The three-page letter, dated Thursday and signed “Col. Moammar Gaddafi, Commander of the Great Revolution,” was received by the offices of several congressional leaders including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). A spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that the California Democrat’s office had not received the letter.
News of the letter was first reported by The Hill Friday afternoon. The letter’s authenticity has not been confirmed.
The letter comes as the Libyan conflict is on its 83rd day and amid an investigation by the United Nations Human Rights Council as to whether the Gaddafi regime has committed crimes against humanity and war crimes. Separately, the International Criminal Court has launched an probe into whether Gaddafi and other Libyan officials ordered mass rapes.
CIA Director Leon Panetta, who is in line to succeed Robert Gates as Defense Secretary, told senators at a confirmation hearing Thursday that he believes “if we continue the pressure, if we stick with it, I think ultimately Gaddafi will step down.”
The letter purportedly sent by Gaddafi states that Libyan officials have “reviewed with great interest the deliberations of the Congress on the issue of the participation of the United States of America in NATO’s aggression against Libya, and I want express my sincere gratitude for your thoughtful discussion of the issues.”
It reiterates the Gaddafi regime’s position that the Libyan conflict is an internal affair and charges that the United Nations Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973, which imposed sanctions and a no-fly zone over Libya, constitute abuses of UN power.
The letter, which comes one week after the House passed a resolution expressing disapproval of President Obama’s handling of the American intervention in Libya and calling for answers to lawmakers’ questions on the extent of U.S. involvement, also makes an attempt to seize on congressional discontent.
“There is no doubt that the utilization of military means, rather than political means, to address the political situation will not be conducive to achieving security and stability in Libya, and, as reflected in the U.S Congressional deliberations, NATO’s actions do not advance the security of the United States of America, but rather risk greater instability by allowing (al-Qaeda) and Islamic extremists to gain a greater foothold in North Africa with the possible consequences of North Africa becoming more like Afghanistan and Iraq,” the letter reads.
The missive also charges that the international media, “particularly Al Jazeera,” has “reported untruthfully” on the deaths of civilians at the hands of Gaddafi’s regime and that Libyan officials would “welcome the possibility of a fact finding committee of the U.S. Congress to enquire and observe the true democratic sincerity of all Libyan men and woman and the leadership of our Country, as well as investigate claims that have been made about systematic violations inside Libya during this tragic civil war.”
It concludes with a call for Congress to continue its “investigation of the military activities of NATO and its allies to confirm what we believe is a clear violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1973 and further that these activities have resulted in the death of over 700 Libyan civilians, the destruction of Libyan infrastructure and wreaked havoc on Libyan civilian society.”
“Such unauthorized intervention is inappropriate and illegal interference in what is essentially a Libyan civil war,” the letter states.
Asked for comment Friday, Boehner’s office argued that the letter bolsters the argument that the Libyan leader must step aside and furthers the case of those who have criticized the administration’s handling of the conflict thus far.
“If authentic, this incoherent letter only reinforces that Gaddafi must go,” a Boehner spokesman said Friday. “There’s no disagreement about that. That’s why so many Americans have questions – which the White House refuses to answer – about the administration committing U.S. resources to an operation that doesn’t make his removal a goal.”
A spokesman for Reid dismissed the letter.
“We have received a letter but, we’re not spending much time trying to confirm authenticity because we don’t much care what he has to say unless it includes a resignation,” Reid communications director Jon Summers said.
The letter also comes as several key House committees have stepped up their pressure on the Obama administration to give members of Congress answers to questions about the Libyan operation that they contend remain unresolved. The House-passed resolution calls on the administration to provide a further explanation to members of Congress by the end of next week.