The Iraqis are not the only ones suffering under a UN embargo with air travel restrictions. Libyans are hurting as well. In October, 1997, South Africa's president, Nelson Mandela lashed out at the U.S. for criticizing his trip to Libya to thank Khaddafy, who supported him in his long battle against apartheid. Washington had rebuked Mandela for visiting a people isolated by UN sanctions.
Many Americans, ignorant of history and attuned to a government-subservient media, see Libya's Omar Khaddafy as a demon, a terrorist, a threat to Mideast peace. Khaddafy, a Muslim, graduated from Sandhurst, a prestigious English military academy. In a 1969 coup assisted by our CIA he overthrew pro-Western King Idris and joined the Arab League. Khaddafy forced the U.S. to close its huge Wheelus Air Force Base, ousted the British from Tripoli, and nationalized Libyan Oil. Because of these acts and because, unlike the former King, he refused to become our puppet, he quickly became the target of U.S. anger. The United States' attitude did not improve when Khaddafy lent support to the IRA in Ireland, to the PLO and to those Philippine groups opposing Marcos' corrupt regime. Our State Department, always angry at any foreign leader it can't control, has replied with a series of dirty tricks aimed at unseating Khaddafy.
On June 27, 1980, Itavia Flight #870 with 81 persons aboard, flying from Bologna, Italy to Palermo, Sicily, disappeared from the radar screen just before 9:00 p.m. Italian officials suggested "structural failure." When the wreckage was eventually brought up from the ocean floor and reassembled, experts agreed the plane had been brought down by an air-to-air missile. Khaddafy, in a special radio broadcast had claimed his private jet had been in that same air space that night and suggested that NATO jets had mistaken the Italian DC-9 for their intended target. Fighter jets from carriers of both French and U.S. fleets were in the area when Flight 870 disappeared. Both countries denied their culpability, but refused to cooperate in the investigation. Thirteen years after the shoot-down, the key witness in the on-going investigation was murdered, January, 1993.
In the early '80s, the CIA carried out a secret plan supervised by National Security Advisor John M. Poindexter, releasing false and inflammatory articles in the Wall Street Journal and other papers as "authoratative intelligence information" to deceive Khaddafy into thinking his key advisors were plotting with the U.S. military to remove him from office. This subversion was uncovered and reported by the Washington Post on October 2, 1985. Under pressure from the press, President Reagan initially denied but then admitted this covert activity.
Next, in retaliation for supposed Libyan involvement in the bombing of a discotheque, La Belle Disco, in Berlin in 1985 which killed two American soldiers wounding 229 patrons, President Reagan launched an air strike against Libya both at Tripoli and the port city of Benghazi with 111 U.S. fighter jets, which destroyed Khaddafy's home and headquarters, killed his little daughter and 200 Libyans. Not long after that Reagan taunted Khaddafy by parading our carriers just off his coast, and our jets shot down two Libyan fighters. Though the Libyans may not have been involved in the night club incident, the damage had been done.
Libyan Ambassador, Dr. Ali Treiki, in a 1986 interview, explained the U.S. government's attitude towards Khaddafy as a grudge that went back to the early days. He added, "America is the heir of British colonialism...there is no policy. "Libya is an easy target." The disco bombing case was reopened on November 19, 1997 in a Berlin court. Musbah Abulghasem Eter, once stationed in his country's former embassy in Communist East Berlin, had confessed, identifying five others.
In 1988, after PanAm Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie on December 21, our FBI was searching wildly for someone to blame. The Scottish police complained that our FBI removed, from their collection of objects found on the ground near Lockerbie, a suitcase, later returned.
Their police became suspicious of U.S. motives after the FBI insisted the returned suitcase be dropped in some appropriate Scottish field to be "rediscovered." The FBI then announced that suitcase had been placed aboard the PanAm plane in Frankfort unaccompanied by any passenger, and supposedly traced it to Malta Airways, targeting two Libyan nationals whom Khaddafy was then ordered to turn over to either U.S. or British courts for trial.
Meanwhile, a joint statement by both the Maltese and Libyan governments, after their own investigation noted, "According to the results of the enquiry, no suitcase that didn't belong to a passenger was loaded onboard that Maltese airline heading for Frankfort..."
Khaddafy arrested the two suspects, brought criminal charges against them, and invited outsiders to view the procedures. Thus, as Christopher Hitchens noted in The Nation, March 30, 1992, Libya complied with the 1971 Montreal Sabotage Convention of which Libya, as well as the U.S. and Britain, is a member.
Having observed the British corrupt Diploc courts, and the Bush Administration's ugly manipulation of the Florida federal court during the Noreiga trial, Khaddafy, to protect his countrymen, demanded the hearings be carried out in the Word Court at the Hague. However, because the Security Council, under intense pressure form Bush, interfered, the International Tribunal, on April 14, refused to intervene.
Khaddafy stated that Libya had met its obligations under the Montreal Agreement and was under no obligation to extradite the accused to either the U.S. or the United Kingdom, Libya having no extradition treaty with either country.
