Qaddafi next

Published : Jun 03, 2011 00:00 IST

Muammar Qaddafi waves to supporters as he arrives to speak in Tripoli on March 2. - BEN CURTIS/AP

Muammar Qaddafi waves to supporters as he arrives to speak in Tripoli on March 2. - BEN CURTIS/AP

Muammar Qaddafi is apparently the next candidate for assassination; NATO forces spurn his offer of talks and rain missiles on his country.

NEWS about a significant event concerning Libya got drowned in the sound bites on the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad in Pakistan on May 1. Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi's youngest son, Seif al-Arab, and his three grandchildren were killed when war planes of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) attacked his one-storey residence in a Tripoli suburb on the morning of April 30. According to the Libyan government spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, the attack took place when the Libyan leader and his wife were at their son's house. Ibrahim conceded that intelligence about the Libyan leader's whereabouts could have been leaked to NATO.

Ever since the United States, France and the United Kingdom began their air attacks on Libyan targets in March, Qaddafi has been targeted. Although the U.S. administration, despite evidence to the contrary, continues to insist that Qaddafi is not slated for elimination, senior NATO officials and European politicians have publicly called for the Libyan leader's assassination. British Defence Secretary Liam Fox was the first to suggest such an option. After Qaddafi's official residence was targeted by NATO planes in late April, a leading U.S. politician, Senator Lindsay Graham, said that the Obama administration should cut the head of the snake off. He then went on to declare that Qaddafi was a legitimate military target and that the NATO forces should monitor all his movements.

The strikes came immediately after Qaddafi made an appeal for a ceasefire to end the fighting that has been going on for the past three months. The Libyan leader, speaking on state television on April 29, said that the NATO intervention had led to a massacre of civilians. He also reiterated his intention to stay on and fight. I am not leaving my country. No one can force me to leave my country, and no one can tell me not to fight for my country, he stated defiantly. NATO spurned his offer of talks and instead rained missiles on his son's house and the rest of the country that is still under the control of the Libyan government. The NATO spokesman said with a straight face after the killing of Qaddafi's kin that the alliance was strictly implementing United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1973. The resolution only authorised the setting up of a no-fly zone, not the random targeting of civilian targets. We are picking up attacks on these command and control facilities. If Qaddafi happens to be in one of those buildings, all the better, a senior NATO spokesman glibly told the American media.

The Vatican's representative in Tripoli said after the attempt on Qaddafi's life that NATO did not have the moral right under UNSCR 1973 to go on a bombing spree. The targeting of individuals even in times of war is akin to assassination and is defined as a criminal act under international war crimes laws. The U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions noted that extrajudicial killings can never be justified, even in times of war. The U.N. General Assembly and the U.N. Human Rights Commission have condemned such killings. In order to avoid facing a war crimes tribunal, the U.S. President and his allies are saying that they are only targeting command and control centres that presumably include suburban houses. Seif al-Arab, unlike his siblings, was not involved in the country's politics.

Russia, China and Venezuela were among the first countries to condemn the attack on the Libyan leader. Moscow and Beijing said that they were extremely concerned about the developments in Libya and stated that they would act together to demand a ceasefire. Qaddafi survived an attempt on his life ordered by the Reagan administration in 1986. In that attack, Qaddafi lost a daughter. Seif al-Arab had survived that attack with minor injuries. Many civilians were also killed in the U.S. missile attack.

Cuban leader Fidel Castro, in an article published in the first week of May, raised questions about the almost simultaneous attacks in Tripoli and Abbottabad. Why such a coincidence between the murder at Abbottabad and the simultaneous attempt to murder Qaddafi? he asked.


Physically targeting Qaddafi has become the overriding aim of the U.S.-led forces. The West had initially thought that the Libyan government would collapse after a few air strikes. But the Libyan people have shown amazing resilience in the face of the military shock and awe by NATO planes and missiles. The military planners in Washington, London and Paris had not bargained for a long haul and civilian deaths on such a wide scale, mainly as a result of indiscriminate bombing. They seem to have concluded that assassinating Qaddafi is the only way out of the quagmire they have got themselves into. It is sad that Barack Obama, the Nobel Peace laureate, is supporting targeted assassinations of state leaders using the new responsibility to protect (R2P) civilians doctrine as a pretext.

Previous U.S. administrations, of course, have a better track record as far as targeted killings of heads of state are concerned. After the Libyan Revolution of 1969, Henry Kissinger, the all-powerful National Security Adviser in the Nixon administration, authorised the secret services to liquidate the Libyan leader in 1971. The British, too, had told their secret services to use covert methods to get rid of Qaddafi. The Libyan leader had thrown out the Americans from their military bases in the country and nationalised Western oil companies. There were several U.S.-backed assassination attempts against Fidel Castro and other state leaders. After the U.S. Congress was informed in 1975 about the numerous assassinations and attempts to assassinate foreign leaders, President Gerald Ford was forced to issue an executive order banning state-sponsored assassinations. Until George W. Bush came along, all the Presidents renewed the order. President Ronald Reagan had no qualms about ordering the elimination of the Libyan leader despite the executive order.

After September 11, 2001, it was back to square one as far as the killing game was concerned for Washington. Bush's Press Secretary called on the Iraqi people to kill Saddam Hussein. Saddam was eventually hanged by a U.S.-supervised kangaroo court. Obama has continued with the Bush policy of assuming the self-ordained role of judge, jury and executioner. The killings of Seif al-Arab and bin Laden in quick succession are the latest illustrations of this policy.

From Qaddafi's point of view the irony of it is that Libya was the first country to issue an arrest warrant against bin Laden, way back in 1998, after Al Qaeda fighters killed two German anti-terrorism agents in the city of Sirte. Five months after the warrants (approved by Interpol) were issued, Al Qaeda carried out its attacks on the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The U.S. had not taken the Libyan arrest warrant seriously, for at that time it had considered Libya a bigger terror threat than Al Qaeda.

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