Coffee With Qaddafi’s Son

There’s an interesting piece of navel-gazing on Zocalo‘s website by Echo Park bankruptcy lawyer Doug Flahaut, about his time studying at the London School of Economics as a classmate of Mommar Qaddafi’s son Saif.

One day, near the end of our first year, I went to coffee with Saif. By then I’d grown used to the presence of one or two bodyguards everywhere he went. Saif placed an order at the counter and went off to find a table, leaving one of his guards to pay. He was beyond money, it seemed. What would it be like, I wondered, to have a driver and an assistant with you at all times to get you whatever you wanted? A middleman between you and the world? Probably not too bad.

At the time, I’d started work on a thesis, and I tried to explain the argument to Saif. It concerned the nature of governmental legitimacy, and I got quite animated as I tried to summarize the ideas of the anarchist Robert Paul Wolff. Saif seemed unimpressed. At one point, he pointed out that in the real world it is impossible to get any large group of people to come to unanimous agreement. I didn’t hesitate to agree. My interest was only in political theory, I said. I didn’t care much about application. This seemed to disturb Saif. He saw no reason to write a thesis that couldn’t be used for something practical, and his own thesis (if I remember correctly) concerned the role of non-governmental organizations within a government. Abstractions were clearly of minimal interest to him.

On a pure news geek level, however, perhaps the most interesting thing in the piece was that Flahaut spells the Libyan leader’s last name “Qaddafi.” Most news organizations have taken to spelling it “Gadhafi.”