Former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra tells Newsmax that based on his most recent meeting with a barely coherent Moammar Gadhafi, it is “very difficult to predict” what the besieged Libyan dictator might do.
The Michigan Republican also warns that Libya could be torn by conflicts between tribes and factions, becoming another Somalia — and a haven for radical Islamist groups.
Hoekstra was chairman of the Intelligence Committee from 2004 and 2007 and the Ranking Republican for three years after that. He ran unsuccessfully for Michigan governor in 2010, and is seeking the Senate seat now held by Democrat Debbie Stabenow.
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During his 18 years in Congress, Hoekstra met with Gadhafi three times. In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, Hoekstra says: “This guy clearly sees himself as the messianic leader of Libya. The first two times we met with him he was very articulate. He outlined the threat he saw from radical jihadists. He outlined the steps he suggested the West and Libya could work together on in containing and ultimately defeating radical jihadists.
“But the third time we met with him, it was a very bizarre meeting. It didn’t seem like he could string two sentences together that you could make any kind of sense of. That’s why in the current situation, where we don’t know where he is and we don’t know what tools he has access to, what weapons, it’s very, very difficult to predict exactly what he may or may not do.”
Hoekstra is concerned about the threat from those weapons, especially Weapons of Mass Destruction widely suspected of being in Libya.
“I don’t think the allies are prepared to combat this threat, NATO and especially the United States,” he says. “The United States, as the president implied, was leading from behind.
“Now that the Gadhafi regime has been toppled, [there are concerns about] the mustard gas that people are convinced he had, the surface-to-air missiles. There’s a real question whether the facilities that contain these materials are secure or not.
“My belief is that they are not secure. If you watch what’s going on over in Libya, it’s chaos — and that’s a kind word to describe what’s going on.”
Gadhafi could gain access to those WMDs, or they could fall into the hands of radical jihadists who are reportedly present in Libya, Hoekstra warns, and these materials “pose a long-term threat.”
Asked if Libya could become a new Lebanon or Somalia, or a haven for al-Qaida and other radical Islamist groups, Hoekstra — who is on the board of Lignet.com, a Washington, D.C.-based intelligence site — responds: “Absolutely. And the difference between Libya and Somalia is that Libya is a gateway into Southern Europe.
“Remember that Libya is primarily a tribal society. It’s a factional country. Will the various factions get along or will they split and will we then have warfare and conflict between the various tribes. It’s very possible.
“Will there be a unifying focus, a unifying individual? At this point in time we don’t know. We don’t know what will happen with their WMDs and we don’t know, if they do have a unifying government, what type of government it will be.”
Hoekstra is critical of the Obama administration for not taking more aggressive action sooner in Libya and playing a backseat role in combatting Gadhafi’s forces.
“We toppled the government in Afghanistan in 63 days. We toppled Saddam Hussein in three weeks. And this went on for almost six months,” he says.
“There’s been a tremendous amount of suffering by the Libyan people. Because we played such a backseat role, I’m not sure how much influence we will have with the Transitional Council.
“The Libyan people are going to need help moving through this process. I think they’re going to look more to the French and the British than they will to the U.S.
“We didn’t send clear signals early on that we were going to support the people of Libya.
“This has been a real mishmash of U.S. policy in the Middle East. In Egypt, within two weeks we threw Mubarak under the bus. In Libya, nobody knew where we were and what our position was. And then [Syrian leader] Bashar Assad — up until four to six weeks ago we were calling him the face of reform. The reality is that Assad has never reformed anything, but we were supporting him. Mubarak stood with us and maintained peace with Israel for over 20 years, yet we threw him under the bus.
“The Obama administration has been all over the map in terms of how we deal with our friends and with our enemies. There is not a consistent, coherent policy.”
Hoekstra also says that when Obama did commit American forces to action in Libya, “not getting the support of Congress or the American people was a major misstep by the president.
“There will be arguments about whether it was constitutional or whether he violated the law, the War Powers Act.
“If we are going to commit major resources and involve the United States in a war, the least the president can do is consult and get the approval of Congress. For President Obama to ignore those steps is I think poor political judgment at best. And at worst he violated the laws of the United States.”
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