Al-Qaeda’s media operation fired off a typical rant a few weeks ago, before President Obama did that not-war thing in Libya, talking about how the recent upheavals in the Middle East “showed that the infidel governments of the West” care only about themselves.

The March 12 release, translated by Flashpoint Partners, a research and analysis company focused on terrorism, apparently is from al-Qaeda leader Abu Yahya al-Libi. Libi whined on and on about how Americans support Hosni Mubarak — “Egypt’s Pharaoh” — and the dictators in Tunisia, Yemen and other places until “they see the winds of change blowing and their agents are about to leave” and then come in and say “we are with you.”

But when Iranian pro-democracy protesters were attacked, Libi wrote, “despite the fact that only two people were killed . . . the old lady of malice — the American Secretary of State — immediately condemned” Iran.

Libi then launched into an attack on Obama, saying he spoke about Iran’s crackdown on protesters while Moammar Gaddafi’s “criminal gangs . . . with their tanks , jets and automatic weapons . . . massacred” Libyans.

Well, now that Gaddafi doesn’t have his tanks and jets — courtesy of the U.S. Air Force — and we’re all allies now in Libya, you’d think maybe Libi would shut up and issue an apology to Hillary Clinton , right?

Don’t wait for it. He is, after all, a terrorist.

The month that roared

Speaking of the president, at 3:23 p.m. Thursday he issued a proclamation that April would be National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. That’s certainly a worthwhile proclamation.

Then, a minute later, we got an Obama announcement that April was designated National Donate Life Month, as in organ donation. Another worthy notion.

So which is it? We were already confused enough by the possible implications of the new Obama Doctrine.

Then Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that he was declaring National Safe Digging Month (“please call 811 BEFORE you dig”) — a warning about the dangers of hitting utility lines and such.

A few hours later, the White House gave us National Cancer Control Month, National Financial Literacy Month and National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Well, if March is the cruelest month, April is shaping up to be the most earnest.

You got a name?

Don’t forget to enter the first Loop Iraq Naming Opportunities contest for 2011. The goal is to rename Iraqi streets, towns, rivers and such to honor American officials for their efforts in that country in recent years. (e.g., “The Baghdad University Slam Dunk Research Institute,” to honor former CIA director George Tenet’s evidence of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.)

Send your entries to The contest deadline is April 11. You must include a telephone number to be eligible. Winners, to be chosen by an independent panel of experts, will receive a mention in the column and one of those coveted In the Loop T-shirts. Ties broken by date of entry. Don’t delay!

It’s not only Steinberg

The not-so-shocking news this week that Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg was leaving to return to academia — rumors had been circulating for many months that he was outta there — was only half the story. (Steinberg, formerly dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, is off to run the Maxwell School of public policy at Syracuse University. )

But many folks may find it more significant that his wife, Shere Abbott, one of four associate directors in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy — she’s the AD for environment and had also been at the University of Texas before that — is leaving to be vice president for sustainability initiatives at Syracuse. An instant Upstate New York power couple.

Lyman to Sudan

Veteran diplomat Princeton Lyman, a former assistant secretary of state and ambassador to Nigeria and South Africa, has been named a senior adviser to the State Department working on matters involving the peace agreement between north and south Sudan and creation of an independent nation in the south. Lyman, 75, who had been on the Sudan mediating team, replaces Scott Gration , who’s up for ambassador to Kenya.

Open window, shut blinds

Washington transparency and good-government advocates, despite having a White House meeting canceled two weeks ago, were happy this week to meet with the president in the Oval Office and present him with an award for disclosing White House visitor logs and for encouraging government transparency efforts.

One small problem. The 20- minute Oval Office meeting wasn’t announced to the press, wasn’t on Obama’s released daily schedule and resulted in no photos for release. It was, our colleague Ed O’Keefe noted, as if Obama had thanked environmentalists for an award by serving lunch with paper plates and plastic forks that weren’t recyclable.

The advocates, who didn’t know the meeting wasn’t on the schedule, were not pleased. “It’s almost a theater of the absurd to have an award on transparency that isn’t transparent,” Gary Bass, founder of OMB Watch, told O’Keefe.

Other advocates at the presentation were Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, Tom Blanton of the National Security Archive at George Washington University, Patrice McDermott of, and Lucy A. Dalglish of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

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