FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Libya and the Hand That Feeds

As the Libyan crisis has yet to complete its first month the list lengthens of  British multinationals and  institutions that have taken money from Muammar Qaddafi. Even Prince Andrew, the UK’s ‘Ambassador for Trade’, is implicated.

The first to fall have been the universities. There’s scarcely a top British university that has not taken money from a nasty Middle East leader and what is more embarrassing is that their names are emblazoned on libraries, laboratories, technology parks and research centers for all the world to see. Worst hit, so far, is the London School of Economics.

Is it plausible that Saif Al-Islam Qaddafi, a multibillionaire with more money than anyone is able to spend, has spent four years copying other people’s work? A doctorate based on extensive plagiarism is still hard work. The claim is a way for the academic authorities to perhaps conceal a much greater fiasco. The rumor at the LSE is that, far from plagiarism being the problem, the School arranged for a ‘mentor’ (ie ghost writer) to assist Saif Islam with his studies. That is, the School provided the means to subvert its own procedures.

The way the sons of the rich handle PhDs at many Third World universities is to pay a bright but unemployed PhD graduate to write it. The system in the UK is similar, though a tad more subtle. On the notice board of any university, including the LSE, one can find discreet adverts providing ‘drafting services’ for students with poor English. In the Sciences this is not too much of a problem, because much of the writing is technical or mathematical and ‘drafting’ is restricted to laying out findings. Science PhDs are almost always laboratory-based, requiring daily engagement with teaching staff. A PhD thesis also has to be defended ‘viva voce’ before a panel of doctorates who are expert in the thesis subject. It is much more difficult, if not impossible, to bluff in the Sciences. In the Humanities it is a different matter altogether. Beyond correcting bad grammar and punctuation, it is virtually impossible to provide much assistance in ‘drafting’ without actually doing original writing.

Of course, professors know only too well when a PhD thesis is not someone’s work, particularly when a candidate who is semi-proficient in English, and is a poor contributor in doctoral seminars, submits an eloquent thesis written in perfect English, complete with idiomatic expressions and a command of the intricacies of the subject. Anyone supervising doctoral theses soon becomes able to distinguish the ‘different voices’ at play.

So why don’t academics expose the fraudsters? One would have to be a die-hard sentimentalist of the old school (as is yours truly) to refuse to accept that universities are now just businesses. There is tremendous pressure on academic staff to ‘earn their keep’. At £6000 per annum or more, doctorates for foreign students are an easy way of making money, particularly if a grateful student leaves behind a £1.5 million tip to set up a research foundation.

But the problems with the LSE, which every day looks more like a Marriott Hotel than a university, are not restricted to the Saif Al-Islam fiasco.

According to Newsnight, the BBC’s flagship current affairs program, the LSE is closely involved with a London high-level political PR agency – Monitor Consultancy – that in 2007 took on a £3 million contract to improve Libya’s image in the UK and to present Qaddafi in the West as ‘a thinker and intellectual’. Remember that year – 2007 – it keeps cropping up. Monitor’s ‘talent’ includes the former head of the Security Services, Sir Richard Dearlove, and Sir Mark Alan, also a top ex-spy, who was involved in Libyan operations and now works for BP.(1)

Part of Monitor’s program was to fly out to Libya prominent ‘opinion formers’ on all-expenses-paid ‘fact finding’ trips. On their return, presumably for a fat brown envelope, they would write glowing articles about Libya. One such jolly tripper was LSE Director Howard Davies, who was sent out in 2007 to comment on Libya’s financial system. As I understand it, Libya’s only ‘financial system’ entails Qaddafi handing out large amounts of cash to families, clans and tribes that behave themselves, and giving a good kicking to those that don’t. Still, Davies came back with glowing reports of what he saw and was even taken on as a financial consultant by the regime.

A more interesting recipient of Qaddafi’s boundless generosity is Anthony Giddens, LSE Director 1996–2003 and one of Europe’s most highly regarded and highly overrated intellectuals. Giddens is the inventor of The Third Way, the European version of the US neo-con outlook, except that ours has a sugar-coated exterior and a soft chewy centre (ie the usual tosh about ‘European values’, modernity and avoiding dogmatism) which means it is palatable even to people who consider themselves to be of liberal ideals. Giddens is said to be Tony Blair’s philosophical mentor, though it is not clear why this should impress anyone.

