THE AMERICAN INTEREST – AT 9:47 P.M. ET: A TV commentator said this week that he'd gotten many e-mails complaining about the attention being given Libya. Don't we have enough at home to worry about?
We do, but Libya is a story in which America has a vital, and a historical interest. Consider this, from London's Telegraph, aboutAbdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the man convicted in the downing of Pan Am 103 in 1988, killing more than 200 Americans. He was released by Scotland, presumably because he is dying. Hasn't happened yet.
The Lockerbie bomber blackmailed Col Muammar Gaddafi into engineering his release from a Scottish prison by threatening to reveal that the dictator ordered the devastating attack on Pan Am Flight 103, a former Libyan official has claimed.
Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi allegedly threatened “revenge” on Col Gaddafi unless he was returned home to his family, prompting the dictator to spend £50,000-a-month on lobbying and legal fees in a campaign to secure the terrorist’s release.
The allegation from Mustapha Abdel-Jalil, Libya’s former justice minister, emerged last night as Libya remained in the grip of violence with pro-Gaddafi forces continuing their brutal crackdown on protesters.
It was echoed by the former terror chief Atef Abu Bakr, who claimed last night in a separate interview that Megrahi was ordered by Col Gaddafi to help plan the attack as one of the dictator’s former spies.
The claims will cause further embarrassment for Labour, after declassified documents disclosed earlier this month that Gordon Brown’s government worked behind the scenes to secure the bomber’s release in exchange for lucrative trade deals with Libya.
Megrahi is the only man ever to have been convicted over the bombing, which killed all 259 passengers and crew on board the New York-bound Boeing 747 and 11 people in Lockerbie in December 1998.
COMMENT: My question is how much the United States knew about Gaddafi's role when it started normalizing relations with Libya several years ago. The families of Pan Am 103 would, I'm sure, like to know. They have suffered enough.
From the L.A. Times: Ban Ki-moon, the normally buttoned-up Secretary General of the United Nations, swept into Los Angeles during Oscar week playing the role of Hollywood pitchman. His message: Make global warming a hot issue. "I need your support," he told entertainment industry insiders during a daylong forum Tuesday that focused on recent heat waves, floods, fires and drought, which scientists link to human-induced climate change.
"Animate these stories!" Ban pleaded. "Set them to music! Give them life! Together we can have a blockbuster impact on the world."
With the Middle East in flames, the secretary general goes to Hollywood. And why not? The UN produces as much fiction as Hollywood does.
LEBANON – ANOTHER TINDERBOX – AT 10:59 A.M. ET: We watched recently as the extremist organization Hezbollah essentially took over Lebanon. The Obama administration reacted with its usual dynamic yawn. Now there are rumblings in this traditionally Western-leaning country:
BEIRUT - Hundreds of Lebanese protested in the capital Beirut on Sunday against the country's sectarian political system.
Emulating protests that have spread across the Arab world in recent weeks, some Lebanese protesters chanted the now-familiar refrain of "The people want to bring down the regime".
Lebanon is governed by a delicate power-sharing system to maintain the balance between the country's many sects. It is unlike many other Arab countries where protests have been against rulers who have governed for decades.
"We are here to bring down the sectarian system in Lebanon because it is more of a dictatorial system than dictatorship systems themselves," said protester Rahshan Saglam.
Lebanon suffered a 15-year civil war which ended in 1990 and killed 150,000 people. Major sectarian violence, threatening to tip the country into a new civil war, also broke out in 2008.
The organizers handed out a leaflet saying they demanded a "secular, civil, democratic, socially just and equal state" and called for an increase in the minimum wage and lower prices for basic goods.
COMMENT: Lebanon's tragic history of civil war provides a grim backdrop for these new demonstrations. An explosion in Lebanon could easily suck in neighboring Syria, which has inordinate control over Lebanese affairs.
Or, to divert attention to internal problems, the controlling forces in Lebanon, especially Hezbollah, might launch a strike at Israel, to the south. Hezbollah has missiles that could strike Tel Aviv.
We wait for the administration's reaction. Maybe it'll come after the next White House rock concert.
LIBYAN STRONGMAN SQUEEZED FURTHER – AT 10:41 A.M. ET: From WaPo:
BENGHAZI, LIBYA - Col. Moammar Gaddafi faced fresh setbacks domestically and internationally early Sunday with opposition forces in eastern Libya preparing to dispatch a rebel force to his stronghold in Tripoli and the United Nation's imposing military and financial sanctions while raising the specter that the isolated leader could face charges for crimes against humanity.
Even as the opposition consolidated its grip on the country's second city, Benghazi, a top anti-Gaddafi leader, Brig. Gen. Ahmed Gatrani, said a small force comprising army defectors and rebels has already reached the outskirts of the capital. An attempt to oust Gaddafi in Tripoli on Friday was crushed by pro-regime paramilitaries and soldiers firing indiscriminately at protesters on the streets.
It happened as the wave of civil revolts of recent weeks continued to convulse the Middle East, with even Tunisia and Egypt, two nations where protesters succeeded in ousting longtime authoritarian rulers, seeing heated protests on Saturday that led to violent military crackdowns. In Oman on Sunday, two people were killed in protests, Reuters reported, as police fired tear gas and cordoned off protesters demonstrating for a second day in the city of Sohar.
There's an old saying, from Ralph Waldo Emerson: "If you strike at a king, you must kill him." If a rebel could get close enough to Gaddafi, or if a member of his security force turns against him, a single bullet would probably do the job and produce the end of the regime.
And yes, there are disturbances in other countries as well, but the immediate focus is Libya:
The prospect of a rebel army marching on the capital to confront loyalist members of the same army raised the specter of outright civil war in a country already violently polarized between supporters and opponents of the regime. In another sign of the deepening division, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the former justice minister who recently defected, announced the formation of an "interim government'' to lead the eastern regions under rebel control.
COMMENT: There are no guarantees at this moment. Gaddafi's loyalists have enough weapons and ammunition to do unspeakable harm to the Libyan population. And there are chemical weapons stockpiled. Especially given the so-so response of the international community, there is no predictable outcome.
SENATORS BLAST OBAMA OVER LIBYA – AT 10:26 A.M. ET: One can only imagine how John McCain would have handled Libya. We're getting an inkling today:
(CNN) - Two leading U.S. senators were both critical Sunday of President Barack Obama's delay in speaking out over the uprising in Libya.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Obama should "stand up for democracy" and noted that the British prime minister and French president were not hesitant to address the crisis.
True. Once again some of the leading figures across the Atlantic are ahead of us.
"America leads," McCain told CNN's "State of the Union" from Cairo. "They're looking to America for leadership, for assistance, for moral support and ratification of the sacrifices they've made in the defense of democracy. America should lead."
We used to lead, but no more. Obama considers us just another nation, no more important than any other. And I don't think he likes us too much.
Anti-government protests continued Sunday in Libya, where the nation's leader of more than 40 years, Moammar Gadhafi, clings to power in Tripoli after weeks of protests.
On the same program, Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, in independent who caucuses with the Democrats and chairs the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, said he understood why the administration initially hesitated in speaking out on the crisis in Libya due to concerns about the safety of U.S. citizens there.
"Frankly I wish we had spoken out much more clearly and early against the Gadhafi regime," Lieberman said, adding "the fact is now is the time for action, not just statements."
Obama is not an action guy. Presidents have to know how to do things. This president barely knows what to say, let alone what to do. The press bears great blame here in selling this small-time Chicago politician to the American people. Unlike Reagan, who played the big game, Obama plays the small one.
On Saturday, Obama said Gadhafi "has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what is right for his country by leaving now." Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also issued a statement urging the Libyan leader to step down.
Take that, Gadhafi. And, to paraphrase Groucho, if you're not scared by that statement, we'll issue another one.
British military planes entered Libyan air space in a daring rescue of more than 150 civilians from desert locations, officials said Saturday.
The C-130 Hercules planes, carrying Britons and other nationals, safely landed in Malta after picking up the civilians from desert locations south of Benghazi, UK Defense Secretary Liam Fox said.
The rescue mission was bold because few planes have been able to fly through Libyan air space. It was not immediately clear if it was a British special forces mission, but the SAS has been on stand by for an evacuation mission of those stuck in oil fields, according to UK media reports.
"I can confirm that two RAF C-130 Hercules aircraft have evacuated more than 150 civilians from desert locations south of Benghazi," Fox said.
COMMENT: The American role so far has been to lease a ferry, which languished in a Libyan port for three days, before evacuating some Americans.
Sometimes it feels like 1940, when the British taught the world how to act in the face of a dictator. First, British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke out strongly against the trendy multiculturalism that is destroying his country. Now Britain launches a daring rescue mission to save British lives.
Of course, when America has a president who considers himself a citizen of the world, this kind of macho stuff just isn't done. Why, think of those who might be offended! And given that our UN ambassador has taken the weekend off for a leisurely trip to a panel discussion in South Africa, the message sent is that things just aren't that bad.
Liam Fox, whom I've had the privilege of meeting, is a great guy, a physician by training, and a strong believer in the Anglo-American special relationship. I have no doubt that he was a key figure in getting this rescue mission going.
From London's Telegraph: Motorists are now paying £6 a gallon in garages across the country as oil prices continue to soar amid the crisis in Libya.
That is more than nine dollars a gallon. England is a country of small distances. The U.S. is a country of large distances. Imagine if that happened here. It can. Note the deep concern in the White House.
