by Dan Rivers, CNN Correspondent
Even if that was true for the leader, it certainly wasn't for his sons.
At a seaside compound in western Tripoli, the Gadhafi boys enjoyed a decadent lifestyle that his people could only dream about, while perpetrating unspeakable horrors on the staff that served their every whim.
CNN visited the seaside homes Sunday.
The first house we entered was apparently the "party" beach condo with an oversized door that led into sleek, modern, black-and-white rooms. It had been ransacked by the rebels, but still it was spectacular, with panoramic ocean views and plenty of evidence of the hedonism for which Hannibal Gadhafi - one of Moammar Gadhafi's sons - is famous.
Discarded bottles of Johnnie Walker Blue Label Scotch and Laurent Perrier pink champagne cases littered the floor. Much of the electronic equipment had been plundered, but instruction manuals remained for high-end Harman/Kardon stereo components. Cabinets designed to hold two huge TV screens could still be seen.
Another villa contained a white baby grand piano and more expensive stereo equipment. Next door was a huge swimming pool and diving complex, a gym, a steam room and a sauna faced in white marble.
We came upon rebels furtively dividing up a huge stash of alcohol. They seemed edgy and tense - this is the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and alcohol was supposedly banned under the Gadhafi regime.
We filmed them studying the labels of Cristal champagne and fine St. Emilion Bordeaux, apparently not realizing each bottle is worth hundreds of dollars.
As we were about to leave, one of the staff told us there was a nanny who worked for Hannibal Gadhafi who might speak to us. He said she'd been burnt by Hannibal's wife, Aline.
I thought he meant perhaps a cigarette stubbed out on her arm. Nothing prepared me for the moment I walked into the room to see Shweyga Mullah.
At first I thought she was wearing a hat and something over her face. Then the awful realization dawned that her entire scalp and face were covered in red wounds and scabs, a mosaic of injuries that rendered her face into a grotesque patchwork.
Even though the burns were inflicted three months ago, she was clearly still in considerable pain. But she told us her story calmly.
She'd been the nanny to Hannibal's little son and daughter.
The 30-year-old came to Libya from her native Ethiopia a year ago. At first things seemed OK, but then six months into her employment she said she was burned by Aline.
Three months later the same thing happened again, this time much more seriously.
In soft tones, she explained how Aline lost her temper when her daughter wouldn't stop crying and Mullah refused to beat the child.
"She took me to a bathroom. She tied my hands behind my back, and tied my feet. She taped my mouth, and she started pouring the boiling water on my head like this," she said, imitating the vessel of scalding hot water being poured over her head.
She peeled back the garment draped carefully over her body. Her chest, torso and legs are all mottled with scars - some old, some still red, raw and weeping. As she spoke, clear liquid oozed from one nasty open wound on her head.
After one attack, "There were maggots coming out of my head, because she had hidden me, and no one had seen me," Mullah said.
Eventually, a guard found her and took her to a hospital, where she received some treatment.
But when Aline Gadhafi found out about the kind actions of her co-worker, he was threatened with imprisonment, if he dared to help her again.
"When she did all this to me, for three days, she wouldn't let me sleep," Mullah said. "I stood outside in the cold, with no food. She would say to staff, 'If anyone gives her food, I'll do the same to you.' I had no water - nothing."
Her colleague, a man from Bangladesh who didn't want to give his name, says he was also regularly beaten and slashed with knives. He corroborated Mullah's account and says the family's dogs were treated considerably better than the staff.
Mullah was forced to watch as the dogs ate and she was left to go hungry, he said.
It seems to sum up how the workers at the beachside complex were viewed by the Gadhafi family.
"I worked a whole year they didn't give me one penny," Mullah said. "Now I want to go to the hospital. I have no money. I have nothing."
She starts sobbing gently - an utterly pitiful scene.