Click here for a video link to Ambassador Bolton’s interview with Bloomberg Television on September 2, 2011 on Libya. The interview took place at the annual Ambrosetti Forum in Italy.
The following is a transcript from Ambassador John R. Bolton’s appearance on Fox News Channel’s “America’s Newsroom” on August 29.
Editor’s note: New reports says the man known as “The Lockerbie Bomber” is on his death bed, once again. The following is from an interview with former U.N. ambassador John Bolton and Fox News Channel anchor Martha MacCallum on August 29 on “America’s Newsroom.”
MARTHA MacCALLUM, ANCHOR: We’re now told that The Lockerbie Bomber is indeed dying of cancer at his Libyan home. His brother spoke to journalists outside the home. Listen to this:
LOCKERBIE BOMBER’S BROTHER: The Lockerbie case is over. He came back to Libya because of a decision from the Scottish Justice Minister. He is a sick man.”
MacCALLUM: You know, I guess you can’t blame his brother for saying that, the family would like this to be over, they have their family member back home, and you know, it’s understandable that that’s their perspective, but a lot of people believe that since Qaddafi’s regime has fallen that maybe we would get another crack at Al Megrahi and getting him back where he belongs.
FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS/FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: JOHN BOLTON: Technically he’s still a Scottish prisoner. He’s basically out on parole, compassionate release, they call it, but you know, the terms of the deal under which he was tried under Scottish law ten years ago really were violated by Qaddafi through and through. He didn’t cooperate with the investigation. So I think it’s perfectly legitimate to look at another trial of Megrahi if we can do it before he dies.
I personally think this time the United States insist he be extradited to the United States. I think it was a mistake to agree to try him over Scottish law. Okay, that’s water over the dam but let’s get him back and see what we can do this time.
MacCALLUM: I’m reading a statement that was just released by an assistant to the first minister in Scotland and basically they’re saying this is a closed decision, they’re saying speculation about Al Megrahi in recent days has been unhelpful, unnecessary and indeed ill informed, as has always been said he is dying after terminal disease and decisions about his medical condition should be stopped there, they say they want to stop the running commentary on this issue so Scotland says this is not up for renegotiation. Who besides Scotland would we deal with if we want to force this issue and get him back to where he should be?
BOLTON: Speaking to someone whose heritage is Scottish, I have to say that that’s the most ridiculous thing, the way Scotland has conducted this is ridiculous, they don’t have the unilateral authority to make this decision.
It was a joint agreement with Britain, Scotland and the United States and they released Megrahi two years ago on the theory he was going to die in three months without adequately consulting us; I think they did it at the behest of the British, for British oil interests, but in any event, I think that now it is proper, it is appropriate, for the United States to insist to the new government, the Transitional National Council in Libya, that Megrahi be handed over to us, and I think we should have no hesitation in doing that.
MacCALLUM: But ambassador, the TNC said yesterday they see no reason to turn him over, that they will not turn over a Libyan citizen to the West, so this doesn’t say much for the TNC’s relationship with the rest of the world in terms of how it might have changed with regard to this issue to be sure.
BOLTON: Right. Well so much for gratitude. I understand this morning the transitional government has issued a retraction to that–understandably. They are still a little confused.
So I think we ought to give them a chance to make a decision to hand Megrahi over. I think this is entirely consistent with justice.
He killed 270 innocent people in cold blood, he served an average of two weeks per murder in that Scottish jail, just over ten years, before he was released. Two weeks for murder is not an adequate sentence.
I think we deserve another shot at him
MacCALLUM: A lot people, the families of those killed [on Pan Am 103] say the health–sorry to say it, but his health is really irrelevant in this case. If he dies in prison, so be it. A lot of people die in prison.
BOLTON: Yeah, look, compassion is entirely misplaced here. Think of those 259 passengers and crew on Pan Am 103, falling through the cold dark sky from 30,000 feet, then ask me why this man deserves compassion.
Check out Ambassador John Bolton’s interview with Sean Hannity on August 23, 2011. Topics include Libya and (briefly) Vice President Biden’s comments on China’s ‘one child policy.’
