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The making of a strongman

[ 2011-02-28 12:48]     字号 [] [] []  
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The making of a strongman

This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

Moammar Gadhafi came to power in Libya on September 1st, 1969. He led a military overthrow while King Idris was away. Early relations with the United States were generally good, says Bruce St John, the author of seven books on Libya.

BRUCE ST JOHN: "In the early years, he was very much focused on Arab nationalism, Arab unity, Arab socialism. And in fact, the United States government in the first two or three years -- maybe even until 1974 -- there were people in the United States government who thought we could work with the man and work with his regime. It was only later that he began to employ terrorist-type techniques, not only in North Africa and the Middle East, but eventually throughout the world."

Colonel Gadhafi distrusted his own generals, so over the years he built up special brigades. He built these forces with his sons and members of the military loyal to his native tribe and its allies. He also brought in foreign forces -- African mercenaries.

During the 1970s, he tried to unite Libya with other Arab countries. Experts say that was also when he began to provide aid to what some governments considered terrorist organizations. These included the Irish Republican Army and the Abu Nidal Group.

The making of a strongman

Relations with the United States fell to an all-time low during the 1980s when Ronald Reagan was president. He called Colonel Gadhafi "the mad dog of the Middle East."

Author Bruce St John points to two events from that time. In December of 1985, terrorists attacked the Rome and Vienna airports. And in April of 1986, a bomb exploded at a West Berlin discotheque popular with American troops. Two soldiers died.

BRUCE ST JOHN: "Gadhafi and his regime -- the evidence was somewhat murky -- but the United States government believed that they were involved in both of those instances. And it was particularly the La Belle discotheque incident that led the Reagan administration to take a decision to punish the Gadhafi regime and put it on notice that we no longer tolerate that kind of activity."

American planes attacked targets in Benghazi and Tripoli. Many people were killed, including the adopted daughter of Colonel Gadhafi.

In 1988, a bomb blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Two hundred seventy people died, including many Americans. Another bombing took place the following year on a French plane over Niger.

Libya refused to surrender suspects in the two bombings. Libya faced years of United Nations sanctions until it finally surrendered the two suspects in the Lockerbie bombing.

One of them, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, was found guilty. But Scotland released him in 2009, saying he was dying of prostate cancer. He is still alive.

In 2003 -- the year of the American-led invasion of Iraq -- Moammar Gadhafi became more cooperative with Western countries. He agreed to pay the final amount of money owed to families of the Lockerbie bombing victims. And he announced that Libya was ending its programs to make weapons of mass destruction.

The United States reopened diplomatic relations with Libya in 2006, but waited three more years to send an ambassador.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. For more news, go to voaspecialenglish.com. I'm Steve Ember.

brigade: a group of people who share the same opinions or are similar in some other way(主张相同或其他某方面相似的)伙,帮,派

discotheque: 迪斯科舞厅(或舞会等)

prostate: a small organ in men, near the bladder, that produces a liquid in which sperm is carried 前列腺

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(来源:VOA 编辑:崔旭燕)