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Lawmakers React to Reports of Qaddafi's Capture, Killing Lawmakers React to Reports of Qaddafi's Capture, Killing

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National Security

Lawmakers React to Reports of Qaddafi's Capture, Killing

Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi  (Alex Hoyt/ The Atlantic)

October 20, 2011

U.S. lawmakers and politicians weighed in on the news that ex-Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi has been captured or killed during a battle for his hometown of Surt.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., said Qaddafi’s death marks an “extraordinary moment, but the days ahead will not be easy.” As Egypt and Tunisia are also working to transition to democracy after their respective uprisings toppled longtime leaders, Kerry noted that “creating a free and tolerant political order is a more difficult challenge than removing a despotic one.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., called this a "critical moment" for the Libyan people.


“If Qaddafi is confirmed dead and his loyalists defeated, it marks a critical moment for the Libyan people to turn their nation away from its grim past as a rogue state and toward a future of freedom marked by alliances with the United States, Israel, European democracies, and other responsible nations,” she said in a statement. Libya’s new leaders must work with the United States to secure the Qaddafi regime’s weapons stockpiles, and  “Libya’s future must be marked by the establishment of a democratic government which is tolerant, inclusive, and free from extremist influence,” Ros-Lehtinen said.

Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said the “success of the Libyan people in rising up to overthrow a tyrant is a blow against dictatorship everywhere.” Levin commended President Obama, saying Qaddafi’s defeat would not have been possible without the assistance of an international coalition, in which U.S. leadership played an important role.

House Armed Services Ranking Member Adam Smith, D-Wash., also applauded the Obama administration and international community for helping the Libyans “in their quest for freedom.” Going forward, the international community should continue to support the Libyans “as they seek to establish a stable nation after forty years of Qaddafi’s misrule, rebuild an economy that has been undermined by repression and now war, and build a democracy from a country that has been ruled by dictatorship for generations.

The ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said that Qaddafi's possible death marks an end to just the “first phase” of the Libyan revolution.

“The Libyan people have liberated their country. Now the Libyan people can focus all of their immense talents on strengthening their national unity, rebuilding their country and economy, proceeding with their democratic transition, and safeguarding the dignity and human rights of all Libyans,” McCain, who visited Libya earlier this month, said in a statement. “The United States, along with our European allies and Arab partners, must now deepen our support for the Libyan people, as they work to make the next phase of their democratic revolution as successful as the fight to free their country."

Said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.:

“For too long, Moammar Qaddafi caused fear and suffering among Libyans, and fostered instability and terror around the world.
“Thanks to President Obama’s leadership, our military’s strength, the cooperation of our NATO allies and the bravery of tens of thousands of ordinary Libyans who stood up to oppression, Qaddafi will never again harm another human being.
“With Qaddafi’s fate sealed, it is critical that we work with our allies in NATO and the region to integrate Libya into the international community of free, democratic nations. I look forward to building a strong relationship with a democratic, prosperous, and peaceful Libya.”

Said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

“Today is a turning point in the Libyan people’s pursuit of freedom.  Now it is time for Libya’s Transitional National Council to show the world that it will respect the rights of all Libyans, guide the nation to democracy, and work with the international coalition and its neighbors to secure Libya’s borders and any weapons and weapons materials.  It is also my hope that the new Libyan government will work to resolve all issues associated with Qadhafi’s terrorism-sponsored activities.  If they do those things, they will find us a willing friend and partner in the years to come.”

Said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.:

“Today’s news marks the next phase of Libya's march toward democracy.  After decades of tyrannical rule in Libya, the world is hopeful that the next generation of Libyan leaders will bring their country out of this dark chapter.  The strong action taken by the United States, led by President Obama, and NATO, the United Nations and the Arab League proves the power of the world community working together.
“The United States has and will continue to work with the Libyan people to achieve their aspirations for freedom, a democratic government and the rule of law.”

In a statement, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is running for president, called Qaddafi's death "good news."

“The death of Muammar el-Qaddafi is good news for the people of Libya," he said in a statement. "It should bring the end of conflict there, and help them move closer to elections and a real democracy."

On KSCJ radio in Sioux City, Iowa, GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, R-Mass., said that if the reports are true, “It’s about time.... The world is a better place without Muammar Qaddafi.”

Presidential Candidate Jon Huntsman called the death "positive news."

"Colonel Qaddafi's demise is positive news for freedom-loving people everywhere, but it is just one step in a long and tumultuous turnover that is coming to Northern Africa," he said. "It is my sincere wish that this news accelerates Libya's transition to a society that respects openness, democracy, and human rights. I remain firm in my belief that America can best serve our interests and that transition through non-military assistance and rebuilding our own economic core here at home."

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said on MSNBC on Thursday morning that the U.S. should work with the National Transitional Council to ensure that the new Libyan government is one "that is all-inclusive and democratic and secular." The U.S. should work with the Council on the structure of the new government and discuss what to do with assets previously frozen by the United States. Menendez also said that nation should demand that the Council turn over all records related to the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, perpetrated by Qaddafi's government. "That's a condition i'd like to make sure that they live up to."

The reports of Qaddafi’s death are “good news” for both the United States and Libya, Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md. said on MSNBC Thursday.

“The way we handled Libya was the right way,” Cardin said: acting with the support of the Libyan people and the international community and taking limited military action. “The support forces were international; they were not led by the United States,” Cardin said. “That’s exactly the formula we need to use in order to achieve the type of result we did in Libya."

American military intervention in Libya has no reason to escalate, Cardin said. “We will not have boots on the ground. There is no reason, and there is no justification, for America putting boots on the ground in Libya,” Cardin said. “Now it’s up to Libya to rule itself.”

Qaddafi’s death, if confirmed, is “going to make national unity much easier in Libya,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said on MSNBC’s Daily Rundown on Thursday. But he noted that deposing Qaddafi wasn’t the stated reason for NATO involvement in Libya. “Let me suggest to you that we were not there to make a determination of the outcome of the conflict,” Grassley said. “We were there to protect as many human beings, noncombatants, as we could.” He said that U.S. military action in Libya was justified, in order to abide by a U.N. resolution, NATO treaty obligations, and the stated goal of protecting Libyan civilians.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., a member of both the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, said the “final end” of Qaddafi’s regime “marks a welcome turning point for the people of Libya and for the world.” She adds that she remains “deeply concerned about the large number of shoulder-fired missiles that remain at large in Libya.”

Said Presidential Candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.:

"For more than 40 years, we lived with the Muammar al-Qaddafi regime and the atrocities he orchestrated. The world is a better place without Qaddafi. It is my hope that Qaddafi's reign of terror will be replaced with a government that respects the people of Libya and one that will be a good partner with the United States. Hopefully, today will also bring to an end our military involvement there, something I opposed from its beginning."

GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Fox and Friends on Thursday morning said, “That’s certainly good news. These tyrants are just that--they're tyrants. They're basically cowards. These are not great warriors. These are people who are focused on power and using other people to protect them and to fight their battles.”

“We weren't going to get involved and then we said that he has to go, that Qaddafi has to go. We did nothing until the United Nations and France and some of the NATO countries sort of forced us to do something. We obliged that request not because of our plans or because of the president's policies, just to be a 'good ally,' and then we backed away. I think this is the kind of indecisiveness … not leading from behind. Leading from behind means that, you know, you’re out there and you let other people take credit for the success that you enjoy. It doesn’t mean you don’t do anything.”

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