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Friday, September 16, 2011
Moammar Gadhafi Survived Thanks To A Network Of Western Friends
By Arnold Cassola
Colonel Moammar Gadhafi’s regime in ruins and the former Libyan leader himself
on the run, it is time to ponder just how he survived in power for so long.
Greed for markets and money, it seems, often trumped the West’s supposed
concern for basic human rights.
Western countries compromised themselves over Libya for decades. After all,
Gadhafi survived President Ronald Reagan’s punitive 1986 bombing raid on his
compound only because former Italian Prime Minister Bettino Craxi and former
Maltese Prime Minister Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici tipped him off.
of course, later found refuge in the embrace of another recently fallen Arab
dictator, Tunisia’s President Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali, when he fled Italy to
escape imprisonment in 1992. Bonnici, for his part, continued cementing his
ties with the Libyan dictator until the very end, through his association with
– wait for it – the Gadhafi Prize for Human Rights. Moral squalor also
permeated Gadhafi’s international “rehabilitation” in the years just before the
outbreak of the Arab Spring. According to many observers, British Prime
Minister Tony Blair’s role in launching this process of rehabilitation in 2004
was, almost from the start, motivated by a desire to do business with the
regime in Tripoli.
more than oil was at stake. According to an Associated Press report, citing
Foreign Office statistics, Libya purchased from the United Kingdom “about £40
million ($55 million) worth of military and paramilitary equipment in the year
ending Sept. 30, 2010.” Gadhafi’s shopping list included “sniper rifles,
bulletproof vehicles, crowd-control ammunition and tear gas.” Certainly, that
military hardware came in handy during the last six months.
to the same Associated Press report: “The Bush administration approved the sale
of $3 million of materials to Libya in 2006 and $5.3 million in 2007. In 2008,
Libya was allowed to import $46 million in armaments from the U.S. The approved
goods included nearly 400 shipments of explosive and incendiary materials,
25,000 aircraft parts, 56,000 military electronics components and nearly 1,000
items of optical targeting and other guidance equipment.”
was Germany immune to temptation. In 2004, then-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
inaugurated an oil well operated by the German company Wintershall in the
Libyan Maghreb. Not to be outdone, French President Nicolas Sarkozy rushed off
to Libya in 2008 to sell nuclear technology to Gadhafi.
imports 60 percent of its oil and 40 percent of its natural gas from Libya, and
soon after Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was re-elected in 2008, he pledged
to pay Gadhafi’s regime the equivalent of $338 million a year for 20 years in
exchange for Libya’s acceptance of all North African refugees who were seeking
political asylum in Italy.
it seems, Berlusconi’s name never fails to pop up when lucrative business
transactions with Libya are discussed. Indeed, Berlusconi and Gadhafi have
shared common personal business interests since 2009, when Lafitrade, a Gadhafi
family company, took a 10 percent stake in Quinta Communications, a cinema
production company which is 22 percent owned by Berlusconi’s company Fininvest.
case of little Malta, a couple of hundred kilometers from Libya’s shores, could
be just the tip of a much bigger iceberg of complicity. The Maltese government
has just revealed that it froze Libyan government assets in euros worth the
equivalent of $509 million, of which the equivalent of $116 million belonged to
the Gadhafi family or to entities in which the family is a majority
has all this money been invested – only in Maltese banks, or are there any
business concerns also involved? And who are the Maltese partners of the former
Libyan regime? Are politicians involved?
questions matter because Libyan institutions in Malta used to offer “aid” to
Maltese politicians in exchange for promoting Gadhafi’s image. Last Aug. 28,
the pro-Christian Democratic newspaper Il-Mument revealed CIA documentation of
direct financing by the Gadhafi regime for activities organized by the Malta
Labor Party during the 1989 George Bush-Mikhail Gorbachev summit held in Malta.
Labor Party’s former treasurer, Joe Sammut, is most often mentioned for his
connection with Gadhafi. According to The New York Post daily, Sammut handled
hundreds of thousands of dollars on behalf of Mutassim Gadhafi, the son of the
former Libyan leader and a former security chief. Sammut, it is said, was
involved in organizing parties featuring singers Snoop Dog, Nelly Furtado, and
Enrique Iglesias, among others, for the entertainment of Gadhafi’s sons.
it is not only Malta Labor Party politicians who allegedly have had connections
with the Gadhafi clan. Malta’s current European Union Commissioner, John Dalli,
a former Christian Democrat parliamentarian and government minister, has openly
admitted that he had “established a strong network at the political and
executive levels” in Libya.
and his family have been spreading money around Europe for years, buying
influence and a blind eye from governments to the Libyan regime’s human rights
transgressions. We can only hope that the International Criminal Court in The
Hague will one day bring Gadhafi, his family, and his minions to justice. But
one should also hope that Libya’s new government will expose the links between
Western politicians and the Gadhafi regime. At that point, the court of public
opinion, at the very least, can render its judgment on their actions.