By John R. Bolton
Friday, July 29, 2011
While the outcome of NATO’s intervention in Libya is still uncertain, the ongoing drift toward a negotiated solution is fraught with potentially debilitating problems for the Western alliance. Ousting Qaddafi remains a possibility, and could have been achieved much earlier with swift and decisive action, but the prospects for a clear NATO victory are now quite uncertain.
The collapse of NATO’s resolve came in several stages, with the seeds planted right at the outset of the military action. First, President Obama signaled hesitancy and weakness by waiting until Qaddafi’s forces had nearly taken Benghazi , the rebels’ key stronghold, and then held NATO hostage to approval from the Arab League and the UN Security Council.
Second, after very robust U.S. participation in the opening days of the attack, Obama, demonstrating his penchant to “lead from behind,” ordered U.S. strike activity diminished almost to zero. While American forces assigned to NATO continued to provide vital command, control, intelligence and logistical support, the bulk of the strike mission fell to Britain , France and smaller NATO members, on which the strain began to show relatively quickly. America ’s hesitancy and Europe’s inadequacies have significance well beyond the constraints they imposed on the action in Libya , foreshadowing both future failures in U.S. leadership and a far broader hollowing out of Europe ’s contributions to NATO.
NATO’s credibility, in the region and globally, is already deeply wounded because this minor military operation, for ostensibly humanitarian purposes, has lasted so long with the outcome still uncertain (and Ramadan fast approaching). If NATO cannot rapidly depose a rogue like Qaddafi, why should other rogues fear the prospect of NATO intervention? Even if Qaddafi is ultimately toppled, the palpable risk is that NATO will be perceived to have stumbled in its own backyard, undercutting its ability to shape conflicts further afield, such as Afghanistan.
Third, in the wake of these military deficiencies, increasing political splits among NATO members became all too obvious. Germany was opposed from the outset, even abstaining in the Security Council with Brazil , India , and Permanent Members Russia and China on Resolution 1973, which authorized the use of force. This public distancing by Europe ’s largest country demonstrated to Qaddafi at the very outset of NATO’s attacks that time was likely on his side.
Then, on July 7, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi admitted publicly that he had always been a reluctant supporter of the military effort, and had essentially been forced to give Italy ’s assent because of outside political pressure, presumably from France and Britain . Berlusconi said that his “hands were tied” once the Security Council voted to authorize force to protect innocent Libyan civilians, but that seemed only a pretext to hide an otherwise embarrassing admission of ambivalence.
Shortly thereafter, on July 20, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe announced that France was open to negotiation with Qaddafi, including the dramatic concession that Qaddafi could be allowed to remain in Libya if he stepped down as head of government. The rebels quickly rejected any negotiated solution that left Qaddafi in country, stressing the obvious reality that as long as he remained, he would be a threat to any successor regime. One can only wonder how France and other Western governments missed that point.
Fourth, also in July, both President Obama and the U.S. Congress, after months of inattention, complicated matters further. The House of Representatives, in essentially contradictory floor votes, could not muster a majority either to authorize U.S. military involvement or to cut off funding, thereby sending, at best, a signal of indecisiveness. Then, even worse, Obama and Secretary of State Clinton publicly supported Russia ’s proposal that it step in between NATO and Qaddafi to mediate the crisis. If implemented, such a suggestion would give Russia a potentially dominant role in shaping the post-Qaddafi government in Libya, a breathtaking “unforced error” by Washington.
Finally, the United States and NATO have yet to fashion a rebel leadership committed to establishing a successor government based on popular sovereignty and individual rights, with at least a modestly pro-Western orientation. It would be the cruelest irony if NATO’s military intervention simply substituted one group of thugs for another. Although the shape of post-Qaddafi Libya may not be as bleak as it seems on the surface, time and the West’s internal divisions work against us.
The solution is plain: NATO and the Libyan rebels must prevail militarily, ousting Qaddafi and installing a new government that will abstain from terrorism and the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. An outcome where Qaddafi remains at large in Libya, in control of any part of it, or any kind of power-sharing arrangement, is simply a formula for the conflict to reignite, and probably sooner rather than later.
