Here's my theory. These countries, Libya included, were presented with proof of their misdeeds prior to the Iraqi war.
How and where would the U.S. have obtained such proof? In Iraq obviously, but maybe as a result of the capture of Saddam.
What sort of misdeeds? Who knows, but to be powerful negotiating tool, it would have to be at least as bad as selling weapons to Saddam in violation of a U.N. arms embargo:
Iraqi newspapers said the four Roland surface-to-air missiles were made this year, though France said it stopped producing any type of Roland missile in 1993...
The U.S. source, who asked not to be identified, said the Iraqi report was impossible to confirm because a Polish weapons team had destroyed the missiles after it discovered them days ago. The source also said it was difficult to contact the Poles because of communications problems.
"Communication problems?" Was that the winner of the lamest-excuse-possible contest? If I didn't know better, I'd say the source was trying to sound like he knew something he couldn't talk about.
But I don't think we're talking about the sale of a few SAMS to Saddam. To be as powerful a tool as I think it is, this would have to be as bad as active participation in Saddam's development of WMDs.
Proof of this level of misconduct would certainly put the U.S. in a powerful position to negotiate: "Now I'm sure we would all hate for this information to become public. All we need is a little cooperation from you regarding the matter of this debt."
If this is true, it sheds light on how the Bush administration had the nerve to ask for debt reduction while at the same time publishing "The Little Red Hen" policy regarding reconstruction contracts. Bush served them crow and they ate it and smiled (through clenched teeth).
The best part - silence can't be bought, it can only be rented. This could be diplomatic leverage for a long time. Then, when enough of the bad actors are dead, the truth will come out.