On April 14th 1986, Ronald Reagan ordered a series of bombings directed against Libya under “Operation El Dorado Canyon”
A war on Libya has been on the drawing board of the Pentagon for more than 20 years. Using nukes against Libya was first envisaged in 1996.
On April 14th 1986, Ronald Reagan ordered a series of bombings directed against Libya under “Operation El Dorado Canyon”, in reprisal for an alleged Libya sponsored terrorist bombing of a Berlin discotheque. The pretext was fabricated. During these air raids, which were condemned by both France and Italy, Qadhafi’s residence was bombed killing his younger daughter … more here
Apr 14, 1986:
On April 14, 1986, the United States launches air strikes against Libya in retaliation for the Libyan sponsorship of terrorism against American troops and citizens. The raid, which began shortly before 7 p.m. EST (2 a.m., April 15 in Libya), involved more than 100 U.S. Air Force and Navy aircraft, and was over within an hour. Five military targets and “terrorism centers” were hit, including the headquarters of Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi.
During the 1970s and ’80s, Qaddafi’s government financed a wide variety of Muslim and anti-U.S. and anti-British terrorist groups worldwide, from Palestinian guerrillas and Philippine Muslim rebels to the Irish Republican Army and the Black Panthers. In response, the U.S. imposed sanctions against Libya, and relations between the two nations steadily deteriorated. In 1981, Libya fired at a U.S. aircraft that passed into the Gulf of Sidra, which Qaddafi had claimed in 1973 as Libyan territorial waters. That year, the U.S. uncovered evidence of Libyan-sponsored terrorist plots against the United States, including planned assassination attempts against U.S. officials and the bombing of a U.S. embassy-sponsored dance in Khartoum, Sudan.
In December 1985, five American citizens were killed in simultaneous terrorist attacks at the Rome and Vienna airports. Libya was blamed, and U.S. President Ronald Reagan ordered expanded sanctions and froze Libyan assets in the United States. On March 24, 1986, U.S. and Libyan forces clashed in the Gulf of Sidra, and four Libyan attack boats were sunk. Then, on April 5, terrorists bombed a West Berlin dance hall known to be frequented by U.S. servicemen. One U.S. serviceman and a Turkish woman were killed, and more than 200 people were wounded, including 50 other U.S. servicemen. U.S. intelligence reportedly intercepted radio messages sent from Libya to its diplomats in East Berlin ordering the April 5 attack on the LaBelle discotheque.
On April 14, the United States struck back with dramatic air strikes against Tripoli and Banghazi. The attacks were mounted by 14 A-6E navy attack jets based in the Mediterranean and 18 FB-111 bombers from bases in England. Numerous other support aircraft were also involved. France refused to allow the F-111s to fly over French territory, which added 2,600 total nautical miles to the journey from England and back. Three military barracks were hit, along with the military facilities at Tripoli’s main airport and the Benina air base southeast of Benghazi. All targets except one were reportedly chosen because of their direct connection to terrorist activity. The Benina military airfield was hit to preempt Libyan interceptors from taking off and attacking the incoming U.S. bombers.
Even before the operation had ended, President Reagan went on national television to discuss the air strikes. “When our citizens are abused or attacked anywhere in the world,” he said, “we will respond in self-defense. Today we have done what we had to do. If necessary, we shall do it again.”
Operation El Dorado Canyon, as it was code-named, was called a success by U.S. officials. Qaddafi’s 15-month-old adopted daughter was killed in the attack on his residence, and two of his young sons were injured. Although he has never admitted it publicly, there is speculation that Qaddafi was also wounded in the bombing. Fire from Libyan surface-to-air missiles and conventional anti-aircraft artillery was heavy during the attack, and one F-111, along with its two-member crew, were lost in unknown circumstances. Several residential buildings were inadvertently bombed during the raid, and 15 Libyan civilians were reported killed. The French embassy in Tripoli was also accidentally hit, but no one was injured.
On April 15, Libyan patrol boats fired missiles at a U.S. Navy communications station on the Italian island of Lamedusa, but the missiles fell short. There was no other major terrorist attack linked to Libya until the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 747 over Lockerbie, Scotland. All 259 passengers and crew of that flight were killed, and 11 people on the ground perished. In the early 1990s, investigators identified Libyan intelligence agents Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah as suspects in the bombing, but Libya refused to turn them over to be tried in the United States. But in 1999–in an effort to ease United Nations sanctions against Libya–Colonel Moammar Gadhafi agreed to turn the suspects over to Scotland for trial in the Netherlands using Scottish law and prosecutors. In early 2001, al-Megrahi was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, although he continues to profess his innocence and work to overturn his conviction. Fhimah was acquitted.
In accordance with United Nations and American demands, Libya accepted responsibility for the bombing, though it did not express remorse. The U.N. and U.S. lifted sanctions against Libya; the country then paid each victim’s family approximately $8 million in compensation. In 2004, Libya’s prime minister said that the deal was the “price for peace,” implying that his country only accepted responsibility to get the sanctions lifted, angering the survivors’ families. He also admitted that Libya had not really accepted guilt for the bombing. Pan Am Airlines, which went bankrupt as a result of the bombing, is still seeking $4.5 billion in compensation from Libya in civil court.
