YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Roger Simon

We Has Met the Terrorist, and It Is Us

April 27, 1986|ROGER SIMON

Well, we got the kid. At least that's something. The old man escaped, but at least we got the kid.

We reportedly fractured the skull of Moammar Kadafi's baby daughter with one of our bombs earlier this month. And we messed up his two youngest sons pretty good. I saw them on TV covered with bandages and with tubes coming out of them.

They won't forget America for a long time. You can bet on that.

Today, I am hearing the kids paid the "price" of terrorism. I heard a national radio commentator say that maybe it's good the baby got killed because it brought home the reality of war to Kadafi.

Maybe it did. Unless he is as crazy as we say he is. In which case, it taught him nothing.

But I am still wondering: What did that little girl do to deserve to pay such a price? What crime had she committed? What evil had she done?

Her father, Kadafi, is the evil one. I have no sympathy for him. But today he is walking around giving speeches. We didn't get him. We killed a baby and blew up some children instead.

Eight of our bombers, nearly half of the F-111 strike force, were targeted for Kadafi's personal compound. Those eight planes dropped 64,000 pounds of explosives in an attempt, I think it is safe to say, to blow the hell out of Kadafi.

And if his kids were there with him? Well, I guess they ought to pick their father with greater care next time.

Some of you have been calling to tell me that Kadafi blows up babies too. And you are right. That is one reason he is scum.

But I thought we were trying to safeguard the world from men like Kadafi. Not become like him. If we are duplicating the acts of the terrorists, then what are we? What have we become?

Great emphasis was placed in news stories and on news broadcasts on the fact that Kadafi's 15-month-old daughter was his adopted daughter. It was as if we were saying: "Well, we didn't kill his real daughter. Naw. We just killed his adopted one."

That's lousy. I know adoptive parents, and I know adopted children. The love they feel toward each other is plenty real.

You really had to search some stories to find out the child's name. I guess without a name she wasn't as real to us, her death was not as real. But her name was Hana.

The cruel joke in all this is that we have ruled out assassinating Kadafi. Sure, we want to kill him. But we don't want to assassinate him.

Either way, our goal is his death. If we had followed the assassination route, probably just he would have died. The other route, getting jets to drop tons of bombs on his home, makes pretty certain others die too.

But assassination. Well, assassination sounds so much less pleasant. So much more personal. Dropping a bomb seems clean and warlike. It is done from a great height and you don't actually see the victim. But some guy sneaking around with a rifle trying to shoot a guy? That's just not the American way.

So before we dropped those bombs on Kadafi's personal compound, Reagan Administration lawyers checked out whether that would be considered assassination.

They checked it out because the United States has an official policy against it. It is called Executive Order 12333 and part of it reads:

"Prohibition on Assassination--No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in assassination."

Ronald Reagan has reaffirmed that order, and as recently as January, Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese was asked if the order should be lifted so we could send somebody in to kill Kadafi.

Meese said no. "I think that the policy of the United States . . . is a proper one," he said, "and I think that for us to engage in assassinations would give in (to Kadafi)."

So we got some lawyers to make sure eight bombers loaded with laser-guided 500- and 2,000-pound bombs targeted to drop on Kadafi's house was not assassination.

And they decided it wasn't. According to an article in the Washington Post: ". . . Administration legal counselors advised that the strike could be justified as a self-defense and preemptive military attack. And deaths, the legal analysis held--even the death of the head of state--could not be considered political assassination."

I am no fan of assassination. But given the choice between killing a man who is clearly our enemy and killing a baby who is clearly not, I think I would have used a gunman instead of 32 tons of bombs.

The lawyers said no. But I sure hope we didn't waste a lot of money on legal fees. Because Voltaire put his finger on the irony of it all more than 200 years ago.

"Killing a man is murder," he said, "unless you do it to the sound of trumpets."

Los Angeles Times Articles