Thursday, November 20, 2008

George W. Bush to Terrorist: Thank You!

By Liza Porteus Viana
Nov 17th 2008 12:40PM

President Bush called Libya's Muammar al-Qaddafi to essentially thank him for finally paying up the $1.5 billion payment that Tripoli owed to the families of those killed in terror attacks, including the 1988 bombing a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Bush and Qaddafi "discussed that this agreement should help to bring a painful chapter in the history between our two countries closer to closure," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in a statement. "While we will always mourn the loss of life as a result of past terrorist activities, the settlement agreement is an important step in repairing the relationship between Libya and the United States."

Payments to the victims' families is expected to begin within days.

For those of you wondering why we are now being so friendly with the man who advocated a pan-Arab state dubbed "the Mad Dog of the Middle East" by President Reagan, you're probably not alone.

After all, Qaddafi was tied to the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie that killed 270 people on board. His regime was also implicated in the 1989 bombing of a French passenger jet over Niger in which 171 people died. In 1986, Libya sponsored the bombing of a Berlin disco popular among U.S. servicemen, killing two U.S. soldiers. Reagan ordered U.S. airstrikes that killed 227 people in Libya, including Qaddafi's daughter.

In the early 1970s, U.S. officials say, Qaddafi established terrorist training camps in Libya and offered safe haven, arms and aid to terrorists from groups like the Irish Republican Army, Spain's ETA, Italy's Red Brigades, and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Libya was also suspected of attempting to assassinate the leaders of Chad, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Tunisia.

But Washington and Tripoli are trying to thaw their relationship. The Bush State Department last year took the country off its terrorism list, and is satisfied that Libya's stockpiles of chemical weapons is destroyed and its secret nuclear weapons program dismantled. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Qaddafi made one of the first, and strongest, denunciations of the Al Qaeda bombers by any Muslim leader.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Qaddafi in Tripoli in September - the first time in nearly half a century an American diplomat met with the Libyan leader. "Quite frankly, I never thought I would be visiting Libya, though this is quite something," Rice told reporters.

We know Qaddafi was excited to meet with Rice, his "darling black African woman" to whom he has confessed his love. Slightly weird, I know. But for an administration who has repeatedly refused to sit down with people like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it must see something good in the "new and improved" Qaddafi.

Libya's Oct. 31 payment to the terrorism victims was the latest step in restoring full normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The money will go into a $1.8 billion fund that will pay $1.5 billion in claims for the 1988 Pan Am 103 bombing over Scotland that killed 270 people on board, and the German disco bombing. Another $300 million will go to Libyan victims of the retaliatory U.S. airstrikes.

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