Thursday, March 31, 2011

CIA works to overthrow Qaddafi, now and 35 years ago

So Obama has signed a "finding" sending our spooks to do something about that Libyan dictator, according to Reuters. The New York Times has more.

WASHINGTON — The Central Intelligence Agency has inserted clandestine operatives into Libya to gather intelligence for military airstrikes and to contact and vet the beleaguered rebels battling Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces, according to American officials.

Apparently we've been there and done that before. Early this month Terry Gross on WHYY's Fresh Air interviewed a couple of retired CIA agents. One of them told a story from 35 years ago.

Mr. BAER: ... Terry, this was in the mid-'80s. I was assigned to Khartoum, Sudan, and I was told to take care of these people that were going to get rid of Gadhafi.

And I didn't know much about them. I'd just gotten to Khartoum, and it was one morning about 4 that there was pounding at my door, and my door was kicked down.

And it was these Libyans. They had beards and robes, and they were carrying Kalashnikovs, and they rushed into my apartment, said, Save us, Gadhafi's going to come murder us.

What had just happened was that their arms depot in Khartoum had been overrun. A couple Milan missiles were taken. So while we were figuring out what to do with these people, how to protect them, I sat with them all night, and what I realized by the morning was that the Reagan administration, which was behind this, was supporting the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood.

And these people described to me how they had tried to kill Gadhafi in 1984 at Aziziya barracks and that none of this was coordinated with the CIA, but what happened was that one morning they woke up and their leader said that he had been visited by Allah and now was the time to kill Gadhafi.

And they commandeered four or five trash trucks and were going to ram them through his front gate. They were so excited they jumped out of the trucks before they were through the gate and there was a battle in Tripoli, and most of them were killed.

And you know, it was funny because there's always been this accusation that we've supported the Muslim Brotherhood, and I'm sitting there listening to this. This conversation's all in Arabic, by the way, and I said: Oh my God, we are supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

These are the same groups that are fighting and are in Benghazi right now and that are fighting Gadhafi. You know, this is 30 years later.

GROSS: Did you think that the coup was going to succeed then? I guess it had already failed by the time you got... yeah.

Mr. BAER: You know, I just found the Libyan exiles to be totally unreliable. We could never get any good intelligence out of them. They were - they were mystics as well. They used to boil pages from the Quran, you know, boil ink off and then drink it for inspiration. I mean it was that kind of, you know, weirdness that just wasn't good for - we had no idea whether they could even get to Gadhafi or the rest of it, and this was all politically driven by the White House.

My emphasis. Apparently high risk gambles on a Libyan coup are nothing new. Maybe somebody in this White House should have talked with some old hands before jumping into this particular frying pan.

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