Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Oh, Libya, Pt. II

There's a good article in TPM Cafe today about Libya. Below is a comment I made in which I (more soberly than before) summarized my take on the mis-telling of the Libya story.

Hm, I think I disagree with a few aspects of your account of recent Libyan history.

As I discussed here, I profiled Seif Al Qaddafi, the Libyan crown prince (though he strongly rejects that term), a few years ago. Well before the war in Iraq started, he was arguing that Libya had long been trying to negotiate disarmament, but Europe and the US wouldn't engage talks, because of the Lockerbie problem.

It's hard to underestimate the significance of that Lockerbie settlement, which I consider the main impediment (certainly in the last 10 years) to the normalization of relations. Qaddafi senior is commited to Libyan prosperity (in addition to protecting his own power, of course), and he didn't want to follow Castro's example. The pressures to negotiate were pragmatic and economic, not at all military. He couldn't budge on Lockerbie, however, because of the possibility of having to pay huge, huge settlements and perhaps go before the ICC.

To the extent that military operations in Iraq affected negotiations, they affected them negatively. "If the US unilaterally invades Iraq, we will help our Arab brothers," said Seif a year before the invasion began. That was after he had pointed out that Libya had been trying to draw US attention to Al Qaeda for years before 9/11.

To the commenter above, my impression from Seif (who did lose members of his immediate family in the bombing on his residence) was that those bombings made the Libyans strongly distrust the US. They considered bombing women and children deeply dishonorable. I also got the impression that they (with some justification) consider Reagan/Bush/Bush part of one group of leaders, so this Bush is associated with those bombings.

The resentment and distrust is perhaps best exemplified in one of Seif's oil paintings (he is a widely exhibited painter, after all, though often the galleries are subsidized by the Qaddafi Foundation). In the painting, American fighter jets bomb a home as a child runs away screaming. On a personal level, discussing the bombing was the only time that Seif (who longed to study in the US and was almost giddy, if a bit envious, when discussing Ivy League colleges with me) got noticeably upset and hostile.

In short, that bombing was probably counterproductive if the long-term goal was bringing Libya into the community of nations.

Tags: news and politics, libya, bush


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