August 27, 2003

August 27, 2003 | Commentary on Africa

Not Yet, Muammar

Make no mistake: Libyan strongman Col. Muammar Qadhafi's decision to pay $2.7 billion in compensation to the victims of the 1988 Pan Am Lockerbie bombing did not come from the bottom of a contrite heart.

Neither has the supposed help he's given the CIA in the war on terrorism. Qadhafi has decided he can't live outside the community of nations anymore, and he wants back in. He wants the United Nations and the United States to lift the sanctions they've levied against his regime since the Lockerbie attack. He's even structured the payout of the $2.7 billion accordingly.

The blood money payout would total $10 million per victim. He proposes to pay each victim's family $4 million when the United Nations lifts its sanctions, $4 million more when the United States lifts its sanctions and the final $2 million when the United States takes Libya off the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism. In other words, he's happy to help the victims' families if it helps curry favor with the U.S. government and the United Nations.

While Libya's offer of compensation is a step in the right direction, the payment of compensation should not be linked to the lifting of sanctions. There should be no such bargains with terrorist-supporting regimes. Qadhafi knows the goal posts haven't moved. If he wants to end the sanctions against his country, here's what he needs to do:

Shut down his programs to produce weapons of mass destruction. Libya poses little threat of becoming a nuclear power, but, according to the Bush administration, it continues to work with North Korea, China, Serbia and India to develop ballistic missiles, which then could be tipped with chemical or biological warheads. Qadhafi has indicated he wants to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention. Let's put a copy in front of him posthaste, and see if he signs it and, then, whether he actually complies.

End all support for international terrorism and for African dictators. Qadhafi fancies himself a power broker in the continent and has spoken of forming a United States of Africa. He's assisted a variety of leaders whose human rights records are as miserable as his own, including former Liberian president Charles Taylor.

His country's ludicrous stint as chair of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights notwithstanding, Qadhafi needs to dramatically improve his record on human rights. As the State Department's annual report on 'Human Rights Practices' points out, the Libyan regime suppresses domestic opposition, tortures prisoners, arbitrarily arrests and detains citizens and refuses detainees a fair public trial. He's even been accused of trafficking in slavery.

He's produced some interesting rhetoric in recent years. According to The Washington Post, in a September 2000 speech marking the Libyan revolution, "the colonel not only proclaimed the end of his anti-imperialist struggle but also suggested that it was time for cooperation with antagonists. 'Now is the era of economy, consumption, markets and investments,' he told a stunned audience. 'This is what unites people irrespective of language, religion and national identities.'"

As yet, Qadhafi's actions haven't matched his rhetoric. He should be encouraged to take steps to make this happen. But the question of whether to remove sanctions goes deeper than whether to reward these recent actions-regardless of our views on his sincerity.

Unfortunately, Libya is not the only rogue regime that plagues the earth. What will similar leaders think if a mere $2.7 billion buys Qadhafi the worldwide acceptance he now sees as necessary for his country? In his case, the world community has acquitted itself well. It has identified an evildoer and joined together to reject him and his actions. To remove the sanctions now would be to suggest that we-all of us-could be bribed by a tyrant with a checkbook.

If Qadhafi wants back in to the world community, let him signal this by doing more than paying off the victims of his past treachery. Let him show commitment to becoming a peaceful neighbor by dismantling his WMD programs, by fully cutting ties with terrorist groups, by closing all terrorist training camps, by ceasing to make trouble elsewhere in Africa, by improving his human-rights record and by opening his economy to free and fair trade.

Then, and only then, he can be welcomed back into the community of nations.

Nile Gardiner is Jay Kingham Fellow in International Regulatory Affairs at The Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).

About the Author

Nile Gardiner, Ph.D. Director, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom
The Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom

Related Issues: Africa

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