Col. Muammar Gadhafi will not only go down in history as being one of the world's most brutal and brazen despots, but also as one of its weirdest. From his wardrobe changes to the way he tries to woo women like former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a visit to a psychologist's couch is long overdue.
Let's start with what to call him. Gadhafi collects titles the way normal men collect cufflinks and watches. Imam of Muslims, the Dean of Arab Rulers, the Keeper of Arab Nationalism, the King of Kings, The Mad Dog of the Middle East (courtesy of President Ronald Reagan), and The Colonel are among those he either picked up or gave himself. (Strangely "the King of Kings" never deigned to promote himself above a colonel.)
Gadhafi also appears undecided how to spell his name in English. The Associated Press once donated a full column to chronicling the different spelling, among them Al Gathafi (via the official Libyan news agency JANA), El-Qathafi (via the Libyan Information Ministry), and Qathafi (via the Libyan UN Mission) – and western governments and newspapers have their own variations. It's been more than four decades since his coup, and he's still not made up his mind.
Then there's his wardrobe and how often he changes clothes. One of his former Ukrainian nurses, 24-year-old Oksana Balinskaya, penned a Newsweek column in April and said that "Papik" – the nickname his nurses gave him, meaning "little father" in Russian (unclear if mockery was intended) – "would change his clothes several times a day."
"He was so obsessive about his outfits," she continued, "that he reminded me of a rock star from the 1980s. Sometimes when his guests were already waiting for him, he would go back to his room and change his clothes again, perhaps into his favorite white suit." And his attire ranges from animal skins to rainbow-colored silk drapes, (prompting Time Magazine to anoint him in 2009 as one of the "10 Worst Dressed World Leaders").
Gadhafi not only likes to surround himself with Ukrainian nurses, but also famously travels with a bevy of female bodyguards and has been known to hire beautiful women to sit and listen to his lectures. But the woman he appears to have a unique infatuation with is Ms. Rice.
When she visited Libya in 2008, an official on the trip told me, Gadhafi tried to seduce Ms. Rice with a specially made music video, before trying to drag her into his private quarters – apparently thinking the video had sufficiently impressed. State Department officials thought otherwise and grabbed her other hand – and (much to her relief) eventually won the ensuing tug-of-war. When Libyan fighters entered Gadhafi's Tripoli compound last week they found an album full of pictures of Ms. Rice ...
Daniel Freedman is the director of strategy and policy analysis at The Soufan Group, a strategic intelligence consultancy. His writings can be found at www.dfreedman.org. He is the co-author of "The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al Qaeda," to be published by WW Norton on Sept. 12.)