Unfortunately, with Obama concentrated on the domestic American debate over the federal budget deficit and the ballooning national debt, and Europe ’s attention similarly diverted by the Euro’s ongoing crisis, the prospects for decisive leadership appear remote. This failure of leadership, especially on Obama’s part, will almost certainly haunt NATO well into the future, long after the “kinetic military action” in Libya has ended.
Weary NATO forces and the Libyan rebels signaled recently that they might allow Qaddafi to stay in Libya, so long as he stays out of politics.
In a press conference Monday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said said Britain would accept an agreement allowing Qaddafi to remain in Libya after stepping down from power.
“He must never again be able to threaten the lives of Libyan civilians nor to destabilize Libya once he has left power,” Hague said. “Obviously, leaving Libya itself would be the best way of showing the Libyan people they no longer have to live in fear of Qaddafi. But as I have said all along, this is ultimately a question for Libyans to determine.”
The announcement came after rebel leader Mustapha Abdul Jalil said Libya’s rebels signaled they would be willing to allow Qaddafi to stay under certain conditions.
“Whether he remains in Libya or whether he goes elsewhere, it is for Libyans to decide through a national dialogue that will be implemented under the aegis of the National Transitional Council,” Jalil told reporters, referring to the rebels’ administration.
And in July 20, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé told French TV that “one of the hypotheses that’s envisioned is, indeed, that (Qaddafi) stays in Libya on the condition he very clearly leaves Libyan political life”.
The statements are a dramatic shift from earlier rhetoric. British Prime Minister David Cameron said in March that Gaddafi must be exiled. And Hillary Clinton said in April that the Libyan leader must “step down and leave Libya.”
The U.S. has ceded the brunt of military operations to its NATO allies, mostly Britain. A column by The Guardian’s Simon Tisdall laid out the challenges Britain faces moving forward.
“Public support for Nato’s open-ended military campaign in Libya, never strong to start with, is waning,” Tisdall wrote. “Nato members such as Germany refused to get involved in the first place while others, such as Norway, have curtailed active involvement. Backing from Arab League countries, militarily at least, has been disappointing, and from African states nonexistent.”
Meanwhile, what’s left of Qaddafi’s government has said it won’t sit at the bargaining table until NATO air strikes cease.
“This aggression needs to stop immediately, without that we cannot have a dialogue, we cannot solve any problems in Libya,” Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi Ali Al-Mahmoudi told a news conference after talks with a visiting U.N. envoy.
John Bolton | www.bloomberg.com July 7, 2011
Confused U.S. Policy to Blame for Libya’s Muddle:
Illustration by Chris Nosenzo
Although it is sensible for the allies to remove the dangers posed by Muammar Qaddafi’s threatened return to international terrorism, to date there is little positive to say about the political leadership of the operation.
Last week, French authorities acknowledged parachuting “light weapons” (including machine guns and rocket launchers) to rebel forces in western Libya. The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, immediately criticized the move, arguing that it violated a United Nations Security Council resolution from March that imposed an arms embargo on Libya.
France responded that it had authority to supply weapons to the rebels because of a subsequent council resolution authorizing military force to protect Libyan civilians, under the “responsibility to protect” doctrine. China, which with Russia had abstained on that resolution, sided with Moscow. Britain, meanwhile, disclosed that it was supplying the insurgents with body armor and uniforms, having earlier acknowledged sending military advisers to Libya to assist them.
In a further development last week, Spanish officials expressed concern that weapons from forces loyal to Qaddafi were coming into the hands of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, known as AQIM. Either Qaddafi was conveying the weapons directly to help the group carry out terrorist attacks against the West, or his disintegrating forces were selling their arms to finance their post-Qaddafi way of life.
Either way, AQIM capabilities are being enhanced because of the inability of the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to bring the Libyan conflict to what we used to call “victory” in the less-nuanced, less-sophisticated days before President Barack Obama took office.
These most recent signs of incoherence in our Libyan intervention underscore the broader risks of failure there. Despite efforts to reset relations with Russia, which in several cases have been little short of appeasement, Moscow remains dissatisfied with U.S. policy. Indeed, Lavrov’s recent caustic comments about the Libyan operation suggest that the Obama administration’s approach is reaping what accommodation often produces: demands for yet more accommodation. Although Beijing hasn’t yet been as vocal in its criticism, the Chinese undoubtedly perceive the same U.S. weakness and indecisiveness.
