In the 1980s, I was an unrefined adolescent from blue-collar Butler,
Pennsylvania. I knew nothing and cared nothing about politics. I had no idea if
I was a conservative or liberal, Democrat or Republican, or much of anything
else. But I knew one thing: Moammar Kaddafi was a bad dude. This was expressed
in a rather unsophisticated way by the bumper-sticker affixed to my white Chevy
Chevette, which declared simply and succinctly: "Kaddafi Sucks."
Yep, Moammar Kaddafi was a bad dude. And now, three decades later, and some
40-plus years after coming to power, he is gone, dispatched to the ash-heap of
history with other murderous terrorists and dictators: Osama Bin Laden, Saddam
Hussein, Pol Pot, Mao Tse-Tung, Joe Stalin, Vladimir Lenin.
I will not here add to reports of how Kaddafi met his final fate, but I would
like to share a valuable piece of information that was revealed to me by Bill
Clark, Ronald Reagan's right-hand man and national security adviser when
Kaddafi was ramping up in the 1980s.
It was early 1981. President Reagan had just been inaugurated. Alexandre de
Marenches, the director of France's external intelligence agency, SDECE, came
to the White House with a highly sensitive plan to remove Kaddafi. The plan was
to assassinate the Libyan dictator during a parade, by use of an explosive
device placed near the reviewing stand. "Our answer," said Clark, "was that we
understood their feelings toward the man, but we don't do assassinations."
That was because there was an executive order banning assassinations, first
signed by President Gerald Ford and supported by President Carter. The Reagan
team had no intention of violating the order as one of the first acts of the
Intelligence sources I consulted confirmed Clark's recollection of de
Marenches' request. "He came over to the U.S., probably in early February
1981," said one source, a high-level CIA "operations" person. "His interlocutor
was Vice President Bush. The purpose of the visit was to discuss the removal of
Kaddafi. He came to try to get us involved operationally in the plan…. He
wanted not just our moral or political support but to get us involved in the
This same source pointed to the "Safari Club," which was a group of
countries–France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and the Shah's Iran–that had
banded together for two primary purposes: 1) to fight the spread of Soviet
communism in Africa; and 2) to counter Kaddafi, particularly his adventures in
neighboring Chad. The group was formed by intelligence ministers in the
mid-1970s, and de Marenches was its catalyst. The group was appalled by
America's unwillingness to no longer stand up to the Soviets; it was
post-Watergate, post-Vietnam, Americans had elected an incredibly liberal
Congress, and Jimmy Carter was president. The Club sought to fill the vacuum.
De Marenches' offer against Kaddafi was consistent with the concerns of the
As an indication of the confidential nature of his overture, de Marenches did
not discuss his offer to the Reagan administration in either of his 1986 and
1992 books. But he did note yet another intention to kill Kaddafi: He said that
on March 1, 1978, Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat had asked de Marenches for help
in "disposing of him [Kaddafi] physically."
Think of the irony here, and how tragically history unfolds: It would be Sadat
who was assassinated in 1981–on October 6, 1981. He was killed at a reviewing
stand at a parade, shot by Islamists for his "crime" of making peace with
While Sadat died, Kaddafi was permitted to live. Sadat made peace. Kaddafi left
a trail of blood and violence.
And here's another irony still: Just weeks after de Marenches' offer to Reagan
to assassinate Kaddafi, Reagan was shot, on March 30, 1981, and nearly bled to
In retrospect, should President Reagan have agreed to the French request to
take out Kaddafi? A lot of innocent lives would have been spared. Terrorist
attacks from Lockerbie, Scotland to the Mediterranean would have been averted.
Alas, such action by Reagan would indeed have been illegal, and was not the
mission or foreign-policy plan of his incoming administration. Had Reagan
started his presidency by violating an executive order on assassinations,
liberals in that post-Watergate/post-Vietnam Congress would have run him out of
town with impeachment papers before his historic two-term takedown of the Evil
Empire could commence.
Reagan did what he could–or couldn't.
Nonetheless, this is a very intriguing tale of what happens behind the
scenes–and what might have been. The death of Kaddafi had to wait–it had to
wait a long, painful 30 years. Only now, finally, this bad dude is gone.
– Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College and
executive director of The Center for Vision Values. His books include
"The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand" and his latest
release, "Dupes: How America's Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for
www.VisionAndValues.org | www.VisionAndValuesEvents.com
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