Get Out! How 8 Dictators Spent Their Exile Years

As civil war rages in Libya, many observers are calling for Qaddafi to step down and go into exile. This wouldn’t be the first time an oppressive leader has stepped aside in exchange for a relatively comfortable retirement abroad. We’ve compiled this handy list of famous exiled emperors and dictators for reference.

1. Napoleon Bonaparte (Elba and St. Helena)

The original exiled dictator, Napoleon did it twice for good measure. This Corsican military genius was beloved by his French subjects but not so much by his foreign enemies, of whom there were a good number following his brutal conquest of Europe (which left 3.4 million dead).

After his disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812, Napoleon abdicated the throne in 1814 and was exiled to the pleasant island of Elba, just off the coast of Italy. It wasn't far enough: in 1815 Napoleon snuck back into France with his shock troops, assembled an army, and was barely defeated by the British and Prussians at Waterloo.

The British -- beyond furious about having to fight a whole extra war -- next exiled Napoleon to St. Helena, a tiny rock in the South Atlantic. Here Napoleon wrote his memoirs while maybe slowly being poisoned with arsenic; when he died in 1821 at the age of 51, his priest and servant allegedly removed and preserved his penis. The organ was bought by a Columbia University urologist, John K. Lattimer, for $3,000 in 1977.

2. Napoleon III (England)

Banking off his relation to his famous uncle, Louis Napoleon was elected president of the French Republic in 1848, then declared himself Emperor Napoleon III in 1851 (Napoleon Bonaparte’s son had briefly ruled as Napoleon II in 1815). A chip off the old Bonaparte block, Napoleon III tried to conquer everything the British hadn’t grabbed already, rebuilt Paris as a modern metropolis, and helped unify Italy. But for the most part his foreign schemes fell flatter than a failed soufflé: his puppet ruler of Mexico, Maximilian I, was overthrown and executed in 1867, and Napoleon III himself was overthrown in 1870 following a humiliating defeat by the Prussians at Sedan.

The ex-emperor lived out his remaining days in exile with his wife and son in Chislehurst, England, from whence he hoped to be re-elected president of France (good luck) and lobbied the British parliament to create an International Arbitration Congress—a farsighted precursor to the United Nations (it never happened). He died in 1873 during an operation to treat a bladder stone and was buried in a sarcophagus donated by Queen Victoria, in a funeral attended by 30,000 admirers from all over Europe.

3. Kaiser Wilhelm II (Holland)

After steering Germany into the disastrous First World War, the blustery Kaiser ended up on the wrong side of history with Germany’s defeat in 1918. Blamed by Western public opinion for starting the war and allowing German atrocities, Wilhelm abdicated and went into exile in neighboring Holland, where he was protected from prosecution for war crimes by his cousin, Queen Wilhelmina.

In 1919 he bought a small castle in the Dutch city of Doorn, where he spent his remaining years writing his memoirs and blaming the First World War on anyone except himself. With the rise of the Nazis, Wilhelm hoped he might be reinstated as Kaiser, but Adolf Hitler had no intention of sharing power with the stuffy old king, whom he dismissed as a relic of history. Wilhelm died in June 1941, just weeks before Germany’s ill-fated invasion of the Soviet Union, which was destined to bring Germany to ruin (again).

4. Idi Amin (Libya and Saudi Arabia)

One of your crazier dictators, Amin began his military career when Uganda was still a British colony. After toppling Milton Obote in 1971, he struck up warm relations with Libya’s Qaddafi, the Soviet Union, and East Germany -- a clue to his own governing style. In the mid-1970s his supporters began forcibly expropriating (a.k.a. stealing) businesses owned by Uganda’s South Asian minority, forcing tens of thousands of South Asians to flee the country.

But the refugees were the lucky ones: Amin also unleashed massacres against rival African ethnic groups, whom he accused of collaborating with Western imperialist spies, ultimately murdering about 300,000 people, or 1.7% of the country’s population. In 1975 Amin gave Palestinian terrorists safe harbor when they hijacked an Air France jet. (He was also accused of being a cannibal, although this was never proved.)

The end came when he invaded Tanzania in 1978, provoking a counter-invasion and popular uprising that forced him to flee by helicopter in 1979. Amin first headed to Libya, where Qaddafi welcomed him with open arms. In 1980 Amin settled in Saudi Arabia, where the Saudi royal family subsidized his luxurious exile in return for (mostly) staying out of trouble. He died of kidney failure and was buried in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in 2003.

5. Shah of Iran (Egypt, Morocco, The Bahamas, Mexico, The U.S., Panama, and Egypt again)

Over the course of his 26-year reign, Shah Pahlavi managed to systematically alienate almost all his subjects: wealthy landowners were angered by his land reforms, peasants resented compulsory military service, middle-class merchants suffered from his ham-fisted meddling in the economy, and the Shiite clergy were outraged by social reforms like women’s suffrage. All this generated huge resentment against the Shah and his American backers. Typically, when Washington finally changed its tune, it did so at the exact wrong moment: political reforms allowed Iranian dissidents to overthrow the government and erect a new regime -- led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini -- that was even worse.

The Shah fled Iran and spent the rest of his life in exile, but most countries were reluctant to play host, for fear of alienating the new Iranian regime. After several months in Egypt, the Shah moved to Morocco until King Hassan II made it clear he was too big a political liability. His first request for asylum in the U.S. was turned down out of concern for the safety of Americans still in Iran. So he moved on to the Bahamas until the U.K. got cold feet, forcing him to decamp again -- this time for Mexico, which brushed off threats from Iran’s new Islamist government.

Finally, in October 1979 he was allowed into the U.S., where he was treated (unsuccessfully) for advanced lymphatic cancer at Cornell Medical Hospital in New York City. His friendly reception in the U.S. sparked outrage in Iran, where radical students retaliated by taking over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and holding embassy workers hostage for 444 days. Hoping to take political pressure off the U.S., the dying ex-monarch next traveled to Panama, a U.S. ally with modern medical facilities. But the Panamanian government was ambivalent, and even considered extraditing the Shah to Iran to face charges of murder and torture during his reign. Hoping to avoid this final indignity, the Shah returned to Egypt, where he died in Cairo on July 28, 1980.

6. Ferdinand Marcos (Guam and Hawaii)

Another U.S. Cold War ally gone wrong, during his tenure as president and prime minister of the Philippines from 1965-1986, Ferdinand Marcos stole an estimated $5 billion-$10 billion from the country -- much of that in the form of foreign loans the people of the Philippines are still paying back.

Of course this is just the financial legacy of the Marcos regime: one historian’s tally of its human victims includes 3,257 murders, 35,000 torture victims, and 70,000 political prisoners. Still, Marcos was definitely “our S.O.B.” in Washington’s global chess game with the Kremlin, so he got a pass and easy access to loans. But Marcos overstepped his boundaries in 1983 with the assassination of Benigno Aquino Jr., an opposition leader trying to return from exile, as he stepped off his plane in Manila.

The U.S. withdrew its support and the national legislature began impeachment proceedings against Marcos, who fell back on the military as the last remaining pillar of his rule. In February 1986, as opposition coalesced around Aquino’s widow Corazon and Marcos fell ill with kidney disease, he and Imelda fled first to Guam and then Hawaii with the help of the U.S. military. The pair was supposedly carrying 24 suitcases full of gold bricks and a trove of diamond jewelry hidden in diaper bags. Back home, Filipino investigators came across evidence of extravagant corruption, including Imelda’s infamous footwear collection, numbering 2,700 pairs of shoes. [Image credit: The Honolulu Advertiser.]

The kleptocratic couple spent the next couple years in comfortable exile, with Ferdinand receiving medical care for multiple ailments. He died on September 28, 1989, at the age of 72. She eventually returned to the Philippines. In 2009 the government of the Philippines reported it had recovered about $2 billion looted by the Marcos.

7. Manuel Noriega (U.S. and France)

In the 1970s and early 1980s, Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega was an important U.S. ally, but in the late 1980s he ignored requests from President Reagan to step down and allowed cocaine smugglers -- most notably Pablo Escobar -- to use Panama as a transshipment point and also as a bank for their illicit billions. Noriega staved off two U.S.-backed coups and allowed Panamanian military personnel to harass and threaten U.S. troops guarding the Panama Canal, providing the final justification for U.S. military intervention on December 20, 1989.

After seeking political asylum with the Vatican consulate, Noriega surrendered to U.S. forces on January 3, 1990; he was extradited to the U.S., where he was eventually tried and convicted of racketeering, drug smuggling, and money laundering. Noriega was imprisoned for the better part of two decades at a Federal prison near Miami, during which time he suffered a stroke, developed prostate cancer, and said he became a born-again Christian. His original sentence was reduced from 30 years to 17 in recognition of his good behavior. Noriega completed his prison sentence in September 2007, but spent several more years in prison as international authorities tried to decide what to do with him.

In 2010, the U.S. government finally extradited him to France to stand trial for money laundering. The former strongman, now 77, was convicted and sentenced to seven years in French prison.

8. Mobutu Sese Seko (Togo and Morocco)

Ruling a vast tropical realm blessed with equally vast mineral riches, Mobutu is the archetypal commander-in-thief. After seizing power with the CIA’s help in 1965, Mobutu used a slapped-together anti-colonial ideology (called Mobutu-ism—what else?) as a fig leaf for his criminal regime, which made off with at least $5 billion while Zaire remained mired in poverty. Mobutu forced his subjects to wear “authentic” African clothing (which was actually just as foreign as Western dress) and adopt “authentic” African names, following his lead: born Joseph Desiree Mobutu, in 1972 he took a new name -- Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu wa Za Banga -- which translates to “The all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, will go from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake.”

His megalomania was matched only by his corruption. He turned his hometown of Gbadolite into a palatial jungle retreat, complete with an airport with runways able to accommodate Concorde jets he chartered for shopping trips to Paris. Mobutu acquired luxurious homes all over Europe, huge ranches in South America, and too many yachts to count. He even used government jets to fly his prize cattle herd back and forth between Africa and South America.

All this was financed by under-the-table sales of gold, diamonds, cobalt, and copper, along with shady foreign loans, which helped support his personal retinue of 3,000 people, including wives, mistresses, children, friends, bodyguards, chefs, drivers, and so on. But U.S. support for Mobutu dwindled after the end of the Cold War, and his regime finally came crashing down in 1997, after native Tutsis rebelled in eastern Zaire (now Congo). Suffering from a kidney ailment, Mobutu first fled to Togo, where he received a rather cool reception, then moved on to Morocco, where he died on September 7, 2007, at the age of 66.

Michael Campanella/Getty Images
10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
Michael Campanella/Getty Images
Michael Campanella/Getty Images

Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.


"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.


"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles


"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole


"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles



"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole


"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles


"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."


A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios

"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole

How Apple's '1984' Super Bowl Ad Was Almost Canceled

More than 30 years ago, Apple defined the Super Bowl commercial as a cultural phenomenon. Prior to Super Bowl XVIII, nobody watched the game "just for the commercials"—but one epic TV spot, directed by sci-fi legend Ridley Scott, changed all that. Read on for the inside story of the commercial that rocked the world of advertising, even though Apple's Board of Directors didn't want to run it at all.


If you haven't seen it, here's a fuzzy YouTube version:

"WHY 1984 WON'T BE LIKE 1984"

The tagline "Why 1984 Won't Be Like '1984'" references George Orwell's 1949 novel 1984, which envisioned a dystopian future, controlled by a televised "Big Brother." The tagline was written by Brent Thomas and Steve Hayden of the ad firm Chiat\Day in 1982, and the pair tried to sell it to various companies (including Apple, for the Apple II computer) but were turned down repeatedly. When Steve Jobs heard the pitch in 1983, he was sold—he saw the Macintosh as a "revolutionary" product, and wanted advertising to match. Jobs saw IBM as Big Brother, and wanted to position Apple as the world's last chance to escape IBM's domination of the personal computer industry. The Mac was scheduled to launch in late January of 1984, a week after the Super Bowl. IBM already held the nickname "Big Blue," so the parallels, at least to Jobs, were too delicious to miss.

Thomas and Hayden wrote up the story of the ad: we see a world of mind-controlled, shuffling men all in gray, staring at a video screen showing the face of Big Brother droning on about "information purification directives." A lone woman clad in vibrant red shorts and a white tank-top (bearing a Mac logo) runs from riot police, dashing up an aisle towards Big Brother. Just before being snatched by the police, she flings a sledgehammer at Big Brother's screen, smashing him just after he intones "We shall prevail!" Big Brother's destruction frees the minds of the throng, who quite literally see the light, flooding their faces now that the screen is gone. A mere eight seconds before the one-minute ad concludes, a narrator briefly mentions the word "Macintosh," in a restatement of that original tagline: "On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like '1984.'" An Apple logo is shown, and then we're out—back to the game.

In 1983, in a presentation about the Mac, Jobs introduced the ad to a cheering audience of Apple employees:

"... It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers, initially welcoming IBM with open arms, now fear an IBM-dominated and -controlled future. They are increasingly turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom. IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right about 1984?"

After seeing the ad for the first time, the Apple audience totally freaked out (jump to about the 5-minute mark to witness the riotous cheering).


Chiat\Day hired Ridley Scott, whose 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner had the dystopian tone they were looking for (and Alien wasn't so bad either). Scott filmed the ad in London, using actual skinheads playing the mute bald men—they were paid $125 a day to sit and stare at Big Brother; those who still had hair were paid to shave their heads for the shoot. Anya Major, a discus thrower and actress, was cast as the woman with the sledgehammer largely because she was actually capable of wielding the thing.

Mac programmer Andy Hertzfeld wrote an Apple II program "to flash impressive looking numbers and graphs on [Big Brother's] screen," but it's unclear whether his program was used for the final film. The ad cost a shocking $900,000 to film, plus Apple booked two premium slots during the Super Bowl to air it—carrying an airtime cost of more than $1 million.


Although Jobs and his marketing team (plus the assembled throng at his 1983 internal presentation) loved the ad, Apple's Board of Directors hated it. After seeing the ad for the first time, board member Mike Markkula suggested that Chiat\Day be fired, and the remainder of the board were similarly unimpressed. Then-CEO John Sculley recalled the reaction after the ad was screened for the group: "The others just looked at each other, dazed expressions on their faces ... Most of them felt it was the worst commercial they had ever seen. Not a single outside board member liked it." Sculley instructed Chiat\Day to sell off the Super Bowl airtime they had purchased, but Chiat\Day principal Jay Chiat quietly resisted. Chiat had purchased two slots—a 60-second slot in the third quarter to show the full ad, plus a 30-second slot later on to repeat an edited-down version. Chiat sold only the 30-second slot and claimed it was too late to sell the longer one. By disobeying his client's instructions, Chiat cemented Apple's place in advertising history.

When Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak heard that the ad was in trouble, he offered to pony up half the airtime costs himself, saying, "I asked how much it was going to cost, and [Steve Jobs] told me $800,000. I said, 'Well, I'll pay half of it if you will.' I figured it was a problem with the company justifying the expenditure. I thought an ad that was so great a piece of science fiction should have its chance to be seen."

But Woz didn't have to shell out the money; the executive team finally decided to run a 100-day advertising extravaganza for the Mac's launch, starting with the Super Bowl ad—after all, they had already paid to shoot it and were stuck with the airtime.

