Libya Has History In Idaho Politics

Moammar Gadhafi once had ties to Idaho when politicos stood in line to sign deals with the Libyan strongman who was in power during the Frank Church tenure as chairman of the U.S. Senate foreign relations committee.

The GUARDIAN editor worked on assignment for the New York TIMES during the circus-like atmosphere when a delegation of Libyans came to town to buy Idaho wheat in the late 1970’s. John Evans was governor and a Libyan-born professor at the University of Idaho brokered a deal with the Idaho Wheat Commission to sell Idaho wheat to Libya.

The true motivation of Gadhafi and his delegation was to put political pressure on Senator Church to release C-130 military aircraft being withheld from Libya for fear they would be used against Israel. When the deal was signed the Libyan representative said there could be more deals to benefit Idaho farmers if they could convince their senator to release the aircraft purchased by Libya.

History will note that farmer Steve Symms beat Church at the next election and there are also pictures floating around the internet of Rep. Symms and Gadhafi exchanging gifts. One of which was used by John Evans in an attempt to link Symms to Libya’s military dictator during his 1986 unsuccessful attempt to oust Symms from his Senate sweat….ironically Evans had welcomed the Libyan wheat buyers to Idaho.

While the wheat farmers met with the foreign delegation, others milled about the Riverside Hotel seeking to sell everything from cattle to beans. All were met with a line that went something like, “We love Idaho products and people.” It was pretty gushy and hugely manipulative.

The NY TIMES was eager to catch the less than sophisticated Idaho folks signing an agreement with a “anti-zionist clause” which prohibited any financing, brokering, transporting by Jews or Jewish companies. Gadhafi didn’t care for Israel or Jews. Sure enough the Idaho folks signed the deal to deliver the wheat to Tripoli, complete with the anti-zionist clause.

Ironically, when it came time to deliver, the deal called for HARD RED wheat. Idaho grows mostly SOFT WHITE. Panicky Idaho wheat commission staffers made a quick phone call to a Portland grain dealer and secured an equal amount of HARD RED wheat. While the Idaho politicos basked in their international trade glory, not a kernel of grain came from Idaho.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. I was working for Governor Evans at the time as, among other things, Assistant for Agriculture. Dr. Araje wanted me to be part of the delegation to Libya. Oscar Field from the Farm Bureau was supporting the delegation. I remember being in the Governor’s Office on the day they (the agriculture lobby) came in. Governor Evans looked at the Farm Bureau folks and said, “Oscar, I love my country very much and I can’t support a crook.” I’ve never written about this before. I later read an article in a newspaper which said Senator Symms was mystified by the bidet in his hlotel room. In any event all of us where I worked rufused to participate.

  2. Congrats. The mainstream Idaho media has had this story for months, including photos, and has chosen to ignore it. There was an excellent feature piece on the Idaho-Libya connection in Harpers Magazine in 1980 written by Idaho native LJ Davis.

    EDITOR NOTE–Thanks for your interest. I read the Davis piece and there is no doubt he got a portion of the material from my NY TIMES stories which are now nearly 35 years back in history. For any of you Google sleuths, the NY TIMES stories had a “special to NY TIMES” note, but they gave by-lines only to fulltime staffers. I was not a staffer.

  3. No big surprise here Guardian. Idaho Farmers, the Farm Bureau, Idaho politicians, happily line up to do business with Red China. What is the difference? If given the opportunity, they would embrace North Korea as well as Iran. When have the “job creators” and corporate greed ever had boundaries?
    Nazis, KKK, and Brian Fischer type Christians have always been tolerated in Idaho as long as the deciders wanted them around. This helps keep the California/Jewish influence out of Idaho. Same reason we have virtually no movie making industry in Idaho.

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