“How is hitting a residential compound and killing the children of the leader of Libya protecting civilians? It also undermines international norms. You don’t go after the children of leaders and the grandchildren of leaders," says Alan Kuperman, a University of Texas professor and author of The Limits of Humanitarian Intervention. "I think this is a violation of norms and counterproductive for the goal of protecting noncombatants.” [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: We move on to Libya. The killing of Osama bin Laden overshadowed major developments in Libya over the weekend. On Saturday, a NATO bombing of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s Tripoli compound killed his 29-year-old son Saif al-Arab as well as three of his grandchildren, all under the age of 12. Gaddafi was reportedly inside the compound at the time of the attack.
Meanwhile, the Libyan city of Misurata remains under siege. Gaddafi’s forces have mined the harbor around Misurata to prevent delivery of aid and have reportedly threatened to attack any ships attempting to bring in supplies. Residents of towns in Libya’s Western Mountains say they’re on the brink of starvation amidst ongoing attacks by Gaddafi troops.
We’re going to go right now to Alan Kuperman, professor at the University of Texas, Austin, author of the book The Limits of Humanitarian Intervention and co-editor of Gambling on Humanitarian Intervention.
Your response to this latest news, the killing of Gaddafi’s son and his three grandchildren?
ALAN KUPERMAN: Obviously, tragic, but it’s not good for international politics. It’s not good for resolving this conflict. You know, the first thing I thought of when NATO said that, well, this is a legitimate target, is I thought, well, how would President Obama feel if some country which didn’t like the way he was waging war, if they had decided, "Well, the White House is a legitimate target, he’s the commander-in-chief," and they bomb the White House? And let’s say they killed his wife, or they killed one or both of his daughters. Would President Obama say, "Well, that’s a legitimate target"? I don’t think so.
So, this war in Libya is really starting to get out of hand. The U.N. resolution authorized action to protect civilians, and it seems that more civilians are dying as the result of the intervention than would have died without intervention, first of all, and that there’s this mission creep. How is hitting a residential compound and killing the children of the leader of Libya — how is that protecting civilians? It also undermines international norms. I mean, there’s norms. You don’t go after the children of leaders and the grandchildren of leaders. And if you hit them by mistake, you should say it’s a mistake and apologize. So, I mean, I think this is a violation of norms and counterproductive for the goal of protecting noncombatants.
AMY GOODMAN: You have written, Alan Kuperman, that the U.S. and NATO have attacked Libya under false pretenses. Can you explain?
ALAN KUPERMAN: Well, the argument that was made by the President in his address to the nation is that he supported intervention and NATO intervened because there was going to be a bloodbath. In that speech, he talked about, quote-unquote, "preventing genocide," and that that’s the kind of mission that justifies U.S. and NATO military action. But the reality is that there was no genocide underway, and there was no genocide threatening. What was happening is that a very, very weak rebel force had attacked his government, and his government had very quickly driven back the rebel force to one last city and was about to defeat the rebels in that city. And because the rebels didn’t want to be defeated, they concocted this notion that, "Oh, there’s going to be a genocide," and they announced that there would be a bloodbath unless there were intervention. And then President Obama, a few days later, said that he was intervening to stop a bloodbath.
And so, the only question for me is, did the rebels trick President Obama into believing there would be a bloodbath, or did President — was President Obama essentially in on the trick and declared that there was going to be a bloodbath when he knew that there would not be, because he wanted to intervene for other reasons? And those reasons might have been that he just wanted to overthrow Gaddafi for other reasons or that he thought that by helping the rebels, he would give some momentum to the Arab Spring that was underway elsewhere. But the bottom line is that there was no bloodbath. Gaddafi was targeting mainly rebels. This comes out of the —- this is, you know, proved by the data that comes from Human Rights Watch, which showed that in the main city under siege in the center of the country, Misurata, of the people wounded there, only three percent were women. So, if Gaddafi were really just indiscriminately targeting residential buildings, apartment buildings and so forth -—
AMY GOODMAN: We have five seconds.
ALAN KUPERMAN: — you would think that the percentage of casualties would be about 50 percent women, but it was only three percent women. So it clearly wasn’t a genocide, and he’s fighting rebels.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave it there. Professor Alan Kuperman, thanks for joining us.