“Libyans don’t want anyone but Gadhafi. He gave us loans.”

Quote of the Day for Saturday, February 26th, 2011:

From an AP story by Maggie Michael and Ben Hubbard, as posted on boston.com this afternoon:

Supporters in about 50 cars covered with Gadhafi posters drove slowly around the square, waving green flags from the windows and honking horns. A camera crew filmed the procession.

A taxi driver, Nasser Mohammed, 25, was among those who had put a picture of Gadhafi and a green flag on his car.

"Have you heard the speech last night?" he asked. "It was great. Libyans don’t want anyone but Gadhafi. He gave us loans."

Mohammed said each family received 500 Libyan dinars (about $400) after the start of the protests, plus the equivalent of about $100 credit for phone service.

The idea of a clown like Qaddafi being able to buy the support of citizens for $400 per household (on a loan!) is mind-boggling, given the outrageous criminality that his regime has inflicted on the people inside and outside Libya both in recent days, and for more decades than Nasser Mohamed has been alive. With news today that he is arming such stooges from military depots to repress their fellow Libyans, the scene becomes gut-wrenching. It was depressing enough knowing he could buy mercenaries to come in from other African countries to terrorize the citizenry, but this…

It’s hard to read of the cravenness of Qaddafi’s cheap shills without wondering where the rancor roiling the U.S. over the past week or so might eventually end up. Granted, we’re a long way from the governing class handing out weaponry to their bought stooges in order to hang onto power in the face of a fed-up resistance movement, but it’s not hard to see a shadow of the same dynamic at work as the beneficiaries of government largesse-by-proxy circle the wagons against those who demand an end to corruption.

The protesters who are demonizing reformers like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker with Hitler, Mussolini, or Mubarak (!) characterizations are pleased to fancy themselves stateside brothers-in-arms of the protesters in the Muslim world, standing up to autocratic dictators; but the truth of the matter is that they themselves represent the entrenched power of cozy governmental corruption and inside deals, and they are showing themselves more than willing to subvert legal and ethical norms to protect their privilege. As with Qaddafi’s Libyan stooges, it is a Faustian bargain they cut, but it can be hard to see that when you know you have a chance to be in on the loot today.