Qaddafi surprised many around the world when he became one of the first Muslim heads of state to denounce al-Qaida after the attacks of September 11, 2001. In 2003, he gained favor with the administration of George W. Bush when he announced the existence of a program to build weapons of mass destruction in Libya and that he would allow an international agency to inspect and dismantle them. Though some in the U.S. government pointed to this as a direct and positive consequence of the ongoing war in Iraq, others pointed out that Qaddafi had essentially been making the same offer since 1999, but had been ignored. In 2004, U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair visited Libya, one of the first western heads of state to do so in recent memory; he praised Libya during the visit as a strong ally in the international war on terror.
In February 2011, as unrest spread through much of the Arab world, massive political protests against the Qaddafi regime sparked a civil war between revolutionaries and loyalists. In March, an international coalition began conducting airstrikes against Qaddafi strongholds under the auspices of a U.N. Security Council resolution. On October 20, Libya’s interim government announced that Qaddafi had died after being captured near his hometown of Sirte.
The great masses of the people in the very bottom of their hearts tend to be corrupted rather than consciously and purposely evil … therefore, in view of the primitive simplicity of their minds, they more easily fall a victim to a big lie than to a little one, since they themselves lie in little things, but would be ashamed of lies that were too big.
“Our evidence is direct, it is precise, it is irrefutable,” announced the President of the United States. He was explaining that the American bombing attack upon Libya of 14 April 1986 was in retaliation for the Libyan bombing nine days earlier of a West Berlin nightclub frequented by American servicemen which had killed two soldiers and one civilian and injured many others.[ii]
In actuality, the evidence of Libyan culpability in the bombing was never directly or precisely presented to the world, but little notice was taken of that. For over a decade the American public had been told that Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi was behind one terrorist act after another in every part of the world. A few days before the American attack, President Reagan had referred to him as the “mad dog of the Middle East”. This was just one more example. It all fit.
The bombs dropped on Libya took the lives of a reported 40 to 100 people, all civilians but one, and wounded another hundred or so. The French Embassy, located in a residential district, was destroyed. The dead included Qaddafi’s young adopted daughter and a teenage girl visiting from London; all of Qaddafi’s other seven children as well as his wife were hospitalized, suffering from shock and various injuries.[iii]
It was not claimed by the United States that any of the people killed or wounded had any connection to the Berlin bombing. Like the mideast terrorists who threw hand grenades at an El Al ticket counter to kill Israelis simply because they were Israelis, and those who planted a bomb on PanAm flight 103 in order to kill Americans simply because they were Americans, the bombing of Libya was an attempt to kill Libyans simply because they were Libyans. After the air attack, White House spokesman Larry Speakes announced that “It is our hope this action will preempt and discourage Libyan attacks against innocent civilians in the future.”[iv]
The Libyan the United States most wanted to kill of course was Qaddafi. The bombing had been an assassination attempt. Said a “well-informed Air Force intelligence officer” cited by the New York Times, “There’s no question they were looking for Qaddafi. It was briefed that way. They were going to kill him.”[v] Which is what you have to do with a mad dog.
Subsequently, two of Qaddafi’s children filed suit in the United States to stop President Reagan from launching more “assassination attempts” on their family. The suit, which was rejected in court, alleged that Reagan and other top officials, in ordering the raids, had violated an executive order that bars attempted assassinations of foreign government leaders.[vi] Another suit filed in Washington was in behalf of 65 people killed or injured by the bombing.[vii] Meanwhile, the US Navy was awarding 158 medals to the pilots who dropped 500-pound and 2,000-pound bombs in the dark of night upon sleeping people.[viii]
The notion of targeting Qaddafi’s family originated with the CIA, which claimed that in Bedouin culture Qaddafi would be diminished as a leader if he could not protect his home: “If you really get at Qaddafi’s house — and by extension his family — you’ve destroyed an important connection for the people in terms of loyalty.”[ix]
To make sure the Libyan people got the message, the Voice of America repeatedly told them, following the bombing, things like “Colonel Qaddafi is your tragic burden” and that as long you obey his orders you must “accept the consequences”.[x]
The president’s claim of irrefutable evidence was based on alleged interceptions of communications between the Libyan capital of Tripoli and the Libyan Embassy in East Berlin. Reagan declared that on 25 March, Libya had sent orders to the embassy “to conduct a terrorist attack against Americans, to cause maximum and indiscriminate casualties”; then the embassy alerted Tripoli on 4 April that the attack would be carried out the next day, that “Tripoli will be happy when you see the headlines tomorrow”, and that after the bombing the embassy reported that the action had been successful and could not be traced to it.[xi]
These are, at best, interpretations and paraphrases. The complete, unedited, unexpurgated, literal texts of the relevant communications were not made public. They were intercepted by the National Security Agency and decoded with the help of the German BND (Federal Intelligence Service) which had broken the Libyan code years before. After the decoding was completed, reported Der Spiegel, Germany’s leading newsmagazine, it was still not clear what the wires actually said, there being different versions. Moreover, the NSA and BND came to different conclusions about the meaning of the messages, “but these disagreements were quickly pushed aside for political reasons”. German security officials, who insisted that Libya should not be the only focus of investigation and who cautioned against a “premature accusation”, also looked into rival groups of disco competitors and drug dealers. In January 1987, a senior official in Bonn told investigative reporter Seymour Hersh that the German government continued to be “very critical and skeptical” of the American position linking Libya to the bombing; and at the end of the following year, Germany announced that the investigation was being ended.[xii]
“Some White House officials had immediate doubts that the case against Libya was clear-cut,” Hersh reported. “What is more, the discotheque was known as a hangout for black soldiers, and the Libyans had never been known to target blacks or other minorities.”[xiii]
As in many other instances that we have seen, however, official Washington’s official position, repeated often enough, became official truth. Three years after the incident, Time magazine could state matter-of-factly that “Libyan-backed terrorists bombed a disco in West Berlin”, thereby provoking the American “retaliatory” bombing.[xiv]
Much of Washington’s secret planning for the Libyan operation took place at the same time as the secret talks and arms dealing with Iran. Thus, the Reagan administration was pursuing the elimination of one Middle East source of terrorism while it was arming another. Moreover, the two missions involved some of the same national security people, notably John Poindexter and Oliver North.
