Mansour El-Kikhia: Gadhafi left Libya impoverished, ill|
Mansour El-Kikhia: Gadhafi left Libya impoverished, ill
San Antonio Express-News
Web Posted : 01/09/2004 12:00 AM
Like all absolute dictators, Col. Moammar Gadhafi is constantly plagued by insecurity.
Hence, much of what he says or does is to enhance himself, his regime and, now, his emerging heirs.
Many years of absolute power and practice have taught him how to manipulate the international system and overcome adversity or setbacks, such as reaction to the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
The 1993 U.N. embargo on Libya was not as debilitating as Gadhafi claims. The embargo banned civilian flights to and from Libya, purchases of military hardware and new oil rigs. Yet, it also served as a perfect excuse for Gadhafi to deflect criticism of his regime for the many years of mismanagement and corruption.
Gadhafi's 34-year dictatorship has left Libya, a wealthy oil-producing nation about 21/2 times the size of Texas with only 5.5 million people, on the verge of economic and political collapse.
Few in Libya believe Gadhafi's claims that the West is responsible for the nation's maladies. Mismanagement and theft are causes for its miserable living conditions.
For example, the absence of necessary medical equipment has condemned many Libyans to needless death. Less than 10 percent of medical diagnostic equipment is functioning.
Even more troubling is the frequent shortage of medical supplies, including necessary but simple items such as sutures. Libyans are dying for lack of proper diagnosis and treatment. Shortages also plague every other sector of the economy, including food.
During the past 20 years, Libya lost about 5 percent of its small population to brain drain, making it one of the most intellectually retarded nations in the world.
Gadhafi has endured in power by constantly shaking Libyan society as well as making use of international opportunities. When such opportunities don't present themselves, he instigates them. A perfect case in point is his declaration that he will give up his weapons of mass destruction.
Unbeknown to the Clinton administration, the decision to normalize U.S. relations began in 1993, the same year the embargo was imposed on Libya. Gadhafi already had made up his mind to settle the issue with the Americans and British, but he was waiting for the opportune moment. The Anglo-American sponsored U.N. Security Council resolution held him directly accountable and would have threatened his regime.
Hence, he balked at accepting it and preferred to wait until domestic conditions in the United States and Britain were ripe for him to influence the embedded logic of the resolution.
But until that happened, he used Libya's oil assets to buy friends and influence, as well as lubricate the wheel of corruption.
The British and U.S. embargo provided the opportunity to European and Asian firms to actively operate in Libya's oil industry. Small Swedish, Irish, French, Indian and Italian oil firms were more than happy to fill the void.
Gadhafi invited them in, but he also made sure banned U.S. and British oil firms were aware that if they did not convince their governments of reaching an accommodation with him, they would lose billions of dollars as well as their lucrative oil concessions.
The first to receive that message was a delegation of California-based Occidental Petroleum, secretly visiting Libya in July 1993.
In addition to extorting oil firms, Gadhafi released two more baited hooks, one to the families of the Lockerbie victims and the other to the U.S. government.
The Clinton administration refused to bite, but the families and the Bush administration did. With that, Gadhafi realized not only is he off the hook and his regime is safe, but also the time is ripe to influence events in Washington.