As U.S. and British troops began flooding into Kuwait, Col. Gadhafi grew agitated, diplomats said. Italian press accounts quote then-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi as saying that Col. Gadhafi had called him to say he feared he would be America’s next target. “Tell them I will do whatever they want,” said one diplomat, recounting the call. In early March 2003 just days before the start of the Iraq war, Saif and Musa Kusa, a top Libyan intelligence official, contacted the British to say that Col. Gadhafi wanted to “clear the air” about WMD programs in exchange for assurances that the U.S. would not try to topple his regime, according to several accounts.
Gadhafi’s renunciation of WMD was a remarkable event and a big victory for the Bush Administration that has received a relatively small amount of attention in the media. Reading about it got me thinking of one of the real public relations obstacles President Bush faces during the War on Terror. Everything that goes wrong in the world is known, but when a potential threat is eliminated, we can only speculate on whether eliminating that potential threat actually saved American lives. We see very real images of Iraq looking like a mess, but we don’t know what would have happened if Saddam was still in power. We don’t know whether Gadhafi would still be pursuing WMD, and, if so, what he would plan to do with them. People take it for granted that there hasn’t been a terrorist attack on American soil since Sept. 11. Now, maybe this is just luck. Or maybe Al Qaeda is taking its time to plan something big. But it’s also a possibility that President Bush’s policies have been effective at thwarting terrorist plots and dissuading state sponsors of terrorism.