Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan got right to the point in his 2009 Savior’s Day keynote address. He opened by calling it a great honor in his words to welcome “brother” and “leader” Muammar Gadhafi. The occasion was Gadhafi’s first visit to the United States. He was there to address the 64th opening session of the United Nations.
Farrakhan was just getting warmed up with his effusive introduction of Gadhafi. He spared no words in branding Gadhafi the second coming of Marcus Garvey, Kwame Nkrumah, George Padmore and Gamel Nasser. These are the men that Farrakhan regards as the genuine and authentic African and Arab freedom fighters who opposed the evils of colonial and imperial rule.
But Farrakhan’s placing of Gadhafi among the pantheon of historical African liberation figures was not simply a case of racial idolatry and hero worship. It was also a case of hard headed business and political pragmatism. Farrakhan didn’t try to hide it in his speech. He boasted that Gadhafi had shelled out $3 million to the Nation of Islam — then under the tutelage of Elijah Muhammad — in 1971 to buy and renovate a Greek Orthodox Church that became the Chicago based national headquarters of the organization.
Gadhafi’s largesse didn’t stop there. He chipped in $5 million more later for the group’s unnamed “economic development” programs. Farrakhan took pains to note that Gadhafi didn’t ask for a penny of the money back.
In later years, Gadhafi forked over more dollars to Farrakhan to host conferences and to bankroll his globe-trots through dozens of countries before and immediately after the Million Man March in 1996. Farrakhan shrugged off the criticism at the time that he was a bought and paid for front man for a global terrorist, and that he was cavorting with and praising dictators on his stops in countries with some of the most abominable human rights records on the planet, and Libya was right there in their ranks.
In the decade since his Libyan fronted tours, Farrakhan has repeatedly heard the same charges that while he rails at the U.S. government and European nations for their alleged racism, their colonial rule and continued support for murderous dictators, and hammers Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians, he has remained stone silent on the abuses of Gadhafi and other African and Arab dictators. This criticism hasn’t moved him one bit to utter a word against them and their practices. So, it was hardly a mystery that Farrakhan would be the first to rush in the door to slam President Obama before the first U.S. led coalition missiles tore into Libyan targets. The glow had long since worn off the endorsement that Farrakhan gave Obama in a speech at the Nation of Islam’s annual Savior’s Day confab in Chicago a few days after Obama announced his presidential candidacy.
For Obama, Farrakhan’s endorsement was a disastrous albatross that he didn’t want or need. A horrified Obama spokesperson quickly issued this rejoinder: “Senator Obama has been clear in his objections to Minister Farrakhan’s past pronouncements and has not solicited the minister’s support.”
During Obama’s first two years in the White House, Farrakhan would utter an occasional kind word here and there about Obama. But the praise was anything but exuberant. But after the Libyan attack the vitriol that Farrakhan heaped on Obama topped that of Obama’s congressional and antiwar critics.
In his Savior’s Day Speech in February, he was bellicose in his message to Obama, “I’m warning you this is a Libyan problem, let the Libyans solve their problem.” He topped that in May when he branded Obama a murderer and assassin, and went to the barricades to defend Gadhafi as black America’s true friend and one of Africa’s great liberators. This was far more than even the staunchest critics of Obama’s green light for the Libyan attack could stomach.
The question is: Is Farrakhan’s see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil and countenance no evil spoken against Gadhafi policy motivated by money? Can he not afford to bite the hand that has sunk millions of dollars into his organization? Or does Farrakhan really believe that Gadhafi is as Simon pure in his relations with his people, African leaders and nations inspired by his decades of rants against the West?
It is likely both. Money does talk, it talks loud, and the Nation of Islam (by Farrakhan’s own admission) happily took millions from the Libyan dictator over the years. Gadhafi’s generosity to the Nation, and his hard line talk against the West, it’s easy to see how Farrakhan could convince himself that Gadhafi is a victim of U.S. bullying and a martyr for the cause of freedom and then beat up on Obama for wanting to get rid of him.
Though thousands of Libyans vehemently disagree and see Gadhafi as a maniacal, blood drenched tyrant, Farrakhan, as in the past when Gadhafi was under attack, can be counted on to remain Gadhafi’s number one cheerleader in the West. That’s not likely to change — and there’s no mystery why.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour on KTYM Radio Los Angeles streamed on ktym.com podcast on blogtalkradio.com and internet TV broadcast on thehutchinsonreportnews.com Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson