Wednesday, October 26, 2011


The Executioners

By Reginald Johnson
October 26, 2011

A lot of people are cheering the fact that Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi has been killed. Good riddance to a brutal despot, they say, the world is better without him.

I’m not cheering. It’s not that I think Gadhafi was some kind of nice guy. He clearly was not. He was a brutal tyrant. It’s just that I am getting sick and tired of how the United States thinks that it has the right to essentially rub out any person it deems to be acting against its interest, and to do so irrespective of U.S. law and international law.

As Noam Chomsky would say, we act like a Mafia don on the world stage --- using force and violence to get our way. Look at the godfather cross-eyed, and you’re history.

The so-called Libyan rebels reportedly killed Gadhafi, after a protracted battle for the dictator ‘s hometown of Sirte. But the reality is, the Americans and their fellow partners in crime, France, Britain and Italy, killed Gadhafi.

While there was a genuine uprising in Libya’s east in February against the dictatorship, and Western countries entered the conflict supposedly on humanitarian grounds --- to protect rebel areas and civilians from a massacre by Gadhafi forces --- the intervention soon became an all-out assault on the entire country. The action against Libya --- in the form of NATO planes attacking pro-Gadhafi areas constituted an illegal invasion that went far beyond the terms of the UN resolution passed in March allowing for military action to protect civilians.

The U.S. and their allies wanted Gadhafi out. Getting rid of the eccentric and independent-minded Libyan leader was seen as a means to install a more pliant government, which would surely grant unconditional access to the Libya’s massive amounts of high quality oil and water. A more obedient government in Tripoli also means the U.S. can build military bases in the country giving America a springboard for further interventions in the rest of resource-rich Africa.

The U.S., Britain and France saw the Benghazi uprising as providing a pretext for making their move on Gadhafi. The intervention had nothing to do with helping the Libyans achieve democracy, or promote the Arab Spring --- a idea advanced by some people on the left who should know better.

After months of NATO bombing runs --- with many civilians killed and civilian infrastructure destroyed ---- the rag tag rebel army caught up with Gadhafi and shot him. The exact circumstances of Gadhafi’s death are not clear, but this fact is: the rebel army never could have won this war without NATO assistance, and if the word had come down during the battle for Sirte, ‘capture, don’t kill Gadhafi,’ the dictator would have been taken alive. He was not --- this was an execution.

The annoying and nationalist-minded Col. Gadhafi was out of the way.

But had Libya attacked the United States, France or Britain? No. There was no legal basis under international law for the all-out assault that took place on this sovereign country. Nor did President Barack Obama get congressional approval for the attack in which the United States was so centrally involved. In so doing, Obama trampled on the constitution and the War Powers Act.

The elimination of Gadhafi was the third time this year that the U.S. carried out extra-judicial killings of heads of state or alleged terrorist leaders.

In September, a CIA drone in Yemen killed Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Muslim cleric with alleged al-Qaeda ties. He had been implicated in plots to harm the United States, but was never indicted. Nonetheless, he was put on a “kill list” set up by a secret panel in the White House’s National Security Council.

Awlaki’s killing violated the U.S. Constitution. The Fifth Amendment says no American citizen shall be “deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.”

What due process was given al-Awlaki? None. Just put on a kill list, and boom, taken out.

How different is this than what Stalin and Hitler did to opponents of their regimes, or those who they considered terrorists?

Al-Awlaki should have been captured and put on trial. Why wasn’t he? Maybe because the case against him wouldn’t have stood up in court?

Osama Bin-Laden, the reputed author of the 911 attacks (though no conclusive evidence has ever been presented to verify his role) was executed by U.S. commandoes in May. The raid on Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan was done unilaterally by the U.S. without consultation with Pakistan.

Bin Laden was unarmed at the time of the raid, and could have been taken alive. Like al-Awlaki, he should have been captured, and brought to trial for his alleged crimes. He had been indicted for his role in the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in 2000.

But he was executed, possibly on orders of President Obama, who watched the raid in real time with his White House team.

His body was then dumped at sea.

What has our nation come to? Is this the America of 2011 --- one whose government has secret kill lists, execution teams and a population (at least many) who cheer when designated “bad guys” are killed in a lawless manner? Apparently so.