Obama set the tone for this exercise in Libya at the outset. He limited the military mission to protecting civilians; by his own admission, he waited to act until the very last minute when rebel strongholds were under imminent attack; he declared publicly there would be no U.S. “boots on the ground”; and he insisted on advance approval by the UN Security Council and the Arab League.
Then, after U.S. forces dominated the first days of the “kinetic military activity,” his administration abruptly ceased most U.S. strike missions, even as it continued to supply the logistical, operational and intelligence backbone for air operations by NATO. By pretending to abdicate to our alliance partners, we behaved as if NATO hadn’t from its inception been U.S.-led and dominated, leaving our allies shaking their heads.
On March 18, Obama expressly said he wanted Qaddafi removed from power, but that we wouldn’t use force to do so: “We are not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal — specifically, the protection of civilians in Libya.” This is the “responsibility to protect” doctrine, which countenances force for humanitarian purposes, at least as defined by those dropping the ordnance.
Subsequently, NATO strikes have killed one of Qaddafi’s children and three of his grandchildren, and the regime claims numerous other civilians have also died. NATO has admitted to mistakenly attacking rebel convoys on more than one occasion.
Even humanitarian interventions can cause tragedies.
This inherent confusion among our stated goals, the numerous restrictions imposed on NATO forces, and Obama’s unwillingness to do what is necessary — namely, removing Qaddafi — means that the Libyan operation has no end in sight.
Here is where the self-gratifying, morally smug concept of the “responsibility to protect” unravels. The dispute between Russia and France over the terms of Security Council resolutions isn’t legalistic quibbling about almost incomprehensible UN- speak. Instead, it reflects a real disagreement over what the appropriate and necessary action is, and equally importantly, who can authorize and control it.
Violating Arms Embargo
Improbably, Moscow actually has the better analysis; the resolution authorizing force to protect civilians reaffirmed the earlier arms embargo, meaning governments must adhere to both provisions, not choose between them. France’s interpretation requires arguing that the resolutions are ambiguous or internally contradictory, though that wouldn’t be a first for the Security Council.
The lesson Russia and China will learn is that Obama’s understanding of hard power and cold steel is inadequate at best, and that his leadership is in rhetoric rather than action. They will see the Libya episode as a further signal of the decline of U.S. resolve and of our capability to act decisively in distant lands.
The lesson for the U.S. is that it shouldn’t always ask permission from foreigners when pursuing its interests, but can ask forgiveness later if necessary. That, of course, is the conclusion Obama is least likely to derive. The absence of clear U.S. leadership on Libya has produced the current impasse, both diplomatically and militarily. Although NATO should ultimately prevail, it is wrenching that our president has caused so many of the problems we now confront.
(John Bolton, who served as ambassador to the United Nations in the administration of President George W. Bush, is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. The opinions expressed are his own.)
By John R. Bolton
Last Friday’s House of Representatives vote on President Obama’s Libya policy was characterized widely as reflecting bipartisan dissatisfaction with Mr. Obama’s failure to consult with Congress. There was indeed ample Capitol Hill disagreement with his handling of Libya — for a variety of reasons — but the real story is even more troubling.
Certainly, Mr. Obama has ignored the War Powers Act, but so have all his predecessors since its enactment, and rightly so, given the statute’s manifest unconstitutionality. Undoubtedly, Mr. Obama’s approach in Libya has grown increasingly incoherent even as NATO slowly comes closer to achieving the one legitimate U.S. national security interest involved: overthrowing Col. Moammar Gadhafi .
But what was most disturbing in the legislative maneuvering before Friday’s vote – and vastly underreported by the media – was the near total absence of Mr. Obama and his White House staff from the political field of battle. Not only is the president unable to conceal his general disinterest in national security policy, but neither could he be bothered to exercise political leadership within his own party at a critical moment.
Observers across the political spectrum concurred that the proposal offered by Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, Ohio Democrat, harshly criticizing Mr. Obama’s handling of Libya was very likely to pass the House. To the growing dismay of the Republican House leadership, Mr. Kucinich was gathering support from an unusual coalition of members dissatisfied with the president’s Libya policy, questioning its underlying objectives, its absence of an intelligible American strategy and its flawed implementation.
