Murder of an Idealist

For six hours on September 11, the American compounds in Benghazi, Libya, stood siege. When the attack was over, J. Christopher Stevens's body was pulled from the wreckage—the first U.S. ambassador killed by militants in over thirty years. Since then, his death has been politicized and the details of the attack distorted. Sean Flynn straightens out the story of Stevens’s last days in Libya—and reveals the true believer we lost that day:

"Chris was the single most important voice," says Jeffrey D. Feltman, who at the time was the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs. "That didn’t mean he was the only voice, and it didn’t mean everything he said was acted on. But his was the single most important voice."

What made Stevens good at his job was his ability to get people to trust him. That is not something that can be faked: It is possible to manipulate people into confiding in you, of course, but it is not sustainable, especially for an outsider in a foreign land. “He understood,” says Tek, “that you have to express empathy in a genuine way. And he defied the stereotype of an American diplomat who was equal parts arrogant and ignorant. He was honest and human.

"To me," Tek says, "he was the kind of diplomat I want to be. He wielded American influence through respect rather than intimidation and swagger."

From Our Vaults: Seif Qaddafi in 2004

Seven years ago, Danielle Pergament spoke with the captive mysteriously reappearing, now non-captive son of Muammar Qaddafi about Libya’s future. He got a few things right, if not quite how he intended:

How do you see your role in the future of Libya?
I can be everything except the leader.

Why do you hate being called the heir apparent?
Because I’m not; that’s it. And I shouldn’t accept that title, which I don’t own. This position cannot be inherited. It cannot be passed from father to son.

So will Libya soon have democratic elections?
Libya will be a democracy soon. Soon is not in one month or two months. It’s a gradual process and an involved process. And soon—meaning in some months, years, not weeks—we will start creating democratic institutions.

How do you see Libya in fifty years?
I don’t know if I’m going to be around by that time.

The Lonely Planet Guide For Deposed Dictators

Maybe it’s not the way you planned to see the world—being forced to by the CIA, the Jews, opposition protesters who are just jealous of the 92 percent you won in the last completely legitimate election, or a bunch of teenagers on TwitterBook—but asylum travel can be a very broadening, eye-opening experience. So enjoy it! And remember, even an iron fist has to unclench once in a while. To get you started, GQ correspondentStephen Sherrill has assembled this handy travel guide, starting with….

North Korea

If you’re considering North Korea, that likely means you’ve been denied asylum in some other countries—or probably all other countries. Not to worry; though some might call North Korea “isolated,” that’s just another way of saying it’s “off the beaten path.”

Dictatorial Comfort Level
The official name of the country is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. But don’t let that fool you. It’s just a sign of the healthy sense of humor enjoyed—actually, mandated—by the North Koreans.

Where to Eat
Local cuisine may not taste familiar and is generally not considered to be first-tier. On the plus side, none of it is available. You can finally lose that “dictator twenty”!

Dispatch From Libya:
Evacuating While Black

The rumor about Qaddafi’s African mercenaries has had severe unintended consequences—now every dark skinned man in Libya is suspect. “These are mercenaries, you see!” The men at the checkpoint insisted. When I asked how they could be sure, one man responded: “By the smell.”

Many migrants don’t carry paperwork, but even those who say they have shown the rebels their work visas have been targeted and taken from their homes in the middle of the night. One of the places they are brought is the courthouse in Benghazi, where they are being held in a makeshift detention center on the fourth floor.

In the first few days after Benghazi fell to rebel control, the command center was adamant that the Africans in their care were mercenaries. But when Human Rights Watch and visiting journalists questioned this, the rebels shut down access, begrudgingly allowing me in only after a long argument and the promise that I would not publish any of the Africans’ names.

Over the next few weeks, journalist Sarah A. Topol will be writing brief dispatches from the civil uprising in Libya for This is her fifth report from Benghazi.

Dispatch From Libya, Part 3:
Qaddafi Will (Still) Be Watching You

The hotel manager staring at me from across the massive desk looks like an Arab Al Pacino, only with less hair. Jalal won’t break his gaze and neither will I. We’re locked in some kind of battle of wills about whether the man who stole all of my camera equipment, but left my exposed laptop, was a thief or an intelligence goon.

After poring through security tapes (yes hotels in Libya have surveillance systems as well as internet connections) the men playing detective at the Tibesti Hotel have found footage of a guy with a key entering the room I’m sharing with an American videographer. He walks out almost immediately with everything that would have visual or audio files—three cameras and an iPhone. He takes the elevator to the second floor and then goes the rest of the way by the stairs, tilting his head down at all the right security camera angles.

Libya is one of the last remaining completely controlled police states where the walls, lampposts and cell networks have ears. The hotel we’re staying in was a key nerve center for the regime until Benghazi fell to rebel control over a week ago. Pacino and his deputy are insisting the man was just looking to make a quick buck. Doubtful.

Over the next few weeks, journalist Sarah A. Topol will be writing brief dispatches from the civil uprising in Libya for This is her third report from Benghazi.

Dispatch From Libya, Part 2:
Sign Here To Join The Uprising

"All my friends who were soldiers, we called each other on the phone and planned to go to the bases. We dressed in our military uniforms and went. They were empty, so we took the guns and ammunition and brought them back to the people," El Jahari says, shrugging like he was handing out blankets to flood victims. Now, thanks to El Jahari and the rest of the soldiers-turned-rebels, everyone in eastern Libya is packing heat. And the kids with the guns are stir-crazy. It’s been over a week since they liberated Benghazi and everyone expected Tripoli to quickly follow. Instead, Qaddafi is hunkered down in his fortified compound Bab al-Aziziya giving TV interviews, and his remaining loyal forces are staging counter raids into territory until recently assumed to be firmly under rebel control. That’s why the Rebel Army is kindly asking for its guns back.

Over the next few weeks, journalist Sarah A. Topol will be writing brief dispatches from the civil uprising in Libya for This is her second report, from Benghazi.