In a world filled with long-winded political leaders bereft of content, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi excelled in a performance of his own.
Only a few blocks from Broadway, Colonel Gaddafi rambled on for more than an hour and a half, shuffling through his notes, tearing out pages of the U.N. Charter and shaking his hands in anger in a stream of consciousness in the UN General Assembly.
He chastised the United States throughout the speech for stirring up conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and trying to destabilize the Taliban, which he said were not responsible for Al Qaeda's terror bombings. Yet he professed admiration for President Obama, saying, "I would be happy if America was governed by him forever." But Gaddafi said no one "could guarantee" how the United States would be led after Obama left office.
His marathon speech followed the eloquent organized address of President Obama, who was interrupted 11 times by applause. Many leaders then left the hall to greet Obama in a side room, prompting UN General Assembly President Ali Abdussalam Treki (also a Libyan) to delay the opening of Gaddafi's speech by 10 minutes.
(On Thursday, Gaddafi, whose country is a member of the 15-nation UN Security Council, could have gone to a summit-level session on nuclear non-proliferation, chaired by Obama and where speeches were limited to five minutes. Instead he sent his UN ambassador, the only nation not to have a president or prime minister in attendence.)
Crowds Out Sarkozy
Gaddafi's extended speech forced other world leaders, such as French President Nicholas Sarkozy, to speak to a near empty hall through a gala lunch in an attempt to make up lost time.
A large part of Gaddafi's first-ever address to the General Assembly was to castigate the 15-member UN Security Council, "The Security Council did not provide us with security but with terror and sanctions," he said adding that it did nothing to stop what he described as "65 wars" since the world body was founded in 1945. "It should not be called the Security Council but the Terror Council."
While most nations believe the Security Council is unrepresentative, dominated by the World War II victors, Gaddafi wanted it reduced to an executive implementation body, peopled by such bodies as the African Union (of which he is chair) and others. Instead resolutions by the 192 member General Assembly should be binding rather than those of the Security Council. This would mean an island state with 100,000 people would carry the same weight as China or India.
Gaddafi, who is 67 years old and came to power in a coup 40 years ago, remembered all the events he despised in his youth -- the death of Dag Hammarskjold, the second UN Secretary General, killed in a plane crash in 1961 (which he thought might be a conspiracy), the British-French-Israeli attack against the Suez Canal in 1956 and the 1950-1953 Korean War, among others.
Wearing a rust-colored toga-like robe, a black hat and a jeweled black pin of Africa, Gaddafi, like other world leaders, was given a 15-minute time slot, which he pretended did not exist until someone handed him a note minutes before he ended. (Only the US president, as representative of the host country, is allowed to speak longer and Obama talked for 40 minutes.)
In one of his more bizarre diversions, Gaddafi said the United Nations headquarters building should be moved out of New York to a safer city in Europe or elsewhere to avoid terrorist attacks -- and because leaders arrived in the city with jetlag.
"All of you are asleep. All of you are tired, "he said. "I wake up at 4 am before dawn because in Libya it is 11 in the morning."
But Gaddafi apparently is no longer staying in a tent in Bedford, NY, on a Trump property but apparently spent Tuesday night at the Libyan U.N. mission in New York. Hundreds of family members of those killed in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, demonstrated, partly in response to recent celebrations in Libya after the only convicted bomber was freed.
Still, Cuba's Fidel Castro holds the record in the General Assembly, giving a 4 and a 1/2 hours lecture in 1960. But an older Castro in October 1995 gave a short clear speech in the Assembly that marked the 50th anniversary of the United Nations.