Will the West let Gaddafi slaughter his way back to power?

March 07, 2011

* WikiLeaks: Gaddafi liked to read Tom Friedman, George Soros and Fareed Zakaria.

* “Having loudly declared that Gaddafi ‘needs to step down from power and leave,’ President Obama now seems to have retreated into an all too typical passivity.”

* “The greatest danger now to U.S. interests – and to Obama’s political standing – would be for Gaddafi to regain control.”

* Al Jazeera is already comparing the West’s failure to act in Libya to the slaughter of Iraq’s marsh Arabs in 1991 and of the Bosnian Muslims by Serbs later that decade.

* Moscow and Beijing don’t want a no-fly zone in Libya, but so what? The U.S. and U.K. didn’t need Chinese or Russian support to keep Iraqi Kurds safe from Saddam Hussein’s bombers in the 1990s.


Previous dispatches on Libya include:

* Israeli song becomes accidental theme tune of Libyan rebels (& UK university head makes Gaddafi-Soros comparison)

* “Will Libya’s $1000 an hour U.S. and British lobbyists stop their heinous work?”



1. British agents in Libya had multiple passports
2. The colonel’s reading habits
3. Why couldn’t America and others speak out like Switzerland did?
4. $36 billion wasn’t enough: Saudi Arabia bans all demonstrations
5. Iranian warships go back through the Suez Canal
6. Iranian democracy activists ask Israeli to make video for them too
7. Russia to send cruise missiles to Syria despite regional unrest
8. Now if only Gaddafi would follow suit and resign
9. Others at LSE, elsewhere, yet to resign
10. “From Baghdad to Benghazi” (By Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, March 4, 2011)
11. “Obama’s Libyan abdication” (Editorial, Wall Street Journal, March 6, 2011)
12. “Surprise! Gaddafi has always been a bad guy” (By David Frum, The Week, March 2, 2011)

[All notes below by Tom Gross]


After Britain’s very public outrage at the alleged use of UK passports in the Dubai assassination of a senior Hamas terrorist last year, it is worth noting that the British SAS agents captured by Libyan farmhands on Wednesday night were carrying forged passports from at least four different countries in their names.

Last year, I noted the double standards employed by Britain which expressed fury at Israel and expelled a senior Israeli government employee from Britain over the alleged use of forged British passports, but took no action at all after the FBI revealed that at least one of the Russian spies arrested in the U.S. in July was using a forged British passport.

(For more, see here, and the last three paragraphs here.)



From today’s New York Times:

“Colonel Qaddafi maintains a strong interest in American books about public affairs. In one WikiLeaks cable, the embassy reported that Colonel Qaddafi assigned trusted aides to prepare Arabic summaries of Fareed Zakaria’s “The Post-American World,” Thomas Friedman’s “The World Is Flat 3.0,” George Soros’s “The Age of Fallibility: Consequences of the War on Terror” and President Obama’s “The Audacity of Hope.” Another of Zakaria’s books, “The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad,” was said to be a Qaddafi favorite.”

(Funnily enough, these are all books by thinkers that many consider to be greatly overrated.)



At long last, the UN Human Rights Council suspended Libya’s membership last week.

Although various governments (as well as a large number of journalists, academics and human rights activists) are now suddenly distancing themselves from the previous supportive positions and comments they made about the Gaddafi government, there hasn’t in fact been a single month in the 41-year dictatorship of Colonel Gaddafi when he hasn’t tortured and murdered opponents. (There have also been many past massacres, for example the killing of a dozen people in Benghazi in 2006, and the hanging of students at Tripoli University in the 1990s.)

And it was only in January, less than two months ago, that the UN Human Rights Council’s report on Libya (part of its “universal periodic review”) noted that “a number of delegations commended Libya”.

Not surprisingly (given their own appalling records), Cuba commended Gaddafi for “the progress it made in primary education,” and North Korea praised Libya’s “achievements in the protection of human rights.” The representatives of Arab countries on the 47-nation UN Human Rights Council (Syria, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar) all praised Libya’s human rights record and “free and fair” judicial system. Venezuela and Myanmar were also full of praise for the Gaddafi regime.

(Korea makes propaganda on behalf of itself, as well as Libya)

More disturbingly, however, countries which ought to know better, joined the fray. Australia, “welcomed Libya’s progress in human rights”; Canada praised “the recent legislation that granted women married to foreigners the right to pass on their Libyan nationality to their children”; Poland praised Libya’s “achievements in recent years, including its efforts to combat corruption”; and the U.S. (which only joined the Council under President Obama after criticizing the Bush administration for boycotting it), “supported Libya’s increased engagement with the international community.”

