European and American rulers lavished praise on the fledgling National Transitional Council (NTC) regime following Gadhafi’s death, promising vast amounts of taxpayer money to support the new government. The emerging rulers, however, include among their senior leaders more than a few al Qaeda-linked Islamic extremists who have boasted of battling American troops in other nations.
Just a few years ago, Gadhafi and the U.S. government were actually cooperating closely in the battle against many of the same figures now taking over Libya with Western support. Top leaders of groups like the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which merged with al Qaeda in 2007, were considered high-priority targets for both governments.
The relationship between the two national governments was apparently going well and getting better until recently. In 2008, for example, the U.S. Federal Reserve was secretly bailing out banks owned by the Gadhafi regime. The next year, according to leaked U.S. diplomatic cables, a high-level American delegation in Tripoli praised Gadhafi’s regime and the strengthening of bilateral ties between the two governments.
Among the participants in the senior-level meetings were the Libyan despot, his son, U.S. Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and others. “The Senators expressed appreciation for Libya's counterterrorism cooperation in the region,” the cable noted.
During one of the discussions, Sen. Lieberman “called Libya an important ally in the war on terrorism, noting that common enemies sometimes make better friends,” the embassy report stated. “The Senators recognized Libya's cooperation on counterterrorism and conveyed that it was in the interest of both countries to make the relationship stronger.”
Senator McCain, meanwhile, promised Gadhafi’s son Muatassim that the U.S. government “wanted to provide Libya with the equipment it needs for its security,” noted the confidential document released by WikiLeaks. “He described the bilateral military relationship as strong and pointed to Libyan officer training at U.S. Command, Staff, and War colleges as some of the best programs for Libyan military participation.”
Today, however, the situation is much different. The founder of the LIFG — once arrested and tortured by U.S. officials for terrorism allegations — is now actually in charge of the Tripoli Military Council. Countless other Islamic militants Gadhafi once helped suppress with American assistance also played key roles in the Western-supported regime-change operation. Soon they might be in charge of the whole North African nation.
But U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have since dramatically changed their tune, scrambling hysterically to publicly celebrate the news of Gadhafi’s brutal demise. “The United States, along with our European allies and Arab partners, must now deepen our support for the Libyan people, as they work to make the next phase of their democratic revolution as successful as the fight to free their country," opined — ironically enough — Sen. McCain. Democratic Senators also joined in singing the praises of regime change and Libya’s new rulers.
In the House of Representatives, the tone was similar among most establishment lawmakers. Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Rep. Ileana Ros-Lethinen (R-Fla.), for example, blasted the ex-dictator and demanded that the new regime work with the U.S. government in the same manner as Gadhafi.
“Tyranny, oppression, and violence defined Gadhafi’s time in power,” she said. “The new leaders must demonstrate a commitment to working with the U.S., and to securing control over dangerous weapons and rooting out extremist groups.”
Outside the U.S., other Western leaders and former Gadhafi allies also celebrated the late Libyan ruler’s savage and brutal death. “We have to rejoice about what we have done," Italian Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa told Sky Italia television. "Without the NATO intervention, imagine what could have happened."
In the U.K., where former Prime Minister Tony Blair became particularly close to the Gadhafi regime, top officials were celebrating the killing, too. "People in Libya today have an even greater chance after this news of building themselves a strong and democratic future," claimed British Prime Minister David Cameron. "I'm proud of the role that Britain has played in helping them to bring that about.”
But the Obama administration was especially proud of its unconstitutional use of American forces to depose and kill Gadhafi. Just prior to the announcement of the killing, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised leaders of the new Libyan regime and promised even more American taxpayer largesse: "We came, we saw, he died,” Clinton cackled upon hearing the news, borrowing a slightly modified version of the famous phrase attributed to Roman emperor Julius Caesar.
After the reported death of Gadhafi, President Obama gave a speech bragging about the U.S. government’s role in taking out the fleeing despot. "Our leadership at NATO has helped guide our coalition,” Obama boasted. “Without putting a single U.S. service member on the ground, we achieved our objectives.”
About five years ago, however, U.S.-Libya relations were much different. In fact, Gadhafi was actually being celebrated by the political establishment in Washington.
Then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, for instance, hailed the “Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya” as "a model" for other governments to emulate in 2006. While announcing that the regime was being welcomed back to the international community, Rice also praised Gadhafi’s "excellent cooperation in response to common global threats faced by the civilized world.”
Speaking to Time magazine as Western rulers were flocking to Tripoli to heap praises on the Libyan tyrant, Gadhafi said he had been doing the same thing Bush claimed to be doing when the U.S. invaded Iraq. "Bush is saying that America is fighting for the triumph of freedom," the Libyan despot was quoted as saying in an article entitled "Why Gaddafi's Now a Good Guy." "When we were supporting liberation movements in the world, we were arguing that it was for the victory of freedom. We both agree. We were fighting for the cause of freedom."
While it remains unclear exactly why or how the Gadhafi regime went from “a model” and an “important ally” to the next target for regime change in a period of just a few years, several theories have been floated. The United Nations did pass a resolution purporting to authorize military intervention to prevent civilians deaths. But tens of thousands of civilians were killed during the civil war — many by NATO and rebel forces in what experts have called war crimes. And most of the original claims used to justify military intervention have been disputed by experts.
According to critics of the NATO-backed rebellion, Gadhafi’s plan to quit selling Libyan oil in U.S. dollars - demanding payment in gold-backed dinars instead - was the real cause. Adding credence to the theory, as The New American reported in March, was the rebels’ odd decision to create a central bank to replace Gadhafi’s state-owned monetary authority in the early weeks of the conflict.
Similar scenarios have also been associated with other targets of the U.S. government. Iran, for example, has a state-owned central bank, while Iraq was reportedly threatening to start selling oil in currencies other than the dollar just prior to the Bush administration’s “regime change” mission. Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, like Gadhafi, were both U.S. allies before their American-sponsored executions.
Though Gadhafi was wanted by the “International Criminal Court,” analysts suggested Western rulers breathed a sigh of relief upon learning of his death - especially because the ex-despot, like Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic, might have “spilled the beans” during an open trial. But with armed factions and militia groups seeking to fill the power-vacuum left by Gadhafi’s demise, the bloodshed and war crimes in Libya may not be over just yet.
Photo: Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi meets with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (out of picture) in Tripoli, Libya, Friday, Sept. 5, 2008.: AP Images