Me and Moammar Gadhafi go way back.
I knew him back when we spelled his last name with a “K” in the official government reports.
See, I spent a significant fraction of the mid-1980’s parked on his doorstep.
Hell, to be honest, the old bastard deserves some credit for how my life turned out – which, so far, has been pretty good thank you very much.
Back then, I was a junior intelligence technician in Ronald Reagan’s Navy, stationed in Rota, Spain, and riding warships of the US Sixth Fleet patrolling the azure waters of the Mediterranean. Of course, in those days the Cold War was in full hysteria and the only enemy that mattered was the Soviet Union, AKA The Evil Empire. This was 1985, and nobody was talking about Perestroika or Glasnost (remember when both of those words were used daily on the evening news? What? Both concepts came and went before you were born? Yeah, stick it in your fahrvergnügen). Nowadays, people wonder what all the fuss was about, after all the Russians eat Pizza Hut and dig capitalism and watch Jersey Shore and we buy their oil and old nuclear bombs. But back then, those filthy Slavic bastards were the enemy.
They hated us and we hated them and like the guy said in Red Dawn, most of us figured it was just a matter of time.
Problem was, they weren’t allowed to shoot us, and we weren’t allowed to shoot them. So we mostly glared at each other over the barrels of our guns and the rails of our missile launchers (yes, in those days ship-borne missiles were fired from rails, not out of vertical launch silos. It was a wondrous, primitive time). Sometimes our planes dumped fuel on their ships when they got too close to the carrier, or we buzzed their superstructure shaking their crappy Russian fillings loose. Upon occasion our ships banged into each other, sometimes by accident, sometimes on purpose (it was often hard to tell if the Soviets were just lousy seamen or deliberate shitheads, or both). And sometimes we just mooned them, when our vessels closed to visual range (it’s entirely possible that my own bare white ass decorated the cover of Red Star. See, there was an incident in the Black Sea involving a Russian BE-12 photo reconnaissance plane. But that’s another story).
Our respective governments would make noises about peace and Détente, limiting strategic weapons and nuclear missiles. They’d sign treaties and everybody would shake hands and smile for the cameras.
Then the politicians would go home and arm us to the teeth and point us at each other.
But as I said, they wouldn’t let us shoot.
Instead, we fought a bunch of idiotic little brushfire conflicts through proxies.
One of which happened to be Libya.
And if these conflicts were like kids in a pushing match, Gadhafi was like the bully’s little sycophant toadie, the one that sneaks around behind your back and kneels down so that when the other guy gives you a shove he’s there to trip you up.
Few adversaries vexed Ronny Rayguns more than the Crazy Colonel. Gadhafi was a burr under the American cowboy’s saddle blanket. No matter what we did, no matter all our power and military might, he just wouldn’t go away.
Gadhafi was Reagan’s Castro.
Which is how I ended up spending a couple years as a junior analyst in certain aspects of Libyan air defense.
Instead of spending the 80’s lounging around the Costa Del Sol, we kept getting sent down to North Africa to show the flag and put the fear of God into the Libyans.
Then one day, Gadhafi claimed a chunk of the ocean for himself and we just couldn’t have that.
I was on USS Yorktown when we sailed across his so-called Line of Death into the Gulf of Sitre (back then we spelled it “Sidra” but like Khadafi/Gadhafi, the translations changed over the years, that’s how you know you’ve been around too long) and provoked the Libyan military to a fight. It wasn’t much of a fight in actuality, but it was the best Reagan was going to get. We spent the next month lobbing missiles at each other. Well, ok, it was mostly us doing the lobbing and them doing the blowing up – but there were some real tense moments (and some fairly bizarre ones, like the day we watched in utter disbelief as Libyan air defense batteries shot down a Libyan helicopter that was trying to rescue Libyan sailors from a Libyan patrol boat our strike aircraft had sunk. That incident taught me something about perception and hysteria and the fog of war, lessons I remembered many years later when I was in charge of certain combat operations in another war). Less than a year later I was back, this time onboard USS Ticonderoga, as part of the strike group sent to punish Gadhafi for the Berlin disco bombing and other acts of flagrant terrorism. We struck at the Libyan military bases near Tripoli and Misrata (and “accidentally” dropped a bomb on the French Embassy. Whoops, sorry about that, hold on to your escargot, boys! Liberty in France later that month was a little testy) – and lost two Air Force pilots and their FB-111 in the process – in an operation dubbed Eldorado Canyon.
Things were quiet after that, we’d taught old Daffy Gadhafi a lesson by George.
For a few days anyway.
Then Gadhafi sprung his surprise.
