We recently recapped the weird history of US-Libyan relations, focusing on how, after years of hating on and bombing Qaddafi, soon after the Iraq war commenced we suddenly decided we liked him. The US opened diplomatic relations in 2009 and had all sorts of warm feelings for the once-pariah state. Then somehow in 2011 he started hating on and bombing Qaddafi again.
New cables, on Wikilks, now give us a hint at how cozy the US-Libyan relationship (briefly) was.
To start, Libya needed lots of spare parts for its military after years of embargoes. The US was happy to assist. An unclassified cable from 2009 outlined that the US sold “Miscellaneous parts, components, accessories, and attachments for the L100 aircraft and T56 engines belonging to the Libyan Air Force,” conveniently through a Portuguese middleman. Wonder if any of those refitted aircraft played any part in the recent unpleasantness in Libya? The cable asked Embassy Lisbon and Embassy Tripoli to check up on these exports, as they had (duh) military usage and cordially concludes “Department is grateful for Post’s assistance in this matter.”
The more amusing cable is from August 2009, just two short years ago. It recounts the visit to Libya of Congressional super heroes John McCain,Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham. The boys had a nice visit with Qaddafi and his son it seems. The cable notes “Lieberman called Libya an important ally in the war on terrorism, noting that common enemies sometimes make better friends.” Old Man McCain assured his hosts “that the United States wanted to provide Libya with the equipment it needs for its security. He stated that he understood Libya’s requests regarding the rehabilitation of its eight C-130s and pledged to see what he could do to move things forward in Congress. He described the bilateral military relationship as strong and pointed to Libyan officer training at U.S. Command, Staff, and War colleges as some of the best programs for Libyan military participation.”
The cable continued to say that “Qadhafi commented that friendship was better for the people of both countries and expressed his desire to see the relationship flourish. He thanked the Senators for their visit and described America as a race rather than a nationality, explaining that many Libyans are dual citizens because they were born in the United States. Senators McCain and Graham conveyed the U.S. interest in continuing the progress of the bilateral relationship and pledged to try to resolve the C-130 issue with Congress and Defense Secretary Gates.”
It was no surprise Qaddafi wanted to talk hardware with McCain. The preparatory cable sent to McCain from Embassy Tripoli just before his trip reminded that “Libya has stated its number one priority, in return
for relinquishing WMD, is a security guarantee by the US against foreign aggression. To that end, Libya has expressed an interest in purchasing lethal weapons from US firms.”
Ho ho ho, that sure seems ironic now, after six months of a US bombing campaign.
Qaddafi was always polite. In November 2008, the US Embassy in Tripoli received what it called a “telefax,” (what your grandfather would call a fax) from the man congratulating Obama on his election win. The “telefax” said:
I have the pleasure to send a congratulation note for the first time to an American president, and on behalf of all Africa, and of Cen-Sad, the base of the African pyramid, and on behalf of the Arab Maghreb Union, and in the name of all Arab leaders as I am their dean. Since relations are resumed between our two countries, we have the right to congratulate you from the bottom of our hearts because you are the son of Africa.
Blacks were deemed weak and were oppressed, and were taken to the American continent as slaves and indentured servants. The main point is that Blacks shall not have an inferiority complex and imitate the Yankees.
The Embassy took the “telefax,” retyped it into a cable, and sent it to Washington, which explains what real diplomats do at work for you students reading this and contemplating a foreign service career. Above all, they do not re-send “telefaxes” when retyping one can do.
Anyone interested in researching the ongoing dump of diplomatic messages should check out cablegatesearch.net, which provides effortless full-text search.
Another excellent way to keep informed on new cable releases is via Twitter. Use the #wlfind tag.
Copyright © 2013. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of the Department of State, the Department of Defense or any other entity of the US Government. The Department of State does not approve, endorse or authorize this blog or book. Follow us on Twitter!