Two steps forward, one step back

get-your-teeth

There was a time within living memory when Canada knew what dictators deserved and how to give it to them.

On Wednesday our Foreign Affairs Minister and the Canadian delegation left the room when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the United Nations General Assembly.  The Prime Minister, despite a comical fast-food setting, issued stern words (video here; parts 1 & 2) stating that Canada would not lend any legitimacy to a regime which detains and murders Canadian citizens, gives no thought to human rights, tortures and abuses its own citizens, and issues strident declarations denying one of history’s most heinous and systematic crimes against humanity.

Today we learn (via CTV’s David Akin) that Col. Muammar al-Gaddafi will have a one-day layover in St. John’s, Newfoundland, on his way back to Libya.  Two decades ago Libya was a notable supporter of terrorism, with citizens and officials being implicated in the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher; the bombing of a German discotheque; the destruction of Pan Am Flight 103, and the destruction of UTA Flight 772.  In those acts six Canadians perished.  We are told that the Foreign Affairs Minister will let Col. Gaddafi know of the government’s extreme displeasure at the way in which the Colonel has celebrated the return of a convicted terrorist and mass murderer.

While wagging the finger at dictators is not, in and of itself, a bad thing to do, it would be about ten times better to deny him landing rights on sovereign Canadian soil.  Col. Gaddafi’s aircraft is an A340-200—usually this one, civil registry 5A-ONE—operated by Afriqiyah Airways.  For those who are interested, the A340-200 has an unrefueled ferry (empty) range of about 8,000 nautical miles.  In a typical three-class airline configuration (263 passengers plus baggage, freight, and adequate fuel reserves) it can operate on routes like Paris to Taipei, a distance of 5,294 nautical miles (about 11 hours flying time).

Now we can assume that in its VIP configuration the A342 will not be carrying a full 263 passengers, baggage and freight, but for our purposes we will assume that an equivalent weight in removable ballistics armour, secure comms gear, and missile countermeasures has been installed.  In other words we’ll assume its maximum unrefueled range with payload is 5,294 nm.   To fly from New York to Tripoli on a great-circle route is a distance of 4,051 nm (8.5 hours flying time), well within the A340’s range for maximum payload.  If the aircraft is sound (no unresolved or un-waivered maintenance squawks), and assuming Afriqiyah Airways is operating this flight with the usual oceanic precautions (standard reserves for transoceanic flight, additional flight crew members for relief) there is absolutely no reason why Col. Gaddafi should have to stop in St. John’s for a day.

In fact it would be rather better to let Gaddafi know that his aircraft must not divert from a New York-Tripoli flight plan except in the event of mechanical or medical emergency, and reinforce that point with a trailing fighter escort until it clears the ADIZ and is no longer our problem.  No man who has organised and fêted the murders of Canadians so unrepentantly should have the privilege of walking where the victims once tread.

UPDATE 270923Z SEOT 2009: It seems Col. Gaddafi has cancelled his plans for the Newfoundland layover.  Just as well, as the feds were not doing a good job of keeping the municipality in the loop:

In St. John’s, Mayor Dennis O’Keefe said he had yet to receive word from any officials as to whether Gadhafi was coming, saying that he was relying on media reports.
“I never heard anything from Foreign Affairs up front or from the federal government initially — absolutely not one word about his visit,” he said in an interview.
The mayor said he would have appreciated some kind of advance warning, considering Gadhafi’s notorious reputation.
“You’re talking about an individual who controls a state that has financed and housed and promoted terrorism, and violations of human rights . . . I would have thought that we would have been informed when anybody (like) this individual is going to be in our city and on our streets.”
O’Keefe said he learned about the possible visit from a local hotel, which had apparently been told to reserve a block of rooms for the president and his entourage.

In St. John’s, Mayor Dennis O’Keefe said he had yet to receive word from any officials as to whether Gadhafi was coming, saying that he was relying on media reports.

“I never heard anything from Foreign Affairs up front or from the federal government initially — absolutely not one word about his visit,” he said in an interview.

The mayor said he would have appreciated some kind of advance warning, considering Gadhafi’s notorious reputation.

“You’re talking about an individual who controls a state that has financed and housed and promoted terrorism, and violations of human rights . . . I would have thought that we would have been informed when anybody (like) this individual is going to be in our city and on our streets.”

O’Keefe said he learned about the possible visit from a local hotel, which had apparently been told to reserve a block of rooms for the president and his entourage.

— “Gadhafi cancels N.L. visit.” The Chronicle Herald, 27 September 2009.

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