I Remember Muammar
December 22, 2003
The New York Times
WASHINGTON -- As American tanks began to roll through Iraq to overthrow Saddam, Libya's longtime terrorist, Muammar Qaddafi, came up with a strategy to avoid being next on the regime-change list: pre-emptive surrender.
Nobody calls it that, of course. Diplomats and doves want to treat the dictator's epiphany as the result of patient negotiation stretching back for decades. Some Republicans claim he was softened up by a bomb dropped his way in the Reagan years. But three years after that, his terrorists murdered 270 people in the bombing of Pan Am 103.
Subsequent sanctions led to economic pain and the threat of a coup. After acknowledging Libyan responsibility, he has been trying to get U.S. oil companies back by promising to pay damages to the families of his victims.
That was not what caused this tyrant suddenly to confess to buying and developing chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and to promise to reveal all to inspectors. He was transformed into a pussycat by the force of American arms in stopping the spread of mass-destruction weaponry.
Why did Qaddafi have his spy chief, Musa Kussa, approach Britain's Tony Blair not France, Germany or the milquetoast U.N to get off George W. Bush's short list of rogue nations? The reason: Britain was America's primary ally in the war against Saddam and was the bridge to Washington. This shows that it pays to be a staunch friend of the U.S. in extending freedom and does not increase a nation's strategic importance to be America's political adversary.
France's Jacques Chirac and Germany's Gerhard Schröder may at last be taking this lesson to heart.
Only because American antiterrorist resolve in Iraq was not lost on the ayatollahs of Iran, and because tens of millions of young Persians hunger for the democracy they can see in store for neighboring Arabs, were French and German diplomats able to elicit vague promises of W.M.D. restraint in Teheran.
And because unemployed French and German workers were angry at Chirac and Schröder when the Pentagon announced that no Iraqi reconstruction jobs would come their way from U.S. taxpayer funds, those erstwhile foot-draggers last week rushed to embrace Bush envoy James Baker. The awful prospect of missing out on a chunk of our huge investment in rebuilding Iraq made them eager to consider forgiving billions in odious loans they had happily extended to Saddam's tyranny.
Not all rogue nations have gotten the word. North Korea, the source of missiles to both Libya and Iraq, remains intransigent as China vainly tries to induce the U.S. to appease Pyongyang again. Syria, reported to be concealing billions of Saddam's money, claimed last week it shook $23 million out of Qaeda money smugglers, but won't let us interrogate them and wants to keep the proceeds in Syrian-occupied Lebanese banks.
On the whole, however, the post-9/11 Bush foreign policy to remove the global threat of terror enabled by regimes opposing freedom is succeeding. Events are proving that we and our coalition allies were right to root out the sources of terror in Afghanistan and Iraq. As the skin-saving démarche of Qaddafi demonstrates, introducing freedom to countries long denied it has a powerful effect on the actions of regional neighbors.
The euphoria of my fellow Wilsonian idealists, though understandable after this early winter of our discontent, is premature. Casualties will continue over there; Al Qaeda will likely attack us over here. Vladimir Putin, given a free pass by Bush and triumphant in Russian elections, will continue to ship nuclear fuel and scientific know-how to Iran, making it easier for those ayatollahs to break their promises to overly trusting Europeans.
I remember Colonel Qaddafi's underground poison-gas factory "Auschwitz in the Sand" and wonder where he bought Libya's present stock of centrifuges. As a Syracuse University dropout and trustee, I visit the memorial on campus to the 35 college students aboard Pan Am 103 whose blood can never be washed from his hands.
It may be, "for reasons of state" like Musa Kussa's help in penetrating terrorist-protecting parts of Syrian and Saudi intelligence services we should ultimately permit our investors to revive Libya's oil industry. But we should verify and never trust, and neither forget nor forgive Muammar Qaddafi. http://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/22/opinion/22SAFI.html?n=Top%2fOpinion%2fEditorials%20and%20Op%2dEd%2fOp%2dEd%2fColumnists