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An unpublished US diplomatic cable obtained by WikiLeaks and slipped to Reuters via an unnamed third party, tells the story of a violent battle between two of Libyan despot Muammar Gaddafi's sons over the operation of a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Tripoli.

"You know the movie 'The Godfather'? We've been living it for the last few months," someone involved in the incident evidently told an American diplomat.

According to the report, the plant "had been seized by [armed] troops loyal to Mutassim Gaddafi, a son of Muammar, who at the time was feuding with one of his brothers, Mohammed. (Another State Department cable suggests a third Gaddafi son, Saadi -- better known as the family's professional soccer player -- may also have been involved in the squabble, though no details of his role are given.)"

The dispute occurred because, as the cable states, "Mutassim bore a grudge against his brother because he had "taken over" the embargo-era domestic soft-drink business in the late 1990s when Mutassim had been exiled to Egypt for "insubordination" against their father. (Another cable says the "rumor" was that Mutassim had been linked to a coup attempt.)"

It continues:
"Eventually, the American diplomatic mission in Tripoli, known then as the U.S. Liaison Office, sent a firm protest to the Libyan government. The document states that around the same time, Mohammed Gaddafi, possibly under pressure from his sister Aisha, a family peacemaker, apparently agreed that shares owned by the Libyan Olympic Committee, which he led, would be sold to a third party.

"Shortly afterward, the cable says, Mutassim's men left the Coke plant, ending the family standoff, but not before employees of the plant received threats of bodily harm and a Gaddafi cousin was stuffed in the trunk of a car."

Reuters says the cable describes the conflict as a "case study in the involvement of Qadhafi (sic) family members directly influencing the flow, pace and nature of economic activity. Family members squabble over personal financial interest with little regard to the possible impact on foreign investors or international public opinion."

And all this time, the Gaddafis seemed so, so...normal.

©2011 Oz Angst