Muammar Gaddafi is dead. While the State Department and the White House haven't confirmed as of this writing, it's almost certain. You might remember that official confirmation from the US government took a while when Bin Laden was killed, as well. 100% certainty takes some time.
While everyone is saying that the dictator's death is a positive, it pays to remember that under the Bush administration, Muammar Gaddafi was officially rehabbed, taken off the list of state sponsors of terrorism, and generally hailed as a good guy. This despite the fact that, prior to 9/11, the Lockerbie bombing of a Pan Am airliner resulted in the largest American civilian death toll from a terrorist attack.
Bush's reasoning for putting Gaddafi back on the good guys list was his agreement to dismantle his WMD program and renounce terrorism. Of course, his WMD program turned out to be underfunded and largely notional, rendering that part of the reasoning nonsensical. And renouncing terrorism is easy. You don't even have to actually quit. Especially when the US made no effort to prove anything. Libya would turn over a few terrorists for trial and that would be that.
The real reason for normalizing relations with Gaddafi was almost cartoonishly simple and stereotypically neocon. Libya has oil.
[Time, May 2006:]
...Gaddafi was looking hard for a way out of Libya's isolation, which was hurting its vital petroleum industry; in fact, U.S. oil companies were lobbying hard from the mid 1990s for a rehabilitation of Libya, in order to be there first in the upgrading of its aging oil infrastructure. As American and international sanctions were taking their toll and the stagnation was slowly killing Gadfhafi's regime, he offered a major gesture, turning Libyan intelligence agents over for trial in the downing of of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
Oil companies moved right in. There's one kind of government that corporations really like and that's a dictatorship. It's a government with just one person to deal with. That person has the power to rewrite laws, remove regulations, provide cheap labor, and -- in every, single case -- can be bought. A corrupt, oil-rich dictatorship is like a sparkling diamond to corporations, just laying out there in the desert, waiting to be picked up.
Both before and after Bush added Gaddafi to his friends list, his biggest boosters were oil companies and their pet politicians. And, with an oil exec in the White House, they saw their big chance. "U.S. oil producers... rallied on behalf of Qaddafi, according to formerly secret State Department cables published this year by WikiLeaks and lobbying records," Bloomberg reported in June. "The six U.S. oil companies... and two U.S. units of foreign companies doing business in Libya, boosted lobbying expenditures 63 percent to $75.8 million in 2008, when they were pursuing the waiver for Libya, filings show." History shows they got what they paid for -- and more.
[Raw Story, August 2011:]
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) promised to help former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi obtain U.S. military hardware as one of the United States’ partners in the war on terror, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable released Wednesday by anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.
The meeting, which took place just over a year ago on Aug. 14, 2009, included other influential Americans, such as Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. Susan Collins (R-SC) and Senate Armed Services Committee staffer Richard Fontaine, the document explains.
McCain opened the meeting by characterizing Libya’s relationship with the U.S. as “excellent,” to which Liebermann added: “We never would have guessed ten years ago that we would be sitting in Tripoli, being welcomed by a son of Muammar al-Qadhafi.”
"Lieberman called Libya an important ally in the war on terrorism, noting that common enemies sometimes make better friends," the cable goes on. "The Senators recognized Libya’s cooperation on counterterrorism and conveyed that it was in the interest of both countries to make the relationship stronger."
Libya never used military weapons to fight terrorists. And everyone in that room knew he wouldn't. An unstable dictatorship, no matter how corrupt, was of no use to multinational corporations. Those weapons were to maintain Gaddafi's grip on power. And Gaddafi got more help than just weaponry.
[Raw Story, September 2011:]
Documents discovered by Al Jazeera reporter Jamal El Shayyal, who scoured the Gaddafi compound after rebels overran Tripoli, reveals that a former Bush administration official was advising the deposed leader as late as August 2 on what strategy he might take to remain in power.
One of the documents showed the minutes of a meeting with David Welch, the former assistant secretary of state from 2005-2008, who now works for government contractor Bechtel. During his time at the State Dept., Welch was instrumental in brokering the U.S.-Libya Comprehensive Claims Settlement Agreement, which restored diplomatic and commercial ties between the countries after 25 years on hiatus.
According to Shayyal, Welch was still advising Gaddafi as late as August 2, 2011, suggesting that the former dictator funnel information about Al Qaeda connections to the nation’s rebels through Israeli, Egyptian, Moroccan or Jordanian intelligence agencies to give it greater prestige in U.S. intelligence circles. He also reportedly told Gaddafi that if he would “step aside” from command of the Libyan government, he could potentially cling to some of his power.
Keep in mind that this was after the US began military action in Libya, making Welch's efforts on behalf of Gaddafi dangerously close to treason.
Now that he's gone, expect a lot of people on the right to publicly cheer Muammar Gaddafi's death. But remember that many of these people had previously argued that he was the best friend they had in the world.