Back during the early days of the Reagan presidency, in 1981, shortly after the assassination attempt on the pope, the Reagan administration began floating a story that there was solid intelligence to suggest a Libyan "hit squad" was on the ground in the USA and was out to machine gun Reagan and other top government officials. The media ran wild with the story. A few years previous the Libyans were trying to cozy up to the Carter administration by sending cases of beer to Billy Carter. Now, suddenly, the Libyans were hell bent to kill Reagan.

Various composite sketches were released to the media of what these Libyans might look like. Apparently they all had Hollywood tans, dark wild curly hair and they would be carrying Adidas gym bags with Mac-10 machine pistols in them.

The Libyans had themselves claimed a big hunk of the Mediterranean via the Gulf of Sidra, telling the USA to keep their aircraft carriers out. They had themselves a "line of death". And they had oil. And they were pledge to the destruction of Israel.

The American public, generally unaware there even existed a nation called Libya, and maybe only aware of Tripoli insofar as it was a line in some Marine song about the halls of Montezuma and the shores of Tripoli, which seemed to imply Libya's capital was an American possession. You saying now it wasn't?

How to vilify Qadaffi? Since he hadn't invaded anyone (other than maybe parts of Chad), fake stories of babies being taken out of incubators and left to die on hospital floors couldn't be cooked up. Libyan soldiers didn't affix bayonets to their AK-47s so stories about Libyans in occupied Belgium using babies for bayonet practice also couldn't be told.

America had already seen someone try to waste the pope. Surely Libyans trying to shoot The Gipper would attune America to the needs of crushing this Mediterranean hogging future international pariah.

Detroit TV news anchor Bill Bonds, who by coincidence had witnessed the pope's shooting, claimed he saw a man bearing a strong resemblance to one of the Libyan hit squad artist drawings flee the scene! In Rome, get this, he saw a man with olive skin and dark curly hair near the scene of the papal assassination attempt and, get this, this out of place character, with his olive skin and dark curly hair, actually RAN when the holy father seemed to be shot dead by a gun man. Plans within plans! It was all coming together. The octopus was showing one of its tentacles!

This was no fear mongering, mind you. Reagan claimed the CIA had, get this, solid, specific and credible evidence.

After about a week of this, the story quickly vanished from the headlines. What happened?

Reagan was always famous for saying never let the facts get in the way of a good story. Welfare queens in New York with big screen TVs propped up on cases of beer? If Jesus had said it, they'd call it a parable. Right?

Turns out the whole story was cooked up by Israel's Mossad. Israel was rather concerned about Libya's work on weapons of mass destruction. And unlike Iraq, it was a bit harder to fly across half of Northern Africa to bomb Libya. Why not let the Americans do it?

Israel claimed a former Iranian SAVAK agent named Manucher Ghorbanifar was their source. Ghorbanifar apparently had been a long time informant working for the Mossad. It was discovered that the source of the story was one , who had very close ties to the Mossad. The CIA later claimed they themselves believe Ghorbanifar was lying, working for Israel to stir up trouble for Libya but President Bus... Reagan turned a deaf ear to their assessment and Reagan ran with the story that would open the door to more Hawkish behavior.

Hrm.

To this day, the media will sometimes recall the Libyan Hit Squad Scare when the current administration makes some urgent claim about specific and accurate intelligence of a terrorist threat in America, vis a vis the New York subway terrorist scare in October 2005 that turned out to be a hoax.

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