Jewish World Review Dec. 23, 2003 / 28 Kislev, 5764
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.
Less than a week after U.S. forces
pried a bedraggled Saddam Hussein
from a hole in the ground and escorted
him to prison awaiting trial for his
crimes against humanity, another Arab
despot signaled to the world that he
had no interest in meeting a similar
fate. Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi
declared on Friday he was willing
verifiably to give up his country's
various weapons of mass destruction
(WMD) and his programs to acquire
The question occurs: Even if Col.
Gadhafi took these steps, and met U.S.
demands that he also end his
longstanding support for international
terror, should the United States and its
allies endorse and facilitate his
continued hold on power in Libya?
To be sure, President George W.
Bush and British Prime Minister Tony
Blair are entitled to credit for bringing
Col. Gadafi even this far. His promises
to disarm would never have happened
without the object lesson of what befell
his Iraqi counterpart. While Tripoli was
anxious to get out from under U.S. and
international sanctions long before the
liberation of Iraq, the negotiations that
resulted in last week's pledges
coincided with, and clearly were
powerfully influenced by, the campaign
that toppled another WMD-armed,
To its credit, too, the Bush
administration has indicated it will not
be rushed into normalizing relations
with Libya. For one thing, there is
powerful reason, given his track record,
to be concerned the dictator will not
honor his commitments. Col. Gadhafi is
notoriously erratic, unpredictable and
unreliable. In fact, as the New York
Times reported Sunday, his mercurial
diplomatic and personal antics have
made the Libyan despot an object of
ridicule in Arab governing circles.
For another, the difficulty in finding
WMD in Iraq underscores how hard it is
to know the full extent of a totalitarian
system's covert weapons program, let
alone ensure its eradication. This needs
to be remembered especially at a time
when a U.S. intelligence official says he
has been "blown away" by the degree
of transparency afforded by the Libyans in recent months of
secret diplomacy leading to Friday's announcement.
After all, Col. Gadhafi has spent untold billions constructing
his so-called "Great Man-Made River Project," a stupendous
network of underground tunnels and caverns built with the
help of Western firms to run the length and width of the
country. Engineers associated with one of these companies
have revealed their suspicion that such facilities were not
meant to move water, but rather to conceal the movement
and location of military-related activities.
Ensuring the Man-Made River's vast buried spaces are
permanently unavailable for proscribed uses may surpass the
abilities of existing international WMD-monitoring agencies.
Then there is the matter of terror. It was probably no
coincidence Col. Gadhafi's much-ballyhooed commitment to
disarm preceded by two days the 15th anniversary of the
murderous destruction of Pan Am 103. Although a Libyan
agent was convicted of responsibility in that terrorist attack,
the man who doubtless ordered it, Moammar Gadhafi,
What is more, as recently as last August, a charity widely
believed to be used by Col. Gadhafi to fund international
terrorism was allegedly the source of $340,000 in sequentially
marked $100 bills given to Abdurahman Alamoudi. The
American activist with ties to Islamist extremists was arrested
and charged with planning to use the Libyan funding to
support terrorist groups if true, a warning about Col.
Gadhafi's true intentions.
It is predictable that the Bush administration will
nonetheless come under intense pressure to abandon its
"show-me" attitude. The demand will inexorably grow for the
removal of sanctions currently preventing U.S. oil and other
companies from engaging in investment or commerce with the
Fortunately, the president appears to understand that
acceding to such pressure will compromise, and possibly
eliminate, the leverage indispensable to Libya's genuine and
complete disarmament and an end to its involvement with
The danger is that even if Mr. Bush does indeed hold
out for, and achieve, such changes he may be willing to
accept Col. Gadhafi's continued despotic rule. Such an
outcome flies in the face of his statement last month before
the National Endowment for Democracy:
"Sixty years of Western nations excusing and
accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did
nothing to make us safe, because in the long run stability
cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty. As long as the
Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish,
it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment and violence
ready for export. And with the spread of weapons that can
bring catastrophic harm to our country and to our friends, it
would be reckless to accept the status quo."
In the end, freedom is vital not only to stability. It is also
essential to the durability of commitments to disarm and to
Welcome as such commitments are, the United States
must not allow tyrants to buy legitimacy, let alone Western
economic or other life-support, by what are likely in the
absence of flourishing freedom to prove to be empty and
costly promises of improved behavior.
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JWR contributor Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. heads the Center for Security Policy. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
© 2003, Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.