By Nathaniel Mehr
If the violent nature of Col. Gaddafi’s grisly demise was depressingly predictable, there was, similarly, a sense of numbing inevitability about the triumphalism with which British mainstream media reported, and reflected upon, the news of his ill-treatment and summary execution.
The very same editors and journalists who had condemned, in the most unequivocal language, the savagery of the London rioters back in August, were now positively revelling in the utter barbarism with which the deposed despot was done away with.
That they purported to be doing so on behalf of victims of Gaddafi’s terror is a conceit that strains credulity – the Libyan people have never been anything other than so many Arabs to the writers of The Sun or, for that matter, the more respectable broadsheets.
The thing was perhaps best summed up by one anxious caller to London’s LBC radio station on Friday, who spoke of the effect that this kind of moral leadership might have on future generations: “We try to teach them about how violence is wrong,” he said, “but we’re the only example they’ve got.”
But this vicarious blood lust reflects something altogether more significant than the bald fact, which we have known for some time, that the journalists of Britain’s gutter press are little more than semi-eloquent thugs.
To the extent that the US State Department has sought to twin its short-term agenda for Libya with that of the NTC, Gaddafi’s killing fits within a general recent pattern of arbitrary or extrajudicial killings, ranging from drone attacks on terrorist suspects to the killing of Osama Bin Laden himself, and the show-trial and hanging of Saddam Hussein.
Western moves to bring Gaddafi in from the cold over the last few years have been something of an embarrassment for Britain and America alike – they presumably had not seen the civil war coming when they decided to do business with him; the CVs of Bin Laden and Saddam – both prolific CIA agents in their heydays – would have made for some terrible PR if scrutinized in a courtroom in the Hague.
So when our body politic winks at the arbitrary violence of an Arab mob here, or a drone missile there, it is not a simple retrograde aberration – it speaks to a state policy of preserving for posterity the good name of the United States and its number one ally in world affairs, part of a rich and enduring tradition of whitewashing in what we used to call imperialism.
– Nathaniel Mehr is a journalist and associate editor of Review 31. ‘Constructive Bloodbath’ In Indonesia: The US, Britain and the Mass Killings of 1965-66, by Nathaniel Mehr is published by Spokesman Books. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.