I’m just not sure I care whether Gaddafi was summarily executed

Slate:

A U.N. panel set up earlier this year to investigate abuses in Libya said it wanted to take a closer look at how Qaddafi was killed, but that it was too early to tell if the panel would push for a formal investigation at the national or international level.

The spokesman, Rupert Colville, told reporters in Geneva that there remain questions about whether Qaddafi was killed during a skirmish between his security detail and the revolutionaries, as Libya’s prime minister suggested Thursday, or whether he was executed.

“The two cell phone videos that have emerged, one of him alive, and one of him dead, taken together are very disturbing,” he said, according to the AP.

I know I’m supposed to care whether Gaddafi was executed (i.e., was captured and then summarily shot even though it wasn’t necessary), but I really don’t.

He was a bad man who killed a lot of people.  And he was more than just a “bad” man – lots of people are bad men, and we don’t sanction them being summarily shot – Gaddafi was different, he was a dictator.  And I don’t shed a tear for him.  Just like I don’t shed a tear for Soviet puppet Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife being given a show trial and then shot on Christmas day of 1989.  That was a great day for the world.

I get it.  I’m a lawyer.  We can’t sanction lawlessness simply because we think a particular situation is an exception, lest someone else make their own poorly chosen exceptions to the law (and one could argue that Ceausecu’s execution was handled just the way he handled many an execution during his own reign of terror – though I’m not entirely sure that that’s an argument against summarily shooting the man).  I just feel that things are different during war time, and they’re especially different when you’re dealing with a despot.

Now, how do you distinguish this from war crimes?  I’m not entirely sure.  Though, in my view, war crimes apply less to how a leader is treated than his followers (i.e., the military and the citizens).  And the distinction becomes even greater when the leader is a despot.  And yes, we all have different definitions of despot.  And some would call the US president (possibly even the current one, certainly the former one) a despot.  So would I sanction similarly harsh treatment of our leaders?  No I wouldn’t. And I get that it’s contradictory, I’m just putting it out there.

I’m not saying that I have a bullet-proof argument, pun intended.  I’m simply admitting that while I know legally we shouldn’t condone summary executions, I think I have a pretty good moral compass and I just don’t get that worked up about it when the target of an execution is a bin Laden or a Ceausecu.  And I’m at pains to understand how their summary deaths make the world, or the rule of law, any worse off.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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