Libya and terrorism
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The following is part of a series of articles from Chris Tolworthy reposted here with kind permission. The articles together ask many questions about the September 11 atrocity and its aftermath, as well as looking into it from numerous angles. The articles are split into a number of pages on this site (which you can follow using the links at the bottom).
Libya and terrorism
Libya is often blamed for supporting terrorism. This may be true, as many countries support terrorism1, but much of the evidence against Libya is open to doubt.
Some highly respected statesmen- such as Nelson Mandela - have supported Libya. When we look at the country's history, we can see why.
1911 - Italy invades Libya.
1911 - Qaddhafi's grandfather is killed by an Italian colonist.
1914 - Europeans start World War I.
1918 - Europeans carve up the (Arab) Ottoman empire.
1939 - Europeans start World War II.
1942 - Britain conquers Libya.
1948 - Europeans create the state of Israel in prime Arab land.
1956 - Britain, France and Israel conspire to attack Egypt (the Suez crisis)
1956 - Libya splits with Britain, but the new king conceded millions of acres of land to western oil companies. When oil is discovered, a pipeline is built to pump the oil for the west.
Is it any surprise if Qaddhafi hates the west? Imagine if the situation was reversed. What if your country had been repeatedly invaded by Arabs, if members of your family had been killed by Arab colonists, if you watched Arabs start two world wars, if you saw Arabs carve up other western nations for their friends? How would YOU feel? Would you blame our own leaders, or would you blame the ones who hurt you?
1969 - Qaddhafi hears that some senior soldiers are planning a coup. He sees his chance to free his country (as he sees it) and gets in first. He then kicks out most of the old colonists and nationalises the oil industry. Can you blame him? But this made him very unpopular in the west. He also has sympathy with other groups he sees as downtrodden (e.g. the PLO and the IRA) which makes him even less popular.
1972 - Gadafi is falsely accused of funding the Munich Olympic kidnappers (a group wanting the freedom of Palestine. A bungled Bulgarian rescue attempt led to the deaths of Israeli hostages). Later investigations found no evidence for any link.(1)
1973 - A Libyan Boeing 727 is shot down by Israeli jets. 102 passengers and 8 crewmen are killed.
1981 - Two Libyan aircraft are shot down by US warplanes flying over the Gulf of Sirte, claimed by Libya as its territorial water.
1984 - Libya is blamed for shooting a policewoman in London. There are numerous problems with this version of events(2), and a British TV documentary linked the death to the CIA(3), but to most people Libya is guilty simply because it is Libya.
1986 - Lybia is blamed for bombing a German discotheque. (When the accused are finally brought to trial in 1997, there is nothing to link them to Libya, but there is evidence pointing in other directions.(4))
1986 - The US bombs Libya, killing 101 people, including (apparently) Qaddhafi's adopted daughter.
1988 - Lybia is blamed for the Lockerbie bombing, even though several pieces of evidence pointed to Iran as the culprit.
1988 - According to the French intelligence source, France's spy agency, SDECE, was ordered to assassinate Qaddhafi (this was called off at the last minute).(5)
1996 - Britain's secret service backs local Libyan extremists in trying to kill Qaddhafi. The bomb killed innocent civilians instead. Britain denies it, other sources confirm it.(6)
And what about the IRA links? It is true that Libya has supported others it sees as oppressed. The modern IRA was born at "Bloody Sunday," when British soldiers killed a number of innocent civilians. This was in 1970, just one year after Qaddhafi came to power, and naturally they gained his sympathy. No individuals have ever been convicted of those killings, even though all sides agree they took place. This is not to defend the IRA, but just to show that the evidence is not one sided. Libya was just doing what the west does2 - supporting groups it sees as "freedom fighters."
The above material presents evidence that Libya was innocent of its alleged crimes. But what if it was guilty of everything the west says it does? What does that tell us about the effectiveness of our methods - such as bombing Tripoli in 1986?
If we believe the anti-Libya lobby, then we must conclude that our policy of bombing does not work. If we believe the pro-Libya lobby, then we must conclude that opur policy of bombing is imoral and genocidal. Ineffective or immoral? You decide. Yet we still rely on our beloved bombs to "make the world a safer place."
So in answer to the question, why is Mr. Qaddhafi now so quiet? Maybe because we have left him alone for a few years. If we ever need to bomb him again I am sure he can be relied upon to shout as loudly as ever.
On this page:
In 1988, an explosion caused a plane to crash over the small Scottish town of Lockerbie. Fingers were soon pointed at Lybia. It was claimed that a certain suitcase containing a bomb was placed in the airplane by two Libyan men in Malta. Libya said these men were innocent, but the country was subjected to massive financial and other sanctions. Over a period of years, this cost Libya billions of dollars and hurt an already backward economy. The result - the damaged infrastructure and resulting deaths, mostly among the poor of course - has been described as "genocidal."(8)
After years of agony, eventually Libya gave up and sent the two men for trial. The United Nations removed the sanctions, but America kept applying them. What happened when the "bomb in Malta" story came to court?