1984 - Big Brother


When the ad aired, controversy erupted—viewers either loved or hated the ad, and it spurred a wave of media coverage that involved news shows replaying the ad as part of covering it, leading to estimates of an additional $5 million in "free" airtime for the ad. All three national networks, plus countless local markets, ran news stories about the ad. "1984" become a cultural event, and served as a blueprint for future Apple product launches. The marketing logic was brilliantly simple: create an ad campaign that sparked controversy (for example, by insinuating that IBM was like Big Brother), and the media will cover your launch for free, amplifying the message.

The full ad famously ran once during the Super Bowl XVIII (on January 22, 1984), but it also ran the month prior—on December 31, 1983, TV station operator Tom Frank ran the ad on KMVT at the last possible time slot before midnight, in order to qualify for 1983's advertising awards.* (Any awards the ad won would mean more media coverage.) Apple paid to screen the ad in movie theaters before movie trailers, further heightening anticipation for the Mac launch. In addition to all that, the 30-second version was aired across the country after its debut on the Super Bowl.

Chiat\Day adman Steve Hayden recalled: "We ran a 30- second version of '1984' in the top 10 U.S. markets, plus, in an admittedly childish move, in an 11th market—Boca Raton, Florida, headquarters for IBM's PC division." Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld ended his remembrance of the ad by saying:

"A week after the Macintosh launch, Apple held its January board meeting. The Macintosh executive staff was invited to attend, not knowing what to expect. When the Mac people entered the room, everyone on the board rose and gave them a standing ovation, acknowledging that they were wrong about the commercial and congratulating the team for pulling off a fantastic launch.

Chiat\Day wanted the commercial to qualify for upcoming advertising awards, so they ran it once at 1 AM at a small television station in Twin Falls, Idaho, KMVT, on December 15, 1983 [incorrect; see below for an update on this -ed]. And sure enough it won just about every possible award, including best commercial of the decade. Twenty years later it's considered one of the most memorable television commercials ever made."


A year later, Apple again employed Chiat\Day to make a blockbuster ad for their Macintosh Office product line, which was basically a file server, networking gear, and a laser printer. Directed by Ridley Scott's brother Tony, the new ad was called "Lemmings," and featured blindfolded businesspeople whistling an out-of-tune version of Snow White's "Heigh-Ho" as they followed each other off a cliff (referencing the myth of lemming suicide).

Jobs and Sculley didn't like the ad, but Chiat\Day convinced them to run it, pointing out that the board hadn't liked the last ad either. But unlike the rousing, empowering message of the "1984" ad, "Lemmings" directly insulted business customers who had already bought IBM computers. It was also weirdly boring—when it was aired at the Super Bowl (with Jobs and Sculley in attendance), nobody really reacted. The ad was a flop, and Apple even proposed running a printed apology in The Wall Street Journal. Jay Chiat shot back, saying that if Apple apologized, Chiat would buy an ad on the next page, apologizing for the apology. It was a mess:


In 2004, the ad was updated for the launch of the iPod. The only change was that the woman with the hammer was now listening to an iPod, which remained clipped to her belt as she ran. You can watch that version too:


Chiat\Day adman Lee Clow gave an interview about the ad, covering some of this material.

Check out Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld's excellent first-person account of the ad. A similar account (but with more from Jobs's point of view) can found in the Steve Jobs biography, and an even more in-depth account is in The Mac Bathroom Reader. The Mac Bathroom Reader is out of print; you can read an excerpt online, including QuickTime movies of the two versions of the ad, plus a behind-the-scenes video. Finally, you might enjoy this 2004 USA Today article about the ad, pointing out that ads for other computers (including Atari, Radio Shack, and IBM's new PCjr) also ran during that Super Bowl.

* = A Note on the Airing in 1983

Update: Thanks to Tom Frank for writing in to correct my earlier mis-statement about the first air date of this commercial. As you can see in his comment below, Hertzfeld's comments above (and the dates cited in other accounts I've seen) are incorrect. Stay tuned for an upcoming interview with Frank, in which we discuss what it was like running both "1984" and "Lemmings" before they were on the Super Bowl!

Update 2: You can read the story behind this post in Chris's book The Blogger Abides.

This post originally appeared in 2012.


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