As Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi continues his violent crackdown on protesters, The New York Times reports on leaked diplomatic cables that present a tragicomic counterpoint, detailing the lavish -- and eccentric -- lifestyle of the Qaddafi family.
Cables leaked by WikiLeaks say that Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi bristled at reports that he paid Mariah Carey $1 million to sing four songs at a New Year’s party on the Caribbean island of St. Barts in 2009, taking to his own newspaper to blame his brother Muatassim, also Libya's national security adviser.
Last year, Muatassim had another New Year's bash, hiring Beyonce and Usher, an extravagance that the cable said “provided local observers with enough dirt for a Libyan soap opera.” The diplomatic cable cites a “local political observer” as saying that Muatassim’s “carousing and extravagance angered some locals, who viewed his activities as impious and embarrassing to the nation.”
A cable also revealed that Muatassim had asked for $1.2 billion in 2008 from the chairman of Libya’s national oil corporation to establish his own militia, the Times reports.
Muammar el-Qaddafi himself has long been seen as an eccentric figure -- and the documents released by WikiLeaks have fleshed out this image. According to one cable that came out last year, the U.S. ambassador to Libya wrote that that “Qadhafi relies heavily on his long-time Ukrainian nurse... who has been described as a ‘voluptuous blonde.’... He also appears to have an intense dislike or fear of staying on upper floors, reportedly prefers not to fly over water, and seems to enjoy horse racing and flamenco dancing.”
Soon after the cables detailing Qaddafi’s habits were released, their author, Ambassador Gene Cretz, was called back to Washington.