[IWAR] LIBYA Tunnel issue

From: Michael Wilson (MWILSON/0005514706at_private)
Date: Tue Dec 09 1997 - 12:35:34 PST

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    Entertaining if nothing else. --MW
    Foreign Correspondent
    		      Inside Track On World News
    	    By International Syndicated Columnist & Broadcaster
    		 Eric Margolis <margolisat_private>
    `Col. Khadaffi's Secret Tunnels of Death'
    by Eric Margolis
    NEW YORK - There's something about Libya that makes normally
    sober American security officials go off the deep end.  This
    week, we were treated to the latest, and certainly one of
    the weirdest, manifestation of Libophobia.  Call it "Colonel
    Khadaffi's Secret Tunnels of Death."
    According to a report planted in the media by US
    intelligence, the ever nefarious Libyan leader is building
    2,000 miles of tunnels, disguised as a irrigation project,
    designed to shelter troops and armor, allowing them to
    strike suddenly at Libya's neighbors.
    In 1984, oil-rich Libya embarked on a gigantic irrigation
    project, known as the "Great Man-Made River."  This pharonic
    undertaking was designed to tap the Saharan aquifer in far
    southern Libya, an enormous body of ancient, underground
    water.  A vast system of 13ft diameter pipes and powerful
    pumping stations is being built to send the water north to
    Libya's fertile Mediterranean coast, then west to the
    Tripoli region, and east around Benghazi.  The total
    construction cost of this monumental undertaking, conducted
    by South Korean and European firms, is a whopping US$25
    I examined part of the project in 1987 when I went to Libya
    to interview Col. Khadaffi.  It didn't make economic sense
    to me then, and still doesn't.  Wags called it the "Mad-Man
    River."  Libya has only 5.8 million people, spread along the
    coast.  Food could be flown in from "Fauchon" in Paris at a
    fraction of the price of the Man-Made River.  Pumping
    distant Saharan water costs almost as much as using bottles
    of "Perrier" for irrigation.
    But Col. Khadaffi is a genuine eccentric, and told me he was
    determined to make Libya independent of threats of foreign
    food embargos, no matter the cost.  So the project went
    ahead, in spite of ever-tightening American trade sanctions
    designed to cripple Libya's economy and bring down the
    unloved Khadaffi, who was, until Saddam Hussein,
    Washington's favorite villain.
    Now that the pipeline is nearing the coast, US security
    officials are raising a hue and cry that the Man-Made River
    is really a gigantic version of North Korea's tunnels under
    the DMZ, built to shelter troops from air attack and launch
    surprise attacks.  Washington claims the tunnels are
    designed to allow Libyan forces to suddenly debouche on the
    borders of Egypt, Chad and Tunisia.  Libya, asserted the US,
    had also built huge, underground storage areas to hold
    armor, artillery and munitions.
    This system is directly linked, said Washington, to Libya's
    alleged underground chemical/biological weapons complex at
    Tarhunah, south of Tripoli.  From this hollowed-out mountain,
    the Libyans would ship containers of poison gas and toxins
    to smite their enemies, safe from US air attack.
    All this sounds straight out of Flash Gordon.   Col.
    Khadaffi has become a later-day Ming the Merciless, complete
    with his barrels of Purple Death powder to be rained down on
    the United States.  Washington also claims Libya has
    stockpiled a vast, Soviet-supplied arsenal of weapons, ready
    to be unleashed against Israel.
    Col. Khadaffi does indulge in extreme zaniness, and was
    involved in a few acts of terrorism in the 1980's.  Still,
    these recent charges seem as preposterous as the panic that
    gripped Washington a decade ago about teams of non-existent
    Libyan assassins, skulking in the White House Rose Garden.
    Tiny Libya is hardly a world-class threat.  Libya is so
    backwards it imports Egyptians to bake bread.  When an
    elevator breaks down in Tripoli, technicians must be flown
    in from Europe.  Claim that Libya can produce nuclear
    weapons, or long-ranged missiles, are nonsense.
    Libya's rag-tag armed forces amount to 65,000 poorly trained
    men.  Assertions the 35,000-man Libyan army threatens US
    ally Egypt, which can field over 400,000 troops, are
    ludicrous.  So are claims about Libya's "secret" arsenal. 
    Libya has about 1,000, 1960's vintage Soviet tanks, mainly
    T-54/55's,70% broken down.  Another 1,040 inoperative T-54's
    are rusting in storage.  These are the Libyan "legions"
    Washington claims are poised for a blitzkrieg into Egypt or
    Most of Libya's 420-plane air force is grounded by lack of
    maintenance, spare parts, and pilots.  Khadaffi's little
    navy is sinking at its moorings.  The last time Libyan
    troops went into action - in Chad, during the late 1980's -
    they were routed and sent fleeing by a handful of French
    Foreign Legionnaires, disguised as Chadian tribesmen.
    The much ballyhooed Libyan poison gas program at Tarhunah is
    primitive. Gas and germs are easy to produce, but extremely
    difficult to use effectively.  Libya has no means of
    delivering them.  Even so, the US is still developing
    deep-penetrator bombs designed to destroy Tarhunah and
    Khadaffi's personal bunkers.
    One suspects the Pentagon is again building up the threat of
    Libya to justify defense budgets and new weapons.  Foreign
    villains are in short supply these days.  Col. Khadaffi, who
    was helped into power by the CIA, remains one of our few
    dependable bogeymen.  His attempts in recent years to be
    good as gold, and patch relations with the west, are
    rejected by Washington, which remains determined to
    overthrow him. Khadaffi is not to be forgiven for
    challenging the US Mideast Raj, and getting the Arabs to
    raise the price of oil back in the early 1970's. 
    copyright  eric margolis 1997
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