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This initial vote of confidence in the CIA was not enough. The administration redoubled its domestic propaganda campaign to persuade the nation of the virulent menace of foreign terrorism. If no one could find convincing evidence of Soviet-sponsored terror, they could of Libyan support for violent European and Middle Eastern groups. And the administration could magnify the evidence until Americans felt positively threatened by what was in fact a weak and ineffectual power-and one that, far from being a surrogate of the USSR, did not even let the Soviets base ships at its ports.
The campaign against Libya started at the New Republic, whose line on terrorism and foreign policy in general was shaped increasingly by editor Martin Peretz's strong political commitment to Israel. The once-liberal magazine had begun publishing regular articles by Michael Ledeen and former Newsweek correspondent Arnaud de Borchgrave, a Jerusalem conference participant and a vociferous exponent of the theory that Soviet disinformation had duped the American media. (De Borchgrave would later become editor of the Washington Times, owned by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.) Now, in March, the New Republic excerpted a chapter from Claire Sterling's new book on terrorism. Entitled "Qaddafi Spells Chaos," the kicker read "A murder, a maniac-and Moscow's man."
On July 26, 1981 Newsweek reported that the administration was gearing up a major effort to topple Gadhafi, involving a "disinformation" campaign to erode the colonel's domestic support, formation of a "counter government" of Libyan exiles and a program of paramilitary and sabotage operations inside Libya to stir up discontent and expose Gadhafi's vulnerability.
The next month, provocative U.S. naval exercises off Libya's coast provoked a rash-and desired-response from Gadhafi. U.S. jets downed two Libyan fighters in a dogfight over Gulf of Sidra.
In September, columnist Jack Anderson confirmed that CIA director Casey had concocted a disinformation campaign to mislead the American press about Libya by planting false stories abroad. The stories accused Gadhafi of supporting the slave trade in Mauritania, mismanaging his country's petrodollar accounts and stirring up terrorism.
On October 19, Newsweek passed along a provocative leak that the administration was talking with Egypt about a possible invasion of Libya. After the August confrontation over the Gulf of Sidra, according to this account, Gadhafi hatched a scheme to kill the American ambassador in Rome, Maxwell Rabb. The plot "was aborted when Italian police deported ten suspected Libyan hit men," Newsweek reported. "Washington officials now believe Gadhafi has called off the assassination attempt, but they are not entirely certain." It also mentioned in passing that U.S. intelligence had "picked up evidence that Ghadafi had hatched yet another assassination plot-this time against President Reagan."
The plot continued to thicken-with numerous ominous leaks but no evidence. On October 2 5 the New York Times revived the Libyan plot to murder Rabb, reporting that he had been rushed out of the country "without even a change of clothes." (Other sources insisted he had simply left for Washington to lobby for the sale of AWACS to Saudi Arabia.) Gadhafi hotly denied the charge and noted correctly that to carry out such a plot would be suicidal.
November saw a positive flurry of reports linking Gadhafi to terrorist plots. Newsweek cited reports of Libyan plans to attack four U.S. embassies in Western Europe. Secretary of State Haig blamed Gadhafi for hiring a killer to target Christian Chapman, the U.S. charge d'affaires in Paris. Time magazine joined in with a report that National Security Advisor Richard Allen had discussed with French officials plans to assassinate Gadhafi. And in late November claims surfaced that Gadhafi planned to kill the president of Niger.
But the most significant theme in this strategy of tension surfaced with Newsweek. Its voluble U.S. intelligence sources tipped the magazine that "Gadhafi is plotting to assassinate the president and other top American officials," including Vice President Bush and Secretaries Haig and Weinberger. The average reader could sympathize with administration officials who were said to "openly admit that they would be delighted if someone else killed Gadhafi."
The notorious Reagan assassination plot story hit the front pages of the New York Times on December 4. "The government has received detailed reports that five terrorists trained in Libya entered the United States last weekend with plans to assassinate President Reagan or other senior officials," the paper revealed. A "huge nationwide search for the potential assassins" was underway. Later reports added lurid flourishes:
no less than Carlos "the Jackal," the infamous Venezuelan terrorist, was on his way to kill the president.
Fed a steady diet of Gadhafi rumors, the American public could be excused for believing President Reagan's dismissal of the Libyan's denials: "We have the evidence, and he knows it....l wouldn't believe a word he says if I were you."
A few skeptics raised questions. It seemed doubtful that any one informant (as reported) could supply so much detail on each member of the hit team, that Libya would send so large a squad and that the East bloc would have risked training the assassins. Government sources told the Washington Post that reports of the plot included "lots of speculation" based on "a plausible scenario" resting on "a limited amount of knowledge."
Haynes Johnson, a veteran Post correspondent, noted "lt's almost as if public opinion were being prepared for dramatic action-say a strike against Libya or Ghadhafi himself...lt is reminiscent of the talk about Castro in the days when the United States was planning the Bay of Pigs invasion, and in fact, commissioning assassination schemes against Castro."
Then, as mysteriously as they had appeared, the hit teams vanished. By late December, officials decided "the hit squads have become inactive." Indeed, "the information about the hit squads has been and still is mushy," sources told the Washington Post. "The United States still does not know for sure whether any members of the two hit squads ever left Libya."
Only in the context of the latest Iran arms scandal has the public finally learned that the source of the fanciful "hit squad" story was Manucher Ghorbanifar, a former Iranian SAVAK agent with close ties to Israeli intelligence. According to the Washington Post, the CIA believed he was a Iying schemer who "had made up the hit-squad story in order to cause problems for one of Israel's enemies."
These details confirm what the Los Angeles Times had learned in 1981: "Israeli intelligence, not the Reagan administration, was a major source of some of the most dramatic published reports about a Libyan assassination team allegedly sent to kill President Reagan and other top U.S. officials... Israel, which informed sources said has 'wanted an excuse to go in and bash Libya for a long time,' may be trying to build American public support for a strike against Libyan strongman Moammar Ghadhafi, these sources said."
In short, the whole story was an intelligence provocation from start to finish. So, it would now appear, was Israel's promotion of Ghorbanifar as a reliable go-between for Washington with Iran in 1985.
But if it served Israeli interests to discredit Gadhafi, it also served the Reagan administration. The deadly threat from Libya swept aside public objections to a sweeping expansion of CIA powers. Never mind that the reality, as evidenced by the 1986 bombing attack on Tripoli, that in fact it was Reagan who planned and attempted to assassinate Gadhafi, not the reverse.
Originally posted by semperfortis
Whether I used the quote or not does in no way detract from the relevance of irony as well as the fact that he did in fact hold that position.
Your suppositions and endeavors at shrouding the exactitude of another's statements is well known on the boards. As is your opposing views to anything resembling correctness.
All of this, however, in no way reduces the level of satire any intellect should fathom from the situation previously depicted.
You have a very strange view of right/wrong & history my friend.
In what way are the Palestinians occupying Israel's land?
Oh and a question for you - how is the UN on the one hand 'useless and corrupt' and yet when the US needs some justification for its illegal invasions it becomes important again.
Perhaps if the US accepted the reality that the United Nations represents a range of views and supported all its resolutions (rather than just the ones it finds fitting to its aims and objectives) the UN would have more 'clout'