State is so eager to normalize relations with Gadhafi that officials there have put the word out that the tyrant of Tripoli is a changed man. A particularly striking example of this spin machine in action can be found in a preface to a January 10, 2003 Newsweek interview with Gadhafi, in which the reporter bluntly states, “U.S. officials concede that the former master of terror appears to have gotten out of the terrorism business.” Nothing could be further from the truth, according to senior administration officials.
Not only has Gadhafi not gotten out of the “terrorism” business, but he is knee-deep in it. Aside from its weapons purchases from the Iranian mullahs, Libya is stockpiling assorted chemical and biological agents. But Gadhafi’s actions do not stop there. His regime is far enough along in developing nukes that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last August said that Libya may be the first nation in that part of the world to acquire nuclear capability. This news did not come as a surprise to the U.S., though, as Sharon made his declaration based on U.S. intelligence.
If State succeeds in striking a deal with Gadhafi on matters relating to the Pam Am 103 bombing, the White House will be in a terribly awkward position. By linking compensation for the families of the victims of Pan Am flight 103, State has made not supporting Gadhafi’s revival a tricky—and difficult—proposition, even though the White House is not keen on welcoming the despot back with open arms. “State is acting in contravention of the policies clearly established by this President,” notes a senior administration official, “but State has chosen a good hook to get what it wants.”
News reports last year peg the proposed settlement amount at $2.7 billion, a tidy sum that will no doubt help State sell the trade-off of compensation for legitimizing Gadhafi. Anticipating attacks, State has insisted on a fig leaf cover on the terrorism front, whereby Gadhafi must “renounce” terrorism—probably in terms as strong as those with which North Korea pledged to abandon its nuclear program back in 1994 or Saddam Hussein promised to cooperate with UN weapons inspectors.
The victims’ families deserve compensation, and they deserve it from the sponsor and protector of the man found guilty of the bombing. But what they don’t deserve is to be used to redeem the man ultimately responsible for the murder of their loved ones.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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