In one of our recent Media Monitors we noted a human-rights breakthrough in Libya. President Bush himself had cited the Libyan government’s release of Fathi Jahmi, a local government official imprisoned in 2002 for advocating free speech and democracy, as a significant step forward. Bush said it could indicate a changing attitude by Libya about human rights in general. Jahmi then gave interviews to Claudia Rosett of the Wall Street Journal and Al-Hurrah television about his imprisonment and his crusade for democracy in Libya.
But Jahmi’s connection to the outside world?his telephone line?has now been cut. Gadhafi ordered his security people to Jahmi’s home to beat him up for speaking out for democracy. Pro-Gadhafi demonstrators have surrounded the home and continue harassing him and his family. His life is in danger.
This prevented Jahmi from speaking by phone to a March 31st Washington conference on the future of democracy in Libya sponsored by the Libyan-American Freedom Alliance. Gadhafi’s retaliation against Jahmi has led to concern about whether the Libyan dictator’s reported transformation on the matter of weapons of mass destruction has been authentic. British Prime Minister Tony Blair recently visited Gadhafi to hail his announced decision to give up his WMD programs. That was followed by an announcement of British business deals with the Gadhafi regime.
Bush has praised Gadhafi for his move on WMD, and Bush supporters say that what’s happening in Libya is a dividend from the war against terrorism and the war in Iraq. But that may be wishful thinking. What if Gadhafi is conducting a massive deception operation? His regime has been hurt by economic sanctions and he is in need of cash to bankroll his regime. He may be merely pretending to give up his WMD.
We’ve already seen that the human-rights breakthrough was short-lived. Now, Middle East Newsline reports that some U.S. officials are concerned that Gadhafi’s reporting of his missile, biological, chemical and nuclear programs may not be entirely accurate. The news service said, “U.S. officials said that after more than four months of inspections, discrepancies and significant questions persist regarding Libya’s WMD programs.”
Middle East Newsline said that U.S. officials have not been granted full authority to search for Libyan WMD, and that facilities inspected so far contain mostly aging or obsolete equipment. Some officials call the Libyan equipment “junk,” and that there are suspicions that Gadhafi has “concealed or transferred WMD facilities and components.” A Senate staffer said, “There’s a lot of skepticism over whether Libya really intends to cooperate with us or has just shown us their junk to impress us and have us lift sanctions.” At a time when we are discussing intelligence failures before 9/11 and the Iraq war, the media should make sure that the U.S. Government is not committing another failure in regard to Gadhafi’s Libya.