Military targets

The news has been full of headlines about the United States killing Osama bin Laden. I don’t have anything in particular to add to what’s already been said on that. But what you may have missed in the rush is that last weekend they actually went for a twofer and tried to kill Muammar Gadhafi too. They didn’t manage to do that, but they did kill his 29 year old son, Saif al-Arab Gadhafi. They did this by having NATO war-planes fire two missiles into a family home. This is what all the news stories talk about.[1] They also killed three of his grandchildren. This is almost never put in the headlines and almost always tacked on as a single sentence with an Also, by the way…. It took about half an hour of searching, but the one story I found with anything to say about the grandchildren — the majority of the victims of this strike — is this article by Richard Boudreaux from the Wall Street Journal. Two of the grandchildren they killed were toddlers, a two-year-old girl, and a two-year-old boy. The other was a baby girl only 5 months old.

Libyan officials called the airstrikes an assassination attempt on Col. Gadhafi, who they said was in the compound but escaped harm, and an attack on a residential neighborhood of Tripoli. The leader’s 29-year-old son, Saif al-Arab Gadhafi, was reported killed while hosting a family gathering. Two of his nieces, aged 5 months and 2 years; a 2-year-old nephew, and an adult friend also died in the blasts, the officials said.

— Richard Boudreaux, Gadhafi Strikes Port After Kin Killed, in the Wall Street Journal, May 2, 2011

Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard, Commander of NATO’s Military Operations, Said In A Statement that All NATO’s are military in nature. He said that NATO is fulfilling its U.N. mandate to stop and prevent attacks against civilians with precision and care. He said that We regret all loss of life, especially the innocent civilians being harmed as a result of this ongoing conflict.

Here is the military target that Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard had blown up with a missile.

Neighbors said the bombed compound, across town from the Libyan leader’s main residential complex at Bab al-Aziziya, has belonged to the Gadhafi family for decades. Saif al-Arab, the sixth of the colonel’s seven sons, lived there, but it was also used by his parents and other relatives, neighbors said. Its walled grounds encompass two residences; two other buildings, one used as a den and the other as a kitchen; and an empty stable.

Two missiles struck the compound, one stopping the kitchen clock 45 seconds after 8:08 p.m. Several pots of food—pasta, rice, fish, stuffed peppers—had been cooking on an electric stove.

— Richard Boudreaux, Gadhafi Strikes Port After Kin Killed, in the Wall Street Journal, May 2, 2011

The target was a family home in a residential neighborhood. One member of the family happens to be a thug and a mass murderer, and if he died, it’d be as righteous a kill as any in this world. But 2 year olds and babies being set down to dinner have nothing to do with that. But they, not he were the ones who died, in the infinite precision of blowing up houses with air-to-surface missiles, so that NATO could fulfil its U.N. mandate to stop and prevent systematic attacks on the Libyan population and populated areas.

They said that was a precision strike against a known command and control building. They said that they intend to step up strikes against broadcasting facilities and command centers in the capital. They are so sorry, they regret so much, and they are going to do it again, and again, and again.

Somewhere out there, at the bottom of the chain of command, there is a soldier from America or Europe who pulled the trigger and fired a missile into a house full of people on the off chance that it might kill a politically-significant target. He killed a baby and two toddlers instead. He must be so proud.

When he comes back home, people will clap him on the back and tell him Thank you for your service and those of us who suggest that there is nothing noble or courageous about shooting missiles into residential neighborhoods and murdering babies will be told what a bunch of naifs, or ingrates, or wretches we are if we blame those who were just following orders, instead of supporting the troops.

Meanwhile, at the top of the chain of command, there is an immensely powerful gang of generals and heads of state, calling the shots and signing off on the plans to launch missiles on mission after mission like this one, knowing perfectly well that these kinds of aerial assaults, the policy and the tactics that they have chosen to prosecute their chosen wars, constantly and predictably mean killing many times more civilians, families, and children than people allegedly targeted by the mission. They call for this over and over again, in the off chance that one day the massacre will also manage to kill off somebody who matters. All so that that Progressive President Barack Obama can give a press conference and pound a podium and say My fellow Americans to announce another landmark triumph for Justice and American Forces. Those of us who mention all the friends and kinfolks and babies and bystanders they killed in this cynical policy of massacres are accused of being sensationalists, perhaps not even engaged in adult conversation. Those of us who say that governments shouldn’t be launching this kind of aerial assault, given how many innocents it inevitably kills, will be told that we just don’t care enough to try and stop a repressive regime from slaughtering Libyan civilians.

It took me a while to write about this because everything about it it makes me so angry, and so miserable.

See also:

  1. [1] Cf. CNN: One of Gadhafi’s sons killed in NATO airstrike, BBC: Nato strike “kills Saif al-Arab Gaddafi,” Libya says, AP: Libyan spokesman says Moammar Gadhafi survives NATO missile strike that kills his youngest son, etc.

