The Corner

Biden on Fathi El-Jahmi

Fathi El-Jahmi’s family in Libya and in the United States expect Libya’s primary dissident to be liquidated as soon as Bush is out of office. The State Department has done little since this article; Bill Burns and David Welch appear to consider El-Jahmi an inconvenience who will disappear as soon as this administration ends.

As the Bush administration abandons every dissident which it encouraged and as both the President and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice remain silent on El-Jahmi’s case, it is refreshing, therefore, to see Senator Joseph Biden (D-Del.) keep the pressure up with this statement from late last week:

For more than 4 years, I have called for the release of Fathi Eljahmi, a courageous Libyan democracy advocate with serious health problems whose only crime was to speak truth to power. Though the change in direction in Libyan foreign policy in the last few years is as commendable as it is remarkable, Mr. Eljahmi’s continuing captivity is a reminder that basic fundamental freedoms such as rule of law and the freedom of speech do not exist inside Libya. As I have made it clear to Colonel Qadhafi, the future of the Libyan— American relationship, at least as far as this Senator is concerned, will be affected by the Libyan Government’s treatment of Mr. Eljahmi. I urge the Libyan Government to release him unconditionally and immediately, and to end the harassment of his family. Engagement does not mean that we surrender our values. Engagement means we are in a stronger position to advance our values and to secure real change. I urge the Bush administration to use this opportunity to assert America’s interests in a broader relationship that will put Libya on a more sustainable, and more democratic, path.

I may not always agree with Sen. Biden, but the Senator does understand what the Bush administration does not: consistency and credibility matter.

Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Civil-Military Relations, and a senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly.

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