A Challenge to Bill O’Reilly on Libya
On his Monday Fox News Channel program, The O’Reilly Factor, Bill O’Reilly criticized the Obama administration for refusing to state that the goal of U.S. participating in air strikes on Libya for the last 72 hours was not merely to stop Libyan ruler Muʿammar al-Qaḏḏāfī’s attacks on “his own people,” but to topple Qaḏḏāfī. O’Reilly argued both in his “Talking Points Memo” and with guests including Karl Rove and Brit Hume that the U.S. military action was long-delayed revenge for Libyan involvement with the December 21, 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, a Boeing 747, which crashed in Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew members, as well as 11 victims on the ground.
O’Reilly’s argument regarding a hidden agenda for the U.S. attack has the merit of answering the question “Why now?” since it’s only in the last month that resigned Libyan justice minister Mustafa Abdel-Jalil has claimed that Muʿammar al-Qaḏḏāfī personally ordered the Lockerbie bombing.
Repeatedly O’Reilly and many other Fox News pundits play a clip from April 14, 1986 of President Ronald Reagan calling Qaḏḏāfī a terrorist the day before Operation El Dorado Canyon in which the United States made air strikes on Qaḏḏāfī’s compound.
Brit Hume, interviewed by O’Reilly Monday, recapped history that Reagan’s shooting missiles into Qaḏḏāfī’s compound ended Qaḏḏāfī making extravagant territorial claims.
Operation El Dorado Canyon didn’t permanently stop Muʿammar al-Qaḏḏāfī’s state sponsorship of terrorism, however, since two years later Qaḏḏāfī sponsored the terrorist bombing of Pan Am 103.
But what O’Reilly and other Fox News commentators have been silent on is:
- That between 2003 and 2008 Libya paid over $1.5 billion in monetary compensation to the families of Pan Am 103 victims (and the Bush administration agreed to obtain private funding to pay the Libyan victims of Reagan’s missile attack over $300 million in compensation);
- That Muʿammar al-Qaḏḏāfī did what Saddam Hussein did not do by complying with U.S. demands that he abandon his pursuit of nuclear weapons and allow full inspection to verify that Libya was WMD free;
- That not only did the United States remove Libya from its list of State Sponsors of Terrorism on May 15, 2006 due to what U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice called “Libya’s continued commitment to its renunciation of terrorism” — and the following day resumed diplomatic relations with Libya — but that in November 2008 President Bush spoke directly with Muʿammar al-Qaḏḏāfī.
So precisely what justification is there for the United States to engage in bombing another country that has not represented a clear and present danger to the United States or its citizens for years, and use its military forces to capture or kill a foreign head of state with whom the United States has had working diplomatic relations — especially when, in a personal letter from Muʿammar al-Qaḏḏāfī to President Obama, Qaḏḏāfī claims those “of his own people” who are trying to depose him are, in fact, allied with al-Qaeda?
Perhaps one can justifiably be skeptical of Muʿammar al-Qaḏḏāfī’s claims that the people trying to depose him are from the same terrorist group that attacked America on 9/11 — and ask Qaḏḏāfī for some proof — but when dealing with a foreign head of state who has been willing to play ball with the United States, Mr. O’Reilly — and leaving out the arguments made on your show Monday by Congressman Dennis Kucinich that President Obama did not fulfill his constitutional requirement to seek Congressional approval before authorizing a U.S. military attack on a foreign power — isn’t there a case to be made that shooting first and asking questions later is, at the very least, rude?
And that later attacking heads of state who’ve renounced terrorism and literally paid for their crimes might discourage others from doing so?
Update from J. Neil Schulman, March 26, 2011:
Libyan rebel commander admits his fighters have al-Qaeda links — The Telegraph
By Praveen Swami, Nick Squires and Duncan Gardham 5:00PM GMT 25 Mar 2011
Mr al-Hasidi admitted he had earlier fought against ‘the foreign invasion’ in Afghanistan Photo: AFP
Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, the Libyan rebel leader, has said jihadists who fought against allied troops in Iraq are on the front lines of the battle against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.
In an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, Mr al-Hasidi admitted that he had recruited “around 25″ men from the Derna area in eastern Libya to fight against coalition troops in Iraq. Some of them, he said, are “today are on the front lines in Adjabiya”.
Mr al-Hasidi insisted his fighters “are patriots and good Muslims, not terrorists,” but added that the “members of al-Qaeda are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader”.
His revelations came even as Idriss Deby Itno, Chad’s president, said al-Qaeda had managed to pillage military arsenals in the Libyan rebel zone and acquired arms, “including surface-to-air missiles, which were then smuggled into their sanctuaries”.
Update from J. Neil Schulman, March 24, 2011:
I may have buried my lead on this story — not brought out right at the beginning the key point: Bill O’Reilly, Fox News, and war hawks like Senator John McCain are ignoring that the Bush administration declared that Muʿammar al-Qaḏḏāfī was no longer a state sponsor of terrorism, and restablished full diplomatic relations that the Obama administration was still expanding one year ago today!
Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs gives speech prior to opening ceremony.
New Consular Section Open in Tripoli
Tripoli – On March 24th, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, Janice L. Jacobs, cut the ribbon on the new Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy located on Jeraba Street in the Ben Ashour neighborhood of Tripoli. More than seventy guests, among them Libyan government officials, press, students, businesspeople, and foreign diplomats attended the ceremony. U.S. Ambassador to Libya Gene A. Cretz introduced the Assistant Secretary and emphasized the tremendous progress that the Embassy had made in issuing visas to Libyans over the past year. In less than twelve months, the Embassy has issued over 4,500 non-immigrant visas to Libyan tourists, businesspeople, students, and government officials.
The Ambassador,consular staff office, and huge presence of guests and media attending opening ceremony.
Condoleezza Rice’s visit opens new era in US-Libya relations
Condoleezza Rice Meets Muʿammar al-Qaḏḏāfī
End of Update