Revenge Killings In Benghazi

It seems to me that NATO’s glorious new war in Libya hasn’t been going nearly as well as its boosters hoped. Conversely, I’ll say that it’s gone a lot less badly than I feared, at least in the sense that we (so far) have managed to avoid getting caught up in the perverse logic of ever-escalating commitment. But whatever one makes of that, I hope people will pay attention to stories like this one from Kareem Fahim reporting from Benghazi on some nasty happenings behind rebel lines:

The men, Nasser al-Sirmany and Hussein Ghaith, had both worked as interrogators for Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s internal security services, known for their brutality against domestic dissidents. The killings, still unsolved, appeared to be rooted in revenge, the families said, and have raised the specter of a death squad stalking former Qaddafi officials in Benghazi, the opposition stronghold.

The killings have unsettled an already paranoid city, where rebel authorities have spent weeks trying to round up people suspected of being Qaddafi loyalists — members of a fifth column who they say are trying to overthrow the rebels. If the violence continues, it will pose a stern challenge to a movement trying to present a vision of a new country committed to the rule of law, while potentially undermining hopes for a peaceful transition if Colonel Qaddafi surrenders power.

The sad reality is that the existence of a bona fide bad guy doesn’t magically call a team of equal and opposite good guys into existence. On the contrary, once a political conflict becomes a contest of violence versus violence you’re all but destined to be looking at a nasty situation. Inserting ourselves into these kind of conflicts just isn’t the most promising outlet for humanitarian impulses.