"This young century will be liberty's century. By promoting liberty abroad, we will build a safer world." - President Bush, last night.
From the New Republic a few weeks ago:
Another Libyan man being held incommunicado is Fathi Al Jahmi, a 63-year-old democracy advocate. On March 12, President Bush publicly welcomed Jahmi's release from a 17-month detention. "It's an encouraging step toward reform in Libya," Bush said. Two weeks later, however, Jahmi, along with his wife and son, disappeared again. They are still missing. Since Bush's March remark, the White House has not publicly called for Jahmi's release. An American official says that the United States has "received assurances of his physical security." But Jahmi's family is unimpressed. "Basically, the State Department is just saying, 'We keep pushing,' but they are not telling us how," Jahmi's brother Mohammed, who lives in the United States, told me. "They assure us they are for human rights and for democracy and say these are important issues," he added. "But we also see visits by U.S. officials to Libya to strengthen relations and to push ahead with normalization while Qaddafi is still not implementing any reforms."
"They're not making [human-rights] the centerpiece of their discussions," said one Capitol Hill lobbyist. "The most important thing for Bush in Libya is that [Qaddafi] gave up WMD. I guess human rights were the price."
Indeed, human rights offenses are unlikely to reverse--or even delay--the normalization of ties. After all, American businessmen, many from the same oil companies that have lavishly funded Bush's campaigns, have flocked to Libya since the president relaxed the trade embargo in April. (Libya is estimated to have 36 billion barrels of oil reserves, valued collectively at $1 trillion.) ExxonMobil signed a deal in July with Libya's national oil firm, and ChevronTexaco has held preliminary talks with Libyan oil officials.
Economics are not the only factor prompting Washington to overlook Libya's abysmal human rights record. American officials hope to duplicate the Libya disarmament model in pariah nations like North Korea, Iran, and Syria, and do not want to appear too tough on Qaddafi. "If you really want to send a message to North Korea and Iran, you can't have Libya do all this major disarmament of their own volition and get nothing in return," the American official told me, suggesting that raising the bar would send the wrong message to other proliferators. Of course, improving U.S.-Libyan relations without putting serious pressure on Qaddafi to treat his people more humanely could set another precedent: that the United States will accept a disarmed North Korea that continues to starve its people or a disarmed Iran that continues to jail and kill its dissidents.