Opinion Brief

Libya airstrikes: Should Gadhafi be a target?

Military officials insist the U.S. and its allies are not trying to kill Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. But commentators wonder if that rhetoric matches the reality

President Obama says that Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi must go, and British government ministers suggest he would be a "legitimate target." But, while Western airstrikes have blasted Gadhafi's compound in Tripoli, Defense Secretary Robert Gates says no cruise missiles or bombs are being aimed directly at him, and British military commanders say that going after Gadhafi specifically is prohibited under the United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force to protect Libyan civilians. If we're not aiming at Gadhafi, should we be?

It would be illegal to assassinate Gadhafi: Allied warships and planes are not shooting directly at Gadhafi, says Libya expert Charles Gurdon, as quoted by AOL News, because we can't. Legally, no "Western leader can sanction the assassination of another leader." Allied forces "wouldn't be upset" if a bomb happened to land on Gadhafi, but they have to content themselves with blowing up his artillery and aircraft to "make it impossible for the regime to wage war on the people."
"Where is Gadhafi hiding this time as missiles strike Libya?"

If we're not targeting Gadhafi, we should be: This is war, says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. And the reason we're fighting is to protect Libyans from Gadhafi. That makes him the most legitimate target of all, because taking out the guy who is commanding loyalist forces will "go much farther toward ending the siege of Benghazi than strafing infantry and armor in and around the city."
"Gadhafi compound struck by Western forces, Gadhafi missing?"

Of course we're aiming at Gadhafi. We just can't admit it: With missiles landing on the Libyan dictator's house, the claim that we "are not 'targeting' Gadhafi himself rings false," says Jason Ditz at Antiwar.com. The Obama administration has to say it's not trying to kill Gadhafi to reassure the Arab League — vital allies in this fight — that we're not going beyond the U.N. mandate. The reality is just "getting obscured by the rhetoric."
"Is Gadhafi a target of U.S.-led attacks? Depends whom you ask"

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