Yesterday’s bombing of a compound in Tripoli that reportedly killed the youngest son of Moammar Ghadafi as well as three grandchildren calls to mind my own experience when running a CIA Libyan operation in Istanbul back in the late 1980s. In 1986, President Reagan had ordered the bombing of Tripoli in retaliation for a Libyan terrorist attack on a discotheque in Berlin that was frequented by American soldiers. Ghadafi’s compound was hit, then as now, and it was claimed that his adopted daughter had been killed. Libyan television showed a doctor carrying the lifeless form of a young girl, an image that quickly made its way around the world.
Two years later I interviewed that doctor when he was passing through Istanbul. He said that the whole thing had been staged as a media event, that Ghadafi had no adopted daughter, and that the girl had come from an orphanage. She had been drugged to make her appear lifeless.
I am not suggesting for a second that the recent bombing is in any way faked, but it is easy to forget what Ghadafi is really like and what he is capable of. My fear is that Mr. Obama’s poorly conceived campaign to oust the Libyan leader will fail and that Ghadafi will resort to the weapons that he has at hand to get even, as he has in the past. That could mean that there will be more Pan Am 103s or terror bombings of other “soft” civilian targets.