WASHINGTON – The Obama administration “snatched defeat from the jaws of victory” when it engaged in the 2011 overthrow of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, charges a former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Libya has become a failed state with no central government in which ISIS has established a major base of operations in North Africa from which to launch attacks throughout the African continent and into Europe, argues former Republican congressman Pete Hoekstra of Michigan.
“All we have now is an entity exporting radical ideology, fighters, weapons into northern Africa and into the Middle East,” Hoekstra told WND.
“It is a cesspool of radical jihadists, and that is the result of not confronting, not containing and not putting in place the ultimate strategy of … defeating radical jihadists.”
The U.S., he said, has “lost Libya, northern Africa, and fed into the crisis that is in Syria and Iraq.”
Hoekstra told WND jihadist militants in Europe who obtain European passports could enter the United States undetected through a visa-waver program with European Union countries.
One of the jihadists suspected in the ISIS attack Friday in Paris entered France as a Syrian refugee, according to intelligence reports.
The identified gunman had come through the Greek island of Leros, suggesting he had arrived there by boat, according to a Greek government spokesman.
On the morning of the Paris attack, President Obama insisted ISIS had been contained by U.S. airstrikes in Syria and Iraq. And his administration Sunday remained steadfast in its plan to bring Syrian migrants to the U.S., contending authorities can vet them to weed out terrorists.
Meanwhile, counter-terrorism expert Sebastian Gorka, a military affairs fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, warned in a Fox News interview that most of the “refugees” are young men. He suggested that ISIS purposely forced the migrant crisis to mask the infiltration of ISIS fighters into Europe.
Hoekstra told WND that unlike Obama’s actions in Libya that resulted in a failed state and a haven for jihadist militants, the U.S. during the Reagan administration had a strategy to “confront, contain and ultimately defeat” the Soviet Union.
When the U.S., under Obama, helped overthrow a secular government, such as in Libya and Egypt, Hoekstra said, radical jihadists filled the political vacuum.
‘Evolution’ of a dictator
Hoekstra said he met with Gadhafi at least three times as a House member and came to realize that the Libyan leader had turned from a supporter of terrorism to working with the West, helping to identify al-Qaida members threatening his regime.
Inside the George W. Bush administration, Hoekstra said, there was a “small group of people” who recognized that after several decades, the policy of containing and confronting Gadhafi “was actually beginning to bear some fruit.”
Among other terrorist attacks, Gadhafi’s Libya was responsible for the bombing of a discotheque in Berlin and the downing of Pan Am 103 over Scotland.
“Republican and Democratic administrations, by keeping the pressure on this guy, were just about at the point of getting him to flip,” Hoekstra said.
The former congressman said Gadhafi realized he could end up like Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, who was overthrown in 2003 after the U.S. attacked and later was executed by the new Iraqi government.
Gadhafi “had changed his orientation toward radical jihad, given up his nuke program … paid reparations to the families of the victims of his previous terror activities such as PanAm 103,” Hoekstra said. “That in no way absolved him from the blame for what happened in the murder of the people on that flight.
For eight years, Hoekstra said, Gadhafi began working with U.S. military and intelligence “to give us an insight into what is going on in the radical jihadist movement.”
“Why is that important? This guy had been fighting radical jihad for decades,” Hoekstra said, noting areas of Libya already had been a source of al-Qaida fighters.
Gadhafi helped the U.S. identify and capture some of the fighters, interrogated them and helped “give the U.S. insight into who these folks were.”
“That was the Gadhafi who we saw evolve,” Hoekstra said.
‘Doing everything he was asked to do’
The former intelligence chairman noted White House Press spokesman Josh Earnest had been critical of his observations of the Obama administration’s handling of Gadhafi in his recently published book, “Architects of Disaster.”
The Obama White House view of Gadhafi was that he was a “bad guy” and had to be “taken out,” Hoesktra said. Yet, under the Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations, “nobody ever thought about taking him out.”
“The bottom line is that when we decided to take him out, Gadhafi was doing everything we had asked him to do and had been doing it for eight or nine years,” said Hoekstra.
He said Gadhafi helped the U.S. to develop a “broad strategy of isolating and confronting the threat that we face today, when 14 years after 9/11 we are worse strategically than where we were on 9/11.”
“The threat to us, to our allies Israel and Western Europe today is greater than what it was then,” he said.
Yet, Hoeskstra said, Obama imagined that by the “power of his personality, the radical jihadist movement would fundamentally change their view of America and would change their behavior.”
Hoekstra paraphrased Obama’s vow in 2007 that on the day of his inauguration not only would the country look at itself differently but the world would look at America differently.
“Just because we will have a new person in the White House,” Hoesktra said, “fundamentally everybody else in the world is going to change their worldview because of Barack Obama. … They will understand that because he lived in a Muslim country, even though a Christian, he understands their point of view.
“So, as a result, we decided to engage with radical jihadists,” Hoekstra said. “What is the result then?”