… NATO refused to say Tuesday whether it would bomb ancient Roman ruins in Libya if it knew Gadhafi was hiding military equipment there.It would be a horrendous violation of international law if Gadhafi was hiding rocket launchers in ancient Roman ruins, but not if we bomb those ruins. Such are the sticky moral ambiguities of ‘humanitarian’ war. You have to slaughter some people in order to save others. In this case, I guess, we might have to get rid of some ruins in order to make room for all the new ones we’re creating.
“We will strike military vehicles, military forces, military equipment or military infrastructure that threaten Libyan civilians as necessary,” a NATO official in Naples, Italy, said, declining to give his name in discussing internal NATO deliberations.
But he said the alliance could not verify rebel claims that Libya’s leader may be hiding rocket launchers at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Leptis Magna, a Roman city between the capital of Tripoli and rebel-held Misrata.
Wing Cmdr. Mike Bracken, a spokesman for NATO’s Libya mission, later said it “would be a concern for us that Gadhafi and pro-Gadhafi forces would choose to contravene international law in hiding themselves in such a location.”
And, he said, “If we were to take on any targets, we would consider all risks.” But he underscored that NATO could not confirm that weapons might be placed at the heritage site.
At some point, we’ve allowed military necessity to trump all other considerations. Everything that makes us civilized takes second place to the requirements of war. The rule of law, morality, sound economics and sensible domestic spending are all regarded as disposable luxuries while military needs are absolute. As a society we seem to blandly accept this, and military officials, like the ones quoted above, logically regard this as the natural order of things. Notice the imperious condescension: Well, children, it’s very nice that you care about those historical ruins — very good! — but us grownups have lots and lots of other grownup things to think about when we’re trying to get the bad guys. But don’t worry, we’ll try to be nice. We’ll consider the risks. We’ll make the final decisions. And make no mistake, we’ll do whatever we think is necessary.
The Romans themselves exemplified this attitude. How ironic that their spiritual descendants should be using it to justify bombing Roman ruins.
Well, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.