Charles Duelfer: Remembering America's Secret War Against Qaddafi

[Charles Duelfer worked in politico-military affairs at the State Department and was the special advisor to the director of central intelligence for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. He is the author of Hide and Seek: The Search for Truth in Iraq.]

As the world debates how best to stop the slaughter in Libya, it's worth remembering that the United States has successfully countered Muammar al-Qaddafi's military before.

Qaddafi has a track record of misadventures extending back to the Libyan revolution, which brought him to power at the head of a military junta in 1969. He supported terrorism all over the world and had a penchant for stirring up trouble in Africa. In the late 1970s he sent troops to support Ugandan President Idi Amin, who was under assault from opponents coming from Tanzania. And in 1983, he launched a massive invasion (by African standards) of his neighbor to the south, Chad.

Chad was of no particular importance to the United States. It was part of Francophone Africa, and the French had the primary interest there among Western countries. Moreover, any resources the country had were in the south (deemed "Tchad Utile" -- useful Chad -- by the French), not in the desert north occupied by Libya. Indeed, it would be hard to think of a more useless part of the planet.

Nevertheless, Washington did not want to be seen as acquiescing to Colonel Qaddafi's invasion of another country -- even if it was only Chad. Bear in mind that 1983 was an extraordinary year of regional turmoil: The Iran-Iraq war was endangering oil flows in the Persian Gulf, the U.S. Embassy in Beirut was attacked in April and the Marine barracks in October, the Soviets shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007 in September when it strayed over their territory, U.S. troops invaded Grenada in October, the Iraqi Islamic Dawa Party (with ties to the current leadership in Baghdad) conducted attacks in Kuwait including bombing the U.S. Embassy, and Donald Rumsfeld visited Saddam Hussein in December in Baghdad as the United States began to tilt toward Iraq to contain Iran. On the global strategic level, U.S. President Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars" initiative, announced in March 1983, threatened to upset the balance of power between the United States and the USSR.

I happened to be in the State Department's Political-Military Bureau at the time. Among my other duties, I was given responsibility for security assistance to Chad in response to the Libyan invasion...

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Arnold Shcherban - 3/22/2011

<was the special advisor to the director of central intelligence for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.>
Comments are redundant, though as we know now, the absence or presence Iraqi WMD would not make any difference...

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