Gaddafi paid millions to US firms to polish his global image

Last Updated: Thursday, April 7, 2011 - 21:15

Boston: Libya`s strongman Muammar Gaddafi
was spending over USD 3 million annually to mount a secret
media campaign and PR effort to spruce up his global image as
a statesman and a reformer, confidential documents show.

Gaddafi, now facing a rebellion from his own people,
hired `The Monitor Group`, a consulting firm here, to execute
a public relations strategy that included paying think-tank
analysts and former government officials to take a free trip
to Libya for lectures, discussions and even personal meetings
with Gaddafi starting in 2006.

Quoting a 2007 memo from Monitor to Gaddafi`s
intelligence chief, CNN reports that the campaign was to
"enhance international understanding and appreciation of
Libya. Emphasise the emergence of the new Libya. (and)
introduce (Muammar Gaddafi) as a thinker and intellectual."

The price of the PR exercise was USD 3 million a year,
plus expenses, for work that included consulting, briefings,
analyses and a steady stream of high-profile visitors to Libya
-- at least one a month.

The memos were posted online by the National
Conference of the Libyan Opposition, the CNN reports.
Eamonn Kelly, senior partner at Monitor Group, is
heading an internal investigation at the company.

He said the visitors programme was only a small part
of a wider campaign to help build civil society there.

The vast majority of the work, he says, was bringing
leadership training and expertise to the country, aimed at
"promoting reform, improving the economic prosperity of the
country and the people, modernising the government and helping
to heal the very broken civic society."

"We were not working for Gaddafi, we were working for
Libya," Kelly said.

After one year`s work, a 2007 memo from Monitor touted
the results, including a dozen high-profile visitors, ranging
from interviewer David Frost to eminent professors such as
Francis Fukuyama, fellow at Stanford University.

Monitor also took credit for positive media coverage
and also highlighted a half-dozen positive articles written by
some of the participants they sponsored.

For example, Benjamin Barber wrote an op-ed for The
Washington Post entitled, "Gaddafi`s Libya: An Ally for
America?" and Andrew Moravcsik wrote a piece for Newsweek
called, "A Rogue Reforms."

Although the firm had vowed to "provide operational
support for publication of positive articles on Libya," there
is no indication any of the pieces were written at Monitor`s

Instead, participants in the programme who were
reached by CNN say they believed they were being paid for the
lectures they gave and the coaching they offered.

They said they agreed to go because they were curious
about Libya at a time when the regime had taken several
positive steps toward the West and appeared to be open to

Barber points out that, starting in 2003, Libya "came
out of the cold, thanks to Bush administration overtures:
rejoined the West, made war on al Qaeda, started imprisoning
al Qaeda warriors, paid (Lockerbie) reparations of USD 1.3
billion, and yielded their weapons of mass destruction."

Another distinguished American academic, Harvard`s
Joseph Nye, said he accepted the paid trip because "Gaddafi
appeared to be changing his policy -- and introducing new
ideas could further reform."

After he met Gaddafi, Nye wrote an op-ed for The New
Republic that contained both praise and criticism of the

Some of the visitors who met with Gaddafi later
briefed American officials, according to Monitor`s memo,
including "senior officials in the White House" and "senior
government officials" at the State Department and the
Department of Defence.

Monitor also offered, in a letter to Gaddafi`s
intelligence chief, a 22-page proposal for a book about
Gadhafi, to be produced for USD 2.9 million in fees and

The book would cover Gaddafi`s "ideas on democracy,"
the outline said, "so that the West gains a more accurate and
balanced understanding of his actions and ideas."

The book project never reached fruition, and Monitor
said in a statement the proposal was "a poor decision" that
the firm seriously regrets.

But overall, said Kelly, Monitor stands by its main
body of work.

"We were working in a very different period, a period
of promise, and we are heartbroken that that period clearly
has ended."

Monitor wasn`t the only US firm that Gaddafi`s regime
engaged. In 2008, as Monitor`s work was coming to a close,
Libya retained a more traditional lobbying firm, The
Livingston Group, led by former House Representative Bob

The firm lobbied State Department officials and
members of Congress for Libya in 2008 and 2009, introducing
Libya`s US ambassador to dozens of members of Congress.

Libya initially paid the firm USD 200,000 a month, but
after a year, the billings had dwindled to just USD 30,000 a


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First Published: Thursday, April 7, 2011 - 21:15

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