Although the Carter administration did not carry out any overt military attacks upon Libya, it was possibly involved in a very serious covert action. On 27 June 1980, an Italian passenger plane was destroyed by a missile over the Mediterranean, taking 81 lives. At the same time, a Libyan plane which may have been carrying Qaddafi was flying in the vicinity. Italian air controllers listed it as a “VIP 56” flight, denoting that top officials were aboard. In 1988, Italian state television reported that the plane had been mistakenly shot down by a missile belonging to a NATO country, possibly Italy. A year later, an Italian defense ministry report revealed that it was probably a Sidewinder air-to-air missile that was used, a weapon employed by NATO. The Italian press began speculating that a plan to assassinate the Libyan leader had gone awry, and instead the Italian plane had been shot down by a NATO power. (At the time of the disaster, Qaddafi had hinted that the United States was responsible.) The US and France — Libya’s chief foes — issued denials, as well as NATO itself, but the Italian military was taking great pains to conceal information about the case. Nevertheless, an air force officer admitted to destroying the radar tape for that evening, and a civilian investigation suggested that many air force personnel were persuaded to lie or “forget” about the incident.[xv]
Ronald Reagan and his ultra-ideological comrades took office in January 1981 committed to a massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich. One of the pivotal ways in which they so artfully reached this end was through huge increases in the military budget; i.e., welfare for the rich, for defense industry friends and business associates, past, present, and future. But in order for the military-industrial-intelligence complex to sell this to the American public and Congress, there had to be a fresh supply of wars, armed conflict, insurgencies, counter-insurgencies … or rumors and “threats” of same … and enemies, ideally of the monster type, to be defended against.
Qaddafi was a designer-monster: a quirky, unpredictable, super-uppity Third World leader, sitting on the world’s ninth largest oil reserve; a man with deep-seated pan-Islamic, pan-Arabic, anti-imperialist, and anti-Zionist convictions; an artless braggart mouthing revolutionary rhetoric so juvenile he could serve equally well as bogeyman or buffoon; a man carrying out or supporting enough real terrorist acts so that any exaggeration would be believed.
There were elements of a bitter personal feud between the two men. Ronald Reagan — a man who played with air strikes as if he were directing movie scenes — had chosen to take on a man who, like himself, was a prisoner of ideology and had left his mark on the world media with a trail of dogmatic observations and actions, as well as plain stupid remarks. (All of the great prophets of modern times, Qaddafi said, have come from the desert and were uneducated: “Mohammed, Jesus and myself.”)[xvi] The Libyan leader, however, did have a social conscience, not a quality known to be part of Ronald Reagan’s DNA. (“You don’t see poverty or hunger here. Basic needs are met to a greater degree than in any other Arab country,” reported Newsweek in 1981 about Libya.)[xvii]
Qaddafi’s principal crime in Reagan’s eyes was not that he supported terrorist groups, but that he supported the wrong terrorist groups; i.e., Qaddafi was not supporting the same terrorists that Washington was, such as the Nicaraguan Contras, UNITA in Angola, Cuban exiles in Miami, the governments of El Salvador and Guatemala, and the US military in Grenada. The one band of terrorists the two men supported in common was the Moujahedeen in Afghanistan.
Some of the belligerent American operations against Qaddafi, actual and threatened, and charges of Libyan terrorism, actual and fabricated, were timed to stir up American jingoist juices when Congress was debating the military budget or aid to Reagan’s favorite terrorists, whom he called freedom fighters. The 14 April 1986 bombing of Libya, for example, came one day before the House opened a new round of debate on aid to the Contras. Then, speaking on the 15th, Reagan said: “I would remind the House voting this week that this archterrorist [Qaddafi] has sent $400 million [sic] and an arsenal of weapons and advisers into Nicaragua.”[xviii]
Very shortly after taking office, Reagan announced the appointment of a special group to study “the Libyan problem”. The State Department appeared to have two schools of thought: diplomatic pressure on Qaddafi or a more confrontational view. “Nobody,” one official pointed out, “advocates being nice to him.”[xix]
Soon a master plan had been drawn up by the CIA, which Newsweek exposed in August, 1981: “a large-scale, multiphase and costly scheme to overthrow the Libyan regime” and obtain what the CIA called Qaddafi’s “ultimate” removal from power. The plan called for a “disinformation” program designed to embarrass Qaddafi and his government; the creation of a “counter government” to challenge his claim to national leadership; and an escalating paramilitary campaign of small-scale guerrilla operations.[xx]
The escalation was immediate. On 19 August, American planes crossed Qaddafi’s “line of death”, the 120-mile limit claimed by Libya in the Gulf of Sidra, and shot down two Libyan jets. The United States, which considered it international waters, as did most of the rest of the world — although this concept is more debatable when applied to aircraft than when applied to ships[xxi] _- purposely chose the area to conduct military exercises. As expected, Libya rose to the bait, at least according to Washington, which claimed that the Libyan planes had fired first.
