As it so happens, Muammar al-Gaddafi denies that Libyan forces have purposely targeted civilians. Unlike in the cases of Bosnia and Kosovo, there has not been even the pretense of a neutral international investigation to determine the circumstances of the alleged attacks or indeed whether they even occurred at all.
Still more to the point, however, in recent days it has emerged that the anti-Gaddafi rebel-forces from eastern Libya are not only openly supported by al-Qaeda, but indeed themselves include Qaeda-linked elements. I first discussed the evidence for al-Qaeda’s involvement in the rebellion in my “Saving the Libyan Islamists.” In the meanwhile, as reported on PJM on Friday, rebel commander Abdul-Hakim al-Hasadi has admitted not only that he was detained by U.S. forces in 2002 after “fighting against the foreign invasion” in Afghanistan, but also that he later recruited Libyans to fight with al-Qaeda in Iraq.
As discussed in my earlier report, according to captured al-Qaeda personnel records, al-Hasadi’s hometown of Darnah sent more foreign fighters to fight with al-Qaeda in Iraq than any other foreign city or town. Al-Hasadi has noted, moreover, that some of the fighters he sent to Iraq have since returned to Libya and are fighting with the rebel forces whose path to the West is presently being cleared by American, French, and British missiles.
This is to say that in the name of the “responsibility to protect” civilians, the United States and its European partners have entered into a de facto military alliance with an organization that famously makes no distinction between combatants and non-combatants and whose most characteristic modus operandi consists precisely of terror attacks on civilian targets. Unlike Muammar al-Gaddafi — or, for that matter, American or French military authorities — al-Qaeda does not deny targeting civilians. Targeting civilians is what al-Qaeda does.
The number of civilians deliberately killed in Qaeda-linked terror attacks over the last decade rises at least into the tens of thousands and likely into the hundreds of thousands. These include, of course, the nearly 3000 civilians murdered in the 9/11 attacks, the over 200 murdered in the 2002 Bali bombings, the nearly 200 murdered in the Madrid train bombings, the over 50 murdered in the London transport bombings, and thousands murdered over many years in Iraq in a seemingly incessant stream of suicide attacks. Some of the Iraqi victims will undoubtedly have been killed by al-Qaeda recruits sent to Iraq by none other than Abdul-Hakim al-Hasadi.
It is notable that in all the years that al-Qaeda has been spreading terror in Iraq, the “responsibility to protect” has virtually never been invoked in order to demand the protection of Iraqi civilians. On the contrary, the deaths of Iraqis at the hands of al-Qaeda has typically been construed as somehow America’s responsibility and used indeed as an argument for hastening the withdrawal of American troops.