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The Progressive

Qaddafi’s Death: Barbarism and Hypocrisy

I never mourn the death of a dictator.

Good riddance to Muammar Qaddafi, who terrorized his people for 42 years.

But neither do I cheer summary executions of anyone, no matter how brutal.

Just as the United States was wrong to rub out an unarmed Osama bin Laden, so, too, the Libyan rebels were wrong to murder the captured Qaddafi.

You can see the rebels parading Qaddafi around still alive.

You can see them bouncing his head up and down after he’s apparently dead.

The answer to barbarism is not more barbarism.

Amnesty International is right to ask for an investigation into Qaddafi’s death.

Nor do I applaud President Obama’s triumphalism.

“Without putting a single U.S. service member on the ground, we achieved our objectives,” he said. This may yet prove to be a precedent for future U.S. bombing wars, where a subsequent President will illegally attack another country with impunity, and will get away with it because he hasn’t put ground troops in harm’s way. During this Libya War , the Obama Administration used the lack of a threat to our service members as a justification for not invoking the War Powers Act.

President Obama crowed that the Libya War demonstrates “the strength of American leadership across the world.” Rather, it shows that might makes right.


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And the hypocrisy of the U.S. position could hardly be greater. In 2003, the Bush Administration rehabilitated Qaddafi, who became an ally of the United States in the “war on terror.” In fact, the CIA used Qaddafi’s intelligence service to torture detainees that the U.S. sent over to Libya.

The CIA “rendered” eight or nine detainees to Qaddafi’s intelligence service, and sent questions along with for the torturers to ask, according to Human Rights Watch, in an interview with Democracy Now.

The CIA may even have had agents present during some of the questioning.

In 2008, Condoleezza Rice visited Qaddafi in Libya.

The next year, Obama shook his hand, and John McCain offered him arms.

When it was convenient for Washington to support Qaddafi, it did so.

When it was convenient to attack him, it did so.

But the Obama administration didn’t attack Bahrain when it cracked down on people fighting for democracy against that kingdom. No, Washington even let Saudi Arabia, another kingdom, invade Bahrain to help put down the nonviolent uprising.

For the people of Libya, long oppressed by Qaddafi, this is a day of liberation.

But it is no vindication of U.S. policy.

Matthew Rothschild

Matthew Rothschild

Matthew Rothschild was the senior editor of The Progressive magazine from 1994 to 2014.

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