13 replies to Military targets Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. Mike Gogulski

    He killed a baby and two toddlers instead. He must be so proud.

    But, but… there’s equality now! It might’ve been a she!

  2. Discussed at aaeblog.com

    Barack Obama, Hey Hey Hey, How Many Kids Did You Kill Today?:

    […] The story the mainstream news isn’t covering. […]

  3. Lucy Cage

    I can understand exactly why it took you a while to write that, but I’m very glad you did. These are things that we need to be furious about, the killing of babies and toddlers, the collateral damage, the practical murderousness of theoretical political aims. It’s not good enough to wave them away. I applaud you: it’s a great, succinct, beautifully-written, heartbreaking and angry piece of writing.

  4. Rad Geek

    Incidentally, if you are curious, I see that Jacob Sullum also has a post up today on the Tripoli massacre, which points out why NATO press-flacks have been swearing up and down that baby girls and family kitchens constitute a military target: because they’re basically fine with the fact that they murdered a little boy and two little girls in the course of their mission, but what they’re really sweating, legally speaking, is the Serious Accusation that they might have been trying to assassinate Gadhafi, contrary to some legal conventions that heads of state agreed to adopt, as well as a U.S. executive order forbidding it, dating back to the Ford administration. Anyway, here’s Sullum:

    The assassination ban, first imposed by Gerald Ford in 1976, grew out of an investigation by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that highlighted CIA plots to kill government officials in Cuba, Vietnam, the Congo, the Dominican Republic, and Chile. Hence everyone agrees the order forbids deliberately killing foreign heads of state, a practice that is also condemned by international law.

    This distaste for assassination can lead to morally puzzling results. The day of the raid in Abbottabad, the Libyan government accused NATO forces of trying to assassinate Muammar al-Qaddafi after an air attack killed one of his sons and three of his grandchildren. NATO officials said the complex it bombed was a command post as well as a residence and therefore a legitimate military target. They denied any intent to kill Qaddafi.

    Which is worse: deliberately killing a brutal dictator or accidentally killing little children? It is a perverse policy that forbids the assassination of foreign leaders, even those guilty of mass murder, yet sanctions the slaughter of innocent noncombatants as unavoidable “collateral damage.”

    Jacob Sullum, No Surrender, at reason.com, May 4

  5. Lucy Cage

    I am curious and that was an interesting article: thanks! “Morally puzzling” is a good’un: war laws are by nature utterly morally puzzling, given that by their very existence they make the killing of other human beings fine’n’dandy, moral and legal in certain circumstances, but inhumane, unsound, cruel, illegal, immoral in other, slightly altered, circumstances, even if it’s the very same people who are getting shot. Assassinated. Murdered. Whatever. It’s enough to make you scream.

  6. Lucy Cage

    I mentioned your blog in my blog: http://somethingtocryfor.blogspot.com/2011/05/who-gives-fuck.html Viva rage! And appropriate responses.

  7. Discussed at www.blagnet.net

    Blagnet.net » Bin Laden reaction roundup:

    […] him, assassinate him, issue drone bombings and missile launches in the hopes that you kill him (and inevitably kill innocents in the process), or capture and try him for his murders. First, what were the legal and practical options the […]

  8. Discussed at southernnationalist.com

    Let go of the centralized state | Southern Nationalist Network:

    […] son and three grandchildren in NATO’s failed attempt to kill Gadhafi himself. As Rad Geek explains, Two of the (Gadhafi) grandchildren they killed were toddlers, a two-year-old girl, and a […]

  9. Discussed at www.collapseboard.com

    Who Gives a Fuck? | Collapse Board:

    […] ever asked us to vote in a referendum on really important matters, like whether or not we should allow babies and toddlers to be bombed in the name of peace-keeping. This is only the second national referendum in the UK ever: […]

  10. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2011-05-11 – Humanitarian intervention:

    […] attacks against civilians with precision and care. Protecting Libyan civilians apparently includes taking the time to fire two missile into a family home and executing babies for having the wrong gra…. But not taking the time to stop and rescue 72 Libyan refugees — people fleeing the war that […]

· October 2011 ·

· December 2011 ·

  1. Discussed at lrc.convasis.com

    Stop Being a Serf | Lew Rockwell:

    […] There have been several events in the news this past week that have distracted Americans from the more pressing issues of the day. The distractions have included President Obama's finally releasing his birth certificate to please Donald Trump, The Royal Wedding, and the Navy SEALs' carrying out of Obama's order to kill Osama bin Laden. The news of the bin Laden killing overshadowed the killing of Libyan leader Gadhafi's son and three grandchildren in NATO's failed attempt to kill Gadhafi himself. As Rad Geek explains, […]

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