Tuesday, September 29, 2009

White House And Obama Mum on Gadhafi Grants

"The White House declined to comment on a letter that an Illinois Republican send to President Obama demanding that he cancel funding for two $200,000 State Department grants to groups belonging to Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi's children.

Rep. Mark Kirk wrote the letter after the State Department notified the House Appropriations Committee on Sept. 15 of its intent to provide the foundation belonging to the Libyan dictator's son, Saif, with a $200,000 and an additional $200,000 to Wa'ettasmeno UNDP Foundation run by his daughter, Aisha.

"Last month, when Scotland freed Abel Baset al-Megrahi, the only man convicted in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, Gadhafi greeted him with a hero's welcome," Kirk wrote in his Sept. 23 letter to President Obama. "As you know, Megrahi was accompanied back to Libya by Gadhafi's son, Saif, who was involved with negotiations for Megrahi's release. Just weeks after the Gadhafi family celebrated the return of a terrorist for the murders of 189 Americans, the U.S. taxpayer should not be asked to reward them with $400,000. For the sake of the victims' families who have endured so much pain these last few weeks, I ask you to withdraw your Administration's request."

The State Department told Newsmax the grants were part of a larger $2.5 million economic support program intended to promote democracy and women's economic opportunities in Libya, which Congress appropriated for fiscal year 2009.

"We are currently reviewing all of the funds, and nothing from the proposed program has been released yet," said State Department spokeswoman Joanne Moore.

Kirk said he was particularly incensed by the fact Saif Gadhafi was the primary organizer for last month's welcome ceremony for Megrahi in Libya.

"It directly flies in the face of Obama administration comments condemning the release of Megrahi, and it is a wildly inappropriate use of United States taxpayer funding," Kirk said.

Although the funding doesn't violate U.S. law regarding the Bush administration's decision to remove Libya from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, Kirk said Megrahi's welcome home ceremony raised ethical questions.

"The welcome home ceremony of the murderer of 189 Americans is incomprehensible to explain in any community in America," he said.

The Appropriations Committee has employed a parliamentary procedure to block the obligation to fund these two Gadhafi family-led foundations, said Kirk, who promised to introduce an amendment to delete the funding the next time the committee meets if the president doesn't do so.

"I'd like to . . . see the staffer who proposed this, and then secondly, I hope that the leadership of the State Department, including Secretary of State (Hillary) Clinton, immediately see the mistake that has happened here and withdraw funding," Kirk said.

The congressman also took issue with the money the State Department plans to give Libya because of the large number of "national security nightmares" in Africa the Gadhafi government is involved with despite its efforts to make peace with the West.

These include the regimes destabilizing activities in Chad and involvement with "nefarious elements" in East Africa.

According to Middle East Forum Director Dr. Daniel Pipes, who has followed the actions of the Gadhafi regime for several decades, says the Libyan dictator has curtailed his efforts to extend his influence to within Africa. His scope of operations has changed from the days when President Ronald Reagan called him "the mad dog of the Middle East," and his government actively sponsored acts of terrorism such as the Pan Am 103 bombing or backed groups such as the Irish Republican Army and other Palestinian factions.

"U.S.-Libyan relations were downright venomous from until 1969 until Gadhafi's renunciation of nuclear weapons and the decision to pay up to the families of the Lockerbie bombing," Pipes said. "The question is how much Moammar Gadhafi has changed, but the fact is he still is a thug.

"Respectability is important to him, but he wants respectability on his terms, and the last thing we want to do is fund Libyan government or quasi-government entities. So I commend Congressman Kirk on his actions."

Despite Gadhafi's efforts to win legitimacy in the West, Libya remains a repressive dictatorship where democracy as the West understands it is nonexistent.

The State Department's decision to fund the two Gadhafi-related groups also has sparked outrage from at least one of the Lockerbie bombing families.

"This is disgraceful. I think we will have an all-out campaign to get the president to put a stop to this funding," Kathleen R. Flynn, whose 21-year-old son, JP, was murdered in the PanAm 103 bombing, told Newsmax. "I will put in a call to Hillary Clinton's office about this.

"It is unconscionable that they would entertain such a thing."

Flynn said she plans to contact the president of the organization of the Lockerbie bombing families' organization to press for a "full campaign" on behalf of all the families to get the funding killed.

"I am horrified, and we will work hard on it."

Although she was critical of the Obama administration's actions, she praised Kirk for his actions."

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