Gaddafi's Youngest Son Killed? Why That May Not Be The Case.
A day ago, Saif Al-Arab Gaddafi was virtually unknown; now he’s the subject of newspaper headlines all over the world.
The Libyan regime claims Saif Al-Arab was killed in a NATO bombing of one of Gaddafi’s homes-- Libyan state television subsequently broadcasted a benefit concert in his honor. Musa Ibrahim called him a “martyr”.
The media outlets reported on his death-- and that of three grandchildren, the regime claims-- as truth. But in the Libyan war, the line between fact and fiction is blurred by the regime’s outrageous lies. Why should we believe he’s really dead?
The Libyan regime has lied before.
At the outset of the Libyan revolution, Muammar Gaddafi made outrageous claims that the protesters were on drugs. He’d claimed they’d taken hallucinogenic pills that were distributed by Al Qaeda.
"Their ages are 17. They give them pills at night, they put hallucinatory pills in their drinks, their milk, their coffee, their Nescafe," Gaddafi said in a speech aired on state television. The next day’s headlines read like lines out of an SNL script.
Later, Libyan government representatives on state television “revealed” a shipment of pills they claimed they had intercepted. It turned out that the “hallucinatory pills” were actually just pain-killers: Tramadol. "Hallucination" was not on the list of side effects.
In another event, Musa Ibrahim, the government spokesman, accused the U.S. of civilian casualties in their bombing of several Tripoli sites. When journalists were taken to the sites, there were no bodies to be seen. At funeral proceedings for the civilians, journalists were shown empty graves. Still no bodies. Perplexing.
No proof of any deaths.
The Libyan rebels have allowed journalists into their hospitals, onto their battlegrounds, and even into their own homes. Journalists in the liberated East have seen more than enough proof of Gaddafi’s continued aggression against the opposition-- piled up bodies in hospitals, injured children, and weaponry used by Gaddafi militias that looks more suited to destroy naval ships than to quell peaceful protests.
Yet journalists in the West have had much greater trouble at getting to the truth. On lockdown at Tripoli’s ritzy Rixos Hotel, they can’t leave anywhere without a government minder at their heels. They only leave the hotel on government-led tours of alleged “bomb” sites and to witness what they are told are “spontaneous” pro-Gaddafi demonstrations.
If, indeed, there have been severe civilian casualties, what has the Libyan government to hide by allowing journalists free reign in Tripoli? In the case of this most recent bombing, the Gaddafi regime has yet to do to key things: 1) produce the bodies of Saif Al-Arab or the three grandchildren they claim died or 2) release the names or ages of these three grandchildren.
Furthermore, the journalists were only shown the bombed site long after the fact-- long enough time for the Gaddafi regime to plant “evidence” that young children had played there. CNN’s Frederik Pleitgen found blood-- but it was a few drops that dotted the floor, nothing to indicate that someone had died there.
Is this what a residential home looks like?
The Libyan regime says the bombed site is a residential home. Photos of the site post-bombing tell a different story. What kind of home is made of the thick concrete walls that this home was made of? Huge steel pipes run through the house and thick wire pokes out from the rubble. The Washington Post’s Simon Denyer, who was on a government-led tour of the home, says there was a “cellar/bunker” beneath the floor.
The Libyan regime says it was a home-- and yet NATO claims they’ve only been targeting command-and-control centers. Who's telling the truth?
Saif Al-Arab is an enigma.
Unlike some of his more notorious brothers Saif Al-Arab hasn’t been the subject of any sensational headlines until now-- in fact, the last story written about him was a Press TV article claiming he’d joined the pro-democracy protests against his father back in February. Though it’s a story that’s hard to believe-- and yet to be confirmed-- it might explain why we’ve heard so little about him.
Saif Al-Arab’s obscurity has definitely led some news agencies to scramble for information-- even the wrong kind. They’ve been publishing a file photo of him to accompany the articles on his death. Unfortunately, the photo isn’t of him-- it’s of older brother Saadi Gaddafi, at a disco in Germany. Yet a Google Images search of Saif Al-Arab will turn up Saadi’s photo again and again, Saif Al-Arab’s name captioned beneath them.
And to further prove the media's ineptitude, many news outlets initially reported the death to be of Gaddafi's older, more prominent son Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi (they have since made corrections).
If Gaddafi wanted to-- theoretically-- fake the death of a son, Saif Al-Arab would be the most logical choice. No one knows who he is. And faking the death of a son-- perhaps to distract from an attack on an opposition city or to garner sympathy from the West-- is exactly the kind of tactic Gaddafi is known for. Many refuse to believe that Gaddafi's adopted daughter Hana died in the 1986 American bombing of his compound, as he claims. Others also attribute rumors of Khamis Gaddafi’s death that surfaced back in March to the regime itself.
Is Saif Al-Arab really dead? It's plausible that he could be-- some witnesses in Tripoli say they even saw him get carried into a hospital. But we’re not going to get the truth from the Libyan government.