President Bush, in his second inaugural address, talked about advancing the ideals of freedom as “the calling of our time.” Strange, then, that a brave democratic dissident in Libya, who answered that call — and has spent years in Libyan lock-ups for his pains — has received so little support or attention from the Bush administration. I’m talking about Fathi Eljahmi, Libya’s most famous democratic dissident, now 67 years old, and still behind bars, his voice not heard in public for more than four years.
During those same four years, Moammar Gadhafi, dictator of Libya since 1969, has been riding high as the State Department’s Exhibit A of “diplomatic success” in winning over rogue regimes (since then, a raft of rewards lavished upon Gadhafi have failed to inspire any other rogue regimes to offer up their up themselves — and their WMD programs — as Exhibit B). By now, the message of the State Department seems to be that while freedom is officially America’s calling, when someone actually tries to answer, our diplomats hit the mute button. It would behoove President-Elect Barack Obama and Vice-President-Elect Joe Biden to correct that message very soon, possibly by finding the audacity to invite Fathi Eljahmi to Obama’s January inauguration — for reasons explained in my column this week for Forbes.com, “Free Fathi Eljahmi.”
But even more urgently, Michael Rubin reports on NRO’s The Corner that while Fathi Eljahmi begins his seventh year behind bars in Libya, the Condi Rice State Department is planning a welcome in Washington next week for Gadhafi’s eldest son and chief emissary, Saif Gadhafi. Has Condi briefed the President on this arrangement? Is that really the kind of note on which President Bush wants to end his second presidential term? The term that Bush began with the words: “All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your repression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you. Democratic reformers facing repression, prison, or exile can know: America sees you for who you are: the future leaders of your free country.” For Fathi Eljahmi, time is running out. Will anyone in Washington now redeem that pledge?