Some Republicans disagreed with the Libya intervention, and others sought to show that the disarray in Mr. Obama’s Libya strategy demonstrated his general foreign-policy ineptitude. But the more fundamental problem was that House Democrats were defecting in droves from the White House, which was doing little or nothing to bring them back into line to support their president.
While passage of the Kucinich amendment would have had no operational effect because it surely would have died in the Senate, the political signal internationally would have been debilitating. Washington’s credibility and staying power would have been called immediately into question, and not just in Libya, but in Afghanistant, Iraq and elsewhere. That may be precisely what many congressional Democrats, increasingly vocal in their opposition to the war in Afghanistan, intended.
House Speaker John A. Boehner recognized the national security implications of a Kucinich victory. To head it off, Mr. Boehner crafted an alternative amendment, highly critical of Mr. Obama’s actions in Libya, to be sure, but not a text that would call into question U.S. resolve in Libya or elsewhere. Mr. Boehner’s holding action succeeded, thus buying time for the administration to get its act together on Libya. Nonetheless, Mr. Kucinich’s near success has already caused significant damage.
Mr. Obama’s incoherence on Libya exemplifies the failed approach to national security issues characterizing his administration from the outset. First, Mr. Obama’s objectives in Libya have been unclear and contradictory, and they have shifted over time. He started by declaring that the use of force was to protect Libyan civilians – not to topple Col. Gadhafi. Today, however, the obvious military objective is the removal of the Libyan leader but, apparently, not to admit it publicly, and to accomplish it slowly and ineffectively. Had Col. Gadhafi’s downfall been the initial, unambiguous objective and had Mr. Obama moved swiftly and decisively, our intervention likely would have been concluded successfully by now and we could be working to secure a pro-Western successor regime.
Second, Mr. Obama’s aversion to U.S. leadership and his decision to retreat behind the facade of NATO and the U.N. Security Council was clearly mistaken. No one was fooled about America’s continuing central role militarily, but the charade has impeded finishing the job. Mr. Obama’s weakness and indecisiveness continue to risk having Libya descend into anarchy or split into two states and undercut our credibility and commitment elsewhere.
Third, as last week’s near-debacle in the House showed regarding Libya, Mr. Obama seems unwilling to defend and explain his policies, implying a dangerous lack of confidence or interest in his own leadership. By inexplicably not attempting to rally fellow Democrats to support his actions in Libya, he risked a self-inflicted political wound that could have undermined our national security policy in many other international arenas. Even worse, particularly when it comes to impending decisions on U.S. force levels in Afghanistan, is the possibility that Mr. Obama or his White House staff actually agree more with the anti-war Democrats than with our war-fighting generals. It is as if Mr. Obama’s heart is not truly in the military effort in Afghanistan that he has commanded these past 2 1/2 years. Either explanation is deeply troubling.
Mr. Boehner and the House Republican leadership saved the Obama administration from itself last week and thereby did the country an important service. But this surely is a thankless task, one not easily replicable in the months ahead as the 2012 elections draw ever closer.
by John Bolton | The Boston Herald
Opponents of the Vietnam War — that seemingly endless, inconclusive, increasingly unpopular and ever-more-deadly and costly conflict — called it a “quagmire.” They said it was unwinnable and should never have been fought, and that America must avoid similar future wars. Today, our real risk of “quagmire” is Libya.
Our Nobel Peace Prize-winning president has gotten things badly wrong. By demanding Moammar Gadhafi’s ouster while restricting U.S. military force to the more limited objective of protecting civilians, Barack Obama has set himself up for massive strategic failure. Continue reading “Obama wobbly on Libya”
John R. Bolton | Earth Times
Today trial begins for two Libyan intelligence agents, accused of the heinous murder of 270 innocent civilians in the terrorist bombing of Pan Am 103. At first glance, the prosecution’s formal opening in a Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands may seem like something to celebrate, a time for rhetoric about “the rule of law” in international affairs. We will certainly hear a good deal of that from the Clinton administration.
