contributing to this crisis, because they give them false hope they will be something in the future. Those people, they were our people one month ago, we know them very well, I brought them.”

On Mahmoud Jibril, a U.S.-educated professor brought back to Libya by Saif to help run economic policy, who is now the rebels’ foreign affairs representative:

“He was my best friend, he was my best friend, he changed completely, I don’t know why. We used to talk together, work together, he was one of my best friends. But anyway, [expletive] happens.

He was my friend when he was living in Tripoli. Now he is sitting with Hillary Clinton, with [British Foreign Secretary William] Hague, and with [French President Nicolas] Sarkozy in the Elysees. Excuse me, he said, ‘Saif, you are too small for me now.’ ”

Of course, come on. Can you imagine yourself — the whole world, America, U.K., France, sending you private jets, saying ‘You are the president of Libya, you get the oil, you get the money.’ Come on, they are human beings at the end of the day. They are selfish and they have their own self-interest and they have their own advantage, they want to advance their own advantage. Come on, they want to be famous, they want to to be rich, they want to be powerful. ‘Okay, one month ago, I was a minister here in Libya, now I will be a president, I will control Libya.’ Libya is a rich country. Everyone wants to rule Libya, its oil, gas, money. And I understand this, I understand it. I don’t respect it, but I understand it.”

On whether there are people within the rebel movement who just wanted democracy and freedom of expression:

“Yes, of course, yes. I know them very well. But where are they now? Ha ha. Where are they now? I tell you something. Those people, maybe they did start the story, but now they vanished. Now they have no word, they have no say with the armed militia.”

On dialogue:

“Can you have a dialogue with al-Qaeda? Can you have a dialogue with the people who are firing on the Red Cross? I am sure you see the video of the people in Misurata burning the heart? They took the heart. In the 21st century, they killed someone, they took his heart, they burned the heart in front of people. You want to have a dialogue with these people? You heard the story that they hanged people in Benghazi? You want to have a dialogue with those people? They hang people, in eastern Libyan, they hanged people on bridges, and they are filming themselves.”

On democracy:

“It’s another funny thing. The people here, the West, talking about democracy, the constitution. Even this is not the priority of the people anymore. Go to any Libyan, say ‘Do you want democracy?’ ‘No, we want peace, security, food, drink, we want schools. Because now it’s not a priority anymore, the freedom of the press. Now we are at war.

“If you want to help us, you help the Libyan government restore peace and security, then we’ll talk about reforms and national reconciliation and constitution. But now people are at war, and everybody is fighting everybody, and you are talking about democracy? So this is the silly thing.

“I know Libya. For the past 10 years, I was talking about the constitution, freedom, democracy, everybody was laughing at me in Libya here. They say, ‘What? We want good houses, we want good money, we want good hospitals, we want good cars, we want good hotels. Democracy is not priority.’ People said this for the past 10 years to me. Come on, it’s just the elite here in Libya, they are talking about these things. So many years were angry with me these last years because I just focus on that. Even though we are still committed to the constitution. Mahmoud Jibril and all those those guys were on the committee who wrote the draft of the new Libyan constitution. . . . Those people who are against us, I put them on the committee, they came up last year, this is our draft. The Libyan people should conduct a national deliberation on this draft, and if they are happy with it they should accept it, and we have new laws. It was my ideas and they were working for me. Local governance, because we want a federal system and strong local governance and a new law for the media and civil society. That’s it. It would be like Switzerland, but now, nobody can talk about this any more. Nobody in Libya is talking about this anymore. People are talking about just one thing, peace, security and law and order, that’s it.”

On his uncompromising speech when protests started:

“I told them, ‘You listen, Libyans. There is a big conspiracy against Libya, you will have a civil war, you will destroy your country, you will destroy the oil and you will have a foreign intervention,’ and those four points happened. Happened. I said this 40 or 50 days ago, two months ago, and the four points happened. Sometimes you have to be very serious with your people. It is a very serious issue.”

On why people are fighting:

“We heard one day about Vice President Biden. He used to have a boy, his son, who was fighting in Iraq. He said, ‘I am proud of my son, who is fighting for America and defending his country.’ Biden, the vice president, you are proud of your son who is fighting other people thousands of kilometers far away from America, you are proud of your son. So let alone, we are the Libyans, we are in our country, we are fighting for our country.

