Leaked cable: Sen. McCain promised to help Gaddafi obtain U.S. military hardware

By Stephen C. Webster
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 12:27 EDT
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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 continues. “The Senators recognized Libya’s cooperation on counterterrorism and conveyed that it was in the interest of both countries to make the relationship stronger.”

Part and parcel to that relationship: military hardware, including helicopters and non-lethal weaponry, meant to ensure the security of Tripoli. In exchange for this and assisting the nation in rehabilitating its image with other lawmakers, Gaddafi pledged to send Libya’s highly enriched uranium supplies to Russia for proper disposal.

The cable does not mention anything about the senators pressing Gaddafi for democratic reforms.

In a twist of fate, Gaddafi temporarily abandoned that agreement in dramatic form last November, leaving a large quantity of uranium in a poorly sealed container strewn on the side of an airport runway for weeks. The incident nearly caused massive quantities of nuclear radiation to leak into the atmosphere — a nuclear disaster, by all accounts.

And it all stemmed from a spat Gaddafi had with U.S. billionaire Donald Trump.

Trump even bragged about the incident in a recent appearance on Fox News, telling the conservative television station he “screwed” the Libyan dictator out of a land deal. Gaddafi had paid Trump to pitch a tent on his property in New York ahead of a United Nations summit. Once the media began zeroing in on the bizarre structure erected on Trump’s property, the billionaire revoked his permission and sent Gaddafi packing.

Gaddafi is quoted in other U.S. diplomatic cables as saying he felt “humiliated” by his treatment, inspiring him to back out of the deal.

A rapid response was made by Sec. of State Hillary Clinton, who had aides describe in detail what exactly a nuclear disaster in Libya would look like. After nearly a week of talks, Libyan officials finally allowed the uranium to be carted off to Russia, with the U.S. paying $800,000 to transport it.

Sen. McCain, who provided the impetus for the whole strange affair, later wrote on microblogging site Twitter that he’d shared an “interesting meeting with an interesting man” (Gaddafi) — a comment that has haunted the Arizona Senator since the former dictator began slaughtering his own people.

Since that time, McCain has also come out in favor of arming Libya’s rebels, saying: “I think we could do the same thing that we did in the Afghan struggle against the Russians. There are ways to get weapons in without direct U.S. supplying.”

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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