According to reports by the New York Times and a document obtained by WikiLeaks, several pop stars including Mariah Carey, Beyoncé, Usher and Lionel Richie have taken lucrative gigs performing for the members of Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi’s family.
Yesterday the Times reported that Qaddafi’s son Muatassim, Libya’s national security adviser, had hired Beyoncé and Usher to entertain at his New Year’s Eve party in St. Barts. Another Qaddafi son, Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, reportedly paid Carey $1 million to sing four songs at the previous year’s New Year’s party, also in St. Barts.
These sort of secret private events featuring big-time pop stars are not unusual, but in this case the artists in question are being criticized for accepting money from a violent and oppressive regime. In legal terms, there is no problem here — the United States welcomed the Qaddafi regime during the Bush administration as an ally in the war on terrorism, leaving the door open for such dealings.
The ethics of the performances are murkier. It could be argued that by performing for the Qaddafi family and taking their money amounts to a de facto acceptance of their politics and actions – though it’s probably a stretch to call them complicit.