President Obama has, once again, shown a willingness to go beyond George W. Bush in flouting international law and conventions of warfare. Along with the NATO team of Nicolas Sarkozy, David Cameron, Angela Merkel, Stephen Harper, and Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Obama’s and NATO’s decision to disregard several white flags that appeared at day break in Sirte from Qaddafi’s positions and, later, from his convoy, mark a new low in how modern warfare is carried out.
On October 19, at around 8:00 am in Sirte, a convoy of 70 vehicles departed the heavily-bombed out city, heading west. There were also Twitter messages coming out of Sirte reporting that several white flags of surrender were seen in the city at daybreak. However, a CIA Predator drone tracking the convoy passed its coordinates on to NATO. French and other NATO jets pounded the convoy, incinerating many of the drivers and passengers. Many of those killed were black Libyans, not mercenaries from other African states, as misreported by several Western media outlets.
There are now reports of mass graves in Sirte containing the bodies of scores of Qaddafi supporters and fellow tribal members. In addition to NATO planes and, possibly, a U.S. Predator drone, firing on the Qaddafi convoy, which had not exchanged fire with rebels or NATO forces under the white flags of truce, there are now reports that several members of Qaddafi’s convoy who tried to surrender were killed by rebel forces. Some 53 people staying at the Hotel Mahari in Sirte, all said to be former Qaddafi government officials and supporters, including ministers, were found with their hands bound in the hotel’s garden and shot execution-style.
Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the National Transition Council chairman, insists that Qaddafi was killed in cross-fire between Qaddafi’s convoy members and rebels. However, Jalil is covering up the fact that under white truce flags, Qaddafi’s forces would not have been exchanging fire. It is also important to point out that Jalil served as Qaddafi’s justice minister before defecting to the rebels, so Jalil, the West’s new “ally,” is complicit in the “crimes against humanity” that have been leveled against Qaddafi and his sons. Jalil’s latest contention, dutifully repeated by the Associated Press, is that Qaddafi was killed by his own men to eliminate a witness against them. That story is hard to believe since Qaddafi’s supporters were all summarily executed, either in the convoy or at the Mahari Hotel or in their homes, by Jalil’s rebel allies in Sirte.
There have been some reports that a truce and a surrender by Qaddafi and his forces was worked out between some rebel leaders and Qaddafi’s entourage through the auspices of the Qaddadfa (the tribe to which Qaddafi belonged) tribal leaders in Sirte. After the convoy was on the highway heading west, with reported white flags from some of the vehicles, the motorcade, which was not engaging in fire with rebel or NATO forces, was set upon by NATO forces. Witnesses to the surrender and/or safe passage negotiations will be hard to come by, since one of those murdered in his home in Sirte by Libyan rebels was reportedly the chief of the Qaddadfa tribe who was part of the negotiations for surrender and safe passage.
Reports that Qaddafi and his group were trying to make a dash through the offensive lines around Sirte make no sense since the convoy left after sunup and in broad daylight, when white flags could clearly be seen by the belligerents, and the Twitter messages out of Sirte indicated that rebels, pro-Qaddafi forces, and neutral observers could all see the white flags. If Qaddafi wanted to make a break for it, he would have done so at night with headlights out.
Human Rights Watch, which has people on the ground in Libya, may have tipped off the international media on the white flags in Sirte with the following story, dated October 22, on the BBC’s Sinhala service: “Gaddafi killing a white flag case ‘similar.’” Datelined Colombo, the report states: “There seems to be similarities between the killing of former Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi and Sri Lanka’s ‘white flag case,’ says Human Rights Watch (HRW) . . . It is not so different from the allegations of the white flag incident in Sri Lanka where LTTE [Tamil Tigers] leaders and their families allegedly tried to surrender and allegedly were executed,’ Asia director of HRW, Brad Adams told BBC Sinhala service . . . ‘Col. Gaddafi had just as much right to be treated properly as anybody else,’ said Brad Adams. It is too early to describe the killing as a war crime as details are still coming in, he said, but added that ‘it could be a war crime.’ ‘There needs to be a very serious investigation into what actually happened, who killed him, under what circumstances, was it a local decision, whether somebody ordered to kill him, etc,’ Mr Adams told BBC Sandeshaya . . . Sri Lanka security forces were also accused of executing senior Tamil Tiger leaders who tried to surrender with white flags at the last stages of the conflict.”
Other than the Sri Lankan violation of the white flag from the Tamils—and it should be pointed out that Israeli security and intelligence personnel were advising the Sri Lankans during their offensive against the Tamils and the Jaffna peninsula where the Tamils were forced into and confined for the massacre committed against them was known as “Gaza II”—the other major violation was by the U.S. Army in 1864 against a Cheyenne and Arapaho village in Colorado. Up to 163 native Americans were massacred and mutilated by the Army. Most of the victims were women and children. The atrocity occurred during the term of the last Illinoisan who served as President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. The Lincoln administration brought no charges against the Army war criminals who committed the massacre of the Cheyenne and Arapaho.
If NATO and the rebels violated the white flag in Sirte, it would represent one of the first major violations of a practice that began with the Eastern Han dynasty in China in the year 25, and was recognized by the Roman Empire, armies during the Middle Ages, and every major and minor nation since. A violation by NATO of the flag of truce would represent a flagrant return to barbarism by the “collective defensive” organization.
One of the last things Qaddafi is heard asking his captors is “Do you know right from wrong?” If the rebels or NATO reneged on a promise of safe passage and ignored the universally recognized white flag signifying truce and surrender, it would constitute a gross violation of the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, as well as the Geneva Conventions, and would, therefore, be a war crime. Under the conventions, the white flag is protected as a sign that an approaching party intends to surrender or negotiate the terms of surrender. Those displaying a white flag may not fire or be fired upon. Canadian sources have told WMR that if Lt. General Charles Bouchard, the three-star Canadian general commanding NATO forces in Libya, violated a white flag from Qaddafi, it would amount to a grave violation of past Canadian military practices, since Canada has always prided itself, since the days of Canadian Prime Minister Lester Pearson, on international peacekeeping. If Bouchard violated a white flag of truce, it has been suggested that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government would be in danger of falling.
The New York Times is reporting that Obama’s National Security Council (NSC) debated Qaddafi’s fate on October 18, a day before NATO struck the Libyan leader’s convoy. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Libyan rebel leaders in Tripoli two days prior to the NSC meeting and discussed several options with them. In addition to a trial for Qaddafi in Libya or The Hague, it was felt that such a scenario would be a “burden” on the new Libyan interim government. The other scenario discussed by Clinton and the NSA was killing Qaddafi. The NSC’s choice of assassinating Qaddafi would explain why it might have lured him and his supporters out of Sirte under the false pretense of a white flag of truce/surrender. The Times report also suggests that contingencies were discussed if Qaddafi managed to escape to Chad or Equatorial Guinea. Chad is a supporter of AFRICOM, the U.S. military command for Africa, while Equatorial Guinea, a brutal dictatorship, hosts a number of American oil companies. A special operations team kidnapping, as what occurred with former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor in Calabar, Nigeria, in 2006, was likely in the NSC’s bag of options. Taylor was captured at a Nigerian government guesthouse and flown by helicopter to Sierra Leone, where he was arrested by UN officials.
As news came of Qaddafi’s death, Hillary Clinton says on a CBS News broadcast: “We came, we saw, he died.” He was Qaddafi. Clinton is laughing as she crows her delight in responding to the news.