BULLETIN! TELL YOUR FRIENDS – AT 10:59 A.M. ET: Can it be? Am I reading correctly? Is the Obama administration about to do something...intelligent? From The Politico:
Next week, the Interior Department is likely to approve the first Gulf of Mexico deepwater drilling permit that was held up in the wake of the BP oil spill.
An announcement can’t come soon enough for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and the Obama administration, who have been criticized by Gulf state lawmakers for a “de facto” drilling ban long after the BP leak was plugged. Political upheaval in the Middle East has also driven oil prices upwards, creating more pressure on the administration to act.
COMMENT: Yeah, it's that inconvenient Mideast stuff. Mustn't let people ask questions.
It's disgraceful, just disgraceful. We should be opening up vast areas for safe, efficient drilling, and doing it as a national emergency. We have plenty of oil in the U.S., but environmental extremists, who never liked cars with engines, have a grip on the Obama White House. They're waiting around for cars fueled by hydrogen, or bubble gum. Those bubble-gum cars get 20 miles a chew.
We all want clean energy, clean air, clean ears for children. But we're still an oil-based economy. Until we can make an effective, efficient transition to new fuels that actually work, we will need oil, lots of it. It is gross negligence on the part of this left-wing administration to deny the nation's needs.
RICE CAKES – AT 10:39 A.M. ET: Where is she now? Our UN ambassador, I mean. At a time of international crisis, when the UN was meeting to consider action against Libya, mild as it would be, Ambassador Susan Rice was on an excellent adventure, as the New York Post points out:
The UN Security Council convened an emergency session yesterday to draft sanctions against Libyan mad- dog Moammar Khadafy.
But as the UN struggled to put out the fires in the Mideast, America's top UN rep was nowhere to be found.
In fact, US Ambassador Susan Rice was 8,000 miles away from UN headquarters, taking tea in South Africa with fellow diplonuts.
What the hell?
Rice flew to sunny Cape Town this week for a "global sustainability" conference to discuss carbon emissions and green economies in the Third World.
There were plenty of carbon emissions over Tripoli and Benghazi this week -- from fighter-jet and helicopter exhaust as Khadafy loyalists strafed protestors in the streets, and from exploding Molotov cocktails. Lead poisoning from stray AK-47 rounds were an issue, too.
But instead of taking the lead as the United Nations tried to force Khadafy to end his war on his own people, America's top UN official was essentially AWOL.
Rice is, as they say, "close" to Obama. Her absence probably indicates the real importance that Obama attaches to the Libyan revolt. After all, the chief executive was caught boogeying at a Motown party in the White House before getting around to calling British Prime Minister Cameron and French President Sarkozy.
What an administration. Can you imagine John Bolton's response had he been US ambassador to the UN? But Bolton couldn't even get confirmed by the U.S. Senate when George W. Bush nominated him. A big too tough, you see.
GUN CONTROL IN LIBYA – AT 10:29 A.M. ET: The Libyan dictatorship is arming the people...but only some people. Maybe a lesson here for knee-jerk "gun controllers" in the U.S. From Fox:
The embattled regime of Muammar al-Qaddafi is arming civilian supporters to set up checkpoints and roving patrols around the Libyan capital to control movement and quash dissent, residents said Saturday.
The reports came a day after protesters demanding Qaddafi's ouster came under a hail of bullets when pro-regime militiamen opened fire to stop the first significant anti-government marches in days in the Libyan capital.
The Libyan leader, speaking from the ramparts of a historic Tripoli fort, told supporters to prepare to defend the nation as he faced the biggest challenge to his 42-year rule, with rebels having seized control of about half of the country's coastline.
"At the suitable time, we will open the arms depot so all Libyans and tribes become armed, so that Libya becomes red with fire," Qaddafi said.
The international community stepped up its response to the bloodshed, while Americans and other foreigners were evacuated from the chaos roiling the North African nation.
The U.N. Security Council planned to meet Saturday for a second day to consider an arms embargo against the Libyan government and a travel ban and asset freeze against Qaddafi, his relatives and key members of his government.
President Barack Obama signed an executive order Friday freezing assets held by Qaddafi and four of his children in the United States. The Treasury Department said the sanctions against Qaddafi, three of his sons and a daughter also apply to the Libyan government.
COMMENT: Don't you just love the tough response of the "international community"? Even the term itself is ludicrous. There is no international community, just a group of nations who occasionally act together, but usually don't.
Only the serious threat of military force will stop Qaddafi. We just don't want to admit that.
There is no guarantee Qaddafi will be overthrown. It will be criminal if he is still in power two months from now because of our president's refusal to lead, and to act decisively.
"What you see is news. What you know is background. What you feel is opinion."
- Lester Markel, late Sunday editor
of The New York Times.
"Councils of war breed timidity and defeatism."
- Lt. Gen. Arthur MacArthur, to his
THE ANGEL'S CORNER
Part I of The Angel's Corner was sent late Wednesday night.
Part II was sent late last night.
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