Among the Council’s members, only Switzerland had the courage to tell it as it was. The Swiss representative said that Libyan “courts continued to pronounce death sentences and inflict corporal punishment, including whipping and amputation.”



Saudi Arabia has banned all protests and marches ahead of calls on Facebook for “days of rage” on March 11 and 20. The calls for protest came despite King Abdullah’s announcement that he would hand out $36 billion in social benefits to citizens – indicating that the calls for democracy in the Arab world are motivated at least as much (if not more so) by the desire to live in free countries, as they are by economic reasons. (The Saudi monarch has also pledged last month to spend $400 billion through 2014 to improve education, infrastructure and healthcare.)

The Saudi King with one of his powerful friends

The Saudi Interior Ministry justified the ban by saying it contradicted Islamic law and social values. It added that security forces were under orders to “use all measures” to enforce the ban. Reports from Saudi Arabia have said some 10,000 security forces have been dispatched to the oil-rich north-eastern provinces, where Shia minorities have already been staging small protests.



As two U.S. warships steamed through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean Sea, two Iranian warships headed in the opposite direction, taking the Egyptian-controlled canal back to the Red Sea.

Iran’s decision to send the ships through the canal marked the first Iranian naval presence in the Mediterranean since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. (The governments of Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak had refused revolutionary Iran access to the canal.)

The Tehran Times reported that the Israeli Navy attempted to contact the two vessels via radio to identify themselves, as they passed near the coast of Israel. “It is none of your business,” Iranian naval officers reportedly told the Israelis and continued on their way.

The vessels initially went through the canal on February 23 on their way to visit Iran’s ally, Syria (possibly with a supply of weapons). The U.S. warships are headed toward the Libyan coast, but it was unclear if the two countries’ warships ever passed each other.



The Israeli musician behind the spoof Gaddafi video on YouTube says that, in addition to receiving some death threats online, he has also received many messages from Iranians asking him to put together “a theme tune for our revolution too.”

Since 31-year-old Israeli music producer Noy Alooshe re-mixed one of Gaddafi’s recent Tripoli speeches with “Hey Baby” by American rappers Pitbull and T-Pain, and uploaded it on YouTube 10 days ago, the clip has been viewed more than 3 million times.

For background on this, and to view the Gaddafi video, please see here.



Russia says that a sale of cruise missiles to Syria that was negotiated in 2007 but only made public by Russia last year, will go ahead despite the regional unrest and fears by the U.S., Israel and others that the sophisticated anti-ship cruise missiles will end up in the hands of Hizbullah (which has already received large quantities of Iranian missiles through Syria). Syria will receive 72 Yakhont cruise missiles in the $300 million deal.

The Hizbullah arsenal is now estimated to contain 60,000 missiles. The massive arsenal places Lebanon in direct contravention of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 which forbids any group outside of the government from being armed

Many in Israel and in the U.S. have also expressed dismay that last week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a Senate committee that she favors funding the Lebanese army despite the increasing control the Hizbullah terrorist militia has over the Beirut government.



I added this note to my previous dispatch two days after posting it:


Sir Howard Davies today resigned as head of The London School of Economics over the school’s links to the Libyan regime, though not because of his outrageous comments about George Soros.

The resignation followed fresh allegations this morning that the LSE had been paid to train 400 “future leaders” of the regime. Admitting that the allegations were true, Davies said: “I feel embarrassed about it but I don’t think the decision was made without due consideration at the time.”



Students at the LSE, including Muslim reformers there, said Davies’ resignation is not sufficient, and that a host of other senior figures at the LSE, including a number of academics, who collaborated with the Gaddafi regime, should also resign.


Other leading British universities continue to take large sums of money from some of the world’s worst regimes. Among them:

* The (London) School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS), The University of Durham and The University of St Andrews have accepted large gifts from people closely associated with the Iranian regime.

* Cambridge, Oxford and Edinburgh universities have all accepted millions of pounds from members of the Saudi regime.

Some students in the UK yesterday launched a website for their fellow students to monitor donations universities are receiving from dictatorships: www.cleancash.org


I attach three articles below. The writers are all subscribers to this list.

