On November 6, 2007 Senator Richard Lugar, the Ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called for rapid nomination of a U.S. ambassador to Libya; “We have to get up to speed…we cannot allow that nation's success story to falter in any way.” Rapprochement with Libya has not changed the behavior of the Libyan regime; instead, it has undercut reform and bestowed legitimacy upon leader Muammar Qadhafi.
U.S. rapprochement with Libya has evolved into appeasement of Qadhafi. On September 26, 2007, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met in New York with Libyan External Security chief Musa Kusa, once barred from the U.S. because of his links to terrorism. Kusa masterminded the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, and played a role in the liquidation of Libyan dissidents in Europe during the 1980s. Libyan External Security runs Islamic Call Society (Jamiyat ad-Dawa al-Islamiya), an organization responsible for Islamic evangelism in Africa and elsewhere. ISC was a conduit for Libyan involvement in the conflict in Darfur and the civil war in West Africa. Instead of meeting with the U.S. Secretary of State, Kusa deserves to be tried for crimes against humanity.
To be sure, the Libyan model has helped deepen Iran and Syria’s intransigence. Qadhafi exposed to them America’s lack of resolve and demonstrated that, with enough intransigence, American diplomats will eventually fold on every issue.
For this, and other crimes, Qadhafi deserves American justice — not American empathy — from a senior senator. According to Lugar, two years ago, Qadhafi complained to him that “a great deal has been given up and not much has been attained.” Qadhafi has succeeded in imposing primitive Bedouin values on Americans. He was allowed to escape American justice in the Lockerbie crime by paying blood money. He manipulated naïve U.S. diplomats who treat human tragedy as a background to more important discussions of house and apartment amenities in their new Tripoli abode. Qadhafi, meanwhile, has paid only a small price. As he explained, “what we paid with the right hand we retrieved with the left hand.” When it comes to Lockerbie no financial compensation can replace the loss and love of a spouse, sibling, or a child.
Lugar should feel outrage, not empathy, toward Qadhafi. Two years ago, Lugar personally lobbied Colonel Qadhafi to release my brother Fathi Eljahmi. Where is Fathi now? He has been incommunicado since the last week of August 2006. He is held in an undisclosed location by Libyan State Security where family visitation is forbidden. He is held in total isolation and without adequate medical care for his heart condition, hypertension, and advanced stage diabetes. In 2002, Fathi, then age 61, was arrested for publicly calling for democracy. We hope he is still alive.
Fathi was released in 2004 after Senator Joseph Biden urged Qadhafi to release him. He was re-detained, because he publicly continued calling for democracy, and held Qadhafi personally responsible for the Lockerbie and UTA bombings, and for West Africa’s war.
Fathi is a Libyan citizen, who advocated for Americans who were unjustly harmed by the actions of the Libyan dictator and his apparatus of terror. Conversely, some American diplomats and lawmakers intellectualize these deaths in order to strike a deal with a tyrant, and trumpet up a façade of success.
Ultimately, political change in Libya cannot be realized without outside help. Qadhafi believes — and with good reason — that he can dupe Washington into legitimizing him without sacrificing anything in return. It would be a major blunder for U.S. policymakers, though, to continue down the path of concession. The more Washington offers, the more Qadhafi will demand. If the White House is truly interested in reform, it should once again embrace genuine democrats like my brother, not offer prestigious Secretary of State visits upon their captors.
— Mohamed Eljahmi is a Libyan-American activist