FLASHBACK: Conservatives Hyped Islamic Extremist Takeover Of Libya

Scene from a polling station in Tripoli. By @davidpoort/Twitter.

This weekend, a coalition led by Libyan former interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril soundly defeated Islamist opponents in the country’s first election since Muammar Qaddafi’s ouster. While a full transition to democracy is by no means assured, the elections and their outcome suggest Libya is on a better path than one might expect. The results also demonstrate that fears the country was being taken over by al Qaeda sympathizers and ultra-conservative Islamists were massively overblown — fears, of course, that were being pushed to the fore by the American Right:

  • Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN): “We don’t know who the next leaders [in Libya] will be…it could be a radical element. It could be the Muslim Brotherhood. It could be elements affiliated with al Qaeda. …[U.S. intervention in Libya] is a very bad decision and it’s created more instability in the region, not less.” [Fox News, 8/23/11]
  • Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX): “Our president used our treasure, put our military members at risk … now we’ve got the al Qaeda flag flying in Libya in Benghazi, over the historic courthouse that was the headquarters during the assault on Gadhafi.” [The Hill, 11/04/11]
  • Sean Hannity: “I am fearful that these rebels that we’re helping in Libya with these al Qaeda connections, we are ignoring what our own State Department says about them and we can potentially be making a big mistake.” [Fox News, 3/30/11]
  • Andy McCarthy: “NATO’s war of aggression is already inuring to the benefit of America’s Islamist enemies.” [National Review, 8/27/11]
  • Fox News op-ed: “[T]he emir of a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization is edging closer to securing a leadership role in Libya’s new government. … [T]he post-Qaddafi era might very well retain certain features of the legacy left by a dictator whom Ronald Reagan once famously called the “mad dog of the Middle East.” [Fox 7/07/11]
  • Herman Cain: “Do I agree with saying that Gaddafi should go? Do I agree that they now have a country where you’ve got Taliban and Al Qaeda that’s now going to be part of the government?” [11/18/11]

Of course, hand-wringing about overblown threats of a radical Islamist takeover of Libya took place with full knowledge of the massacre that likely would have occurred in Libya had the U.S. and NATO not intervened. What’s more, the speculation flies in the face of what actual experts had been saying all throughout the Libyan crisis. And a recent study by two al-Qaeda experts for the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point concluded that “armed jihadists — especially those sharing al-Qa’ida’s extreme ideology — do not appear to be in a position to contest the fragile Libyan state.”