Chickens coming home to roost for an ex-terrorist scared straight by Bush

Tuesday, February 22, 2011   E-Mail this story   Free Headline Alerts

UNITED NATIONS — The sands of time may finally have run out on Col. Moammar Gadhafi, Libya’s longtime dictator, as his country is buffeted by the political tsunami sweeping parts of the Arab world. Gadhafi rules over one of the world’s most repressive if politically bizarre regimes, the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, where a cult-like adulation of the leader, an almost comical international presence, and a vitriolic bitterness against the United States and Britain have long characterized this North African state.

Pro-democracy demonstrations have rocked Libya, especially the second city Benghazi. The regime has cracked down the old-fashioned way using live bullets and helicopter gun ships against unarmed demonstrators. According to Human Rights Watch at least 233 have been killed and thousands wounded in the regime’s brutal crackdown. After a week of demonstrations, unrest has spread to Tripoli, the capital which now threatens to topple the rule of the Arab world’s longest ruling figure.

Libyan military units cannot totally be relied on so Gadhafi is using his people’s militias and foreign mercenaries, many from neighboring Chad, to do the bloodletting.

While the U.S. State Department has issued pro-forma condemnations of the violence, the Obama Administration has not yet made the forceful criticisms nor offered the ultimatums to Gadhafi as he did to President Mubarak in Egypt just weeks ago. British Prime Minister David Cameron described the situation in Libya as “completely appalling and unacceptable as the regime is using the most vicious forms of repression.”

Independent media confirmation of the size and scope of the revolt is difficult. Contrary to Egypt where foreign news correspondents abounded and reported mostly free from flagrant government interference, Libya has been hermetically sealed to the foreign press save for very controlled conditions, a situation which mirrors Islamic Iran much more than Egypt. The media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders describes press freedoms in Libya as “virtually non-existent.”

Long closed to the foreign press and even tourists (until relatively recently), Libya however has cultivated ties with big oil producers such as Italy’s ENI and Russia’s Gazprom. Following a shameful deal from Britain’s former Labor government, a Libyan accused of terrorism in the attack on Pan Am flight 103 was released from a Scottish jail to return home due to “medical reasons.” Subsequent reports found that the compassion by Scottish officials had lubricated the path for British Petroleum (BP) to gain a big stake in the petroleum business.

Yet, despite oil wealth, security of Libya’s two million barrel daily petroleum production remains problematic and a imponderable to global markets.

Gadhafi has long presided over his Green Revolution, an authoritarian Islamic/socialist movement focused on his country's 6.5 million people. His pan-African appeals and lavish petrodollar inducements have attracted many foreign workers, mercenaries and a gaggle of political groupies who serve the regime.

In power for 42 years, the mercurial Colonel in the past supported terrorist groups as varied as the IRA in Northern Ireland to Muslim militants in the southern Philippines. His operatives were responsible for bombings and political assassinations in Western Europe, revolutions in Africa, and bombing of Pan Am flight #103 over Lockerbie Scotland, and a French civilian airliner in 1988.

Yet, following the invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein, Col. Gadhafi genuinely feared he was next; the Bush Administration wisely played on his paranoia and thus gained important political concessions from the regime including renouncing his embryonic nuclear program. After years of UN sanctions and political ostracism, in 2003 Libya assumed responsibility for the Pan Am #103 attack and compensated the families of the 270 victims. Compensation was finally paid to the American victims in 2008.

In recent years, Gadhafi tried to soften his political pariah image with the West.

As compared with neighboring Egypt’s pro-American government, a force for regional stability and a voice for moderation in the Arab world until the recent fall of Hosni Mubarak, Libya systematically promoted revolutionary instability.

Still Gadhafi’s Libya has played a strong role in the non-aligned movement, fueled as much by sloshing petrodollars as much by a revolutionary zeal. In 2009, after the country’s former Foreign Minister became President of the UN General Assembly, a role that exhibited more ridiculousness than rancor, Col. Gadhafi visited New York and made a rambling speech to the world body. Just last year Libya was elected to the UN Human Rights Council, not without irony.

Now the Colonel’s misrule, terror, and corruption are coming home to roost and the Libyan people are rightfully trying to topple the longtime tyrant.

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