Unfortunately, however, the trial may actually mark the final collapse of U.S. efforts for a real vindication of Pan Am 103′s victims. This collapse embodies both a failure of will to use military force to respond to a brutal attack on our citizens, and a self-imposed, potentially crippling limitation on even the narrow avenue of prosecution. While this erroneous approach started in the Bush administration, it has been refined and perfected by the Clinton State Department’s assertive multilateralists. Equally repellent, we must simultaneously watch the spectacle of the administration’s pell-mell rush to resume full diplomatic relations with Libya, as soon as it can elide the inconvenient indignation of the Pan Am 103 families and their congressional allies.
What is going on here? How have we allowed such a policy to develop to full maturity? Most importantly, what can be done now that trial is commencing at the specially prepared courtroom at Camp Zeist, a former U.S. base near Amsterdam?
First, 11-plus years after Pan Am 103′s destruction and nine years since American and Scottish prosecutors indicted these two defendants, we are long past any realistic prospect of a proper military response. All we can do now is note our basic mistake in 1991-92 to judicialize this issue rather than to use force, in contrast with President Reagan’s decision to launch air strikes against Libya for the 1986 “disco bombing” of U.S. servicemen in Germany. Although it sounds better to unleash hardheaded prosecutors rather than weak-kneed diplomats against terrorists, there is a better option still: cold steel.
Second, the United States was wrong from the outset to take the Pan Am 103 attack to the Security Council, and to cabin ourselves in United Nations processes. We were barely able to gain support for the initial condemnation of Libya or the imposition of sanctions, and we have been under continuous pressure since, largely from Europeans who would rather trade with Moammar Gadhafi than punish him for murder. Ironically, not even Col. Gadhafi is playing along with this charade. In an April 3 speech to the African-European summit in Cairo, he declared that “Africa is not a ping-pong ball to be hit once by Europe, once by the U.S.,” and “we do not need democracy; we need water pumps.”
Unfortunately, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s unseemly haste for normalization with Libya embodies the State Department’s typical deference to the European Union, combined with the Near East bureau’s inevitable “clientitis” toward authoritarian regimes. Only the unlikely but powerful combination of Sens. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican, and Edward Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, has slowed the effervescent secretary of state, through their resolution, recently adopted by the full Senate, opposing the rush toward normalization.
Third, Mrs. Albright, demonstrating she is no prosecutor, has made several critical mistakes in the handling of the trial itself. Initially, she conceded, without gaining anything in return, that the case would be tried under Scottish law, which does not provide for the death penalty for convicted murderers.
Then, and even worse, she and her diplomats acquiesced in a letter sent by Secretary General Kofi Annan to Col. Gadhafi, which essentially guaranteed Col. Gadhafi that he would not be linked to the murders at the trial. Thus, even if the two intelligence operatives are convicted, Col. Gadhafi will escape prosecution, even though he is widely believed to have given the direct order that led to Pan Am 103′s destruction. Compounding this last blunder, Mrs. Albright has waged a full-scale war against the Pan Am 103 families, Rep. Ben Gilman, New York Republican, and other members of Congress, and numerous journalists who have been trying to obtain a copy of the Annan letter. This policy of compromising with Col. Gadhafi but stonewalling American family members has only increased concerns about what the Annan letter actually says.
Fourth, the Clinton administration has no clue what it will do if the Scottish judges at Camp Zeist acquit the Libyan defendants. This result is entirely possible, given the high standard of proof required for convictions, the lack of cooperation from the Libyan government, and the prosecutors’ needs to shield sensitive intelligence sources and methods from exposure at trail. A finding of “not guilty” (or a so-called “Scottish verdict”) is not the legal or moral equivalent of finding the defendants “innocent,” but no one will recognize that distinction in the trail’s aftermath. Col. Gadhafi and his fellow thugs will have beaten the rap, and Mrs. Albright can proceed toward diplomatic normalization unencumbered by any further obligation to the Pan Am 103 families.
