In hindsight, this is quite something. There are few things more puzzling than imagining the minds of tyrants and their supporters – do they even bother to justify their immorality to themselves? did Gaddaffi genuinely believe he was a Libyan hero? – but when they talk like this the task gets even more difficult. The Times contextualises (£):
Mrs Assad, the daughter of an eminent Harley Street cardiologist who was raised in Acton, West London, is also a Sunni whose family comes from Homs — the religious grouping and city that are suffering worst from the regime’s brutality. Mrs Assad was educated at a private girls’ school in Marylebone and Imperial College and worked for the investment bank J. P. Morgan before marrying Bashar Assad six months after he succeeded his father as president in 2000. Until recently she … embraced progressive causes such as rural development, youth unemployment, arts, heritage and, perversely, “active citizenship”.
I don’t believe this woman lived a lie, faking commitment to all these causes only to now show her true colours through silence over the past year. That’s just not a tenable psychological picture. Much more likely is a personal dilemma right now, and no way out. I doubt she is offered the chance to advise her husband on policy, and even minor expressions of dissent would surely be costly. I find that more plausible than the idea of a woman who talks of humanity, but deep down values wealth and status, even if the cost is blood.
Having said that, Saif Gaddaffi studied political theory at UCL and wrote a thesis on democratisation referencing John Rawls. I would refuse to think for a second that anyone subjected to such an enlightening education could possibly be corrupted by power, betraying the cause of justice. And yet now this man is wanted for war crimes. How that happened will never fail to amaze me, but I’m convinced that Mrs Assad is not Saif the Second.