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October 22, 2011

Thanks to The Young Man from Misurata

You are a young man from Misurata. Standing in front of you is the man who ordered the relentless shelling that destroyed your hometown and killed your family and friends. "You're sinning," he says.

You are a young man from Misurata. Everything you know about soldiering you learned on the battlefield over the last few brutal months. Your comrades have been killed and maimed as you pursued this man inch by bitter inch. "You're sinning," he says, perhaps directly to you.

You are a young man from Misurata. If you were a young man from Auschwitz, he would be your Hitler. If you are from the Gulag, he is your Stalin.

You are a young man from Misurata. Standing in front of you is the man whose underlings have terrified your family as long as you can remember. "You're sinning," he sneers.

You are a young man from Misurata. The sounds of battle are all around you; it's not quite over yet, maybe it won't be for a long time. Someone might still try to rescue the monster who is your prisoner. He has been all-powerful for almost all of your life. You have a loaded gun in your hand.

You are a young man from Misurata. You shoot Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in the head. I think I would've done the same if I were brave enough to fight my way to the culvert where you found him hiding.

Somewhere in the safety of a UN Secretariat someone thinks it's vitally important to investigate what the young men from Misurata may or may not have done to Qaddafi. There is outrage that he wasn't captured so he could live out his natural life sparring civilly with bewigged judges in The Hague like some of his fellow mass murders. Even the US says "the facts must be determined." After we're done determining these facts, we should make sure that the Wicked Witch wasn't actually already captured by Toto before Dorothy doused her.

On the same day, according to press reports, a score or more of protesters were killed in Syria by another brutal despot. It's much more important that the world investigate what's happening to them than determine the exact circumstances of Qaddafi's last minutes. Aren't their lives as valuable as that of a dictator? We don't have to worry about Qaddafi being shot again tomorrow; on the other hand, we know that protestors will die in Syria tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. We should direct our outrage at Qaddafi's fellow dictators, not at the young man from Misurata.

There is a danger of endless vengeance and repercussions in Libya. There will need to be fair and hopefully swift trials of those who followed Qaddafi's orders to shell civilians and those who profited from his regime. There will have to be trials, too, of those who used the cover of revolution to loot or to kill their traditional enemies. There will, we all hope, be a civil society in Libya. The country will need a disciplined and professional police force and an army. It needs a government.

Today, though, is a day from thanking the young men of Misurata and the rest of Libya who fought so hard and at such cost (and with help from NATO) to take Qaddafi off the world stage. Tomorrow is the day for reflecting on the increasing futility of the UN and its absurd priorities. And for many days after that the world needs be outraged by Assad in Syria and to help the young people of Libya build their young democracy (we hope).

You are a young man from Misurata. We wish you a bright future.

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