I would particularly like to thank former U.S. presidential speechwriter David Frum who in his syndicated column (the last article below) praises my previous work on Libya and writes “If you’re not reading Tom Gross on the Middle East, you should be”.



Journalists from other newspapers (including The New York Times and The Guardian) have in recent days also thanked me privately for information they have used in my dispatches in their own articles on Libya.

The first two articles below are a bit tough on President Obama, and I am longing for the day when he does something on the international arena to justify his 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.

-- Tom Gross



From Baghdad to Benghazi
By Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
March 4, 2011

Voices around the world, from Europe to America to Libya, are calling for U.S. intervention to help bring down Moammar Gaddafi. Yet for bringing down Saddam Hussein, the United States has been denounced variously for aggression, deception, arrogance and imperialism.

A strange moral inversion, considering that Hussein’s evil was an order of magnitude beyond Gaddafi’s. Gaddafi is a capricious killer; Hussein was systematic. Gaddafi was too unstable and crazy to begin to match the Baathist apparatus: a comprehensive national system of terror, torture and mass murder, gassing entire villages to create what author Kanan Makiya called a “Republic of Fear.”

Moreover, that systemized brutality made Hussein immovable in a way that Gaddafi is not. Barely armed Libyans have already seized half the country on their own. Yet in Iraq, there was no chance of putting an end to the regime without the terrible swift sword (it took all of three weeks) of the United States.

No matter the hypocritical double standard. Now that revolutions are sweeping the Middle East and everyone is a convert to George W. Bush’s freedom agenda, it’s not just Iraq that has slid into the memory hole. Also forgotten is the once proudly proclaimed “realism” of Years One and Two of President Obama’s foreign policy – the “smart power” antidote to Bush’s alleged misty-eyed idealism.

It began on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s first Asia trip, when she publicly played down human rights concerns in China. The administration also cut aid for democracy promotion in Egypt by 50 percent. And cut civil society funds – money for precisely the organizations we now need to help Egyptian democracy – by 70 percent.

This new realism reached its apogee with Obama’s reticence and tardiness in saying anything in support of the 2009 Green Revolution in Iran. On the contrary, Obama made clear that nuclear negotiations with the discredited and murderous regime (talks that a child could see would go nowhere) took precedence over the democratic revolutionaries in the street - to the point where demonstrators in Tehran chanted, “Obama, Obama, you are either with us or with them.”

Now that revolution has spread from Tunisia to Oman, however, the administration is rushing to keep up with the new dispensation, repeating the fundamental tenet of the Bush Doctrine that Arabs are no exception to the universal thirst for dignity and freedom.

Iraq, of course, required a sustained U.S. military engagement to push back totalitarian forces trying to extinguish the new Iraq. But is this not what we are being asked to do with a no-fly zone over Libya? In conditions of active civil war, taking command of Libyan airspace requires a sustained military engagement.

Now, it can be argued that the price in blood and treasure that America paid to establish Iraq’s democracy was too high. But whatever side you take on that question, what’s unmistakable is that to the Middle Easterner, Iraq today is the only functioning Arab democracy, with multiparty elections and the freest press. Its democracy is fragile and imperfect - last week, security forces cracked down on demonstrators demanding better services - but were Egypt to be as politically developed in, say, a year as is Iraq today, we would think it a great success.

For Libyans, the effect of the Iraq war is even more concrete. However much bloodshed they face, they have been spared the threat of genocide. Gaddafi was so terrified by what we did to Saddam & Sons that he plea-bargained away his weapons of mass destruction. For a rebel in Benghazi, that is no small matter.

Yet we have been told incessantly how Iraq poisoned the Arab mind against America. Really? Where is the rampant anti-Americanism in any of these revolutions? In fact, notes Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes, the United States has been “conspicuously absent from the sloganeering.”

It’s Yemen’s president and the delusional Gaddafi who are railing against American conspiracies to rule and enslave. The demonstrators in the streets of Egypt, Iran and Libya have been straining their eyes for America to help. They are not chanting the antiwar slogans - remember “No blood for oil”? – of the American left. Why would they? America is leaving Iraq having taken no oil, having established no permanent bases, having left behind not a puppet regime but a functioning democracy. This, after Iraq’s purple-fingered exercises in free elections seen on television everywhere set an example for the entire region.

Facebook and Twitter have surely mediated this pan-Arab (and Iranian) reach for dignity and freedom. But the Bush Doctrine set the premise.



