Here we go again.
Writing in today’s Washington Post, Mona Eltahawy provides (what seems to be) a sober warning against warming up to Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi. Sure, he seems to be cooperating fully in dismantling his WMD programs, but his human rights record remains abysmal:
Arbitrary arrests, a muzzled press, a ban on political parties and the squandering of Libya’s oil wealth have never been laughing matters for Libyans.
And we should not forget Mansour Kikhia, who disappeared in Cairo in December 1993 while attending a meeting of an Arab human rights organization he had helped found. Kikhia had defected to the United States in 1980 and was a U.S. resident who was four months away from receiving citizenship when he went to Egypt. A four-year CIA investigation found in 1997 that Egyptian agents turned over Kikhia — who had asked for Egyptian security protection while in Cairo — to agents of Gaddafi’s regime, who spirited the dissident to Libya, where he was executed and buried in the Libyan desert.
Damning stuff. Gaddafi was, and remains, a monster. But here’s Eltahawy’s kicker:
Speaking at Whitehall Palace in London last year, President Bush acknowledged that the United States and Britain had not always been on the right side of democracy when it came to the Middle East. “Your nation and mine in the past have been willing to make a bargain to tolerate oppression for the sake of stability,” Bush said, addressing Blair.
It’s not difficult to imagine that just such a bargain, along with some good old-fashioned military and oil contracts thrown in, is the driving force behind the resumption of ties with Libya.
Well, actually, yes it is difficult to imagine.
The US was the first nation to slap sanctions on Libya — and among the last to lift them. The US was roundly condemmed for treating Libya — one of the first terror states — seriously. Famously, France wouldn’t even allow overflight by American jets on their way to punish Gaddafy for a terrorist bombing in Germany.
Long before the 1988 Pan Am 103 bombing, Gaddafy: hosted Carlos the Jackal, invaded Chad, provided support for the Beirut embassy bombing, stirred up trouble in Egypt and Sudan, orchestrated the Achille Lauro hijacking, bombed airports in Vienna and Rome, and bombed a disco in Germany.
Yet it wasn’t until 1992 that the UN placed trade sanctions on Libya. The US had curtailed trade with (and travel to) Libya six years earlier. The UN lifted their sanctions in September of last year. The money-grubbing Halliburton cronies in the White House somehow didn’t get around to restoring trade relations until two weeks ago.
So if it’s all about the oil, how come we’ve acted for almost twenty years now, as though it’s about almost anything else?