Nightly News   |  October 20, 2011

How will Gadhafi’s death affect the U.S.?

NBC’s Andrea Mitchell has more on what the death of former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi means for the United States.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Now back to Gadhafi . For most of his 42 years in power he was surely a thorn in the side of the United States ; and, of course, a lot of Americans will forever associate him with one of the worst acts of terrorism in world history that marked an entire era. We get more tonight from our chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell .

ANDREA MITCHELL reporting: For Americans of a certain age, it was their first experience with terror, a Pan Am 747 exploding over a small Scottish village four days before Christmas in 1988 . The debris covered 850 square miles. The emotional wreckage lasts forever. Two-hundred seventy victims, including 189 Americans , the largest number, 35, all students from Syracuse University , like Jeanine Boulanger 's daughter Nicole .

Ms. JEANINE BOULANGER: It is full of memories of a very special child.

MITCHELL: Victoria Cummock lost her husband, John , a father of three.

Ms. VICTORIA CUMMOCK: I pledged to him that I would seek justice for his murder.

MITCHELL: And Burt Ammerman who lost his brother Tom .

Mr. BURT AMMERMAN: It's the last chapter for me. I said that I could walk away the day I personally felt that I did everything possible so that my brother and the other 269 people did not die in vain.

MITCHELL: It was Moammar Gadhafi 's most violent act against America , but not his first. Two years earlier, Libyan terrorists bombed a Berlin disco frequented by US service members, killing two. Ronald Reagan retaliated.

President RONALD REAGAN: This mad dog of the Middle East has a goal of a world revolution , Muslim fundamentalist revolution.

MITCHELL: But George W. Bush 's White House took Gadhafi off the terror list in 2006 , after he gave up his nuclear program and paid damages to the Pan Am families. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice went to Tripoli in 2008 . Then the Arab Spring , inspiring Libyans to rebel and Gadhafi to threaten mass murder.

President BARACK OBAMA: Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different.

MITCHELL: Two days ago, Hillary Clinton went to Tripoli , the highest ranking US official since the civil war began, to show solidarity with rebel leaders. Later, she said she hoped Gadhafi would be captured or killed soon. It didn't take long. Today in Afghanistan , Clinton was preparing for an interview when aides alerted her that Gadhafi might have been caught.


Unidentified Man: Unconfirmed.

Ms. CLINTON: Unconfirmed, yeah.



Unidentified Man #2: What up?

Ms. CLINTON: Unconfirmed reports about Gadhafi being captured.

MITCHELL: And now the challenge for the administration is what happens next, and how to explain why the US helped topple Gadhafi but not other Arab

dictators. Brian: Andrea Mitchell in our DC newsroom tonight. Andrea , as we keep saying, the end of