If US killed Osama bin Laden, ask Libyans, why not assassinate Qaddafi?

Osama bin Laden was killed Sunday. Libyan refugees have been calling for the West to assassinate Col. Muammar Qaddafi, which they argue would save lives and end the civil war.

Scott Peterson/Getty Images
A pro-regime militant holds a poster of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi as Libyans inspect damage to sheds full of missile, training and maintenance equipment made by overnight cruise missile strikes at the Libyan Navy's Abu Sitr base on March 22, in Tripoli, Libya.

Libyan refugees are calling on the West to assassinate their mercurial leader to save Libyan lives, just as the US has now succeeded in killing Osama bin Laden.

NATO said as recently as Sunday that it does not target individuals and therefore killing Col. Muammar Qaddafi is not its mission.

Yet two airstrikes within 48 hours have come close to Colonel Qaddafi – the second overnight on Saturday reportedly killed one of Qaddafi’s least known sons, Saif al-Arab, while the Libyan leader was visiting his house, prompting charges from Tripoli that “leaked” intelligence was being used to kill the “Brother Leader.”

Libya's rebel government called for Qaddafi to meet the same end as Bin Laden, killed Sunday nearly a decade after masterminding the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. "We are very happy and we are waiting for the next step. We want the Americans to do the same to Qaddafi," said rebel military spokesman Col. Ahmed Bani.

Libyan refugees in this small camp in southern Tunisia say such a result could not come soon enough. They argue that the death of Qaddafi would save lives by removing a despised regime, ending Libya’s civil war, and enabling completion of Libya’s pro-democracy revolution.

“America must do something to kill this man, because he is killing all the people of Libya,” says Souad, a Libyan housewife in conservative clothing, speaking before news broke of the Al Qaeda leader’s death at the hands of a US Navy Seal team in Pakistan.

“All the people here are tired of Qaddafi,” says Souad, standing among a group of like-minded women in this camp of 1,000 refugees run by the United Arab Emirates. “When will Qaddafi die? Why don’t the Americans kill him; you must kill him.”

“Kill, kill Qaddafi!” adds Samira, another Libyan woman with a large ring and a head covering.

“Libyans are afraid of him – why?” asks Souad. “Qaddafi wants to kill all Libyans.”

Interpreting UN Resolution 1973

UN Security Council Resolution 1973 authorizes “all necessary measures” to protect civilians. But what military operations that entails has been open to interpretation, with senior American, British, and French officials suggesting it could include going after Qaddafi, who sits at the top of Libya’s command and control structure.

Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona, the top Republican on the US Senate Armed Services Committee, said Sunday that the attack that killed Qaddafi’s son was “obviously an attempt to remove Qaddafi’s command and control.”

“I think that if you view … Qaddafi himself as part of the command and control, I think you could argue that if he was in one of those places, then it would be part of it,” Mr. McCain told CBS’s Face the Nation. “And if he is killed or injured because of that, that’s fine.”

But NATO officers expressed a different perspective over the weekend.

“All NATO’s targets are military in nature and have been clearly linked to the Qaddafi regime’s systematic attacks on the Libyan population and populated areas,” said NATO mission commander Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard on Sunday. “We do not target individuals.”

Russia, Vatican uneasy with NATO bombings

Some nations such as Russia – which voted for the original resolution on March 17 – have been uneasy with what they see as an overly robust interpretation of Resolution 1973.

The Vatican has been especially vocal. “No matter how accurate they are, bombs kill civilians. They are immoral,” said Monsignor Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, the Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli, on Saturday, according to a Vatican news agency.

Regarding the numerous airstrikes on Qaddafi’s Bab al-Azizia compound in the Libyan capital, he “wondered if it was in fact moral to kill a head of state. What right do we have to do so?”

What's the moral decision?

Libyans in this camp and inside Libya itself – who have watched their rebel enclave in the western mountains fight and suffer casualties against forces loyal to Qaddafi for 2-1/2 months – assert that the moral step in fact is to remove Qaddafi by assassination.

Qaddafi has vowed to cling to power to the “last drop” of his blood, and said that he will hunt “terrorists” and “greasy rats” besieging his regime down every alley. His forces have targeted civilians repeatedly across the country since mid-February, from Zawiyah to Misurata to Zintan.

“Nobody believes until now that Qaddafi is not gone,” says a male nurse in Nalut, 20 miles inside the Libyan border, at the western end of the predominantly Berber rebel enclave that has opposed Qaddafi’s rule since mid-February.

“Until Qaddafi completely steps down or is killed can [Libyans] trust, and tell you what is in their hearts,” he says.

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