He’d gotten himself a couple of SS-N-1’s, the naval variant of the infamous scud missile, from the Soviets. And one night he launched them straight at the US Fleet – likely with the assistance of Russian “advisors.” I’m not going to discuss the details because I’m not sure if they’re still classified or not. Suffice it to say that we didn’t know at the time, as we watched those missiles rise on the radar screen, that they were woefully outdated weapons, with guidance systems that couldn’t hit a barn from the inside and warheads that were unlikely to do much to modern American warships unless they hit dead on – a remote possibility given the aforementioned guidance systems. For very good reason, we thought they were something else. I’ve never been as frightened as I was that night.
But, see, there was this Warrant.
That Warrant set the example. He was calm and cool and despite the fact that we were all pretty sure we were about to die, he cracked wise and poured himself a cup of good navy coffee and calmly ordered us to our duty. And so we did exactly that, our duty, and waited for the end. At that time I was just a junior petty officer, as green as green can be and had no idea whatsoever what a Navy Chief Warrant Officer even was. But after it was all over, and we lived through it, I realized that he was who I wanted to be.
I’ve never been scared since. Never. Though I’ve been in far worse situations.
Two years later, four days before Christmas, 1988, I was onboard a US Navy P-3 Orion, flying from Sembach Kaserne in Germany, to Keflavik, Iceland. As chance and air routes would have it, just after dark we flew over Scotland on our way to the North Atlantic.
The P-3, being a propeller driven Navy patrol craft, had great endurance but it didn’t fly at any great altitude.
And so we had a clear view of the fires burning below as we flew directly over the town of Lockerbie.
We knew then that we were looking at a horrific disaster – you couldn’t be on that air route and not know. In the following week we learned that 270 people died that night, 178 of them Americans. In the month that followed, we learned that Libyans were responsible for a terrible act of terrorism. We always knew Gadhafi was involved, but it took until 2011 and the defection of a high ranking member of the Libyan government during the height of the Arab Spring before we would learn that Moammar Gadhafi himself had personally ordered the downing of Pan Am Flight 103.
I had always intended to get out of the military after that first tour, but after Lockerbie I re-upped. The world was a dangerous place, bastards like Gadhafi and his friends were killing my countrymen. A life in the military seemed a worthwhile endeavor.
And so it was.
Fifteen years and many, many adventures later, well, I was that Chief Warrant Officer.
So, yeah, maybe in some small way Gadhafi is responsible for where I ended up.
It seems a little weird that he’s not there anymore. Like that bad tooth in the back of your mouth, the one you got in that bar fight in that little town on the French Riviera after your Air Force buddies accidently bombed the wrong building, the one you chew carefully around. It’s not quite bad enough to get fixed and not quite good enough to ignore. Some days it causes you grief, and some days it’s hardly noticeable, but you always know that it’s there, ready to inflict pain for no damned reason at all.
And then one day after decades of this nonsense, you finally get the root canal, and the pain goes away and it’s just weird that it’s not there anymore.
That doesn’t mean I’m going to miss Gadhafi, anymore than I miss a toothache – or the old Soviet Union.
But he’s been such a fixture of my life, it’s weird that we won’t see the Crazy Colonel on TV making some crazy proclamation any more. It’s weird that he’ll never again come to the UN, actually here on the soil of United States – and stay in a tent in Donald Trump’s backyard. It’s weird that news commentators and intelligence analysts will no longer have to struggle to make sense of his rambling speeches full of fire and hyperbole and wackiness.
And it’s weird that after all this time, after all the blood and bombs and terrorism, the Cold Wars and the proxy wars, after revolution and Arab Spring, Libya is finally rid of that crazy rat bastard.
It’s as strange to me as the day I watched ordinary people pull down the Berlin Wall.
In the end, it was ordinary Libyans who pulled Gadhafi's miserable ass from a drain pipe and finished him off.
And today, after all this time, the United States of America is spoken of in the streets of Tripoli and Misrata with gratitude again.
Yes, again. We were friends once, you know, we Americans and the Libyans. We fought side by side against the fascists. And later we were welcome in North Africa when other Western powers were not. There are still living US Air Force veterans who once flew sorties from Wheelus Air Force Base outside of Tripoli – the same base we bombed in operation Eldorado Canyon. Hell, there were once so many Americans there that Wheelus was informally dubbed “Little America.”
Imagine being friends again.
No, really, imagine what that means. Imagine what a free Libya means without that madman at the helm.
Libya has vast wealth in the form of oil reserves and a population long denied freedom and democracy. The country is intact and so is most of the infrastructure. They want what we have and they have a means to buy it. And, and pay close attention here, that oil is not trapped behind the Straits of Hormuz and the Suez Canal – in other words, for those of you not good with geography even after all this time, access to Libyan oil can not be controlled or threatened by Iran.
Oh, the light comes on, does it?
Why do we care about Libya? Because damned near every other major source of oil on the planet is either in the hands of crazy people, or threatened by powers hostile to the United States and her allies.
Gadhafi is dead, and today the price of oil per barrel is falling.
Falling without a single well having been drilled the Arctic or an American life lost.