It was also pointed out by Francis A. Boyle, a professor of international law who handled Khaddafy's case, that the UN Charter says, "All members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered."
Christopher Hitchins in that same Nation article says, "Let me quote Professor Boyle directly. Noting the renewed threats of force against Libya and the refusal of the United States and Britain to accept international mediation, he state outright, 'Both states know full well that Libya was not responsible for the Lockerbie bombing.' "
In a media interview with Khadaffy-"Both Sides" with Jesse Jackson, June 24, 1993-Jackson asks Khaddafy, "Would you encourage them (the two accused) voluntarily to go and face or test U.S. courts or British courts? Col. Khadaffy responded, "They are afraid of America and England...they bombed their country, they killed the children, innocent people in 1985. How do we tell them, go to these two countries, when they are savage like this? America and Britain, particularly America...they fear it is terrorists."
To keep up the heat on Khadaffy, President Reagan warned Libya that a plant for manufacturing pharmaceuticals, being constructed some 40 miles from Tripoli, was in fact "making poison gas" and should be closed down. Khaddafy denied the charges. After Bush came to power and the controversy resurfaced, the Bonn government in Germany organized a European group, inspected the factory and reported pharmaceuticals were being made.
Our government's response was two-fold: You fellows are not experts and anyway, the Libyans could switch to poison gas manufacture anytime. On March 18, 1990, the plant was reported to be on fire, but a French satellite picture showed the main structures intact. Our CIA was accused of arson.
Not incidentally, the U.S. government finally admitted to having trained a rebel guerrilla force in Chad to invade Libya. This CIA plot bombed out when the exiles were caught before they even crossed the border. The New York Times, in March, 1991, reported the 600 men were then transferred to Kenya, which country was bribed into taking them with a $5 million reward designated for "improvement in its human rights efforts" from our State Department. Later, Washington shipped them to a military base in Zaire, a country The New York Times noted "whose government has long facilitated covert activities of the CIA." Libya's president eventually forgave most of them and they came home.
The next U.S. move came in April, 1992, when, despite the UN Charter requirement for peaceful arbitration, our UN Ambassador Pickering announced to the Security Council, "The issue at hand is not some difference of opinion that can be mediated or negotiated." Pickering pressured the Security Council into voting sanctions against Libya, including an air embargo, arms embargo, reduced embassy staffing, plus Libya's renunciation of "terrorism." China's Ambassador, Li Daoyu, vetoed the measure, but following a telephone call to his government by Bush, who threatened to remove the Most-Favored Nation status, the humiliated Dr. Li was forced to comply.
The U.S., however, cheated in this voting. As Professor Francis A. Boyle pointed out in a personal conversation: "To pass such a resolution, the Council must obtain nine concurring votes amongst its 15 members. Ten delegates voted for Resolution 731 with five abstaining; however, three of the yes votes were invalid. The UN charter specifically states that "a party to a dispute shall abstain from voting." France, Britain and the U.S. voted despite being involved as parties to the complaint."
So, in fact, Resolution 731 legally failed, but Bush and the British nevertheless trumpeted their victory over Khaddafy before the world. Then, on November 11, 1993, Clinton pressured the Security Council into voting even more severe sanctions against Libya.
Not long after Khadaffy had initiated in 1983 a huge engineering enterprise to bring water from Sahara desert aquifers through the mountains to Libya's rain-starved coastal plains, the main pumping station on this project came under criticism from our state Department. "We're focused on both chemical [weapons] and reports that Libya might try to develop a nuclear capability." Although administration officials publicly declined to confirm intelligence reports, White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said, "We're prepared to believe the worst." (McClatchy News Service)
(Recently, reporter Raymond Bonner in an extensive article (The New York Times, December 2, 1997) suggested Libya's vast desert pipeline could be a conduit for troops." Washington publicly poo-pooed this notion at a White House news conference the following day.
Today the air embargo against Libya is still in force, and severely restricts the day-to-day life of Libyan citizens. As John Holliman noted (CNN, June 26, 1993), "Libya is isolated. No airplanes fly in or out of the country. Businessmen, diplomats and tourists must travel nearly four hours over dangerous back country roads." In a Memorandum from Libya to the UN Secretary-General back in May of 1992, their health authorities complained that necessary medical supplies, which quickly deteriorate in the tropics and require air transport, were being denied Libyan citizens-vaccines, insulin, bacterial culture reagents. Their severely ill were denied access to hospitals in Europe and foreign medical specialists denied visas to enter Libya. Bush had responded to this complaint by asking the Security Council to expand the embargo to include Libya's chief export, oil, but failed to receive support from European nations dependent on Libyan oil and gas.
Collective punishment of a people with the intent of inflicting political damage on a ruler Washington can't control is not only an egregious human rights offense, but defies the Geneva Conventions of which the U.S. is a signatory. Libyans' living standards have plummeted because of this policy.
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