Along the Tracks

Monday, March 22, 2004

NPR causes blood vessel rupture

As I rode home from Napoleon Friday evening, my face flushed, my ears started ringing and I broke into a sweat. I wiped my hand across my forehead and discovered a huge bulging vein stretching back to my temple. I could count my pulse by the massive throbs.

Was I suffering a stroke?

No, I was listening to NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

Robert Siegel was “interviewing” Martin Indyk, former Clinton administration official and presently an expert at the Democratic think tank, the Brookings Institution. Indyk is out on the commentary circuit, attempting to beat back the argument that Col. Khaddafi’s decision to turn over his weapons of mass destruction stockpiles and programs in Libya was, at least in part, a positive result of the Iraq war. That is, many observers have noted that Khaddafi’s move came after Saddam’s removal, which may have been received as a cautionary tale.

Anyway, Indyk has been writing and talking, trying to poo-poo this notion. He’s obviously not an “independent” observer, but that’s all right - he may well have some valid points on this, and I’d like to hear them and consider them.

By the same token, any journalist worth his taxpayer-and-donor-funded weekly check should challenge someone with an obvious ax to grind with probing questions to separate spin from valuable information. Siegel failed so miserably I nearly drove the company Sebring into a tree.

Indyk’s “proof” that Khaddafi’s decision had nothing to do with Saddam is the claim that the Libyan dictator offered to hand over his whole weapons program back in 1999 - four years before the Iraq invasion - during larger secret negotiations with the Clinton administration on terrorism and the Lockerbie bombing.

That sounds like important, relevant information, don’t ya think?

So the first question which comes to my mind, and probably yours, is “WHY THE HELL DIDN’T THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION TAKE KHADDAFI UP ON HIS OFFER?”

Now, there could be a lot of good reasons the Clintonites didn’t accept. Maybe the offer was hinged on some ridiculous amount of quid pro quo - dropping all sanctions immediately, ending the efforts to gain Lockerbie reparations, approving American oil investments, etc. Pursuit of these “reasons” seems like the obvious, logical and most valuable path for the interviewer.

Siegel did ask the obvious “Why not?” query. Indyk responded that compensation for Lockerbie and a disavowal of terrorism were the focal points for the Clinton administration, not chemical weapons.

That was good enough for Siegel, and he moved on. No follow-ups, no nuttin’.

My brain began to hemorrhage.

Here was a high government insider, with a window into both Khaddafi’s mindset, and the mindset of the late Clinton administration during the leadup to a war, on an issue which directly affected America’s course.


Indyk’s column for the Financial Times goes into more detail than Siegel’s “probing” interview, but still leaves far more questions on the table. Indyk repeatedly tosses out some sort of effort against Osama bin Laden, in which the Clintonites gain Khaddafi’s promise of support. What did that plan, and Khaddafi’s assistance, entail?

We learn Khaddafi was willing to acquiesce on a broad range of issues, in fact, but the former administration wanted Lockerbie compensation to be a done deal before anything else would even be considered. Huh? Lockerbie was and is important, of course, but securing those WMDs before Khaddafi might “lose” them and Osama might “find” them would seem to be high on any national terrorism agenda, no? Especially one with a broader “campaign against Osama bin Laden.”

Indyk describes Khaddafi as “ready to put everything on the table.” Would not “everything” include the Lockerbie issue? Assuming compliance could be verified, why wouldn’t the Clinton administration agree to discuss “everything,” complete agreements on “everything,” and bring Libya into the fold of respectable nations and gain its full assistance in the “campaign against al-Qaeda”? Verifiable compliance was (and is) a big “if,” of course, but according to Indyk, this approach was never even considered.

Finally, Indyk’s conclusion - that Iraq had nothing to do with the Libyan dictator’s change of heart - is not supported by the historical facts. Khaddafi finally settled on the Lockerbie issue, not during Clinton’s watch, but during Bush’s. The agreement came last August - after the Iraq invasion. Everything else - WMD turnover, most notably - has come since. In other words, in about six months, Libya has moved all the way from terrorist-sponsoring pariah state to knocking on the door of world acceptance.

Now, I’ll grant you that the negotiations behind the scenes have almost certainly been long and detailed. I’ll even grant that Clinton’s efforts helped set the stage for what we see now. But clearly, there are only two conclusions which fit both Libya’s recent turnaround and the new information offered by Indyk:

1. Bush’s willingness to use military force to defend American interests against terrorists and terror-sponsors, culminating in action against Iraq, and the CIA’s interception of a weapons shipment to Libya last year, deeply impressed Khaddafi and convinced him it was no longer in his interest to be an enemy of the United States. In short order, he has signed away his weapons, paid compensation for his past complicity in terror, and agreed to full cooperation in the War on Terror.

2. The Clinton administration foolishly squandered Khaddafi’s earlier offer to give in to “everything” in some sort of diplomatic parlor dance. The only explanation for this I can come up with is the Clintonites simply feared looking “soft” by making a broad agreement with Khaddafi. This was post-impeachment Clinton, the Clinton of Kosovo Air War fame. He felt the need to look tough and capable on foreign policy without actually getting bogged down. Thus the “air” part of Kosovo. Thus no further effort to get inspectors back into Iraq. Thus renewed efforts on the intractable Middle East “peace process.” Thus Osama bin Laden’s freedom to control an entire nation even after the African embassy bombings (bombings were ‘98, but Osama was still livin’ the high life in Kandahar all through ‘99’s “campaign” against him, to quote Indyk).

Indyk’s “recollections” and conclusions are lame enough, but I probably wouldn’t have typed out 1,000 words on them if not for the inexcusably inept interview by NPR’s Siegel. So let me just point out that if NPR or any other major news organization has any aspiration to regain the trust of the American people, each had best do some soul searching on biases which drench their every newscast. Better yet, just go back and read some basic journalism texts. Learn how to ask questions. Learn how to get answers. Learn how to do your civic duty as the public’s watchdog - not just the Left’s lapdogs.

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