The American government promised a key witness five million dollars if he would say that he saw the Libyan suspects with a certain suitcase.(9) However, the story was so weak that one ofthe two men was found innocent. Unfortunately, the defense team were very weak. They neglected to call a witness who saw the suitcase being loaded in London, not Malta.(10) Without this evidence, one of the two men was assumed to be guilty. Most Scottish experts are astonished that the weak evidence against him was enough to establish a link. Ian Bell wrote in the Scottish Sunday Herald on February 4, 2001
Robert Black QC, the highly respected professor of Scottish law at Edinburgh University who in 1994 first suggested the plan for a trial away from Britain or America, told the BBC on February 4:
Michael Scharf, a law professor at the New England School of Law, agreed, telling the February 2 New York Times:
Even some of the British relatives of the Lockerbie victims were skeptical. Martin Cadman, whose son was killed in the disaster, told the February 2 London Independent:
As noted, the defence team was very weak.
Their appeal was heard n 2002, and this time they called the London witness. But under Scottish law it is very difficult to win an appeal, and theirs was rejected. Most observers expected that result, but some were still disturbed. There were five UN observers. One of them, Professor Hans Köchler, called it "a spectacular miscarriage of justice" and said "I have the impression that this concern is shared by the large majority of the observers." However, others said he "displayed a 'profound misunderstanding' of Scotland's adversarial legal system."(13)
This time too it seems the defense team bungled. At both trials they failed to call a key CIA witness who could show that the bomb was planted by Iran and not Libya.
Having said all that, I have argued in this web site that we should respect the rule of law. The court found against Megrahi, and we must accept that fact. However, is the evidence so strong that it reflects on the entire nation of Libya? Can so many years of sanctions really have rested on this house of cards? Apparently they did.
In this light, we can see why Nelson Mandela telephoned Megrahi at the appeal to offer his personal support.(15) Mandela is no stranger to miscarriages of justice.
Please note: HTML links were created between January-March 2002. Some of these links may have expired when you read this.
1. In September 1970, in retaliation for various earlier events, the PLO hijacked 3 planes and took them to Jordan. This made the Jordanian king Hussein look bad. Fighting then broke out (Jordanians v. PLO). Jordan won, and the PLO fled to Lebanon. One faction believed that Jordan was on the side of Israel and formed "Black September." (Today it has become known as the Abu Nidal organization, or ANO.) At the Olympics they held the Israeli team hostage in order to get 200 Arab prisoners freed. They negotiated a release. On the way to the escape plane, Bavarian police tried to ambush them and free the hostages. The hostages were killed. The Black September gang escaped. In 1973, seventeen of them were tried in Jordan, but were later released in an amnesty. Later, ten were tracked down and killed by Mossad, the Israeli secret police Two terrorism "experts" asserted without any evidence that this was funded and promoted by Qaddafi. Even the Reagan administration's report on Libya in 1983 mentioned the Olympic murders without charging Libyan responsibility, and two British journalists report that Israeli intelligence officials, in long discussions with the authors on Libyan terror, have denied that Qaddafi had any role in the Munich massacre. "This was purely a Black September operation," said an Israeli official. "We have no information that he [Qaddafi] took part in the planning or the logistics."(source3)
2. There was no direct evidence that the bullets came from the Libyan embassy. TV footage suggests that the shot came from another direction. Forensics seems to confirm this. The spacing of the noise of the bullets and their impact indicates that the embassy could not be the source. The movement of the victim (and the crowd) indicate the force came from another direction. For more details, see Joe Vialls, "Death In Saint James4."
4. "A German television documentary aired by ZDF TV on 25 August 1998, revealed that one of the defendants in the disco bombing, Musbah Eter, had long worked for the CIA. Another, Mohammed Amairi, was an agent for Mossad. Amairi's Nor-wegian lawyer confirmed that his client was a Mossad agent. He was wanted by both Germany and Norway. When arrested in Norway, Mossad intervened and legal action against Amairi was dropped by both countries." Source16; source 27.
9. This evidence was thrown out as worthless. See "Lockerbie witness loses out on US payment" by Liam McDougall, The Scotsman, Jan 20th 2002.
This article is part of the following collection:
- War on Terror FAQs
- 45 Q & As: Intervention, Afghan and Iraq
- September 11th and Terrorism FAQ
- 47 Questions and Answers on the War in Afghanistan
- Questions and Answers on September 11 And Its Aftermath
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