Last week, Gary Schmitt posted a disturbing report that Libyan government arms might be flowing to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). He noted that, while to date the worry has been that elements of al Qaeda were infiltrating the ranks of the Libyan rebel forces, “if the above intelligence is correct, the greater worry may be a Gaddafi willing to strike back at the United States and its NATO allies by supplying weapons to terrorists.”
Well no sooner had Gary posted his concerns, than Gaddafi issued exactly such a threat. While many Americans were at the beach enjoying the Independence Day long weekend, the Washington Post reported on Saturday:
Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi on Friday threatened to attack Europe if NATO continued bombing his country.
In a recorded message broadcast to a large crowd gathered in Tripoli’s central square, Gaddafi said that Libyans would “target your homes, offices, families, which would become legitimate targets.”
“These people are able to one day take this battle to Europe,” he said as the crowd shouted slogans against the West.
This no idle threat, coming from the man who blew up Pan Am 103 over Scotland, killing 270 people; destroyed a French passenger jet over Niger, killing 171 people; bombed the La Belle discotheque in West Berlin, killing two U.S. soldiers and injuring more than 50 American servicemen; established terrorist training camps on Libyan soil; provided terrorists with arms and safe haven; and plotted to kill leaders in Saudi Arabia, Chad, Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, and Zaire. Until Osama bin Laden came along, no one had killed more Americans in terrorist attacks than Gaddafi. And, as I pointed out in the Washington Post earlier this year, if Gaddafi survives there is a real danger that he could return to his terrorist ways.
Of course, Gaddafi could not carry out such threats if he were removed from power. But removing Gaddafi is not a military objective of the European-led NATO air campaign. By leaving him in power, we take on a growing risk that Gaddafi will emerge from this conflict angry, emboldened, and seeking revenge. Which means the consequence of the Obama administration’s “lead from behind” approach to Libya could well be another terrorist attack on the West.