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Assassination Is Murder But Altogether Acceptable, at Least if It’s Qaddafi

A very clever blogger, short and pithy, comments on the world virtually daily. His name is Errol Phillips, and I have not the slightest idea of who he is. But this ironic observation seems perfectly apt. So I share it with you:

Let’s see if I got this right. Water-boarding is torture and unacceptable. But assassination is murder and is acceptable.

At least we know now that progressives have finally come around to accepting the death penalty.

We shall see which countries will complain to the United Nations about Friday's killing(s). And which humanitarian NGOs will file complaints with the Human Rights Council against the new Libyan regime for allowing them.

If you can believe it, until early March the Qaddafi Jamahiriya (or “jubilee,” as I tended to call it) was in perfectly good standing in the international body. In fact, beginning in January of this year, the foul H.R.C., to which the U.S. returned with the coming of the Obama foreign policy and the madams Clinton and Rice, was in process of bestowing a clean bill of humanitarian health on the colonel’s government. Tom Kuntz reported the politics of the initiative in a heart-breaking New York Times dispatch.

So which governments were pushing this account of Libyan affairs? Iran, Myanmar, Algeria, Syria, Cuba, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Bahrain, Qatar. Wow, all these freedom-loving tyrannies. And, as Kuntz points out, even the U.S., the very U.S. which in the end intervened against Qaddafi, had tried to put in a good word for his rule. Yuk. 

As you know The New York Times irritates me almost continuously. But the fact is that we are all indebted to the Times, not least because of its web presence and the rich illustrative material that comes along with it.  

The killing of Muammar Qaddafi is one of those exemplary moments when the Times has assembled video narratives with commentary by Robert Mackey that really elucidate and explain. It’s a little hard to find. But the search is worth it.

The scene is ferocious. The fact that shrieks of “Allah Akhbar” accompany the bullets and blows to the dying tyrant’s last breaths only clarify how nasty the Libyan future will be.

I recall a narrative by Elie Kedourie of the 1958 killing of the last king of Iraq in an essay, “The Kingdom of Iraq: A Retrospect,” in The Chatham House Version: And Other Middle Eastern Studies. Bloody, cruel, cries to Allah for sure. But the regime that succeeded the monarchy was far more brutal than the reign of the royals. By the way, New Republic Books published a book by Kedourie, Islam in the Modern World, that is so unflinchingly brave and pessimistic about the Arab future that the pundits rarely cite it.

Fouad Ajami is also unflinchingly brave. He is alive and on television.

Martin Peretz is the editor-in-chief emeritus of The New Republic.