An enraged Qaddafi accused the US of “international terrorism” and, in a phone call to the leader of Ethiopia, reportedly threatened to assassinate Reagan.[xxii] An official who served in a national security position under Reagan responded that there was no question that the “only thing to do with Qaddafi was kill him. He belonged dead.”[xxiii]
Soon the US media were reporting a barrage of Qaddafi death threats against the life of Reagan or other senior officials. In October, a story appeared that the American ambassador to Italy was hastily flown out of the country after Italian authorities discovered a Libyan plot to assassinate him, “that was aborted when Italian police deported ten suspected Libyan hit men”. But some American officials in Washington and Rome disputed the story, while another government source confirmed it.[xxiv]
A month later, there was a report of an attempt upon the life of an American diplomat in Paris — seven shots were fired at Christian Chapman, but he escaped unharmed. That same day Secretary of State Alexander Haig — who referred to Qaddafi as “the patron saint of terror” — suggested that Libya was behind the attempt, although he admitted that he had “no other information” directly implicating Libya. But Chapman had recently received some threats, said the French government, some of which had been traced to Tripoli.[xxv] A New York Times analysis of the incident, however, concluded that “something less than an organized assassination attempt might have been involved.”[xxvi]
In late November, the administration announced that a number of terrorists trained in Libya had entered the United States with plans to assassinate President Reagan or other officials. This prompted a huge nationwide search for “the Libyan hit squad” and for Americans to whom they might turn for assistance, including the Weather Underground. Then the infamous international terrorist “Carlos” was brought into the picture, and the administration said that it had received first-hand descriptions from informers of the training and plans of the terrorists. Each day new and ominous details arose in the media, which had already forgotten the exposure in August of the initiation of a government disinformation campaign against Libya.[xxvii] “We have the evidence,” Reagan told newsmen, “and he [Qaddafi] knows it.” Reporters pressed the White House to make the evidence public, but were refused. Some officials, however, including some senior FBI officials, were said to be skeptical about the reports.[xxviii]
Syndicated columnist Jack Anderson then described what a shadowy, unreliable group the suppliers of the hit-squad information were, adding that several of them were known to have connections with Israeli intelligence, “which would have its own reasons to encourage a U.S.-Libyan rift,” there being a deep and mutual animosity between Israel and Qaddafi.[xxix]
In mid-1981 a task force under William Clark, Deputy Secretary of State, had been set up to look into the whole Qaddafi issue. Years later, Seymour Hersh was to report:
According to key sources, there was little doubt inside Clark’s task force about who was responsible for the spate of anti-Qaddafi leaks — the CIA, with the support of the President, Haig and Clark. “This item [the Libyan hit squad] stuck in my craw,” one involved official recalls. “We came out with this big terrorist threat to the U.S. Government. The whole thing was a complete fabrication.” … One task force official eventually concluded that [CIA Director William] Casey was in effect running an operation inside the American Government: “He was feeding the disinformation into the (intelligence) system so it would be seen as separate, independent reports” and taken seriously by other Government agencies.[xxx]
As matters turned out, most of the presumed assassins were Lebanese who had helped Reagan negotiate the release of US hostages in Beirut and who hated Qaddafi.[xxxi] When the story’s purpose had been served, it faded away.
However much some of Qaddafi’s reported threats were disinformation, there were real plans by the West to kill him. A February 1981 French plot, with US cooperation under discussion, had to be canceled when French President Giscard was unexpectedly defeated at the polls.[xxxii] In 1984 it went further, with the CIA sharing highly sensitive intelligence, including satellite photographs and communications intercepts, with the French secret service to aid them in at least two major, but unsuccessful, operations to assassinate or overthrow Qaddafi, who was perceived by the French as a threat to what they thought of as their interests in Africa. One of the operations resulted in a pitched battle in Libya between exiles and Qaddafi loyalists.[xxxiii]
And in 1985, the State Department had to go to great lengths to head off a White House-sponsored plan for a joint US-Egyptian land and air invasion of Libya. Secretary of State George Shultz called the plan “crazy”, while his department colleagues referred to the free-wheeling staff of the National Security Council as “those madmen in the White House”.[xxxiv]
At Christmas of that year, after bomb attacks at the Rome and Vienna airports killed about 20 people, including five Americans, all the usual suspects were quickly accused, with Iran and the Palestinian splinter group of the nefarious Abu Nidal heading the list.[xxxv] The Reagan administration soon added Qaddafi, announcing that the CIA had found a strong Libyan connection, when all they had was that the Tunisian passports of three of the terrorists had purportedly been traced to Libya. Within days, Reagan declared that there was “irrefutable” evidence of Qaddafi’s role in the airport bombings, although he knew that this was not true. At the same time, new economic sanctions against Libya were announced, “to get economic sanctions out of the way so the next time [we] could do more”.[xxxvi]
The next time was in March 1986. US Navy jets again crossed Qaddafi’s “line of death”, daring retaliation. When there wasn’t any, they returned the next day and the day after, twice attacking a Libyan anti-aircraft site and destroying three or four ships. Washington asserted that on the second day, Libya had first fired several missiles at the American planes.
Shortly afterward, one of a group of British electronics engineers working in Libya at the time was interviewed by the Sunday Times of London. The engineer said that he had been watching the radar screens during the two days of fighting and saw American warplanes cross not only into the 12 miles of Libyan territorial waters, but over Libyan land as well.
“I watched the planes fly approximately eight miles into Libyan air space,” said the engineer. “I don’t think the Libyans had any choice but to hit back. In my opinion they were reluctant to do so.”[xxxvii]
Following the first American attack in March on Libya, Qaddafi spoke on the phone with King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, who subsequently told US officials that the Libyan leader appeared deeply affected by the violence unleashed against him. The king described Qaddafi as “incomprehensible and disoriented”, a description similar to other reports which appeared during the 1980s which spoke of a very depressed Qaddafi who didn’t seem to understand what the United States had against him. Before and after the events of March, he made half a dozen attempts through third parties to open a dialogue with Washington, but Reagan administration officials rebuffed them all. The would-be European and Arab mediators, including King Fahd, were firmly told that the United States was not interested either in “a direct or indirect dialogue” with Qaddafi.[xxxviii]
That at least was the official policy, the face turned to the public. There were, however, reports that the White House was secretly dealing with the Libyan leader; to what extent is not known. The only certain contact was a November 1985 visit with Qaddafi in Libya by the US ambassador to the Vatican, William Wilson. The meeting was disavowed by official Washington as being unauthorized and Wilson lost his post after it was disclosed.[xxxix]
Meanwhile, and throughout the term of the Reagan administration, the United States was increasing military assistance to Libya’s immediate neighbors and conducting military exercises with Egypt designed to provoke Qaddafi; instituting diverse forms of economic sanctions against Libya with varying degrees of ineffectiveness; trying to unify Libyan exile opposition groups and giving them financial support and encouragement; the same to the governments of Egypt and France for various anti-Qaddafi actions, not excluding assassination. It should be noted that France — the United States’ chief “anti-terrorism” partner — in 1985 deliberately sank the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior, killing a Greenpeace photographer. This, with the express approval of French President Francois Mitterand.[xl]
Disinformation was a regular part of the process: using the foreign and American press to publicize fictitious new Libyan terrorist plans, and to announce — with each new terrorist act that occurred in the Western world — that Libya “may” be responsible; to make Qaddafi believe that key trusted aides were disloyal, that the Libyan military was plotting against him, that his Russian military advisers were plotting against him, that his troops were deserting en masse, or that a new US military attack was on the horizon; a process they hoped would push the man into “irrational” acts. His imminent downfall was predicted as regularly as that of Castro.[xli] One operation involved Navy Seal commandos landing on Libyan beaches and leaving tell-tale signs of the incursions — such as matchboxes and Israeli cigarette butts — to make the Libyans nervous, ever more paranoid.[xlii]
An August 1986 memo from John Poindexter, the president’s national security adviser, which spelled out some of the disinformation program, mentions itself that at the time Qaddafi was “quiescent” on the terrorist front.[xliii] Shortly afterward, a key Reagan administration official admitted to American reporters that if pressed for “hard evidence” of the charges against Libya they wouldn’t have any. “It will look like we’re crying wolf once again.”[xliv] In response to the Poindexter memo — the exposure of which had caused a mini-scandal — the senior spokesman for the State Department, Bernard Kalb, resigned in protest, because he was “worried about faith in America … American credibility” and “anything which hurts America”.[xlv]
The issue spilled over to the British, whose officials described US intelligence analyses about Libya’s intentions as “wildly inaccurate”, which they said were passed to the British in “a deliberate effort to deceive”.[xlvi]
In this same period, in light of new US news reports (engendered by the Poindexter memo), of possible further strikes against Libya in retaliation for terrorist actions allegedly being planned by Qaddafi’s regime, Libya’s effective prime minister called upon the United States to furnish details on the alleged actions so that Libya could “cooperate fully to avert and abort such attacks and apprehend the individuals and put them on trial.” He said that his request, sent to Washington through diplomatic channels, had gone unanswered.[xlvii] The next day, Qaddafi, in a speech in Libya, challenged the United States to produce bank statements showing that Libya financed terrorism.[xlviii]
“Half the lies they tell about the Irish aren’t true,” a son of Erin once observed. The regular employment of disinformation about Qaddafi and Libya by the United States so clouded the historical picture that it is extremely difficult in most cases to separate fact from fiction, to distinguish Libyan moral or token backing or simply promises to a revolutionary movement from major, vital support. The fact that the Reagan administration felt the need to undertake disinformation campaigns against Libya indicates a paucity of smoking guns.
On 1 September 1969, Captain Muammar el-Qaddafi had led a group of fellow officers in a bloodless overthrow of the monarchy and established the Libyan Arab Republic. Despite his “troublemaking” abroad, he initially kept in the good graces of the West — the US thwarting three serious plots against his rule during his first two years[xlix] — because of his fierce anti-communism, which stemmed basically from his taking Marxism’s implicit atheism at face value and viewing it as irreconcilably at odds with his Islamic faith. But this did not keep him from trying to institute revolutionary social and economic changes in Libyan society which others called Marxist. This, plus entering into oil development and arms agreements with the Soviet Union, may have spelled the beginning of the end for the West’s tolerance of his foreign adventures.[l]
During the 1970s and ’80s, Qaddafi was accused of using his large oil revenues to support — with funds, arms, training, offices, havens, diplomacy and/or general subversion — a wide array of radical/insurgent/terrorist organizations, particularly certain Palestinian factions and Muslim dissident and minority movements in various parts of the Middle East, Africa, and Asia; as well as the IRA and Basque and Corsican separatists in Europe; several groups engaged in struggle against the apartheid regime in South Africa; Noriega in Panama, opposition groups and politicians in Costa Rica, St. Lucia, Jamaica, Dominica, and France’s Caribbean colonies of Guadeloupe, French Guiana, and Martinique; the Japanese Red Army, the Italian Red Brigades, Germany’s Baader-Meinhof gang … the list is without end.
