John McCain’s Libya amnesia

The senator, who met with Moammar Gadhafi in 2009, now complains the dictator has "American blood on his hands"

Topics: Libya, War Room,

John McCain's Libya amnesia

In a single interview this morning, John McCain managed to inadvertently highlight one of the potential dangers of the war against Moammar Gadhafi, while at the same time experiencing a bout of amnesia about his own record on Libya.

The Arizona senator was out front in recent weeks as one of the biggest proponents of a war with Libya, and is now calling for a wider mission, including arming the rebels.

Speaking on CBS’ “The Early Show” today, McCain twice cited the fact that Moammar Gadhafi has “American blood on his hands” as a reason the U.S. should try to oust the dictator. McCain specifically referred to the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, which was indeed carried out by a Libyan agent.

What McCain is apparently forgetting is that, apart from the past few weeks, the last decade has been a period of rapprochement between the United States and Libya. It started with President Bush announcing in 2003 that Gadhafi had agreed to give up his “weapons of mass destruction” programs. In 2006 Bush removed Libya from the official list of state sponsors of terrorism. In September 2008 Condoleezza Rice traveled to Libya to have talks with Gadhafi. And just a few days before the 2008 presidential election, Bush signed a settlement under which Libya compensated families of victims of Lockerbie and other ’80s-era attacks.

Who else was involved in the effort to forge better ties with Gadhafi? John McCain. In August 2009 he led a delegation of senators, including fellow hawks Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman, on a trip to visit the Libyan leader in Tripoli. Discussed during the visit was delivery of — get this — American military equipment to Gadhafi (a man with American blood on his hands no less).

“We discussed the possibility of moving ahead with the provision of non-lethal defense equipment to the government of Libya,” the AP quoted McCain as saying at a press conference. McCain also noted that “ties between the United States and Libya have taken a remarkable and positive turn in recent years.”



None of which is to say it was wrong to pursue better relations with Libya. But it’s ironic that McCain is now citing the fact that Gadhafi has “American blood on his hands” as a reason to bomb Libya, considering McCain himself met with Gadhafi less than two years ago.

But there’s another interesting nugget in the CBS interview with McCain this morning. Check out this exchange about arming the rebels:

HOST: If the goal then is to get him out, then does that ultimately mean that the U.S. could end up arming the rebels to make that happen?

MCCAIN: Oh, I think that that’s very possible, and, in fact, I hope so. If not the U.S. through other countries. There’s already reports that the Egyptians have been supplying them with some weapons. Not only giving them the weapons but it also requires some training. Hopefully some more of Gadhafi’s army and military will come over to the side of the rebels. Look, for a long period of time the momentum was clearly on the side of the anti-Gadhafi forces. Then obviously they were pushed back …

HOST: When you talk about your hope to actually arm the rebels, how confident are we that these folks — that (a) we know who they are and that (b) they’re not connected to some terrorist organization like Al Qaeda and will not ultimately turn on the United States and U.S. allies?

MCCAIN: Well, what we know of them so far obviously are that the former justice minister and others — and a government has been formed, part of that government. But Gadhafi is a proven quantity. The blood of Americans is on his hands because he was responsible for the bombing of Pan Am 103. He has been involved in other acts of terror. And by the way it does take time, as it did during the period of the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. But we were able to provide them with some weapons and wherewithal to cause the Russians to leave Afghanistan. So we can do it.

So asked about worries that the anti-Gadhafi rebels may include anti-American elements, McCain approvingly cited the arming of anti-Soviet rebels in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Those rebels, of course, were the mujahedeen, among them Osama bin Laden.

It’s worth noting that there is evidence that there may be anti-American extremists among the rebels in eastern Libya.

UPDATE: One of the WikiLeaks cables describes McCain’s friendly meeting with Gadhafi in great detail.

Here’s the CBS interview:

Justin Elliott is a reporter for ProPublica. You can follow him on Twitter @ElliottJustin

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 17
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    John Stanmeyer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Container City: Shipping containers, indispensable tool of the globalized consumer economy, reflect the skyline in Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports.

    Lu Guang

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Man Covering His Mouth: A shepherd by the Yellow River cannot stand the smell, Inner Mongolia, China

    Carolyn Cole/LATimes

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Angry Crowd: People jostle for food relief distribution following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti

    Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    “Black Friday” Shoppers: Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA

    Google Earth/NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Suburban Sprawl: aerial view of landscape outside Miami, Florida, shows 13 golf courses amongst track homes on the edge of the Everglades.

    Garth Lentz

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Toxic Landscape: Aerial view of the tar sands region, where mining operations and tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from outer space; Alberta, Canada

    Cotton Coulson/Keenpress

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Ice Waterfall: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway

    Yann Arthus-Bertrand

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Satellite Dishes: The rooftops of Aleppo, Syria, one of the world’s oldest cities, are covered with satellite dishes, linking residents to a globalized consumer culture.

    Stephanie Sinclair

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Child Brides: Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010.

    Mike Hedge

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Megalopolis: Shanghai, China, a sprawling megacity of 24 Million

    Google Earth/ 2014 Digital Globe

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Big Hole: The Mir Mine in Russia is the world’s largest diamond mine.

    Daniel Dancer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Clear-cut: Industrial forestry degrading public lands, Willamette National Forest, Oregon

    Peter Essick

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Computer Dump: Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana.

    Daniel Beltra

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Oil Spill Fire: Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico

    Ian Wylie

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Slide 13

    Airplane Contrails: Globalized transportation networks, especially commercial aviation, are a major contributor of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Photo of contrails in the west London sky over the River Thames, London, England.

    R.J. Sangosti/Denver Post

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Fire: More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>