Obama’s Libyan abdication
Editorial, The Wall Street Journal
March 6, 2011

The battle for Libya has reached a bloody impasse. Moammar Gaddafi continues to hold Tripoli, but his sons and mercenaries have been unable to break the uprising or retake the country’s east. Having loudly declared that Gaddafi “needs to step down from power and leave,” President Obama now seems to have retreated into a bizarre but all too typical passivity.

We say bizarre because the U.S. has already announced its preferred outcome, yet it is doing little to achieve this end. The greatest danger now to U.S. interests – and to Mr. Obama’s political standing – would be for Gaddafi to regain control. A Libya in part or whole under the Gaddafi clan would be a failed, isolated and dangerous place ruled by a vengeful tyrant and a likely abettor of terrorists. We presume that’s what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meant the other day when she said that “one of our biggest concerns is Libya . . . becoming a giant Somalia.”

Gaddafi can also only prevail at this stage through a murderous campaign that will make U.S. passivity complicit in a bloodbath. Media reports relate stories of his secret police terrorizing Tripoli’s population and killing indiscriminately. Al Jazeera is already comparing the West’s failure to act in Libya to the slaughter of Iraq’s marsh Arabs in 1991 and of the Bosnian Muslims by Serbs later that decade.

The Administration is explaining its reluctance to act by exaggerating the costs and the risks. It rolled out Pentagon chief Robert Gates last week to mock “loose talk” of military options. “It’s a big operation in a big country,” he said. “We also have to think about, frankly, the use of the U.S. military in another country in the Middle East.” Centcom Commander James Mattis offered a similar warning.

We can understand if our war-fighters are trying to make sure that civilians understand the costs and are totally committed before they order U.S. forces to action. But no one is talking about introducing U.S. ground forces a la Afghanistan or Iraq. The Libyans want to liberate Libya. The issue is how the U.S. can help them do it, which includes humanitarian, diplomatic and perhaps military assistance.

Three weeks into the uprising, Mr. Obama has finally approved a humanitarian airlift. The U.S. should also recognize the provisional government known as the National Transitional Temporary Council, which has issued a declaration of principles that is at least as enlightened as the average Arab constitution. U.S. officials may not know these men well, but we will have more influence with them if they see us helping their cause when it matters.

The U.S. should also bar Gaddafi’s agents from U.S. soil and world councils. His government has requested that senior diplomat Ali Abdussalam Treki be recognized as Libya’s new ambassador to the U.N. A U.N. spokesman naturally says this is Libya’s right, but the U.S. ought to deny Mr. Treki a visa. If Libyan officials realize they are going to be persona non grata around the world, more of them might defect.

The U.S. and U.N. may also be repeating their Bosnian mistake with their arms embargo on Libya. In the 1990s, a U.N. embargo didn’t hurt the Serbs, who were already well-armed, but it crippled the Bosnians, who lacked the weapons to defend themselves.

The current U.N. embargo may have been intended to apply only to Gaddafi’s government, but we saw conflicting reports on the weekend that some countries may be interpreting it to apply to the opposition too. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama ought to correct the world’s understanding straightaway, or rewrite the resolution. Even short of providing arms – which we would support – the U.S. could help by jamming Gaddafi’s propaganda or military communications, as well as providing intelligence.

As for the no-fly zone, the Administration is far too solicitous of U.N. and Arab approval. The approval that matters is from the Libyan opposition. The Arab League is heavily influenced by the Saudis, who have their own budding problem with popular dissent. Moscow and Beijing don’t want a no-fly zone in Libya, but so what?

We didn’t need Chinese or Russian support to keep Iraqi Kurds safe from Saddam Hussein’s bombers in the 1990s. NATO can act without U.N. approval, or at least it could before this Administration. Even Senator John Kerry thinks the Administration is making too much of the risks of a no-fly zone. “This is not a big air force,” he says about Libya. “It’s not an enormously complicated defense system.”

We suspect the real reason for Mr. Obama’s passivity is more ideological than practical. He and his White House team believe that any U.S. action will somehow be tainted if it isn’t wrapped in U.N. or pan-Arab approval. They have internalized their own critique of the Bush Administration to such a degree that they are paralyzed to act even against a dictator as reviled and blood-stained as Gaddafi, and even though it would not require the deployment of U.S. troops.

Mr. Obama won’t lead the world because he truly seems to believe that U.S. leadership is morally suspect. But if Mr. Obama thinks George W. Bush was unpopular in the Arab world, he should contemplate the standing of America – and the world reputation of Barack Obama – if Gaddafi and his sons slaughter their way back to power.