It was claimed as well that Libya was behind, or at least somehow linked to, the attempt on Pope John Paul’s life, the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, mining the Suez Canal, attempting to blow up the US Embassy in Cairo, various plane hijackings, a bomb explosion on an American airliner over Greece, blowing up a synagogue in Istanbul, and seeking to destabilize the governments of Chad, Liberia, the Sudan, and other African countries … and … Qaddafi took drugs, was an extreme womanizer, was bisexual, dressed in women’s clothing, wore makeup, carried a teddy bear, had epileptic fits …[li]
More established is the fact that for several years Qaddafi made use of former CIA staffers, notably Edwin Wilson and Frank Terpil, to supply him with aircraft and pilots, mechanics and Green Beret instructors, all manner of sophisticated weaponry, equipment and explosives, and to help set up paramilitary training camps in Libya.[lii]
And Amnesty International, in 1987, concluded that Libya had carried out attacks on at least 37 anti-Qaddafi dissidents abroad since 1980, with 25 being killed.[liii]
In January 1989, the State Department added to Qaddafi’s credits by asserting that Libya was funding and training “radical individuals and groups whose activities exacerbate local problems” in Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Japan and New Caledonia. A few months earlier, the CIA had accused Libya of building the largest poison gas plant in the world.[liv] In March 1990, a fire broke out at the plant in question and burned it to the ground. President Bush immediately and personally assured the world that the United States “absolutely” had nothing to do with the fire. A week earlier, the White House spokesman had been asked if the US might take military action to destroy the plant. “We don’t rule out anything,” was the reply.[lv]
And in Chicago, members of a street gang …
were convicted in late 1987 of planning terrorist activities. U.S. prosecutors charged that the gang expected to receive $2.5 million from Libya for assassination attempts on American politicians and for attacks on U.S. aircraft and government facilities.[i]
That, in its entirety, is how the Los Angeles Times reported it, and it sounded like the bizarre Libyan strongman was at it again. In actuality, “assassination”, planned or concrete, was not one of the charges, and no evidence at all was presented at the trial that Libya had anything to do with originating or encouraging these acts, or had paid or promised any money. The El Rukn gang members, a Moslem sect, and naive in the extreme, had met with Libyan representatives in New York, Panama and Libya, and pathetically tried to impress them with their prowess and loyalty to Qaddafi. They had been inspired by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan purportedly receiving a Libyan promise of $5 million. If El Rukn received a promise of $2.5 million — and we have only their word for it — it would appear that both promises were no more than Qaddafi’s revolutionary self-indulgence. (The IRA also claimed that they had not received any money from Libya, contrary to Qaddafi’s claim.[ii]) It is perhaps a measure of the hostility toward Libya that had been inculcated in the American people for more than a decade, that the gang members — through government use of a questionable informer and through entrapment — were found guilty by a jury of federal conspiracy charges and sentenced to extraordinarily long sentences. It was reportedly the first time ever that US citizens had been convicted on terrorism charges.[iii]
It is like a grade B horror movie. A dozen times it rises from the dead and lurches towards the audience; a dozen times it is cut to ribbons, staggering back, collapsing in a heap; and a dozen times it rises again and clomps slowly forward. But it is not the mummy’s ghost, and it is not haunting the upper Nile. It is the notion that the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar Qaddafi, is responsible for every act of terrorism in the entire world, and it haunts the pages of the western press and the screens of western television sets.[iv]
PanAm flight 103
On 21 December 1988, PanAm flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people, more than half of them Americans. Five months later, the State Department announced that the CIA was “confident” that the villains who planted the bomb were members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), led by Ahmed Jibril, based in Syria, and hired by Iran to avenge the American shooting down of an Iranian airliner.[v] Though little could be done to apprehend Jibril and his cohorts, this remained the US government’s official, certain, and oft-repeated judgment, even though Syria and Iran were viewed as the keys to the release of Western hostages held in Lebanon. Then, in 1990, something strange happened. The United States was preparing to go to war against Iraq, when who should pop up as one of its allies, sending troops to Saudi Arabia in the jihad against Saddam Hussein? None other than the terrorist-haven land of Syria. And whose cooperation in the war was Washington angling for? The wicked Iran. This would not do. In early October, American officials declared that newly uncovered evidence indicated that Libyan intelligence agents may have assembled and planted the bomb. But this, they were quick to point out, did not clear Iran, Syria or the PFLP-GC of complicity.[vi]
After the war, little by little, a putative case against Libya was leaked, until 14 November 1991 when two Libyan intelligence operatives were indicted in absentia as the perpetrators. The head of the Justice Department’s criminal division asserted the same day that there was no evidence to link either Syria or Iran to the bombing “and he brushed aside suggestions that the conclusion had been influenced by the United States’ desire for improved relations with Syria”.[vii] Within the next 20 days, the remaining four American hostages held in Lebanon were released along with the most prominent hostage, Britisher Terry Waite.
