In the end, it turns out Qaddafi’s escort of highly-trained female soldiers wasn’t skilled enough to protect the delusional (and bald) former Libyan leader from bullets to the body and head sustained in a close quarter gun-battle in Sirte, the Mediterranean city where Qaddafi was from and to where he fled after losing control of Tripoli. Either that, or they killed him themselves.
The ground battle began after French fighter jets (insert joke about the French military here) and a US predator drone (but not Italy*) carpeted Qaddafi’s getaway route with bombs. Apparently he knew NTC (National Transitional Council) troops had found him and had decided to make a run, or convoy, for it.
Now, while it is the case that the UN human rights commission is going to investigate the circumstances surrounding Qaddafi’s death (he was captured alive before dying in NTC hands), the case of Qaddafi should not be confused and analogized with the cases of Osama Bin Laden and Anwar Al-Awlaki. Although there may be overlapping moral questions in that all three men were killed without a trial**, from a legal perspective the case of Qaddafi is quite different.
Because NATO forces were operating under authority granted them by UN resolution 1973, their actions were generally consistent with international law – however incipient the field may be.
I say ‘generally’ here in that there are, admittedly, questions to be asked regarding the extent to which NATO may have taken it upon itself to expand the scope of resolution 1973 and act basically as air cover to NTC ground troops. Did the UN resolution really authorize targeted attempts on a foreign leader’s life – regardless of the fact that he’d been deposed?
Nevertheless, in the killings of Bin Laden and Al-Awlaki, the US remained, as is so often its wont, essentially disinterested in international law. Although morally shady, NATO’s actions w/r/t Qaddafi at least exhibit a modicum of respect to international law and the norms being established therein. After all, the UN was deferred to and a resolution authorizing force was given.
On a final note, the whole Libyan ordeal makes you wonder whether the esteemed puppet of neo-liberalism, Joseph Nye, feels as awkward as the Italians about all this. Sadly, his tiny rational-choice brain likely has no room for guilt. Then again, perhaps he orchestrated it all. Perhaps he didn’t report back to Washington with the message: ‘invest in Libya’. Perhaps instead he reported back with the message: ‘guys, everyone knows soft power’s just a euphemism, let’s take it over.’***
* I suppose there many reasons Italy hasn’t been so enthusiastic about the whole NATO-led Libyan campaign. But the biggest reason might be summed up in the word awkward.
** Even if neither NATO generally nor the French specifically killed Qaddafi, it would still seem rather obtuse to argue that both entities did not know exactly what would happen to him upon capture by the NTC.
*** The ugliest thing about neo-liberals is how they masquerade as communitarians when really their will to power is just as effervescent as that of the neo-conservatives.
NB: The Russian Times has another perspective on the incident. In their view, the US said enough already and decided that it was time to end this whole ‘who controls Libya’s oil’ mess.