Money, it would seem, heals all wounds faster than time does. The ongoing rift between the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (Libya) and the United States has, according to some sources, been a problem since the days when Libyans were colonial subjects of the Ottomans.
Contemporary Libya under Colonel Muammar al Qadhafi, a dictator in the same vein as Saddam Hussein, has had a proven track record of being a state sponsor of global terrorism with repeated attacks aimed at Americans and Western Europeans. And yet, many of the world’s most prominent decision makers, including President Bush, feel at enough ease with Libya now to lift what sanctions remain on that state.
Recently, the Bush administration lifted the remaining U.S.-sponsored sanctions on Libya – the United Nations sanctions have already been removed and Italy promises to act unilaterally in forcing the rest of the European Union to drop its sanctions. This will mean U.S. oil firms such as ExxonMobil and Occidental, which formerly operated in Libya but were forced to evacuate in 1982 under President Reagan’s orders, will have the right to resume drilling there; $1.2 billion in frozen Libyan assets will be returned to Colonel Qadhafi’s government; Libyan students will have the right to seek American education; and to the families of the victims of Pan Am 103, a jumbo-jet brought down by a Libyan bomb, payment of an additional $4 million in “compensation” from the Libyan government.
While the last two aspects of lifting sanctions seem beneficial, we must consider the dark past. In 1969, just months after seizing power by coup d’etat from King Idris, Colonel Qadhafi and his revolutionaries immediately sought to buy nuclear missiles from the Chinese. Fortunately, the discussions in Beijing failed. Over the next decade, Colonel Qadhafi nationalized Western property and businesses operating in Libya and forced the exodus of thousands of Italians after seizing their land; declared war on its neighbor Chad; and actively sought regular arms as well as WMDs from the Soviets.
After falling out of favor with Moscow, the colonel announced his “Third Universal Theory” in which he advocated and supported global insurgency in economic and terrorist forms against the superpowers. The economic attack would come in the form of Libya pushing for OPEC to cut off fuel supplies, triggering the late 1970s oil crunch in America. The terrorist operations included multiple airline hijackings in the Middle East in the 1970s and 1980s, terrorist bombings on American and British targets in Beirut, London, Rome and Vienna, a 1986 nightclub bombing targeted at American servicemen in Berlin – one American died, 204 people were injured; the infamous 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 murdering 270 people – including many Americans, the 1989 bombing of French Airliner UTA, killing all 170 people onboard, as well as at one point sponsoring the IRA’s bombing campaign in Britain.
In the years after 9/11, Qadhafi has cleverly changed tactics in the interest of self-preservation. He confessed his country’s involvement in the Pan Am bombing and has agreed to pay up to $10 million per family if U.S. sanctions are lifted. He has courted U.S. companies that left Libya by reminding them that their state contracts remain waiting to be fulfilled. And he has invited the U.N. to inspect the total disarmament of his country of all WMDs. These moves seemed to have satisfied all in the Bush administration except those in the State Department who will not remove Libya from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list.
Is our quest for oil truly worth the dishonor of doing business with a government that has killed American men, women and children, stolen American property and been outspoken against everything America stands for? I think not. Yet it seems that our government feels strangely justified in letting go of the sanctions that prevent U.S. funds from flowing to a terrorist r?gime that may, with money and time, decide to pursue a vendetta against us. After all, it was American fighter jets that killed Colonel Qadhafi’s daughter in a 1986 retaliatory strike for the Berlin bombing.
-The writer is a senior majoring in political science.