So Osama Bin Laden is dead, killed by an American military squad. What has been achieved? A demonstration of US power? Yes. Revenge for the Twin Towers? Yes, but revenge doesn’t help anyone, it leads to further counter revenge incidents. It doesn’t help the grieving relatives of atrocities; their grief can only be assuaged by time. The notion of ‘closure’, common in the press, is not an emotion that most people who’ve suffered a great loss recognise. I can understand the argument for the utility of killing someone who is an active terrorist leader but by all accounts Al Qaeda operates all over the world with other active leaders in charge. Nothing will be achieved by this murder except the loss of more innocent lives by further revenge terrorist attacks.
So let’s turn to the killing of Saif al-Arab Gaddafi and three children, presumably carried out by NATO in order to shake up the conflict stuck in the mire. It seems to me to be not only a tragic strategic error militarily but provides yet further reason for the Arab world to resent interventions ostensibly made to help them. I understand that the Bab al-Aziziya compound was the hub of important communication networks for the Gaddafi Regime and it was hoped that its destruction would cut off army commanders from control in Tripoli. But was the strike also an assassination attempt against Gaddafi? Probably it was. Do we really believe that by removing Gaddafi we will solve the civil war in Libya? No, no, no, just as we did not solve Iraq by removing Sadam Hussein.
Saif al-Arab was, unlike his brothers, was not of military importance. His death is almost certainly removing one of the least offensive of the Gaddafi clan. Gaddafi will use his death and the tragic death of the children in the propaganda war against western intervention; we’ve handed him this opportunity to him thoughtlessly. So was this attack intended to have a mainly psychological impact on the Libyans? If it was, the effect of the impact is unpredictable and will inflame opposition still further from Russia and China and fuel the doubts of less gung-ho allies such as Germany.
If we in the UK and our US allies behave like terrorists ourselves, on what moral ground do we oppose terrorism by others?