In March 2007, having returned from a trip in which he was able to have a tête-à-tête with Qaddafi, Giddens wrote the obligatory article for the Guardian, often wrongly described as a ‘centre-left’ newspaper. It reads like a Graham Greene travel sketch about a nasty country which the great writer has decided to say nice things about for reasons only known to himself. “As one-party states go” – Gidden wrote, reassuringly – “Libya is not especially repressive… Gadhafi seems genuinely popular.” He is impressed to find that Qaddafi “accepts the need to reform banking, diversify the economy, train entrepreneurs and dismantle inefficient state-owned enterprises. Impressive progress has been made towards these objectives in the past three years.”(2)

This is not the first time a director of the LSE has made a king-size boob over celebrating a nasty regime. During the 1930s, the director was Sidney Webb, who along with his partner Beatrice had been the School’s co-founder in 1906. In 1934, after returning from an extensive research trip to Russia, they wrote up their findings in Soviet Communism: A new civilization?, 1174 pages of arguably the most turgid piece of mistaken prose in the English language.

The more one digs, the worse the smell gets. A small storm is brewing in Britain – with serious repercussions in the US – over the exact circumstances in which Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi, the man convicted for the Lockerbie bombing, was released on health grounds from a Scottish jail. The suspicion is that a dirty little deal was done in the interests of oil. Many of the same people are involved, and it all kicked off in 2007.

BP, which in May 2007 signed a £900 million offshore drilling contract with Libya, denies that it pressed for a deal, but now admits that “It is a matter of public record that in late 2007 BP told the UK Government that we were concerned about the slow progress that was being made in concluding a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya”. (3)

This one will run and run. More to follow.

SUSIL GUPTA can be reached at susilgupta@btinternet.com

(1) http://www.monitortalent.com/home/

(2) The Guardian, Friday 9 March 2007

(3) Daily Telegraph 2 March 2011.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 25, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
A Major Win for Trump’s War Cabinet
Andrew Levine
Could Anything Cause the GOP to Dump Trump?
Pete Tucker
Is the Washington Post Soft on Amazon?
Conn Hallinan
Iran: Sanctions & War
Jeffrey St. Clair
Out of Space: John McCain, Telescopes and the Desecration of Mount Graham
John Laforge
Senate Puts CIA Back on Torture Track
David Rosen
Santa Fe High School Shooting: an Incel Killing?
Gary Leupp
Pompeo’s Iran Speech and the 21 Demands
Jonathan Power
Bang, Bang to Trump
Robert Fisk
You Can’t Commit Genocide Without the Help of Local People
Brian Cloughley
Washington’s Provocations in the South China Sea
Louis Proyect
Requiem for a Mountain Lion
Robert Fantina
The U.S. and Israel: a Match Made in Hell
Kevin Martin
The Libya Model: It’s Not Always All About Trump
Susie Day
Trump, the NYPD and the People We Call “Animals”
Pepe Escobar
How Iran Will Respond to Trump
Sarah Anderson
When CEO’s Earn 5,000 Times as Much as a Company’s Workers
Ralph Nader
Audit the Outlaw Military Budget Draining America’s Necessities
Chris Wright
The Significance of Karl Marx
David Schultz
Indict or Not: the Choice Mueller May Have to Make and Which is Worse for Trump
George Payne
The NFL Moves to Silence Voices of Dissent
Razan Azzarkani
America’s Treatment of Palestinians Has Grown Horrendously Cruel
Katalina Khoury
The Need to Evaluate the Human Constructs Enabling Palestinian Genocide
George Ochenski
Tillerson, the Truth and Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department
Jill Richardson
Our Immigration Debate Needs a Lot More Humanity
Martha Rosenberg
Once Again a Slaughterhouse Raid Turns Up Abuses
Judith Deutsch
Pension Systems and the Deadly Hand of the Market
Shamus Cooke
Oregon’s Poor People’s Campaign and DSA Partner Against State Democrats
Thomas Barker
Only a Mass Struggle From Below Can End the Bloodshed in Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
Australia’s China Syndrome
Missy Comley Beattie
Say “I Love You”
Ron Jacobs
A Photographic Revenge
Saurav Sarkar
War and Moral Injury
Clark T. Scott
The Shell Game and “The Bank Dick”
Seth Sandronsky
The State of Worker Safety in America
Thomas Knapp
Making Gridlock Great Again
Manuel E. Yepe
The US Will Have to Ask for Forgiveness
Laura Finley
Stop Blaming Women and Girls for Men’s Violence Against Them
Rob Okun
Raising Boys to Love and Care, Not to Kill
Christopher Brauchli
What Conflicts of Interest?
Winslow Myers
Real Security
George Wuerthner
Happy Talk About Weeds
Abel Cohen
Give the People What They Want: Shame
David Yearsley
King Arthur in Berlin
Douglas Valentine
Memorial Day
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail