May 17, 2006


Gadhafi's Leap of Faith: Libya's strongman feared appearing weak. (JUDITH MILLER, May 17, 2006, Opinion Journal)

And there was the map problem. "I wanted a detailed, but nonclassified, map of the country," said Mr. Mahley. "But there was none in the entire U.S. government." Mr. Mahley said that nothing he had done before, including commanding two companies in Vietnam, facing down the Russians over arms-control disputes, or negotiating the germ and chemical weapons treaties in Geneva, was as complicated as dismantling Libya's WMD infrastructure in less than four months between January and April 2004.

Several things surprised him: first, the relatively small number of Libyans involved in the WMD programs. "Though the Libyans I dealt with were knowledgeable, dedicated, and innovative," he said, "there was almost no bench." "The same six people--most of them American-educated--did almost everything," said Harry L. Heintzelman IV, senior adviser on noncompliance. A second lesson was how relatively easy it was to hide elements of a WMD program, even in an open desert, "if there is a national dedication to do so," Mr. Mahley wrote in a "Lessons Learned" paper for an arms-control newsletter.

"Tony" Sylvester Ryan, known as "Chemical Tony" to distinguish him from the team's other Tony who helped dismantle banned missiles, recalled being taken to a place they wound up calling the "turkey farm." Other officials said that the site, previously unknown to U.S. intelligence, was where Libyans had hidden unfilled chemical bombs and where they were going to set up centrifuges to enrich uranium. Libya, Mr. Ryan said, came clean in stages: "They'd start by saying 'I think we have only 1,500 unfilled bombs,' and by the end of the visit, they'd acknowledge having stored about 3,000. But we never would have found the place at all if the Libyans hadn't shown it to us."

Team members were also struck by the extent to which sanctions had complicated Libya's hunt for unconventional weapons, especially biological. Though U.S. intelligence officials still debate whether Libya has disclosed all aspects of its early effort to make or acquire germ weapons--in particular, how much help, if any, was provided by Wouter Basson, head of South Africa's illicit germ-warfare program under apartheid--sanctions apparently helped dissuade Col. Gadhafi from building an indigenous program. "The program, if you can call it that, just kind of fizzled out," said a member of the British-led biological team that first toured suspect Libyan sites and interviewed some 25 scientists during a two-week trip in the late spring of 2004.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 17, 2006 9:46 PM

"Libya's strongman feared appearing weak."

He feared getting his exciting new floral print summer sun-dresses dirty in the spider-hole.

Posted by: Noel at May 18, 2006 8:48 AM

As eccentric dictators go, Gadhafi is far from the worst. Have you seen his (all-female) bodyguard force? They look disturbingly like the backup singers from Robert Palmer's 'Addicted To Love' video; I understand thre was some ruckus over these armed women at an Islamic conference in Saudi Arabia. :)

Posted by: Mike Earl at May 18, 2006 10:53 AM