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2003-12-22

Is The Libya Agreement To Abandon Arms Programs For Security Or For Oil?

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On the 15th anniversary of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 that killed 270 people, Libya agrees to give up its arms program and reestablish diplomatic ties. We speak with the mother of one of the victims as well as a biographer of Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. [includes transcript]

Libya is ready to sign a protocol allowing surprise UN inspections of its nuclear sites. This follows Friday’s announcement of Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s decision to abandon all efforts to develop any chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. The decision reportedly followed nine month of secret negotiations with Britain and the United States.

Libya is already a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but the protocol allows for tougher, short-notice visits of nuclear sites by IAEA experts. Several states in the Middle East including Egypt and Iran welcomed Libya’s announcement and urged Israel to follow suit by eliminating any banned weapons it may have.

Several papers are reporting Libya hopes to gain lucrative oil contracts blocked by U.S. sanctions as well as reap other economic benefits form the decision. Libyan Prime Minister Shukri Ghanem told the BBC "We are turning our swords into plowshares, and this step should be appreciated and followed by all other countries." The U.S. is the one country that maintains sweeping sanctions, which were imposed in 1986 accusing Libya of supporting terrorist groups.

American oil companies own joint-venture concessions in Libyan oil fields, but sanctions have blocked them from developing those fields.

The announcement came the day before the 15th anniversary of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland which killed 270 people. After years of denials, Gaddafi admitted to Libya’s role in the bombing earlier this year. Relatives of people killed in the attack gathered at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday for a memorial service.

  • Susan Cohen, her only child, Theodora, was killed in the Lockerbie bombing. She was 20 years old and one of 25 students from Syracuse University who were klilled in the bombing.
  • Andrew Lycett, author of Qaddafi and the Libyan Revolution (Little Brown and Company, 1987) He joins us on the phone from London.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We are joined on the phone by Andrew Lycett, who is author of "Qaddafi and the Libyan Revolution." He joins us on the phone from London. And we are joined by Susan Cohen, her only daughter Theodora was killed in the Lockerbie bombing. Theodora was 20 years old, one of 25 students from Syracuse University were killed in the attack. Susan Cohen, let’s begin with you. You were in Washington yesterday at the Arlington National Cemetery. Can you tell us your response to this announcement?

SUSAN COHEN: I think it’s absolutely appalling, a total betrayal and really something the oil companies have wanted for a great deal of time. I find it ironic today that I see today Saddam Hussein coming out of a hole, Milosevic in court, and Muammar Gaddafi being sanctified. Jack Straw said that Gaddafi is a great statesman. You know, my only child has been murdered. My life has been shattered. The blowing up of Pan Am 103 was a terrible, terrible war crime. And I’m afraid I don’t see Muammar Gaddafi, dictator, tyrant, mass murderer, and terrorist as a great statesman. So, I think the smear that will be put on this is oh, look, this is wonderful with the WMD. Look, he’s going to give it up.

There are two possibilities here. One, is he doesn’t have really very much. Let’s look at what happened with Iraq. Two, whatever he gives up, he can get again at any time once he has the wealth and technology that will flow to him when the commercial sanctions are lifted and diplomatic relations are restored. I really think this is a very, very bad thing. It’s just the bad guys getting away with it again. That’s all this is. This is not in any way this great step forward. That is going to have to be shown. I would like to point out that President Bush was not with the families yesterday, has not shown any compassion in his statement. He praised Gaddafi. He certainly didn’t show any sympathy for us. I think if you look at the oil guys and you look at that, that is the true story of what is going on. It is about making money. That Gaddafi should be there and that the very people to helped to plan the bombing were involved in the planning an working out of this deal to bring everyone together really does show what a farce and fraud our whole war on terrorism is.

AMY GOODMAN: Andrew Lycett, author of "Gaddafi and the Libyan Revolution," what is your take on what has now been announced the surprise announcement on Friday by President Bush?

ANDREW LYCETT: Well, I cannot deny the main thrust of some of what Susan Cohen says in that I think it’s a time for being on our guard in the sense that Gaddafi remains this mercurial, dangerous character. But on the other hand, what I have to disagree with there is that there is this opportunity to make sort of a way forward in the Middle East. There’s somebody who now by all accounts and also by logic almost, is not a great threat to the world. There is a country with something like 5 million people. It’s always been a country that even in its sort of heyday when it was a dangerous threat to European security, at least, in the 1980’s, it was always a country that could be slapped down and that’s what America did very easily in the 1980’s. Since then, Gaddafi has gone underground, almost or gone to ground is what I mean to say, and he has been rethinking his take world. He has been certainly after the American raids on Tripoli–he was very depressed. Okay. He did come one the Lockerbie bombing, that atrocious incident. But Gaddafi has been in the last few years been looking for a way back into the world community, and I think that the United States and Britain are right to at least go some way to meeting him, and to see what he has to offer.

AMY GOODMAN: We have to break for stations to identify themselves, Susan Cohen and we’ll return to you. We’re talking about the surprise announcement Friday by President Bush that Muammar Gaddafi, the leader of Libya, has agreed to do away with any development of weapons of mass destruction. This, right on the anniversary–the 15th anniversary of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

AMY GOODMAN: We talk about the surprise announcement that Libya has agreed not to develop weapons of mass destruction. The announcement was made by President Bush Friday. We’re joined on the phone by Andrew Lycett, author of "Qaddafi and the Libyan Revolution," and Susan Cohen, whose only child Theodora was killed in the Lockerbie bombing. She was 20 years old, one of the Syracuse University group of students who were killed in that bombing. Susan Cohen, you wanted to respond to Andrew Lycett.

SUSAN COHEN: You know, I get pretty sick of this kind of talk. There used to be a lot of this kind of talk in the days of Hitler, you know, peace in our time. Muammar Gaddafi blew up an American plane. And may I point out, no WMD very much was involved in that. That was a little syntax as our 9-11 we have a few planes. I don’t want to hear that suddenly, oh well, now this man is ready to change. First…ready to change his ways. There are some crimes that are totally unforgivable, and, you know, there are some tyrants who are really not to be tolerated. So, I am sorry, I don’t care whether Gaddafi has been made for the moment someone to fear or wanting to get all of his — what does he want? He wants to get a lot richer. That doesn’t represent much of a change. You do not have a foreign policy where you turn around and you reward someone like this, and that you can come back from an act like that. If we have a war on terrorism and maybe some of the people who listen to this don’t really want a war on terrorism, but one was brought to our shores. If you have a war on terrorism, you don’t have policies and appeasement like this, you got 9-11 in part because of this kind of policy. I am sorry. Muammar Gaddafi is a murderer. He is the worst one there. There is nothing that was done to us by Saddam Hussein that equals what Gaddafi did. So, no, I’m sorry. I don’t think that just because he wants to turn around now and make money with the oil boys that that is reason enough for us to do this, for the western democracies to cave as they did with Hitler and say, well, it’s okay.

AMY GOODMAN: Recently, Muammar Gaddafi agreed to what settlement both for the — for you the families of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing, and also the negotiation that’s been going on with French victims.

SUSAN COHEN: Well, I can tell you that that deal on the money is — my husband and I took the money from of the lifting of the U.N. sanctions. Within the U.N. resolution there was a place for that. That should have been the end of that. The deal that was worked out was absolutely disgusting. It involves paying the families $4 million when commercial sanctions were lifted, and $2 million if he gets off the terrorism list. I’d like to point out that I am not taking that. We are giving up a possible $6 million because there is no way that the families should be rewarded for that. That is simply blackmail. It shows you what Gaddafi really is. What would that do except buy our silence? That’s all it was meant to do, to say, here, if we get off this list and we get our sanctions lifted, here, here, here, for you, is an incentive to keep your mouths shut or to applaud this. We’ll make you rich. That shows you what this is all about. And the — you know —-the U.S. government and the British government were involved in that. That is what we are talking about. That is what we are dealing with and it is absolutely -— absolutely unacceptable and another sign of why we cannot do this, do we never, ever learn. It would not surprise me if that perhaps in 15 years, Osama Bin Laden will be visiting an anniversary of 9-11 with policies like this. Some things are unforgivable.

AMY GOODMAN: Andrew Lycett, I wanted to talk about Libya’s relationship with the U.S. oil companies and what this will mean. Libya has had the support of U.S. oil companies, which have been lobbying to return to the country and secure the concessions that come to an end next year. They have been barred from working in Libya since the U.S. bilateral sanctions were strengthened in 1986. I’d also like you to talk about the son of Muammar Gaddafi, who played a key role here, Seif al-Islam Gaddafi.

