Libya’s interim rulers say they have found a mass grave believed to hold the remains of 1,270 inmates killed by Moammar Gadhafi’s security forces in a notorious 1996 massacre.
Yes, this is a horrible crime. No, it does not retroactively bolster the case for US intervention against the monster Gadhafi. No matter how badly interventionists want to use this as an updated Saddam excuse (“Is it or is it not a good thing that Saddam Hussein is out of power!?”), it can’t be done. There are three very obvious reasons for this. First, the US and Europe had no idea this even happened until after their altruistic intervention. Second, the litmus test for whether our intervention was humanitarian still disqualifies the Libya mission from being humanitarian:
Has the US consistently supported comparable atrocities in many other countries, and do we now engage in foreign policy that predictably leads to the deaths of comparable numbers of civilians? Do we also totally ignore much worse atrocities if they don’t happen to be strategically important? The answer to all of those questions is yes, which excludes the possibility that civilian casualties motivated our intervention.
Third, the US supported Gadhafi after this incident, with the full knowledge that he was a dictator and likely had such horrible things on his record.