And the evidence against the two Libyans? Two pieces of metal the size of fingernails, allegedly from electronic timing devices. One has to read the detailed account of what the case against Libya rests upon to appreciate its full shakiness.[viii] Moreover, in December 1993, a BBC program, “Silence Over Lockerbie”, presented new findings which cast significant doubt about the case against Libya and indicated that Britain and the United States may have fingered Libya to divert suspicion from Syria and Iran. The key new information was that the Swiss manufacturer of the electronic timers changed his previous story which had named Libya as the only purchaser of such devices. He now remembered that he had sold some of the timers to East Germany as well. There were close links between the East German secret police and the PFLP_GC and other Arab terrorist groups. Even more significant, an engineer with the Swiss company declared that he had told the Lockerbie investigators about the East German connection in late 1990, which means that the international investigators knew that their accusation against Libya had a large, if not fatal, hole in it either before the accusation was made public in October, or shortly thereafter.[ix]
“No German judge could, with the present evidence, put the two suspects into jail,” declared Volker Rath, German government prosecutor and specialist in Lockerbie, in 1994.[x]
Postscript: In 2003, the Libyan government accepted “responsibility” for the 1988 bombing — without admitting to an actual role in the event — in the hope of ending US and UN sanctions. Libya agreed to this because in 2001 a Libyan had been found guilty in a trial in the Hague of having planted the bomb. This trial, however, was widely regarded as a farce.[xi]
The new Qaddafi?
It may be that the oft-depressed Muammar el-Qaddafi finally began to understand — finding his way past the verbiage and the disinformation — what the United States and other governments had against him. In the latter half of 1988 he seemed to grow up, instituting a host of progressive changes into Libyan society — freeing up civil liberties, releasing hundreds of political prisoners, removing restrictions on travel abroad, loosening up the economy (“All Libyans are called upon to become bourgeois.”); at the same time, making peace or improving relations with a number of African neighbors.[xii]
But as the year 1989 opened and Washington prepared to shift from Ronald Reagan to George Bush, the United States marked the occasion by conducting some more “military exercises” in Libya’s back yard and shooting down two more Libyan planes. The State Department then saw fit at this particular time to issue its most detailed account to date of Libyan involvement in international terrorism — “an attempt to maintain international pressure” on Libya, wrote the Los Angeles Times.[xiii]
Nonetheless, Qaddafi continued to display his new persona. He announced that he had decided to cut off or trim the flow of funds to various foreign groups and he told several Palestinian groups that they would no longer receive direct funding from his government and would have to close their offices in Libya. He also admitted that Libya had bankrolled terrorist groups, but said that it no longer did so — “when we discovered that these groups were causing more harm than benefit to the Arab cause, we halted our aid to them completely and withdrew our support” — adding that he did not wish for any confrontation with Washington.[xiv]
The United States was not impressed with any of this. It may have felt that it had nothing to gain by relaxing its crusade against Qaddafi, but it did have an enemy to lose.
References @ end
See Also ~
Andrew I. Killgore
While corroborating the widely held view that the 2000 trial of the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing was a travesty, the author ties up several loose ends as he looks back on the sequence of events that laid the ground for the Lockerbie air disaster. Revealed in a book by former Mossad agent Victor Ostrovsky, the reported facts center around the 1986 false-flag operation staged by the Mossad that got the U.S. to bomb Libya, dragging it even deeper into the Middle East quagmire on the side of Israel.
References: Libya – 1981-1989: Reagan meets his match ~ W. Blum”Killing Hope”
1. Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1971; original version 1925) Vol. 1, chapter 10, p. 231.
2. New York Times, 15 April 1986.
3. Seymour Hersh, “Target Qaddafi”, The New York Times Magazine, 22 February 1987, p. 22.
4. New York Times, 15 April 1986, p. 11
5. Hersh, p. 20. A corroborating comment is given by an air force pilot. See also: The Guardian (London), 19 April 1986.
6. San Francisco Chronicle, 6 October 1987.
7. Ibid., 16 April 1987, p. 15.
8. The Guardian (London), 24 February 1987.
9. Hersh, p. 20.
10. The Guardian (London), 9 May 1986, p. 11; see also New York Times, 15 April 1986, p. 11.
11. New York Times, 15 April 1986, transcript of Reagan’s address, and Larry Speakes cited in article, p. 11; Bob Woodward, VEIL: The Secret Wars of the CIA 1981-1987 (New York, 1987), pp. 444-5
12. Der Spiegel (Hamburg, West Germany), 21 April 1986, p. 20; Los Angeles Times, 11-13 January 1988; New York Times, 22 December 1988, p. 14; Hersh, p. 74. In December 1992, German officials charged a Palestinian with the bombing. It is not clear what the outcome of that arrest was.
