My first active memory of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi was in 1986, when I remember seeing images of the flamboyant terrorist on television. Why was he on TV? Our intelligence services intercepted messages from Libya’s East Berlin embassy suggesting Qaddafi had ordered the terrorist strike on a West Berlin disco frequented by U.S. servicemen that left hundreds dead. In response, President Reagan ordered a massive strike against Libya ten days later. U.S military jets bombed Tripoli and Benghazi in an operation that by all accounts stunned Qaddafi. Reagan didn’t play.
Qaddafi’s long list of horrors includes the bombing of Pan Am flight 103, support for all manner of Islamic and other terrorist groups, including the PLO, Carlos the Jackal, and FARC, funding the “Black September movement” that carried out the Munich massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics, and giving safe harbor to the convicted terrorist of Pan Am 103, al-Megrahi.
After the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Qaddafi thought he was next, so he preemptively caved, giving up his nuclear weapons program. In return, Washington restored full diplomatic relations with Libya in 2006, but no one was under the illusion that Qaddafi was now our friend.
He is one of the world’s most despicable despots and a terrorist in belief and in action. Over the past few days, he has extended that terror to his own people, ordering military jets to fire upon the thousands of protesters who have gathered to demand regime change. Qaddafi has hired mercenaries from Chad and Sudan to murder his people in the streets using hollow-point bullets. In a bizarre (is there any other way for him?) mini-speech, he said opponents “deserved to die.” Yup, that’s the old Colonel: what a sweetheart.
In all of the upheaval in the Middle East over the past two years, two examples in particular cry out for American presidential leadership: the revolt in Iran nearly two years ago, and the revolt today in Libya. In both cases, the regimes are enemies of the United States and state sponsors and exporters of terror; and they have revealed once again their brutality and totalitarianism by their willingness to slaughter their own people. In both cases, the people there have honestly had enough of their ruthless dictatorship and would really benefit from a few words of clear moral support from the President of the United States.
In both cases, instead of clarion calls of support for those aggrieved peoples, Obama has given them the silence of crickets and the remoteness of tumbleweeds.
When the 2009 Iranian revolt began, Obama spoke of an unwillingness to “meddle.” But he was more than happy to meddle in Egypt, one of our staunchest and longstanding allies, and throw Hosni Mubarak under the bus. He’s also more than willing to meddle in Israel on settlements and in the UK by giving away their nuclear secrets to the Russians, and on and on. He meddles when he wants to.
But he will not “meddle” when it matters most and costs the least: against terrorist regimes like Iran and Libya. Whose side is he on? Seriously.
Reagan once called Qaddafi “the mad dog of the Middle East.” It now looks like the mad dog has met the chihuahua of the West.
Reagan didn’t play. Bombs dropped. Sanctions were levied.
Obama plays. Half-hearted words are spoken. UN resolutions of mere “condemnation” are endlessly debated.
While the mad dog hangs on to what’s left of his regime, he must be astonished by the American president who appears to be rooting for him.
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