Muammar Gaddafi, the once unquestioned ruler of Libya, is dead. The very people he had oppressed and murdered killed him — brutally, violently and publically. The world he died in, the one of instant-access and worldwide communication, had images of his demise almost immediately. The airwaves, print and electronic outlets poured out blood-soaked images of Gaddafi, dragged from a drainpipe and into the streets by armed rebels.
The resulting story was the expected one: the Libyan rebels had captured Gaddafi during a gun battle with his supporters. Qaddafi turned up online minutes later, riddled with bullets. The official story is that he was killed “during the crossfire.”
But videos continue to tell a different story. They tell a story of a deranged, violent dictator captured by those sworn to overthrow him. They tell a story of that dictator being dragged through the streets, beaten and sodomized before being executed like the criminal he was. The Journal, like the rest of the nation, is conflicted over this cathartic moment in northern Africa. Yes, a stain of human indecency was robbed of power, and finally his life, after robbing the same from so many others. The image of the common man overthrowing the despot is an image that stirs warm feelings for most Americans.
But Gaddafi’s killers — in a rush to bring him swiftly to Satan’s door — afforded him the same brutality and callousness that Gaddafi was so despised for. American involvement in the Libyan affair was relatively minimal, as per the demands of many on both sides of the political spectrum. But you get the revolution you pay for. A popular revolt of armed natives led by no official and efficient military presence won’t produce the same results as an American-led invasion. Unlike Saddam Hussein, who was tried in open court and executed by his people, Gaddafi died like one of his enemies: like a dog in the streets, without dignity or decency.
Saddam’s trial and demise was led and carefully protected by the might of the American military. It was highly trained marines — not armed, furious teenagers — that pulled Saddam from a hole in the ground in Iraq. It was American doctors and military police that detained and held Saddam until trial, not disorganized African rebel soldiers. As long as Americans remain willingly on the sidelines they must also surrender their moral outrage when results are less media-friendly than we are normally accustomed to.
The Journal supports freedom the world over, and supports popular uprisings against oppression, no matter how insignificant they may seem. Freedom isn’t free, and you get the revolution that you pay for.