There is little that will help restart the world economy faster than lowering the price of energy. Every American will benefit from having Libya as a friend again. It is in our best interest, hell it is in the best interest of every human being on the planet, to encourage what is happening in Libya right now. And it would be even if there was no oil there. Encouraging the revolution in Libya and the downfall of the dictatorship is the morally correct thing to do. Period.
The President played this one exactly right in every regard.
And whether or not you love him or hate him, Obama deserves full credit for having done so.
He won’t get it of course.
Here’s a sample from the usual source:
You Hussein Obama worshippers are the biggest joke out there. Hussein Obama did nothing but create a power vacuum that radical Islam fascists will fill. But you are all to busy sucking your muzzies dick to see that.
Note that “muzzie” is apparently the new hate word to describe Muslims. It appears quite commonly in comments on Yahoo, Fox, and Tea Party forums.
I’ve seen this exact notion expressed in a dozen different places, both from commenters and pundits and politicians. Better the devil you know, I guess. I find it hugely ironic that those who so worship the memory of Ronald Reagan rail against the death of a vile dictator, the very gadfly who taunted Reagan himself and generations of American presidents, and who gave the order to kill Americans in the sky over Scotland and in Berlin. They are loath to cheer the dawning of democracy and freedom for fear that it might, just might, create a so-called “power vacuum.”
Hell, if they are so frightened that Muslim extremists hostile to the West might take over, then they should be encouraging us to get involved, to render aid and goodwill, and to do every damned thing we can to protect and nurture the fledgling Libyan democracy. We’ve got a head start, you know, because, you know, turns out Obama did just the right thing.
Korea. Cuba. Vietnam. Iran. Iraq. Afghanistan. Come as advisers or come as invaders. Topple the dictator or prop him up. Send troops. Kill people. Blow stuff up. Pay for it for the next decade. We’ve been doing this since before Eisenhower – it’s the basic formula that defines our foreign policy and it’s the reason half the world hates our bleeding guts.
To paraphrase a certain politician, how’s that gun-boaty diplomacy thing working out for ya?
This time, this time, we have a chance to do it differently. Do it right. Because Obama took the proper measured response.
The UN and Nato will never let Africa develop. Period. Libya had the highest human development index on the continent.
Uh, what? I’m not exactly sure where this guy was getting his data regarding human development on the African continent, unless it was the same Wikipedia entry the aforementioned politician got her Paul Revere background from. However, even if you take this comment at face value, which you most definitely should not, i.e. that Libyans were better off under Gadhafi than on their own, this is the same asinine argument used by those folks who think the slaves were better off living in bondage in the Antebellum South than free in Africa. It’s such a stupid comment that it doesn’t deserve anything but contempt.
Funny how soon many Americans forget that for the past few years our political relations with [Gadhafi] were actually improving and he was turning into an ally. Then we decided to stab HIM in the back and support muslim terrorists in taking over Libya.
The cognitive dissonance in that comment is as stunningly bizarre as something Gadhafi himself might have said. Conservatives suggesting that we take Gadhafi at his word? Seriously? Muslim terrorists. As opposed to Moammar al Gadhafi? For fuck’s sake, I hope this idiot stays home and watches NASCAR on election day.
Anyone who would find this to be good news would be a Obama fan. El Gaddafi was a hero to the Tea Party and GOP for how he fought Obama.
“El” Gadhafi? El? Mexico, Libya. potato, potatoe, fuck it, it’s all the same to me. Gadhafi fought Obama, he’s a Tea Party hero. What does it mean that he also squabbled with Reagan, the Bushes Big and Small, Clinton, England, France, Italy, Egypt, Chad, and Israel? Hello? Is this thing on?
I have no objective info regarding him, only what my country wants me to believe. I'm inclined to think the only reason we keep ousting these dictators is because we want the ensuing unrest as a pretense for more excuses to be over there...
If he could have worked in “New World Order” and the face on Mars he’d really have something there. At least he admits he has no objective information, but then again why should that stop him?
It is to soon to tell if the freeing of Libya if that is what it is will be a benefit or a detriment to the U S. My fear is that they will be another terrorist state we will have to deal with.
Another terrorist state? As opposed to what? Libya? Somebody really, really hasn’t been paying attention. Since about 1970.
And finally, there’s this little gem:
I suppose we could credit Stalin for defeating Hitler too.
I can’t even work up a snarky comment. The level of self righteous jingoistic ignorance is appalling on just so many levels.
The bald truth of the matter is this: Conservatives who today are bemoaning the death of Moammar Gadhafi instead of cheering his richly deserved demise have jumped the goddamned shark. Their hatred has exceeded all rational bounds.
Ask the relatives of those who died in the sky over Lockerbie if Gadhafi deserved his fate.
Ask the loved ones of those who died in Berlin.
Hell, ask the Libyans.
Moammar Gadhafi is dead, and I feel just fine.