ANDREW LYCETT: You have asked a couple of questions there. The American oil companies have traditionally played a very important part in the underpinning of the Libyan oil industry. They’re not by no means the only players. The Italian are big players and some countries from Eastern Europe as well. But well, when comes to the oil industry it’s not just a matter of lifting the oil, but it is a matter of providing equipment etc. That’s where American companies are also — they are prominent players and they will gain considerably. When somewhat down the line still, the sanctions are completely lifted. As for Gaddafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, he has emerged in the last couple of years as very credible, I have to say, spokesperson for the Libyan regime in the wider world. And he is Gaddafi’s eldest son. He is age 31. He’s been — I have met him — he seems to be an educated man, he is tainted in a way by being the son of the dictator, but he has put out feelers to the West, and he has run a charity in Tripoli with branches elsewhere, which has been concerned with human rights. Now, this, I take with a pinch of salt, I have to admit. It has done various operations such as negotiating the release of hostages in the Philippines. I don’t think there was much negotiating going on there. I think we have money paid to the right people, and Libya and Seif al-Islam got a bit of publicity from that. But nevertheless, you know, he is a man who is now in a way presented as a possible successor to his father, and that may sound very odd in a country where Gaddafi still stresses that everybody has a say in every decision. You know, this rhetoric, which I must admit when I used to visit Libya it used to drive me mad about the revolutionary committees and how they had decisions in everything. There’s no doubt about it that the decisions are made at the top and that Gaddafi is the man in control, and all this stuff about the third universal theory and such are that Gaddafi has put into his green book is a load of codwaller, really. Nevertheless, it has to be said that in the last half dozen years when Gaddafi had been looking for a way back into the good books of the West and has realized that in order to do that, that he has realized that his economy has been suffering and that he has got to find some way to get his oil industry work.

SUSAN COHEN: More of this mealy-mouthed apology. Gaddafi is a chip off the old block who said that the Jews and the crusaders are trying to destroy the Muslims. You say this about Gaddafi, Gaddafi knew and probably ordered the bombing. You have visited Libya. I have had enough of this kind of a person who goes around and tries to whitewash this. Do you know what I’m talking about about when I say my innocent only child got on an airplane, studying abroad and was blown out of the sky? Now, you ask yourself about the man who did this. I have heard your kind of talk. It is the talk of worm-tongue. We will never stop hearing it. It is absolutely meaningless.

ANDREW LYCETT: I’m not sure that you —

SUSAN COHEN: And when I hear that a leader —

ANDREW LYCETT: I’m not sure if you have listen been listening to what I’m talking about.

SUSAN COHEN: —- when the leader of a country blows up an American plane -—

ANDREW LYCETT: You have to very careful about what —- I applaud your -—

SUSAN COHEN: —- there’s no way that the people who did it, and it’s the same regime, it hasn’t changed -—

ANDREW LYCETT: I think that you have a point there.

SUSAN COHEN: — can possibly be rehabilitated and all of that kind of talk, this schmoozing around and all of this, which is I guarantee you, basically is meant in the end for the oil companies to get their money is absolutely immoral and despicable and mealy-mouthed platitudes. That’s all it is. Let’s not pretend we’re just having this nice little intellectual discussion here about Libya. There are things that are beyond — beyond acceptance in this world.

AMY GOODMAN: Susan Cohen, let me —

SUSAN COHEN: And this is one of them.

ANDREW LYCETT: Do you accept one thing that Gaddafi is almost now a sort of historical figure?

SUSAN COHEN: He is there, isn’t he? He is not gone. The son is exactly like him. There’s no change in the regime, is there? It’s the same thing. It’s the same person. If you look at closely at what happened with the United States and Britain and Libya on this, it is a really shameful, shameful thing. It is shameful to the core. I mean — so, I mean, you know, you’re not talking here to somebody who is just sitting in a college classroom going to talk about this. You’re talking to somebody whose kid is dead and died because of this man. What did she ever do? She never had anything to do with politics. He blew up the plane.

ANDREW LYCETT: Trust me —

SUSAN COHEN: He will now be richer and more powerful. He will have more technology. He will be in a very good position to do terrorism if he wants. Whether he ever did it or not. If the United States of America seriously to protect itself against terrorism, it cannot make deals with the Gaddafis of this world. It doesn’t have a war with them. It doesn’t have to embrace them. Let’s understand what this is really all about.

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