Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Offer They Couldn't Refuse

Exclusive commentary by Martin Kelly
December 24, 2003

The country of Sri Lanka has several claims to fame. It has a very respectable cricket team, who recently held England in a test match in Colombo. It’s the home of the world tea industry, and has a booming trade in paedophile sex tourism. However, Sri Lanka’s enduring contribution to political discourse has been the suicide bomb. It was during the vicious war carried on by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, ‘The Tamil Tigers’, in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s that hordes of wee lassies were encouraged to strap on belts and blow themselves up for Tamil independence at the behest of their headbanger leader, Vellupilai Prabahkaran.
Prabahkaran was interviewed by 'The Times' of London in the early ‘90’s. When his interviewer asked him who inspired him, Prabahkharan replied ‘Clint Eastwood’. Thinking he was joking, the interviewer asked him again, and he received the same reply. Vellupilai Prabahkaran sent dozens of young people to their deaths out of a desire to emulate the 'Dirty Harry' movies, and one just can’t be sure if the former Mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea would be happy to be considered a role model by such a profound leader.
Life always imitates art, and never more so than in the case of Libyan disarmament. What one sees being played out in North Africa is not 'Dirty Harry' but 'The Godfather'. In all practical terms, Gaddafi’s offer to disarm is the offer that George Bush and Tony Blair couldn’t refuse, an entirely cynical ploy motivated by his own self-interest in continued survival, to ensure the lifting of all sanctions, to seal his status as an elder statesman amongst his peers and his desire to find a new export market for his oil. You think Enduring Freedom was about oil? This one’s entirely about oil.
Gaddafi has been dictator of Libya since 1969. Although The Don’s politics are broadly Nasserite, self-preservation has been the rule for his regime since the day and hour he seized power. Lest we not forget, during the 1980’s he was a major sponsor of terrorists, resulting in the US bombing Tripoli in a targeted assassination attempt in 1986. They very nearly got him. Last year, Libya admitted responsibility for blowing the Clipper Maid Of The Seas out of the sky over Lockerbie. The man most directly responsible, Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi, now resides in the most expensive and comfortable jail cell ever built by the Scottish taxpayer. Even though his guilt is clear the Furies of the Left, from Tam Dalyell MP to Nelson Mandela, Gaddafi’s closest ally, will still speak for him, propagating every excuse from a miscarriage of justice to homesickness.
However, in the fifteen years since that night, one would be hard pushed to think of any major terrorist incident that has been publicly pinned on Libya. Even then, the Don was slipping. Hole Man’s invasion of Kuwait forever changed the calculus of terror, with the House of Saud’s refusal to accept the help of Osama bin Laden radicalising the poor little rich boy even further. Prior to the invasion, and for many years afterward, Saddam provided a refuge for the killer of women and children Abu Nidal, who later committed suicide by shooting himself in the back of the head. Concrete overcoats were obviously not the vogue in Baghdad this year, and it looks like the other icons of Ba’athist bella figura, the regulation moustache and jaunty beret, will be going out of style for the new season. Like Luca Brazzi, Abu Nidal sleeps with the camels. The state of his soul is none of our business, but one hopes that he has time to reflect upon all the innocent lives he took in his maniacal desire to destroy Jews. S
o, for over a decade Muammar Gaddafi has not apparently been a major player in the Terror Wars. Although he’s as belligerent as ever, recently encouraging Libyan women to learn how to blow up their children and their purses, his pariah status hasn’t helped him with the big boys like Osama, who before his own demise publicly called for Gaddafi’s extermination as an apostate adulterer –The Don has employed female bodyguards. Also, his most recent political posturing has been to assert Libya’s African-ness as opposed to its Arab-ness. In the same speech in which he encouraged wallet self-detonation, he cursed the Arab League for interfering in the affairs of Sudan and Djibouti. For years, Gaddafi has been throwing money around Africa like a made man out on the town. As well as being the major ally of Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress, he is the number one North African ally of Robert Mugabe. With such alliances, the erstwhile Organisation for African Unity must have resembled the Commission, even down to the guys with sunglasses and dark suits hanging around outside, ostentatiously packing heat.
But the most important reason for this sudden outpouring of candour is economic. Whatever else he might be, Muammar Gaddafi is a pragmatist, not a penitent. Earlier this year, a massive oil pipeline was opened from his southern neighbour Chad to the Atlantic coast of Cameroon. Prior to the opening of this line, Libya was the major oil supplier in North Africa. Not any more. The pipeline ensures a steady supply of oil from North Africa to western markets without the necessity of freighting it through the suicide bomb alleys of the Persian Gulf or the Suez Canal. The most intense oil exploration in the world is taking place in West Africa, to ensure continuity of supply, which is why the current precarious state of ecumenism in Nigeria is a threat we ignore at our peril.
Gaddafi has owned up to having a Soviet-era reactor and to enriching uranium. He will limit the scope of his missiles to 300km, and will abide by the Chemical Weapons Protocols. That’s all well and good. However, the leftists have already pounced like sloths with their preferred next steps. On BBC’s breakfast news of 20th December, Dan Plesch, the military analyst who said that the American invasion of Baghdad would produce the same kind of supply problems that led to the British failure at Arnhem, Holland in 1944, sang the first verse of a song we are going to hear over and over again as a result of this announcement. Dr. Plesch, a lecturer at the Royal United Services Institute who moonlights as a columnist for the left wing 'Guardian', said that the Libyans’ decision to disarm would increase pressure on those other countries in the Middle East with WMD programmes, specifically Israel, to follow suit. It was inevitable that Israel’s WMD programs would eventually be mentioned sooner or later, conveniently forgetting that Israel is the only country in the region to have undergone long-range missile attack, courtesy of Trap Door Boy, and also that Israel is the only country in the region surrounded by twenty-three hostile neighbours all of whom think the country’s existence on that spot is an offence to their religion. Israel will always be Haram, forbidden, to them, so let’s not take her nukes away just yet.
Libyan disarmament, although a good aim in itself, is less meaningful than it first appears. Gaddafi’s politics ostracise him from the main terrorist threat, the Islamists. It might be the case that he couldn’t deal with them even if he wanted to. He has been turning his back on other Arabs, so is out of the equation on that count as well. He is proving himself to be an adept Cold Warrior (after the end of the cold war), and the bottom line is that he needs all trade sanctions lifted in order to protect his own economic position. Also, he’s enough of a survivor to know when to quit. His motives should always be regarded with suspicion, if not downright hostility. On the other hand, maybe he’s looking forward to the day when Muammar Gaddafi, elder statesman of African politics, can appear at the UN General Assembly and say:
Your Eminence, the Corleone family is completely legitimate.