Abdel-Jalil is using the same template to “explain” the as yet unresolved circumstances under which Muammar Gaddafi was killed, which has also prompted calls for an investigation, due to what Abdel-Jalil characterized as the “demands of the international community.” Video footage shows that Gaddafi was still alive when he was pulled from a drainpipe after a NATO air assault ruined his escape attempt. Yet subsequent video showed the tyrant dead with a bullet wound to the head and covered in bruises. Nevertheless, Abdel-Jalil tried to deny the obvious. “Free Libyans wanted to keep Gaddafi in prison and humiliate him as long as possible,” he theorized. “Those who wanted him killed were those who were loyal to him or had played a role under him. His death was in their benefit.” Though Abdel-Jalil makes no mention of it, one might be inclined to assume this argument also applies to Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Muatassim, who also ended up dead, despite videos showing he was captured alive.
Such calculated obstinance raises an obvious question: if the circumstances surrounding the death of Muammar Gaddafi could be whitewashed to exonerate the rebels, what chance is there of an honest investigation being conducted of the massacre at the Mahari Hotel? It has been over a week since the incident occurred, and no one from the new government has initiated an investigation to date. HRW’s Peter Bouckaert illuminates the implications. “If the NTC fails to investigate this crime it will signal that those who fought against Gaddafi can do anything without fear of prosecution,” he said.
So far they have. Back in May, the New York Times ran a story speculating that rebels had formed a “death squad stalking former Gaddafi officials in Benghazi.” In August, rebels were charged with killing black people indiscriminately by African Union leader Jean Ping, who contended “the NTC seems to confuse black people with mercenaries…They are killing normal workers.” Humanrightsinvestigations.org (HRI) also accused the rebels of conducting “ethnic cleansing and lynching of black people.” In October, rebels reportedly went on a “vengeance spree” in the town of Abu Hadi, known as a tribal center for Gaddafi. Unrestrained looting and the burning of houses by rebel forces was rationalized by rebel commander Col. Bashir Abu Thafeera, who contended they were the result of “42 years of oppression under Gaddafi.” And HRW noted that of the 95 people killed in the fighting and NATO strikes prior to Gaddafi’s capture, “between six and ten of the dead appear to have been executed at the site with gunshot wounds to the head and body.”
All of these illegal acts of vengeance and execution, plus others which will undoubtedly emerge as the fog of war dissipates, undercut the original premise of a “humanitarian” NATO mission sold under the auspices of “protecting the civilian population” in compliance with U.N Resolution 1973. And despite the fact that the National Transitional Council has shown little inclination to investigate any of the alleged abuses by rebel forces, NATO has announced that it will end operations in Libya by October 31st. “We did what we said we would do and now is the time for the Libyan people to take their destiny into their own hands,” said NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen last Friday.
It is a destiny which remains highly problematic. Abdel-Jalil amended his original statement that Libya will be a Muslim country governed under Sharia Law. “Libyans are Muslims, but we are moderate Muslims,” he said Monday, even as he urged “forgiveness and reconciliation” in his address to the nation. Yet he remained committed to Sharia Law. “Any law that runs contrary to the Islamic principles of the Islamic Shariah is legally void,” he said. Thus, second-class status for women and homosexuals, violence and intimidation directed at non-believers, and dreams of jihadist domination–all in moderation–will apparently be the foundation of the new Libyan government. It remains to be seen whether “forgiveness and reconciliation” includes turning a blind eye to rebel abuses, assuming any investigations take place at all.
As for those who wish to take credit for the outcome of the Libyan adventure, it would be wise to remember that with credit comes responsibility. Muammar Gaddafi will not be missed. It remains to be seen if what takes his place is better or worse, when thousands of weapons, including surface-to-air missiles capable of shooting down jetliners, remain unaccounted for, autonomous militias in search of vengeance remain unfettered by external control, and the genuine composition and ultimate objectives of the rebel forces remains largely a mystery.
One always hopes war will be won by the “good guys.” Fifty-three dead bodies of people seemingly executed in cold blood indicate that such a term may be nothing more than an exceedingly hollow expression when applied to the winners in Libya.
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