As Bon Jovi said in a recent song – “The more things change, the more they stay the same”. As next week marks the 25th anniversary of the Bombing of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi is remarkably still in power, and fighting in Libya is once again the news of the day.
Before I continue, I would like to know – Am I the only one who is confused on how to spell this wackjob’s name? I’ve seen Gaddafi, Qaddafi, al-Qaddafi, and Khadafi – all in different publications. Uggh! For this article, I will just use “Gaddafi”.
During the 1970s and ’80s, Gaddafi’s government financed a wide variety of Muslim and anti-U.S. and anti-British terrorist groups worldwide. In response, the U.S. imposed sanctions against Libya. So relations were never good. In 1981, Libya fired at a U.S. aircraft that passed into the Gulf of Sidra, which Gaddafi had claimed in 1973 as Libyan territorial waters. That year, the U.S. uncovered evidence of Libyan-sponsored terrorist plots against the United States, including planned assassination attempts against U.S. officials and the bombing of a U.S. embassy-sponsored dance in Khartoum, Sudan.
In December 1985, five American citizens were killed in simultaneous terrorist attacks at the Rome and Vienna airports. Libya was blamed, and President Ronald Reagan ordered expanded sanctions and froze Libyan assets in the United States. On March 24, 1986, U.S. and Libyan forces clashed in the Gulf of Sidra, and four Libyan attack boats were sunk.
Then on April 5, 1986 was the straw that broke the camel’s back. A West Berlin dance hall, the LaBelle discotheque, which was popular with U.S. servicemen was bombed by terrorists. One U.S. serviceman and a Turkish woman were killed, and more than 200 people were wounded, including 50 other U.S. servicemen. U.S. intelligence had intercepted radio messages sent from Libya to its diplomats in East Berlin ordering the attack on the dance hall.
He Counted On America To Be Passive. He Counted Wrong …
In response to all of this, on April 14, 1986 shortly before 7 p.m. EST (2 a.m., April 15 in Libya), The U.S. launched air strikes against Libya. Five military targets and “terrorism centers” were hit, including the headquarters of Muammar Gaddafi. Gaddafi was able to escape from being killed because he received a phone call from Italian politician Bettino Craxi warning him that aircraft were flying over Maltese airspace heading south towards Tripoli. However, his 15-month-old adopted daughter was killed in the attack on his residence, and two of his young sons were injured.
The United States was denied overflight rights by France, Spain and Italy as well as the use of European continental bases, forcing the Air Force portion of the operation to be flown around France, Spain and through the Straits of Gibraltar, adding 1,300 miles each way and requiring multiple aerial refuelings.
During the raid, the French Embassy was narrowly missed.
Even before the operation had ended, President Reagan went on national television to discuss the air strikes. “When our citizens are abused or attacked anywhere in the world,” he said, “we will respond in self-defense. Today we have done what we had to do. If necessary, we shall do it again.”
Parts of Reagan’s speech can be heard towards the end of Def Leppard’s “Gods of War”.
After the bombing, there was no other major terrorist attack linked to Libya until the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 747 over Lockerbie, Scotland. All 259 passengers and crew of that flight were killed, and 11 people on the ground perished.
Gaddafi shocked the world when he became one of the first Muslim heads of state to denounce al-Qaida after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
In October 2008 Libya paid $1.5 billion to be used to compensate the relatives of the Lockerbie bombing victims, American victims of the 1986 Berlin discotheque bombing, American victims of the 1989 UTA Flight 772 bombing, and Libyan victims of the 1986 US bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi.