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'He got what he deserved': Conrad, Hoeven relieved by Gadhafi's death

"Brutal" and "unhinged" were words Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., used to describe Moammar Gadhafi, Libya's dictator for 42 years who died today. "This guy murdered hundreds if not thousands of his own people -- people just disappeared in the night," ...

Libyan Americans in Washington, D.C., respond to news of Gadhafi's death
Libyan Americans celebrate the death of Moammar Gadhafi on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

"Brutal" and "unhinged" were words Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., used to describe Moammar Gadhafi, Libya's dictator for 42 years who died today.

"This guy murdered hundreds if not thousands of his own people -- people just disappeared in the night," Conrad said. If he had been allowed to carry out the massacre he planned for Benghazi, the city where the uprising took root first, it would've been a blood bath, the senator said.

"In the end, he got what he deserved," Conrad said.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., expressed relief at Gadhafi's death, which, he said in a statement, "brings to a close one of the most brutal regimes of the modern era." Gadhafi murdered not just his own people, but Americans and other nationals, the senator said.

Libya, under Gadhafi, supported various western terrorist groups, bombed a West Berlin disco in 1986 and brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, killing 270.


There were fears that, if Gadhafi lived, he would mount an insurgency that would further destabilize Libya, Europe's neighbor across the sea.

Enduring rule

The mystery, to Conrad, was how Gadhafi stayed in power so long.

Military officials and diplomats who have met the dictator uniformly described him as "unhinged," the senator said. "He started affable enough, but the more he talked the farther he'd go on the spectrum of rationality."

Conrad spent two years in Libya, graduating from high school shortly before the 1969 military coup led by Lt. Gadhafi that turned the country against the west. Before that, under King Idris, it hosted western oil companies and military forces.

Conrad, a Bismarck native whose parents died when he was young, lived for a time with a family friend, Wendell Smith, then an executive with Mobile Oil in Libya. He attended high school Wheelus Air Force Base, which hosted bombers and transport aircraft.

Conrad said he remembers mostly a sleepy Arab city by the Mediterranean and games of basketball with friends at the base.

New chance


Hoeven praised the U.S. military's role in bringing down the Gadhafi regime. "The role of American munitions and technology in his removal was decisive, and underscores the importance of a strong U.S. military in a dangerous world."

American aircraft initially participated directly on attacks meant to protect civilians from regime forces, but European NATO allies eventually took leading roles after congressional pressure forced the U.S. military to take a lower profile.

Conrad praised the allies for bearing the load, though he added that the United States played an important supporting role with its technology and logistics.

"As difficult as it all is, especially with efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, I think we had very little choice," Conrad said. Without NATO intervention, more civilians would've been slaughtered, he said.

Hoeven said the Libyan people now have "a fresh opportunity to rebuild their country and make it a better place."

Conrad said he trusts the Libyan people will make the right choices in creating a democracy, and that they will not let it be hijacked by "extremists" among the rebel forces. "This will be a difficult sorting out process."

Reach Tran at (701) 780-1248; (800) 477-6572, ext. 248; or send email to ttran@gfherald.com .


Waving golden pistol that belonged to Gadhafi
Mohammed al-Babi waves a golden pistol he says belonged to Moammar Gadhafi in Sirte, Libya, Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011. Moammar Gadhafi, Libya's dictator for 42 years until he was ousted in an uprising-turned-civil war, was killed Thursday as revolutionary fighters overwhelmed his hometown of Sirte and captured the last major bastion of resistance two months after his regime fell. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)

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