Moammar Gadhafi Just Might Get His Wish
“Is Curt Weldon trapped in a Libyan hotel?” That was the question I got from a reporter who called me at home while I was watching the chaos that is now Libya on TV. I immediately called the former congressman, and he was safe and sound in his Delaware County home. He told me, however, “another former member of Congress is over there trapped inside the Rixos hotel.”
Reverend Walter Fauntroy, who represented Washington D.C. in Congress for 20 years, was being held by Gadhafi gunmen inside the Rixos hotel. Fauntroy had just called Weldon asking for help. “He has a flak jacket on and is huddled in a room with some western journalists.” Weldon called the State Department and made them aware of Fauntroy’s situation. He’s now safe and sound and on his way home. “Walter called me and asked me for details on my trip to Libya, but if I knew he was planning on going over I would have advised against it,” Weldon said.
It was natural for Fauntroy to reach out to Weldon. As the lead Republican on the House Foreign Relations Committee, Weldon visited Libya; he’s met with Colonel Gadhafi more than any other elected official. I traveled with Weldon on his last visit to Tripoli. It was right after the NATO air strikes started. Several Libyan officials, including Gadhafi’s son Saadi, asked Weldon to please come to Libya and try to resolve the crisis.
Weldon and his team carried with them a list of 11 principles for peace. We were told that The Leader would agree to all of them, including free elections, except the one that called for his exile. “Gadhafi says the only way he will leave Libya is in a box” is how one high-ranking Libyan official put it. A promised meeting with The Leader was canceled and the Congressman left Libya with a sealed message from Libyan Prime Minister Al Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi addressed to “Her Excellency” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking for direct talks.
“This is going to end badly,” Weldon lamented on the phone as I watched rebel troops looting Gadhafi’s compound live on TV. “They will never find him. I have been in that compound several times. Gadhafi has a huge underground tunnel system. When I told the Congressman there are reports that 20,000 loyalist soldiers just disappeared, he said, “Gadhafi could easily move them through the underground system. It is huge. They are with Gadhafi and they are waiting. The Leader won’t go down without a fight.”
I remembered those words as I read today that Gadhafi forces are still in firm control of cities in Eastern Libya, where the fighting is fierce and rebels are having a difficult time advancing. Curt Weldon was in Libya five months ago and handed Gadhafi a way out. He should have taken Weldon’s deal. Gadhafi may just get his wish to “leave Libya in a box.”