If the latest revelations on the deal behind the dramatic rescue of the Libyan hostages rescue-five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor falsely accused of deliberately inoculating 400 children with the AIDS virus are accurate – they would be enough to make an honest man-or woman-send them right back to the Libyan prison they recently vacated.
But are they, indeed, true?
The source is dubious. Impeccably dressed in spanking white slacks and tennis shoes set off by a black jacket and clean-shaven head, Libyan dictator Muamar Ghaddafi’s thirty-five year-old son Saif al-Islam told Le Monde journalist Natalie Nougayr√®de everything you want to know about the deal and didn’t know who to ask. The July 31st interview in a luxurious hotel in Nice was expressly requested by the Supreme Guide’s son and acting president of the Ghaddafi Foundation.
All of France wants to know the contents of the deal. It is a question mark which has been hanging over the affair ever since the death sentence of the unfortunate nurses and doctor was commuted to life imprisonment followed, unexpectedly, by their hasty extradition to Bulgaria where they were instantly pardoned.
Except for the nurses, the doctor, their families, and some anonymous Bulgarian citizens, nobody is thanking French president Nicolas Sarkozy and his emissary-wife Cecilia for intervening and expediting their liberation. Greenies accused the Sarkozys of deliberately inoculating the planet with undue radiation by offering Libya a nuclear power plant. French Socialist deputies grilled Foreign Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner on his conspicuous absence during the operation – which they claim was a farce. Wasn’t it true that the Sarkozys held out their arms, they lamented, as the ripe fruit of long years of patient European negotiations fell from the tree?
Ghaddafi Jr. was supposedly generously offering up the answers everyone wanted.
Since no fresh images of the Ghaddafi Jr. interview were provided to the media; the three major French TV networks illustrated their reports with archive shots of the Libyan chief’s son in various outfits, with or without a three-day beard – but definitely without a bevy of reporters who might have asked pesky questions.
The Le Monde interview was delivered like room service to the special guest who ordered it.
Here are some choice tidbits from Ghaddafi Junior;
He said that there is “hope” that Ali al Megrahi will soon be extradited to Libya. Libyan intelligence officer al-Megrahi is serving a life sentence for his role in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. His case, is supposedly a parallel with the situation of the Bulgarian nurses. The Libyans were in London last month to work that out, he said.
But the key to the deal is military cooperation: joint maneuvers; the purchase of French-made anti-tank missiles for, he estimates, about 100 million euros; a “project of arms manufacture for production and maintenance of military material.” This would mark the first Libyan arms procurement contract with a western nation, he exclaims, since a de facto embargo has been in effect since 2004. The Germans were reluctant, but the French have been negotiating “for a long time already.”
“We asked Sarkozy to accelerate the process, he says. Representatives of [defense contractors] Thales and Sagem are in Libya now. My father will come to France to sign the contracts.”
France also agreed to defend Libya in case of attack. At least the Libyans requested that provision. “I don’t know if it was included in the final agreement,” Ghaddafi Jr. said.
Speaking as president of the Foundation that negotiated indemnities for the families of the AIDS-infected children, the young Ghaddafi “with his charming smile” according to Le Monde says no funds were paid by the Libyan government. The French found the money somewhere, he said, and “we didn’t ask them where they got it.” (Le Canard Encha√Æn√© claims the head of the Bank of Qatar flew into Tripoli with a check for 452 million euros, to be reimbursed by the EU in six months.)
The nurses and doctors are innocent, admits Supreme Guide Ghaddafi’s son. “Unfortunately, they were used as scapegoats.” But he claims that their horrific stories of torture while in prison are “100% fiction.”
So there you have it. That’s the dirty deal.
Makes you wonder why no one will step up to the plate, fork out twenty million dollars, rake in some juicy military contracts, negotiate a few joint maneuvers with the Taliban and tear those poor South Korean Christians out of the clutches of their merciless Afghan killers.
Of course Nicolas Sarkozy denies the whole thing. Peppered with questions by alert journalists during a visit to the Parisian suburb of Evry, he said France gave Libya nothing in exchange. The same response is reported from Number 10 Downing Street. The media can hardly repress a snicker, the Left is fuming, and neoconservatives worldwide are throwing darts at Sarkozy. UMP deputy Claude Goasguen, known for his independence and integrity, is demanding the transparency in foreign relations explicitly promised during Sarkozy’s presidential campaign.
Should we take the word of the Libyan dictator’s son over the declarations of the French president? Is Ghaddafi the Younger more trustworthy? Does he come from a culture of truth, transparency, and upright behavior? Why is the party that sentenced innocent medical personnel to death to hide its own guilt in the contamination of children hospitalized in their services more reliable than the party that secured their release?
No one can prove that is any truth to Saif al-Islam Ghaddafi’s declarations. There is also no foolproof means of verifying Nicolas Sarkozy’s version.
Why do critics on the Right and Left feel it necessary to jump to the conclusion that there is a dirty deal to be revealed and Sarkozy is the guilty party? Because they don’t think he could have liberated the unjustly imprisoned Europeans any other way. They don’t think he could have outsmarted Muammar Ghaddafi. The French president’s brief 25 July stopover in Tripoli would reinforce this impression. The preliminary agreements signed that day have become fully developed contracts in the public mind. And the revelations of the dictator’s son, conveniently poured into the ear of Le Monde, confirm what everyone knew had to be true.
But if it is true, if that is the deal, why would Ghaddafi’s son embarrass France’s president by exposing it for all the world to see? Does that augur well for future military cooperation? Why not remain discreet, and let things happen naturally as a result of gradually improved relations between Libya and the European Union? Why did Sarkozy have to liberate the nurses and doctor before signing contracts and agreements that had been under negotiation for years, while the prisoners endured “fictional” tortures in Libyan jails? Was the fake exploit just sugar coating on a bitter pill– stupendous military dealings with a pariah state–that European citizens would be forced to swallow?
If so, the sugar coating is gone. In humiliating the French president by exposing the deal he was desperately trying to hide from his gullible citizens, Saif al-Islam has sabotaged the supposed PR benefits accrued by Sarkozy’s showy show of concern for the fate of the Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor.
And what if Sarkozy did outsmart the Libyans, father & son, daughter & all? Tricky little guy, convincing them that the nurses and doctors would rot in Bulgarian jails that are almost as bad as the Libyan ones, and from there on in it would be a Franco-Libyan honeymoon? Might they want to get revenge? By spilling the beans, even if the beans are fake?
This cannot spare us the unpleasant task of facing yet another possibility: Nicolas Sarkozy did sincerely and effectively promise Libya re-entry into the cozy world of European finagling complete with military cooperation, arms deals, exploitation of natural resources, credibility, respectability, and Euros for all…in the heart of a Mediterranean Union… from which Israel would be excluded.
Blackballing Israel would whitewash decades of Libyan terrorism and underhanded double-dealing–pocketing money from Europe to curb illegal immigration at the source, while operating illegal immigration networks to flood Europe with enough downtrodden boat people to sink a continent; foreswearing military nuclear development while farming it out, simultaneously boosting and undermining fellow dictators; cuddling up to the EU by day, indulging in jihad by night Would the French president be cynical enough to make the dirty deal and persist unflinchingly in denial after the young Ghaddafi, who will some day replace his spaced out father, told all to Le Monde, a newspaper known for its unmitigated hostility to Nicolas Sarkozy?