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Wall Street Journal

Wednesday, 9 February, 2005

Fathi El-Jahmi

The Qadhafi Exception

The Gadhafi Exception

Wall Street Journal,
February 9, 2005; Page A10

Former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, former Czech President Vaclav Havel and former U.S. Director of Central Intelligence James Woolsey sent a letter last week to Libyan dissident Fathi Eljahmi, who has no chance whatsoever of receiving it. Mr. Eljahmi disappeared this past March, in the sense that no one knows where he is other than the security forces of Moammar Gadhafi, who seized him and put him in a Libyan prison.

Accordingly, the four men sent a similar letter on Mr. Eljahmi's behalf to Mr. Gadhafi as well. "We are concerned about the health and well-being of Mr. Eljahmi," wrote Messrs. Shultz, Aznar, Havel and Woolsey. "We have read reports that he is being held incommunicado in an undisclosed location and that he has been denied medical treatment. We are concerned, too, that the Libyan government recently blocked a scheduled visit by a team from Human Rights Watch. We are respectfullyrequesting that you instruct your government to take all necessary steps to facilitate such a meeting as soon as possible."

Mr. Eljahmi, 63, is diabetic and has heart disease and hypertension. The Physicians for Human Rights also have sought permission from Gadhafi to examine Mr. Eljahmi but have been refused. A source in Tripoli told us they had seen Mr. Eljahmi yesterday, and that his spirits are high but he does need medical attention.

In their letter, Messrs. Shultz, Aznar, Havel and Woolsey invite Mr. Eljahmi to join the Committee on the Present Danger. The first CPD, formed during the Cold War by writer Midge Decter, has been reconstituted to gather public figures and intellectuals dedicated to expanding democracy by winning the war on terror and its related ideologies.

Gadhafi, a cunning dictator and survivor, achieved a kind of immunity for himself by famously announcing in December 2003 that he was renouncing Libya's program to develop weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear capability. Before that, he was famous for admitting, after years of denial, that he blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 (which won him a lifting of U.N. sanctions). He was also famous for making Libya a primary banker and potty-trainer for global terrorists. He has ruled Libya ruinously since a coup in 1969.

Fathi Eljahmi, a Libyan businessman, began to speak in public against Gadhafi and for expanded freedoms in late 2002. He was of course arrested and thrown in prison. Amid the Libyan WMD "thaw," Gadhafi released Mr. Eljahmi in March 2004, and President Bush mentioned his case in a speech. Freed, Mr. Eljahmi chose not to shut up. He renewed his call for Libyan democracy and free speech. Two weeks after he'd been let out, Libyan security forces surrounded his house, beat him and returned him to prison. He has not been heard from since.

Gadhafi's renunciation of WMD -- no one denies his program was real -- has brought dividends. Prime Minister Tony Blair visited him (one day before Gadhafi re-arrested Fathi Eljahmi). Western business interests have followed. Pragmatists will argue that with Gadhafi's WMD program dismantled, who cares? But Gadhafi's Orwellian system of population control remains intact, and with revenue flows returning to the Libyan vaults, one may legitimately ask whether Gadhafi's pro-terror, pro-WMD programs are dead or merely dormant.

Secretary Shultz and the others, with the issuance of this letter on Fathi Eljahmi's behalf, clearly have chosen not to let the Gadhafi Exception sit unnoticed. The Bush Second Inaugural on freedom altered this country's policy on terror, autocracy and individual rights. Secretary of State Rice's impressive start notwithstanding, the permanent bureaucracy at State and elsewhere no doubt expects the air to leak out of the speech's ideas, so that the do-what-you-gotta-do status quo can resume with Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the rest. We have to assume Mr. Bush did not intend to give such an Inaugural and then let Fathi Eljahmi go down the memory hole.

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