Tag Archives: Libya

Krauthammer on Libya, Truth and Justice

In explaining why Qaddafi got off easy, Charles Krauthammer begins:

You’ve got your Mexican standoff, your Russian roulette, your Chinese water torture. And now, your Libyan crossfire. That’s when a pistol is applied to the head and a bullet crosses from one temple to the other.

That’s apparently what happened to Moammar Gaddafi after he was captured by Libyan rebels — died in a “crossfire,” explains Libya’s new government. This has greatly agitated ACLU types, morally unemployed ever since a Democratic administration declared Guantanamo humane. The indignation has spread to human rights groups and Western governments, deeply concerned about the manner of Gaddafi’s demise.

The jab at the ACLU is worth reading twice. More importantly though, he then offers a defense of not always fighting for justice. Qaddafi could have chosen to flee to Saudi Arabia or Nicaragua and accept asylum. But would it have been just or wise to accept that fate for Qaddafi?

In post-Pinochet Chile and post-apartheid South Africa, it was decided that full justice — punishing the guilty — would be sacrificed in order to preserve the fragile social peace of the new democracy.

The former oppressors having agreed to a peaceful relinquishing of power, full justice might have ignited renewed civil strife. Therefore, these infant democracies settled for mere truth: a meticulous accounting of the crimes of the previous regime. In return for truthful testimony, perpetrators were given amnesty.

Under the normal rule of law, truth is only a means for achieving justice, not an end in itself. The real end is determining guilt and assigning punishment. But in war and revolution one cannot have everything. Justice might threaten peace. Therefore peace trumps full justice.

Gaddafi could have had such a peace-over-justice compromise. He chose instead to fight to the death. He got what he chose.

I spoke to a co-worker a few days ago who describes himself as a “big lefty.” He had his thoughts on what should have happened to Qaddafi, but said he thought groups like Amnesty International were “crazy” for complaining about Muammar’s ultimate fate. He and Krauthammer (and many others) agree: it’s not a big deal.



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Saif Qaddafi to the Hague?

Joshua Keating at FP cites the following from the ICC:

An NTC source said on Thursday that Saif al-Islam wanted an aircraft, possibly arranged by a neighbouring country, to take him out of Libya’s southern desert and into ICC custody.

Under such a deal, Saif al-Islam would be taken to The Hague where the ICC shares a detention unit with the UN Yugoslavia war crimes tribunal and the special court for Sierra Leone, where the former Liberian president Charles Taylor is on trial.

Keating then notes that the ICC is so backed up Saif will spend years in jail before a final verdict. I agree with his conclusion:

I’d still much rather see Saif al-Islam brought to trial than gunned down in a ditch, but it’s safe to say that Libya’s new rulers might not be satisfied with the idea of him spending the next decade playing board games with Ratko Mladic.

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Family Resemblance?


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Qaddafi is Buried in Secret Location

A Misurata military council official said Moammar Gaddafi, his son Mutassim and a top aide were buried at dawn Tuesday in a secret location, with a few relatives and officials in attendance, The Associated Press reports.
The bodies of Gaddafi, his son Mutassim and former Defense Minister Abu Bakr Younis had been held in cold storage in the port city of Misurata since the dictator and members of his entourage were captured near his hometown of Sirte on Thursday. Gaddafi and Mutassim were captured alive, with some injuries, but died in unclear circumstances later that day.


The New York Times also ran two pieces on Libya this morning. The first discusses the Libyan government’s failure to investigate the death of Qaddafi.

The interim leaders, who declared the country liberated on Sunday, may simply have their hands full with the responsibilities that come with running a state. But throughout the Libyan conflict, they have also shown themselves to be unwilling or incapable of looking into accusations of atrocities by their fighters, despite repeated pledges not to tolerate abuse.

The lack of control came into sharp focus last week, when former rebel fighters arrested Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. In videos of the capture on Thursday morning, victorious fighters were shown manhandling Colonel Qaddafi, who appeared to be bleeding and distressed but conscious. This was moments after he was pulled from a large drainage pipe where he had hidden after a NATO air assault destroyed part of his convoy. Subsequent video shows his bruised corpse, with at least one bullet wound to the head.

I am more bothered by the information lost during Qaddafi’s death and the fact that he won’t be on trial than by how he died. Dictators often have inglorious ends.

