Engaging Gadhafi hurts war on terror
By making the tyrant a test for nuclear diplomacy,
the White House abandoned Libyan democrats.
is a Libyan American democracy activist
living in Boston
The war on terror cannot be won at the expense of democracy.
On Sept. 5, President Bush reiterated his commitment to freedom in the Middle East: "The experience of Sept. 11 made clear, in the long run, the only way to secure our nation is to change the course of the Middle East. So America has committed its influence in the world to advancing freedom and liberty and democracy as the great alternatives to repression and radicalism."
On May 15, the State Department announced its intent to remove Libya from the terror list and restore full diplomatic relations with the regime of Col. Moammar Gadhafi. The main impetus for the move was to show the benefits to countries that give up their nuclear programs, as Libya purportedly did.
So how goes this triumph of diplomatic realism?
Gadhafi rules supreme, and his history betrays his intentions. He had agreed to dismantle his nuclear program, but he renounced terrorism in name only. According to the Robb-Silberman Weapons of Mass Destruction Report, released March 31, 2005, "It remains true that the mercurial regime may suddenly shift its plans and intentions, leading to a covert resuscitation of these programs."
Gadhafi gave up very little, but received much in return. U.S. sanctions were lifted, and American companies resumed their work in Libya. Gadhafi addressed the European Union and feted high-level Western officials in Tripoli, enhancing his legitimacy at home and abroad.
In the process, the White House abandoned Libyan democrats who share U.S. values for peaceful co-existence.
My brother Fathi, a former governor of Libya's oil-rich Gulf province, is imprisoned because he called for democracy. He did the unthinkable: publicly criticizing Gadhafi for sponsoring terrorism and militias in Liberia.
Like Bush, Fathi believes that democratic societies do not blow up civilian planes in midair. This 65-year-old man with seven children and a multitude of life-threatening illnesses has the courage to hold a tyrant accountable for acts of terror against America. For his trouble, he is held in solitary confinement, he is cut off from his family, and he is not receiving adequate medical care.
This is a tragedy for my family, but also for many others.
The United States' engaging Gadhafi discredits the war on terror. If Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh can be executed for his crime, why has Gadhafi escaped justice for his role in the explosion of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988? The billions of dollars Gadhafi promised in compensation is a pittance compared with the payments U.S. oil companies now make to the Libyan dictator for the right to pump oil in Libya.
What message does this send to Middle Eastern dictators? That terrorism is a reasonable tactic because oil money can always buy reconciliation?
Gadhafi's flirtation with violence continues. He mocks our democratic system, stirs hatred, and oppresses his people. In a speech Aug. 31, he urged his followers to commit violence and carnage: "You have to be ready to annihilate your enemies, because your enemy has no mercy for you." Saif, his son and probable successor, has talked about terrorism as a tactic of statecraft.
As the United States stands silent, helpless Libyans watch Gadhafi's thugs murder or kidnap Libyan democrats. Regime operatives boast that American intellectuals who visit Libya come hat in hand, asking for money, much the same as those who come from poor African countries.
President Bush's call for freedom and liberty has skipped Libya.