Name That Dictator

In the 1980s, the U.S. squared off against Moammar Qaddafi. In the 1990s, the new enemy is Saddam Hussein — but it seems little is different except the names.

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If you saw the United States’ December bombing of Iraq as anything other than a suspiciously timed counteraction to the House impeachment hearings, you might have wondered why the military scenario seemed so familiar.

AP/Wide World Photos

In fact, American tilting at Saddam Hussein in the 1990s is remarkably similar to U.S. tussles in the 1980s with Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi.

But it’s not as though the State Department has a bogeyman-of-the-decade form that it fills out every 10 years — or is it? Sometimes, we’re not so sure.

Dictator straddling strategic waterway? Check. Gushes oil and World War I-era chemical weapons? Check. Attacks neighbors? Check. Talks pan-Arab unity when chips are down? Check. Resists sanctions? Check, check, check.

Read the parallel stories on the following pages. With only the dates and proper names masked (Country X for Libya or Iraq; the President for Reagan, Bush, or Clinton; the Dictator for Hussein or Qaddafi; and so on), can you tell which stories are about Libya and which are about Iraq?

Hand-wringing by European allies? Check. Top Gun-ish air battles between our creaky F-14s and their creaky MiGs? Check. …


He’s used gas before …

“It’s dangerous for the entire region, and for the entire world, you could say,” said the State Department spokesman, citing “the Dictator’s regime’s support for terrorism.”

“There are reports that Country X has already used a weapon of mass destruction — chemical weapons — in combat,” said the spokesman, referring to allegations that Country X used chemical weapons while invading a neighboring country several years ago. (Chicago Tribune)


The Dictator could still spread toxic agents on at least a limited scale, using low-tech devices such as agricultural sprayers, aerosol dispensers, fog generators or terrorist “suitcase bombs,” U.S. officials say. …

U.S. officials and outside experts predict that the Dictator will soon once again develop the ability to deliver the toxic agents over long distances and with even greater deadly power — on the tips of missiles.

“We’re talking about — and I use the term advisedly — a diabolical effort,” said a senior U.S. official. (Los Angeles Times)

Which is Libya and which is Iraq?

Get the answer — and the next scenario.


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