13. Hersh, p. 74.
14. Time magazine, 16 January 1989, p. 20.
15. The Times (London), 2 October 1989, p. 10; 28 September 1989, p. 9; LA Weekly (Los Angeles), 27 October-2 November 1989, p. 10, column by Alexander Cockburn; Los Angeles Times, 2 November 1988; Washington Post, 2 & 26 September, 1999
16. Los Angeles Times, 24 November 1988, p. 16.
17. Newsweek, 20 July 1981, p. 42, citing a Western ambassador in Tripoli
18. New York Times, 16 April 1986, pp. 1, 20.
19. Washington Post, 21 March 1981, p. A3.
20. Newsweek 3 August 1981, p. 19.
21. See Boston Globe, 25 March 1986, p. 7 for a discussion of this question.
22. Washington Post, 13 October 1981, p. D17, Jack Anderson.
23. Hersh, p. 24.
24. Newsweek, 19 October 1981, p. 43; New York Times, 25 October 1981; 26 October, 1981, p. 4.
25. Time magazine, 23 November 1981.
26. New York Times, 13 November 1981, p. 3.
27. Ibid., 4 December 1981, p. 1.
28. Ibid., 8 December 1981, p. 7.
29. Jack Anderson, San Francisco Chronicle, 7 January 1982.
30. Hersh, pp. 24, 26.
31. Duncan Campbell and Patrick Forbes, “Tale of Anti-Reagan Hit Team Was `Fraud’,” New Statesman magazine (London), 16 August 1985, p. 6; Jack Anderson, San Francisco Chronicle, 13 January 1989, p. E5.
32. Time magazine, 23 November 1981, p. 40.
33. Hersh, p. 48.
34. Washington Post, 20 February 1987, p. 1.
35. The Guardian (London), 30 and 31 December 1985.
36. San Francisco Chronicle, 13 July 1987, Jack Anderson column; Hersh, pp. 48, 71.
37. Sunday Times (London), 6 April 1986, p. 12.
38. The Guardian (London), 3 April 1986.
39. New York Times, 19 December 1986, p. 1, and 20 December, p. 6, for a summary of the incident. The Reagan administration acknowledged Wilson’s action in March, and he resigned under pressure in May. It would have been earlier if not for the fact that he was a close friend of Reagan.
40. The Guardian (London), 30 August 1986, citing the French news magazine L’Express.
41. See, e.g., Wall Street Journal, 25 August 1986, p. 1, for a story about Qaddafi’s plans for new anti-US terrorist attacks and US plans to attack Libya, and Washington Post, 2 October 1986 which reported that the information in the Journal article (picked up by much of the US media) had been part of a disinformation program. See also the Post, 27 August 1986, p. 1 and 5 October 1986, p. 1.
42. The Guardian (London), 18 September 1987, citing The Montgomery Journal (presumably the paper in Montgomery, Alabama of that name).
43. Washington Post, 2 October 1986, p. 1.
44. New York Times, 27 August 1986, p. 7
45. The Guardian (London), 9 October 1986.
46. Ibid., 13 October 1986, citing a story in the Sunday Telegraph (London) of 12 October.
47. Washington Post, 31 August 1986, p. A25.
48. Wall Street Journal, 2 September 1986, p. 31.
49. Patrick Seale & Maureen McConville, The Hilton Assignment (London, 1973), pp. 176-7 and passim; New York Times, 3 October 1971, p. 26
50. See Jonathan Bearman, Qadhafi’s Libya (Zed Books, London, 1986) for a detailed discussion of Qaddafi’s ideological development and his program of social revolution for Libya.
51. Qaddafi’s alleged record of terrorism and idiosyncracies: see, e.g., John K. Cooley, “The Libyan Menace”, Foreign Policy (Washington), Spring 1981, pp. 75-7; David Blundy and Andrew Lycett, Qaddafi and the Libyan Revolution (Little, Brown & Co., Boston, 1987), chapter 6 plus page 21; also, many of the newspaper articles cited herein, such as Los Angeles Times, 19 January 1989.
52. Peter Maas, Manhunt: The Incredible Pursuit of a C.I.A. Agent Turned Terrorist (Random House, New York, 1986), passim.
53. San Francisco Chronicle, 18 July 1987.
54. Los Angeles Times, 26 October 1988, 19 January 1989.
55. New York Times, 15 March 1990, p. 1.
56. Los Angeles Times, 19 January 1989.
57. New York Times, 6 July 1972, p. 2. The same article states that the Black Muslims in Chicago (Farrakhan’s group) received a loan, not a contribution, of $3 million to build a mosque. (But whether the money was actually given, is not certain.) See Blundy and Lycett, p. 80, re the skepticism of British security forces about the IRA getting much, if any, money from Qaddafi.
58. Chicago Tribune, 1987: 3 April, 8 October, 15 October, 28 October, 30 October, 19 November, 25 November.
59. Bill Schaap, Covert Action Information Bulletin (Washington, DC). No. 30, Summer 1988, p. 76.
60. Washington Post, 11 May 1989, p. 1.
61. Los Angeles Times, 10 October 1990, p. 1.
62. Ibid., 15 November 1991, p. 25.
63. Mark Perry, Eclipse: The Last Days of the CIA (Wm. Morrow & Co., New York, 1992) pp. 335-48. Despite the title, the author is sympathetic to the CIA and accepts the official version of the guilt of the Libyans, although it’s not easy for him or for the reader.
64. Der Spiegel (Hamburg, Germany), 18 April 1994, pp. 92-7; Sunday Times (London), 19 December 1993, p. 2; The Times (London), 20 December 1993, p. 11; Los Angeles Times, 20 December 1993.
65. Der Spiegel, 18 April 1994, p. 93.
66. See W. Blum’s essay:http://members.aol.com/bblum6/panam.htm
67. Los Angeles Times, 24 November 1988, p. 1.
68. Ibid., 19 January 1989.
69. Ibid., 4 September 1989; 26 October 1989, citing an interview in the Egyptian magazine Al Mussawar. It can not be determined from the article whether Qaddafi himself referred to any of these groups as “terrorist”.