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Late Congressman Lantos Praised Libya’s ‘Major Gesture for Peace’

Leaked State Department cables detail American-Libyan cooperation and friendly visits of congressman and senators.

by
John Rosenthal

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March 23, 2011 - 11:28 pm
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Just as Muammar al-Gaddafi insisted for weeks that the rebels he is fighting in eastern Libya are linked to al-Qaeda, so too did he insist that he had been a reliable partner of Western nations: in particular, in the war on terror. And just as his warnings about the strongholds of the rebellion in eastern Libya are borne out by a study of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point (see my report here), so too are his assurances about the Libyan government’s cooperative relationship with the West borne out by leaked State Department cables.

All the issues commonly cited by American commentators as evidence that Gaddafi is an enemy of the United States are issues that were resolved in multi-year negotiations between the United States and Libya leading up to the restoration of full diplomatic relations in 2006. Far from treating Libya as an enemy, a U.S. State Department cable from as recently as August 2009 describes the country as “a critical ally in U.S. counterterrorism efforts” and in stemming the flow of foreign fighters to Iraq.

The leaked State Department record of an August 2006 visit to Libya by the late U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos and former Senator Arlen Specter reads like a veritable love-fest of mutual admiration and support. Lantos in particular showers praise on the Libyans; whereas his Libyan interlocutors hold forth on various Middle East topics in terms that are largely indistinguishable from those of American foreign policy analysts — especially conservative or even indeed “neo-conservative” ones.

Lantos’s Libyan interlocutors included Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, the then head of Libyan “external security” and current Foreign Minister Musa Kusa, and the head of Libyan military intelligence Abdullah Sanussi. In Western press accounts, Sanussi has been blamed for the repression of protests in Benghazi that allegedly sparked the eastern Libyan revolt.

The record of the August 2006 visit comes from the same collection of State Department cables that has been partially published by WikiLeaks and by selected media working with WikiLeaks. The cable in question, however, has not been published by WikiLeaks or any official WikiLeaks “media partner.” It has been published rather by the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten. In December of last year, under still unclarified circumstances, Aftenposten obtained “unauthorized” access to the full collection of leaked State Department cables. The newspaper has been publishing cables on its website independently of WikiLeaks. (On Aftenposten and the State Department cables, see my report here.) The cable is available on the website of Aftenposten here.

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