Happy Anniversary, Col. Qaddafi

Dateline— Tripoli, September 1, 1969. A young Libyan military officer snatches power of his North African nation. Despite the ups and downs of dictatorship, and a tumultuous and sometimes deadly relationship with the United States, Col. Muammar Qaddafi remains in power and is experiencing a surge in popularity with world leaders.

Forty years ago, then-Capt. Qaddafi led a bloodless coup, overthrowing King Idris I. It has been said the 27-year-old Qaddafi fashioned his nation into a haven for anti-Westerners, pressing the U.S. panic button.

A confident Qaddafi long has called for African unity, and one would think such an arrangement would be under his strong influence in some way. Of concern to the U.S. has been his support of terror and its brokers, like the Palestinian Liberation Organization. He has supported rebel movements throughout Africa and is believed to have helped finance the murders of the Jewish athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Relations between the U.S. and Libya deteriorated during the 1980s. In what has been called “President Ronald Reagan’s undeclared war with Libya” in 1981, U.S. naval aircraft shot down two Libyan MIGs. In 1986, the U.S. attacked Libyan patrol boats and conducted a series of bombing raids on the large, coastal nation. It is believed Libya later sought retribution by bombing a Berlin nightclub frequented by U.S. servicemembers. In 1989 two U.S. Navy F-14 aircraft shot down two more Libyan MIGs off the Libyan coast. The bold and the beautiful in U.S. ranks were weary of the frigid and boring Cold War. Young boys and girls were gleeful at the prospect of smokin’ a camel (or two), in the T-shirt parlance of the day. (This euphemism later was used in Iraq during the first Gulf War.)

Economic sanctions soon forced Muammar to slink into the shadows. It is widely believed the boy wonder and master saber rattler began pulling his support of terror operations. Other than Lockerbie, little was heard until …

Until recently. Because Muammar gave up his Lockerbie perps and portended to be the contrite Qaddafi that world leaders craved, the aging leader has made a comeback in the likes of Elvis and Mickey Rourke. After the lifting of sanctions, European leaders fell over themselves to meet with the man (robes and all). Can anyone forget fawning French president Nicholas Sarkozy?

It is about money and power, but when is it not? The riches of Libya and Qaddafi’s influence over a puzzling continent make him a hot commodity (maybe even as hot a Mickey Rourke).

It was not so long ago that Qaddafi was this nation’s Saddam Hussein and its Osama bin Laden. Now it appears he is worth more alive than dead, otherwise his weak-but-believable renouncement of terror and his bad boy lifestyle would have just landed him on the “Please Invade My Nation” list. That’s how it works, isn’t it?

Love him or hate him, Libya has long been a relatively stable nation, one not wedded to decades of U.S. aid. How many nations on the continent can make that claim?

Happy Anniversary, Col. Q. Dare we call you the Desert Fox?

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