The second article describes discussions held by both the Libyan and American governments about what to do if Qaddafi is captured (now obviously a moot point):

There were sharp divisions within Libya’s Transitional National Council about what to do with Colonel Qaddafi, according to American officials. Some argued that he should be tried in the country; others said it would impose too big a burden on an interim administration dealing with so many other problems.

The ambivalence was mirrored on the American side, with some in the administration concerned that Libya did not have the resources to conduct a proper trial, while others worried that pressuring the Libyans to send him to an international tribunal in The Hague would be viewed as encroaching on their sovereignty.

“The delicate question was how to balance Libyan sovereignty with a frank assessment of their capability to hold a fair trial with international standards,” said a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. “We were trying to walk a fine line.”

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Gaddafi? Kadafi? Qaddafi? Gadhafi?

For my last post for the evening, something I’ve been grappling with for the past few weeks: How do you spell Qaddafi? In reality, it’s a transliteration, so there is no “correct” spelling (except معمر_القذاف), only accepted spellings. (ABC News came up with 112 spellings.) According to the Washington Post, “An old Libyan Web site from 2005 had it as Qadhafi.org. The Library of Congress has the “Name Authority Record,” as Muammar Qaddafi.”

I’m going with the Library of Congress. So it’s final. From now on, Moammar Kadhafi is Muammar Qaddafi.



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Hitch: Bring Seif Qaddafi In Alive

Christopher Hitchens wishes stricter orders had been given and enforced to the Libyan rebels that Muammar Qaddafi was not to be killed.

Among other things, this tacit agreement persuades me that no general instruction was ever issued to the forces closing in on Qaddafi in his hometown of Sirte. Nothing to the effect of: Kill him if you absolutely must, but try and put him under arrest and have him (and others named, whether family or otherwise) transferred to the Netherlands. At any rate, it seems certain that even if any such order was promulgated, it was not very forcefully.

This gives far too much credit to the ability of Libyan leaders to command and control their forces. This was not a standard, Western-style uniformed army that follows orders given by a lawful chain of command. These forces were at the end of the day a ragtag group of armed civilians organized as a militia with a singular purpose: to defeat Qaddafi. That mission did not require his death, but his death was welcomed nonetheless.

Regardless, Hitchens makes the case for why Qaddafi’s remaining son Saif should be brought in alive.

It will be quite a disgrace if he is also killed out of hand, or if at the very least the NTC and the international community do not remind their fighters that he needs to be taken into lawful custody.

This is not to display any undue sympathy for Seif, or others on the wanted list. But he in particular is the repository of an enormous amount of potentially useful information, about the nature of the dead regime and perhaps even of the whereabouts of strategic material—to say nothing of vast illegal holdings of money that are the rightful property of the Libyan people. In more senses than one, it would be a crime to be party to this destruction of evidence.

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Gadhafi Driving Through New Jersey

It turns out that Libya bought a house in Jersey in 1982. Who knew? The question is what will become of it now that Gadhafi is… at rest.

“I was afraid Gadhafi was going to motorcade up Palisade Avenue and we were going to have armed conflict in Englewood, with the blood of Americans being on his hands,” said Rep. Steve Rothman, a New Jersey Democrat who was mayor when Libya bought the 4.7 acre property in 1982.

At several points during the last 30 years, Rothman has worked on deals with the Reagan and Obama administrations, and with the United Nations to prevent Gadhafi from stepping foot in Englewood.

The most recent deal may have prevented Gadhafi from sleeping in a Bedouin tent on the mansion’s lawn during his 2009 visit to address the United Nations. Gadhafi ended up in a Manhattan U.N. apartment.

The mansion is currently serving as a second, quasi-summer home to Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgham, Libya’s ambassador to the United Nations. Shalgham was Gadhafi’s U.N. ambassador and was among the first to defect to the opposition movement, publicly denouncing the “brutality” of Gadhafi back in February.

The smartest thing Shalgham did was denounce Gadhafi. Principle or prudence?

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Al Jazeera Releases Video of Qaddafi’s Dead Body

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“I Draw Because This Is the Only Way I Can Express Myself”

Anti-Gaddafi graffiti on the walls of Libya, from BBC News.

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