Any of you who read this blawg even fairly regularly know that I'm no fan of executions - whether they're effected under color of law or not. And I'm alternately saddened and angered by those who treat the death of anyone as cause for celebration. (See, for instance, remarks about Ted Bundy and Osama bin Laden.)
When Muammar Qadaffi was killed the other day, I commented on the rejoicing and noted with some distaste that President Obama
congratulated the Libyan people for triumphing over the dictator.Obama had it wrong. The proper basis for congratulations was not the toppling of the dictator but the toppling of the dictatorship. The difference is substantial. As Mark Twain wrote in a letter to George Bainton,
The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.
When President Kennedy was assassinated, Fidel Castro (and no, I'm not suggesting any equivalence here, we can talk about those issues another time) is reputed to have said,
Only a fool would rejoice at such a thing for systems, not men, are the enemy.
Once again. Indeed.
So I owe it to our President to acknowledge that he (albeit belatedly) seems to have got (or at least expressed) something of the point. He went on the Tonight Show last night and explained it to Jay Leno.
President Barack Obama said no one should take enjoyment from the images of Muammar Qaddafi's final moments after he was captured while trying to escape his besieged hometown in Libya last week.
"That's not something that I think we should relish," Obama said yesterday on NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." He cited his refusal to release photographs of Osama bin Laden after the al-Qaeda founder was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in May in Pakistan."There's a certain decorum with which you treat the dead, even if it's somebody who has done terrible things," Obama said.
One more time.
Though, of course, he had to add a justification for the killing.
Still, Qaddafi's death "sends a strong message around the world to dictators that people long to be free."
Yeah. That'll surely get dictators to abdicate. No?