Inexplicably, only a few members of Congress have even monitored, let alone opposed, the collapse of America’s opposition to Libya’s outrages. Nor has it been the subject of debate in the presidential campaign, at least until now. While the defendants on trial at Camp Zeist may ultimately be convicted, there is no prospect of adequate justice while Col. Gadhafi remains untouched. Since that seems sadly likely, we need a larger debate about how America asserts its interests and protects its citizens from attack, by terrorists or anyone else. This requires an American posture that accepts military force rather than prosecution as the preferred response, that is willing and even inclined to respond unilaterally to be effective, and that has an attention span long enough to allow us to win through to vindication. Questions of international terrorism – and Libya particularly – fully warrant presidential campaign debate.
John R. Bolton | Washington Post
Appeasement is a harsh charge to make against any government, especially one’s own. Policies can be badly mistaken without actually amounting to what Webster’s defines as the “sacrifice of moral principle in order to avert aggression.” How much worse, therefore, to sacrifice moral principle after aggression has already occurred, which is exactly what has happened in the case of Pan Am 103’s murderous destruction.
The U.S. government has believed for a decade that two Libyan intelligence agents committed this act of international terrorism at the direct behest of Libya’s leader Moammar Gadhafi. Security Council economic sanctions failed to persuade Gadhafi to hand over the defendants, largely because he feared being exposed thereby as the leader of the terrorist conspiracy.
Why, then, did he finally, and very reluctantly, produce the accused last year for trial before a special Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands? The victims’ families have suspected for some time that a deal, implicit or explicit, existed among the United States, the United Kingdom (which both had jurisdiction to prosecute those accused of blowing Pan Am 103 out of the sky) and Libya. Seven years of ill-concealed warfare between the Departments of State and Justice over how to handle the case corroborated that misgiving.
On Aug. 25 the evidence of appeasement was made public. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan had written to Gadhafi on Feb. 17, 1999, transmitting the U.S.-U.K.-Libyan “understanding” about what would happen if the “two persons” were remanded for trial pursuant to Security Council resolutions.
That understanding reads unambiguously: “The two persons will not be used to undermine the Libyan regime.” This breathtaking concession to Gadhafi, the likely ringleader of the conspiracy, was the necessary assurance that he was not personally at risk and that his agents could be sacrificed to Libya’s larger objective of breaking out of the “rogue state” category.
Although Washington and London tried to spin this damning sentence, their own purported justification simply confirms the perversion of justice to which they agreed. They say the “no undermining” pledge was “in response to Libyan concern that the U.S. and U.K. intended to somehow coerce the two suspects in an effort to undermine the Libyan regime,” as if coercion was a common tool of Anglo-American jurisprudence. Spin control cannot obscure the plain meaning of the “no undermining” words.
The United Nations itself shredded this facade. Hans Corell, undersecretary general for legal affairs, when asked about the language, said: “It is not for me to explain that sentence. This is information given by the countries involved to the Libyan authorities.” Corell said that Annan “was not involved in negotiating this text.” Indeed. To their shame, America and Britain negotiated the language.
If this is what was put in writing, imagine what was conveyed verbally. It is a pardon for Gadhafi, despite current protestations to the contrary, unless one believes that his indictment, prosecution and incarceration would not “undermine” his regime.
The understanding in Annan’s letter contains other precedent-setting concessions that effectively grant Gadhafi long-term political-psychological control over the defendants if they are convicted and imprisoned. There will be “a role for the United Nations in monitoring” their conditions. The prisoners will have “unfettered access to legal and diplomatic representatives,” and “an official Libyan presence in Scotland will be allowed for that purpose,” as well as visits by “clerics.” They may complain if “some aspect of their place of imprisonment was contrary to humanitarian concerns,” should Scottish jails not be up to high Libyan standards. There is no possibility of the death penalty, because the Clinton administration gave that up, without getting anything in return, when it agreed the case would be tried under Scottish law.
Also troubling are the administration’s extraordinary efforts to keep Annan’s letter from reaching Congress, the media and victims’ families. State classified it to foil Freedom of Information Act requests and refused several bipartisan congressional efforts to see it. Now we know why. (The letter was released at the request of the defense in the pending trial.)
The Pan Am 103 trial may or may not produce justice for the two defendants, but through an unambiguous act of appeasement, Gadhafi will likely never have to answer for his role in the tragedy. We can only hope that public release of the black-and-white evidence of our surrender will slow the administration’s rush to normalize diplomatic and commercial relations with his still-criminal regime.