Surprise! Gaddafi has always been a bad guy
By David Frum
The Week (Syndicated column)
March 2, 2011


Some Westerners have conveniently short memories. One website is determined to remind them of their past mistakes.

When Libyan diplomats resign in protest, you have to wonder: Who did they think they were working for? Moammar Gaddafi was just as much a terrorist and murderer three months ago as he is today.

Yet perhaps Gaddafi’s Libyan employees have an excuse: What other choices did they have?

There is no similar excuse for Westerners who took Gaddafi’s money and served his regime. One tireless Western journalist determined to hold these people to account is Tom Gross, who runs a Mideast media analysis website.

During the past few days, here are some of the people Gross has called out:

“The director of the London School of Economics, Sir Howard Davies. Under Davies’s leadership, the LSE collected some $2.4 million in donations (1.5 million British pounds) from the Libyan dictator. At the same time as he was accepting Gaddafi’s money, Davies was advising the Bank of England and the British Foreign Office on UK-Libyan relations. In December 2010, Gaddafi addressed LSE students by video conference.”

As LSE was building this remarkable institutional relationship with Libya, half the LSE’s academic board was urging an academic boycott of Israel. Gross quotes Davies’s explanation: “The biggest donor to the school in the past year is George Soros, who of course is of Jewish origin. We operate, I believe, a very balanced view.” How much of what is corrupt in modern British life is contained in those two sentences!

Gross also has called out the members of the board of the Gaddafis’ charitable foundation, including Sir Richard Roberts (winner of a 1993 Nobel prize for medicine) and the American academic Benjamin Barber. (Both of whom resigned from the foundation’s board this week.)

Gross also has remorselessly reproduced the fawning words of Sarah Leah Whitson, the head of Human Rights Watch’s Mideast division: “But the real impetus for the transformation [of Libya] rests squarely with a quasi-governmental organization, the Gaddafi Foundation for International Charities and Development. With Saif al-Islam, one of Gaddafi’s sons, as its chairman, and university professor Yousef Sawani as its director, the organization has been outspoken on the need to improve the country’s human-rights record. It has had a number of showdowns with the Internal Security Ministry, with whom relations remain frosty. Saif al-Islam is also responsible for the establishment of the country’s two semi-private newspapers, Oea and Quryna... it is impossible to underestimate the importance of the efforts made so far.”

By the way, “semi-private” newspapers in Libya mean those owned by the Gaddafi family directly, not by the Libyan state.

Perhaps you have heard of the American foreign policy long-beard Steven Walt, co-author of The Lobby, a book arguing that U.S. foreign policy is controlled by a cabal of, ahem, Zionists?

Tom Gross does not forget him either, quoting from one of Walt’s posts at ForeignPolicy.com:

“The remarkable improvement in U.S.-Libyan relations reminds us that deep political conflicts can sometimes be resolved without recourse to preventive war or ‘regime change.’ One hopes that the United States and Libya continue to nurture and build a constructive relationship, and that economic and political reform continues there. (I wouldn’t mind seeing more dramatic political reform — of a different sort — here too.)”

You might think he’d be tempted to tee off from here, but Gross is the master of the light touch, adding only a speaks-for-itself question: “The need for political reform in Libya is parallel to the need in the United States?”

Nor will Gross forget the fact that Libya was elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council with 155 votes. Nor that Libya was allowed to chair panels at the Durban II conference on racism. Nor that Libya used its position there to silence victims of Libyan torture, with the acquiescence of the other members of the council, as shown in this shame-making clip on Gross’s website.

Reporting on Western and especially European policy toward the Middle East can be maddening and frustrating. Oil-rich dictatorships and monarchies are cosseted and flattered – even as Western critics demand Gandhian standards of tolerance and forebearance from democratic Israel, surrounded by exterminationist enemies.

Tom Gross, son of one of England’s most eminent literary critics, the late John Gross, never surrenders to impatience or exasperation. He delights instead in reporting unexpected news, such as that the “Zenga Zenga” theme song of the anti-Gaddafi rebels is a mix produced by an Israeli musician.

And then this topper to his punchline: Embarrassed by the revelation of the Jewish origins of their anti-regime music, the rebels have responded by taking up the chant: “Gaddafi, you Jew.”

Even as they stagger toward civil war, Libyans can still apparently agree on something after all.

If you’re not reading Tom Gross on the Middle East, you should be.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.