Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Moammar Gaddafi must pay for atrocities

Washington Post
February 22, 2011

Reports from Libya Monday were sketchy and confused, but one conclusion appeared certain: The beleaguered dictatorship of Moammar Gaddafi was waging war against its own people and committing atrocities that demand not just condemnation but action by the outside world. Al-Jazeera reported that warplanes had joined security forces in attacking anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Tripoli; human rights groups said hundreds had been killed in clashes in the country's east. Libya's own delegation to the United Nations described the regime's actions as genocide and asked for international intervention.

The diplomats' appeal was one indication that the Gaddafi regime was on the verge of collapse. Opposition forces were reported to be in control of the second-largest city, Benghazi, and some military units may have switched sides. The whereabouts of Mr. Gaddafi, who has ruled Libya with a cruel and erratic hand since 1969, were unknown. However, his son and presumed heir Seif al-Islam Gaddafi delivered a rambling and chilling speech early Monday in which he warned of civil war and vowed that "we will fight until the last man, the last woman, the last bullet." On Monday, the regime appeared to be carrying out that threat.

Arab rulers in Tunisia, Egypt and Bahrain all employed violence against their popular uprisings. But the actions of the Libyan regime are on a different scale. What is occurring in Tripoli and other cities is not only lethal repression but also crimes against humanity. The United States has used its influence to restrain such violence by allied governments, most recently in Bahrain. Now it should join with its allies in demanding that the Gaddafi regime be held accountable for its crimes.