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After Buckingham Palace was bombed by the Luftwaffe during the Blitz, the present Queen’s mother is supposed to have said, “Now we can look the East End in the eye.” In a war any sense that the rulers are immune to the risks and privations affecting ordinary folks is damaging to their leadership. Britain’s royal family was grateful to Hitler for targeting their palace. Colonel Qaddafi must be feeling the same after NATO killed his youngest son and three grandchildren late on Saturday night.
His spokesman emphasised that the “Brother Leader” now shared the sacrifices made for forty days and forty nights by other Libyan families. By missing the Colonel and killing the kids, NATO has given the Colonel a huge boost just as trouble was growing on the Tunisian front as well as carrying on in Misrata and in the east beyond Brega. The man who outlived Reagan’s onslaught in 1986 has done it again.
Only the perverted predatory mentality of NATO’s target-selectors could locate a harmless son of Qaddafi as well as his children, and then think it was a smart move to kill them. It would be bad enough if this blunder was simply what some Nevada-based geek-in-uniform assumed would make a neat kill, but it is obvious that frustration with the failure of Qaddafi to fall after a few cruise missile strikes six weeks ago has led the NATO leaders to think that de-capitation is the way out of the war which they launched with gay abandon.
Until 30th April, the logic of NATO’s air campaign was to concentrate its fire on Qaddafi’s foot soldiers while endlessly repeating the demand that the Colonel and his sons leave Libya. This seemed a crude ploy to get ordinary Libyans to ask why their boys were dying while the Qaddafi clan were unharmed. Splitting your enemy is a time-honoured tactic in warfare. Instead of wearing down Libyan morale and undermining the regime’s legitimacy by leaving the Qaddafi clan free to chat to Western channels, while ordinary soldiers died, NATO has given Qaddafi’s clan a blood bond with its supporters.
Generals are often accused of fighting the last war. The humanitarian bombers are repeating the propaganda from their Kosovo intervention in 1999. Mass murder, government organised rape camps with mercenaries fired up on Viagra, and so on are the staples of Washington’s increasingly hysterical denunciations of Qaddafi as it turns out that his family has more support than the glib proponents of hellfire missiles as humanity’s preferred way to protect civilians would have had us believe.
The UN Security Council resolution 1973 made not distinction between the obligation to protect unarmed civilians in Libya. But NATO’s interpretation is that Qaddafi’s civilian supporters are collateral damage under the guise of “command and control centres” in short trousers.
No strategist in their right mind would do what the witches sabbath of Hilary Clinton, Susannah Rice and Samantha Powers has cooked up for fighting Qaddafi. But the male chorus in this tragedy is no more worthy of respect. Obama, Sarkozy and Cameron are the new Bill Clintons as promiscuous in their use of high-tech weapons as he was, only not yet caught in flagrante with an intern. Attributing rational military motives to these posturing humanitarian warmongers in Washington, London and Paris is obviously a mistake. They clearly live on another planet from the humanity whom they claim to protect.
Maybe they hope to draw the Qaddafi family out for Saif al-Arab’s funeral. Remember the Western elite is devoted to The Godfather. It is the template of their style ? look at the hoods who surround them for security and the black-windowed armoured limousines in which they travel ? as well as their international policy-making. As Francis Ford Coppola demonstrated on celluloid funerals make a good place to eradicate rival clans. Their advisers will have told them that Arab culture requires a public burial with father and brothers in attendance. Vultures used to haunt desert graves, now predators hover above them.
Just as George W. Bush deliberately sought to exterminate the male members of Saddam Hussein’s family in Iraq, killing not only his odious sons but other junior members of the clan as well as executing the former dictator, so now the same logic is at work in the Obama-Cameron-Sarkozy mindset. Of course, the mirror-image of that familicidal mentality would be for a Libyan to target Queen Elizabeth and her sons, grandsons and other male relatives, all in uniform for the wedding of Flight-Lieutenant Wales on 29th April. Michelle Obama and the kids live in America’s command-and-control HQ and mobile missile-launching communications accompany her husband even when he is spending quality-time with his daughters so they are collateral damage in-waiting by Dad’s definition. As for Carla Bruni?
The Duke of Wellington rounded on an officer at Waterloo for suggesting that Bonaparte was within range: “Generals of armies have more important things to do than shoot at each other.” But since then Obama-Cameron-Sarkozy axis has rewritten the rules of war: family members are now fair game. When it comes to decapitating a regime, the kids are included too.
No normal person would wish the families of Western leaders to face the kind of brutal evaporation which their fathers and power-moms direct at humanity’s enemies, but the West itself is no longer ruled by people with normal humane values. The rhetoric of humanitarian war blinds them to any common humanity with anyone on the enemy side of whatever age or infirmity. Who can doubt that a colour-blind and morally-blind person would see no reason to spare the Cameron kids if firing on Downing Street anymore than Cameron baulks at sacrificing Qaddafi’s grandchildren?
Little wonder, the royal newly-weds’ honeymoon was suddenly cancelled on Saturday. So much of William and Kate’s nuptials was choreographed around their parents’ and grandparents’ weddings that it was a fair guess that like Princess Elizabeth and Philip they were going to fly to Malta to start their honeymoon before going on to Kenya where three generations of Windsors have enjoyed cementing their relations. Malta is too close to Libya for comfort and Kenya’s Muslim minority might not be too friendly to a serving NATO officer.
William Wales has been put in the firing line not only by his uniform but by his prime minister. David Cameron could defend himself by saying that he has willingly put Sam Cam and their “kids” at risk for the humanitarian cause but instead tried to weasel out of his responsibility by denying that NATO was targeting Qaddafi and sons. It is peculiarly distasteful that our humanitarian warriors want to claim the credit for their high-sounding motives but never to carry the can for the blood shed in pursuit of them. Their inability to take responsibility is the worm gnawing away at any remaining na?ve public faith in their sincerity.
Ironically, Qaddafi would have been regarded as the embodiment of bombastic mendacity without rival until Sarkozy, Cameron and the Nobel Prize-winning predator Barak Obama opened their mouths to explain their actions. Suddenly the Colonel has serious rivals for the status of least credible statesman of the age. Is there any indictment of these gentlemen’s humanitarian bloodletting than that a Libyan government spokesman’s account of the death of three children is more credible than their sleazy denials, obfuscations and shifting of responsibility? The proponents of humanitarian intervention constantly insist that they want an end to political leaders using force with impunity. Doesn’t making rulers responsible for civilian casualties begin at home?
Of course, Tony Blair’s Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, explained after Kosovo, there is no question of Western leaders going to Hague for any innocents killed by their order. Command responsibility did not apply to them. The “end of impunity” is for weak wogs, not nuclear-armed fops like Cameron, Sarkozy or Obama. But that reality of power can only fuel the rage of people belonging to lesser races subject to international law. Terrorism not freedom is the likely outcome of NATO’s stupid determination to make a martyr of Qaddafi. Sadly, with their armoured cars, blast-proof walled homes and swarms of security hoods, any anti-Western terrorism will not hurt the Western elite. Only little people will pay the price of our rulers’ folly. From Pakistan to the shores of the Mediterranean the predator has become the promoter of terrorism not its nemesis.
Mark Almond, an Oxford historian, is Visiting Professor in International Relations at Bilkent University, Turkey. He can be reached through his website.