Don't Panic! February 05 2004

Your war questions answered

Why is Libya giving up its WMDs?

Did you know that, just a few days ago, the fruits of an evil Arab dictatorship's WMD program was launched at us from across the Atlantic? The nuclear payload landed smack dab in the middle of Tennessee? Top U.S. officials knew about it, but did nothing to stop it?


Fear-mongering sure is fun. I should really consider a career in TV news.

The shipment I'm referring to was actually a welcome one. It came from Libya in the belly of a U.S. military aircraft. It contained about 55,000 pounds of Libyan WMDoohickeys, including centrifuges, missile parts, and important weapons-related documents.

A year ago, we might have expected that any dismantled Arab WMD parts heading our way for safekeeping would be coming from Iraq. Iraq didn't have any. That's another column, though.

Back to Libya now. That sure was nice of them, don't you think? Before you sit down and send them a thank you note, you should consider the reasons they did it.

Operation Iraqi Freedom was probably a factor. Libyan supremo Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi (aka Gadafy, Kadhafi, Gathafi, Khadafy, Daffy, Laffy, Sneezy and Doc) probably noticed what happened after Saddam Hussein decided to antagonize the United States just a little too much.

Qaddafi's no slouch in the evil/pissing off the U.S. department. He's been at it since 1969 when, after leading a coup at the age of 27, he took residence in Libya's presidential tent. His bogeyman heyday came in the '80s, when Saddam and Osama were our friends. Ronald Reagan called him a mad dog and tried to kill him in an air strike in retaliation for the terrorism that Libya supported in Europe. Libya responded with the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland. Since then, Libya's been an international pariah, subject to U.S. and international sanctions.

Getting the sanctions lifted and Libya's economy going is actually a much bigger factor than our invasion of Iraq. In reality, Libya's been making baby steps toward reconciliation with the West since the late '90s. In order to get United Nations sanctions lifted, Libya extradited two of its intelligence agents responsible for Lockerbie to trial in Scotland.

Another signal that Libya was ready to make peace with the West came in October 2001, when the notorious head of Libya's intelligence service, Musa Kousa, flew to London to offer us information on Islamic fundamentalist terrorists. Kousa was kicked out of London in 1980 after he gave a newspaper interview bragging about Libya's plans to kill Libyan dissidents living in London. He's also believed to be behind the bombing of a French jet in Niger in 1989 that killed 170 people. Him showing up in London to help the Western counterterrorism effort is kinda like Taliban leader Mullah Omar showing up at the White House to help us catch bin Laden. So much for moral clarity.

Libya's friendly gestures since 1999 were certainly appreciated, but they weren't enough. In order for the United States to lift its sanctions against Libya, Libya'd have to give up its WMDs. In December of last year, the agreement was finalized. Libya would give up its program (which, by the way, despite 25 years of effort, resulted in nothing other than a wasted fortune. Actually, not nothing. According to one report I've read, Libyan weapons engineers built a shit bomb. I shit you not. They made a bomb with shit-laced shrapnel. If a bomb fragment cut you, you'd die from shit-poisoning. Weapons of Ass Destruction.)

Thanks to the deal with Libya, we're a little bit safer. We have one less antagonist in the world. In addition, the people of Libya might start to enjoy a better standard of living. Who knows, maybe Iran will follow Libya's lead.

The Libya deal had another important result. It once again exposed our so-called friend Pakistan for what it truly is — one of the planet's greatest threats to peace. Much of Libya's nuclear know-how came from Pakistan. I'll talk about that next week.


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