Could the lowly air conditioner be the linchpin of Col. Muammar Qaddafi's regime? Libya is, after all, a very hot country.
Notorious for his diatribes, Col. Muammar Qaddafi didn’t hold back during the rebel takeover of Tripoli on Aug. 20. “The rebels are fleeing like rats from the mountains,” he announced in an audio recording broadcast on state television. “The donkeys of the gulf have given them weapons to destroy our air conditioners.”
Qaddafi’s fixation on air conditioners not as weird as it sounds. In a desert country like Libya, where summer temperatures soar above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, keeping cool is a pretty big deal. The highest recorded temperature in history was measured in 1922 in El Azizia, Libya, and was 137 degrees. In July, a heat wave that pushed temperatures into the triple digits sent Tripoli residents to the Mediterranean in droves, despite the NATO bombings.
The importance of air conditioning in desert countries is not lost on the US military, whose budget for cooling the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan approaches $20 billion, according to a former Pentagon official interviewed by NPR. The cost mounts when you factor in all the infrastructure necessary to establish climate control in dangerous and austere territory.