“So there is time for peace and there is time for war. So we have terrorists on the ground and we have NATO. Of course we will stand up and fight for our country, it is our country. We want peace, we want freedom, we want a constitution, we want democracy, but I will not be happy if I am seeing my people get killed every day, by bombs of NATO and the terrorists.

“Here we are the Libyans. If we fight we fight together. If we stop, we stop together. We are united and one family. We are so united.”

On reconciliation:

“Nobody here in Libya is interested in revenge. Revenge, it’s not in our agenda. The agenda is national reconciliation. This is the desire and the wish of everybody. We want peace, we want security, we want to build our country, we want to have a better future, we want to go forward. Nobody is talking about revenge.”

On what would happen if his father left now:

“Somalia, Part Two. Everybody knows that.”

On the way forward:

“The biggest issue, the terrorists and armed militia. The moment we get rid of them, everything will be solved in one hour in the whole country.

“One European country, a very important country, they came to us with a proposal, with an initiative, we have the African initiative. All of them are talking about what. No army in the cities, no armed militias in the cities. Armed militias and army should leave the cities, police should come in. The army should control the border and the gates, and we hold the election. You the Americans help us to do that. Come you, the Americans, help us get the army outside of the cities, also the militias, we bring the police in, we hold elections, we will see what will happen. This we accept. Do this. Bring supervisors from Europe, America, from everywhere. Do it.”

On being an ally one day and a pariah the next:

“After the WikiLeaks, Hillary Clinton tried to call my father, and called the ex-foreign minister, saying, ‘We are sorry for this.’ Just two months ago. She said, ‘We are happy with Libya, we are doing good business with Libya, we want to strengthen relations with Libya, and Libya is a very important country, and we are friends, and we are sorry for this.’ This is two months ago. Now she is saying, ‘Mr Gaddafi should leave.’

“If you are strong, everybody is nice to you, if not, bye-bye.”

On his response to the letter from President Obama, Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron:

“To be honest, Obama is different from the British and the French. It was big shock at the beginning when the Americans did attack Libya. Nobody in the Middle East, and especially in Libya, thought that one day President Obama will attack Libya or an Arabic country. Because he came after Iraq and after Afghanistan, his name is Barack Hussein, he is of African origin, he is a peace man. And all of sudden he is sending hundreds of Tomahawk [missiles] to Libya. It was a big shock, a big shock for everybody, even for my father. The second one, that you are attacking us exactly like Bush attacked Iraq, because of false reports. It’s rumors. The third, all of us we know, it was like a blackmail because you, America, support the British and the French in Libya because they support you in Afghanistan. We heard these reports. So it was a big shock for everybody. But now people are happy that Americans are walking away from this crisis and now they are neutral, and not playing a dirty game like the others. But still, we want the Americans tomorrow to send a fact-finding mission to find out what happened in Libya, we want Human Rights Watch to come here and to find out exactly what happened.

“We are not afraid of the International Criminal Court. We are confident and sure that we didn’t commit any crime against our people. The terrorists did recruit boys, 10, 11, 12 years old to fight, they killed hostages, prisoners, they hanged people, they tortured people, everything, and they fortunately they filmed everything themselves. For us, we are doing the right thing, we are fighting the right cause, and we fighting for our people. We are united the Libyan people all together, you the Americans you should support us and help us.

“The Libyan case is very easy, it is not difficult, it could be solved very easily. But if you come and say you Gaddafi should leave, you make it very complicated for everybody. So you want to help Libya or you want to destroy Gaddafi, you have to choose. If you want to destroy Gaddafi, okay . . . but don’t say ‘I want to help Libya.’ Please don’t say this. But still here the reception for the Americans is much better than the Europeans.”

On his father:

“The most important person now in Libya is the prime minister. Ask any Libyan, the prime minister. My father is not talking about contracts, about laws, about companies about business, about this, this is the executive work, this is the work of the prime minister. He is the most important person in Libya, and in the new constitution you will have an elected prime mister and also an elected president. So my father is like a symbol of the country, he is symbolic. But the people who will run this will be elected, and this is in the draft [constitution]. We worked on this draft for the past four years. You will have a president and a prime minister, you will have a parliament, so go to that constitution, go to that draft, forget my father. But they want after Gaddafi, so all of us will fight for him. This is the wrong approach.”

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