Qaddafi: From Private Ally to Public Enemy

MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty
Muammar Qaddafi and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Tripoli on September 5, 2008
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He was our man in Tripoli. The dictator who came in from the cold. And the about-face in American policy toward Col. Muammar Qaddafi's repressive regime is one of the more unsettling aspects of our newest war "time-limited, scope-limited military action."

Its easy to forget that Qaddafi 's reengagement with the West was recently seen as one of the few unambiguously positive outcomes of the Iraq War. America had secured change in the Libyan regime without resorting to regime change in Libya. Qaddafi renounced terrorism and vowed to dismantle his WMD programs and to join the fight against Muslim extremists in 2003. And the Bush administration publicly rewarded Qaddafi, restoring full diplomatic relations in 2006.

In 2008, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice paid a state visit to Tripoli. "That country has radically changed its behavior," declared Bush flack Dana Perino at the time, "and Secretary Rice's trip signifies a new chapter in U.S.-Libya bilateral relations."

Behind the scenes, as revealed in WikiLeaked State Department cables from Tripoli, the U.S. cultivated a close working relationship Qaddafi to advance shared commercial and security interests. American companies like AECOM and the Tennessee Overseas Construction Company reaped huge construction contracts.

And the Obama administration picked up right where Bush left off. By January 2009, the U.S. signed a "memorandum of understanding on military cooperation" with Libya. And as Salon's Justin Elliott reported last week, the State Department approved more than $60 million in arms sales to Libya in 2008 and 2009. We judged the Qaddafi regime to be "a top partner in combating terrorism."

By April 2009, the dictator's son National Security Adviser Muatassim Qaddafi was invited to Washington to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, National Security Advisor James Jones, "as well as the Deputy Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security and the Deputy Director of CIA."

Speaking to reporters during his visit, Clinton smiled broadly has she declared that "we deeply value the relationship between the United States and Libya" and that America was eager to "deepen and broaden our cooperation."

Watch it. In light of the bombs that are now, not even two years later, dropping on Tripoli it's deeply weird:

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