Monday, January 17, 2005

Libyan Cigars

With the mainstream US press being asleep at the switch again, two events (with a very ironic relationship) occurred in late 2003 and 2004 which received very little investigative reporting or journalistic scrutiny. They are the strengthing of the 43 year old economic sanctions against Cuba, and the lifting of 12 year old sanctions against Libya. First, some background:

Two military men--one in 1959 , the other in 1969--staged military or paramilitary coups to gain governing rule of their respective countries. Each went on to rule his respective country as a dictator, some would say as a despot. I'm talking of course about Fidel Castro and Colonel Muammar al-Quadhafi, of Cuba and Libya respectively.

The Cuban revolution and Cuba's new leader posed no threat to the US, other than repelling a US backed invasion in 1961, the so-called Bay of Pigs invasion, and allowing the USSR to locate strategic nuclear missiles on the island-nation, triggering the Cuban Missile crisis of 1962. As we know, President John F. Kennedy was ultimately successful at having the missiles removed without the use of force. Since 1962 Cuba has not posed a military threat to the US or the world. In 1961 the US imposed crippling economic sanctions and a travel embargo against Cuba, in place to this day.

In contrast, Colonel Qadhafi chose to influence change in the world through unconventional means, often targeting the US and the West. From the CIA World Factbook:

"He used oil funds during the 1970s and 1980s to promote his ideology outside Libya, supporting subversives and terrorists abroad to hasten the end of Marxism and capitalism."

Read: IRA, Abu Nidal, Islamic Jihad among others.

In addition he directly managed acts of terrorism, the most infamous of which were the 1986 bombing of a German discotheque where American military personnel were known to congregate, and the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people. The US and the UN imposed economic sanctions against Libya in 1992, effectively ending American business presence there (primarily oil concerns).

So the very same bad guy who did all these bad things is still in charge. Yet the Bush administration has decided he's seen the light, and its OK to visit and do business with him. To be fair, the UN began lifting sanctions in 1999 after Libya agreed to be accountable legally and financially for Pan Am 103. But it was in 2004 that the Bush crew expedited the removal of the last barrier preventing US oil companies from doing business in Libya.

In contrast, I can now expect a much greater chance of being caught if I travel to Cuba (with increased resources being dedicated to finding these lawbreakers), and a greater chance of receiving a hefty fine. All this over ideology, not national security.

I can only hope that Libya makes some kick-ass cigars.....

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