In the Senate, those demanding even harsher prosecution of the Libya war include the three amigos. John McCain, warning that "the blood of Americans is on Qaddafi's hands," has called for arming the insurgents, whom Joe Lieberman has praised as "freedom fighters." Lindsey Graham wants to know why we don't just take out the Libyan leader like Reagan tried to do: "Who would be mad at us," he pressed Pentagon chief Robert Gates yesterday, "if we dropped a bomb on Qaddafi?"
Here's the curious thing about their hawkish swagger: In August of 2009 — not even two years ago — McCain, Lieberman, Graham traveled to Tripoli to shake the bloody hand of the freedom-depriving dictator they now want to assassinate. It was the highest-level meeting of Libyan and American officials since Condi Rice's state visit in 2008. (The amigos were joined by Susan Collins who has questioned the wisdom of the war.)
As this WikiLeaked cable details, the three amigos had a chummy visit with the Qaddafi clan: Lieberman expressed delight at the thaw in U.S.-Libyan relations: "We never would have guessed ten years ago that we would be sitting in Tripoli, being welcomed by a son of Muammar al-Qadhafi," he said to Muatassim, the regime's National Security Advisor. The Connecticut independent praised Libya as an "important ally" in the War on Terror, adding that "common enemies sometimes make better friends."
During the pow-wow, Muatasim pushed the senators for enhanced military assistance. Senator McCain assured Muatassim that "the United States wanted to provide Libya with the equipment it needs for its security," the official notes of the meeting reveal. McCain called the U.S.-Libya military relationship "strong" and said any frustrations on the Libyan side should be weighed against the "officer training" Libyan military brass were receiving "at U.S. Command, Staff, and War colleges."
When Muammar Qaddafi himself joined the meeting, Graham emphasized the need for the two countries to "fortify" their relations, and the three amigos pledged their help in getting Lockheed Martin to deliver eight c-130 aircraft the Libyans the regime had paid for way back in 1972, promising to take up the issue with SecDef Gates directly.
More troubling, the senators advised Qaddafi on how to "manage" (Lieberman's word) the homecoming of a man with American blood on his hands — the terrorist convicted in the PanAm bombing, whom Scottish authorities would soon release under dubious medical auspices.
Far from standing with the American vicitims of 1988 Lockerbie atrocity and their families, the three amigos instead gave their new compadre Qaddafi public relations advice on how to welcome home a terrorist without jeopardizing Libya's newfound diplomatic standing.
"Stressing that they were raising the issue in the strongest spirit of friendship and respect," a separate cable reports, the delegation pleaded with the Qaddafis play it cool — lest the regime offend the sensibilities of the American public by feting the bomber too exuberantly. The cable paraphrases Lieberman as adding: "Both sides would have to work hard to ensure that it does not damage the relationship."
Following the meeting, Senator McCain took to Twitter to reflect on the summit:
Late evening with Col. Qadhafi at his "ranch" in Libya - interesting meeting with an interesting man.
UPDATE: Here's video of the glad-handing: