Moammar Gadhafi

I apologize for not covering this in a particularly timely manner (I’ve been dealing with a bad cold), but the big news of the last week has been that Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi was killed by Libyan opposition fighters on Thursday. Libya’s new interim leaders plan to formally declare liberation tomorrow, and NATO officials plan to end all military operations there by the end of the month.

President Barack Obama (D) authorized U.S. involvement in the Libyan conflict as part of a NATO alliance, which began military operations on March 19. Obama, however, failed to receive Congressional authorization for the conflict within the time required by the War Powers Resolution of 1973 . . . so since May 20, U.S. involvement has been on questionable constitutional footing (at best).

Having said that, I have generally supported efforts to depose Gadhafi. Since coming to power in 1969, he kept tight control over internal dissent, executing political enemies and imposing a culture of fear where ten to twenty percent of Libyans were employed as informers against their countrymen. In the 1980’s, Gadhafi had at least twenty-five critics of his regime assassinated overseas, and the Libyan government offered bounties up to 1 million dollars on its enemies’ heads—whether they be foreign statesmen, journalists, or Libyan defectors. Like in Hussein’s Iraq, petty criminals under Gadhafi’s regime were punished with flogging and the amputation of limbs.

The Libyan government attempted to buy nuclear weapons from China in 1972, Pakistan in 1977, and India in 1978. As of 2004, their stockpile of chemical weapons included 23 metric tons of mustard gas and more than 1,300 metric tons of precursors. Gadhafi’s Libya was also a major funding source for terrorist organizations around the world, including radical groups operating in the Philippines, Indonesia, Vanatu, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and more. Libyan agents acting on their own under Gadhafi’s authority were responsible for bombings in Berlin, shootings in London, attempted bombings of government buildings and aircraft in the United States, and the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Needless to say, he was not a great guy . . . for Libya or the rest of the world. I do not rejoice at his death (for the same reasons I didn’t rejoice at Osama bin Laden’s), but I am glad he is no longer running Libya. Like the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, the people of Libya now have a chance to rebuild themselves as a vibrant, free country with robust civil and economic freedoms. Or they could choose a new variant of the regressive path they were on before. For the first time since 1969, Libya’s future is in the Libyan people’s hands. Here’s hoping they choose their path well.

The right of a nation to kill a tyrant, in cases of necessity, can no more be doubted, than to hang a robber, or kill a flea. But killing one tyrant only makes way for worse, unless the people have sense, spirit, and honesty enough to establish and support a constitution guarded at all points against the tyranny of the one, the few, and the many. – President John Adams (Federalist)