Bush adviser defends 'difficult' but 'good' deal on Libya relations

A former national security adviser to President George W. Bush on Sunday defended that administration’s decision to normalize relations with Libya during Bush’s second term.

Stephen Hadley called the move “a very difficult decision” but said it was “a good deal” because Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi agreed to dismantle the country’s nuclear and chemical weapons program. “All that hardware is now in the United States,” Hadley said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” referring to Libya’s weapons of mass destruction.

“Think about if this megalomaniac now had chemical weapons in his possession,” Hadley said.

Hadley acknowledged that in retrospect “it turned out to be a fool’s errand” for the U.S. to push Gadhafi for democratic reforms. Gadhafi is now using force to put down an uprising by anti-government rebels in Libya and has rebuffed international calls, including from President Obama, to relinquish power.

On the same program, a former minister of immigration under Gadhafi, Ali Errishi, said he has “no doubt” that Gadhafi is willing to engage in the mass killing of his people to stay in power.

“I have doubt about that,” Ali Errishi said in response to a question from Candy Crowley. Errishi described Gadhafi's mindset toward the Libyan people as “either I rule you or I kill you. So there is no middle ground.”

Errishi was the first member of Gadhafi’s cabinet to break with teh strongman and call for his ouster.

The comments come amid reports from the ground in Libya that Gadhafi forces and anti-government rebels are girding for a protracted conflict that could become a civil war.

Hadley praised Obama’s statement calling for Gadhafi to leave, and he said the U.S. could consider measures short of outright military intervention to aid the Libyan people, including providing arms to the rebels. He suggested the U.S. could announce that the $15 billion in Libyan assets that it has frozen would be put in a trust for the Libyan people and used to rebuild the country after the conflict is over.

Former U.N. ambassador Bill Richardson (D), appearing later on CNN, said he backed an “internationally-recognized no-fly zone” and urged the Obama administration to covertly arm the rebels in Libya. He praised the president’s handling of the crisis and said he supported Hadley’s suggestion that the U.S. create a trust with frozen Libyan assets.

Richardson served as U.N. ambassador in the Clinton administration before winning two terms as governor of New Mexico and making a failed bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.