The question of whether Gaddafi is a target for airstrikes has hung over the Libya campaign. The convoluted explanations from ministers can appear dry and legalistic. That’s because they are. But it is worth imagining the terrible indigestion this causes Foreign Office lawyers.
The problems started the moment General Sir David Richards said the Colonel was “absolutely not” a target under the UN resolution.
Since then, there have been strikes on command and control facilities in Tripoli. In public ministers have been opening up a bit, offering a slightly less legalistic response to questions. Take this quote from Liam Fox from an interview on the PBS NewsHour on Tuesday:
“If you look at it from Gadhafi’s point of view, [this] has been something happening at arm’s length, something happening in Misurata, something happening in Ajdabiya or out towards Benghazi.
What we’ve seen in recent days [is] attacks on Tripoli to increase the psychological pressure, apart from anything else, on Gadhafi, to make him realize that this is something that he is involved in.”
Sounds rather targeted to me. And I’m not sure how that tallies with Sir David’s emphatic view of the issue:
“No, absolutely not. It’s not allowed under the UN resolution and it’s not something I want to discuss any further.”
The official message was rather better put by Hague this morning:
“People are targets depending on the way they behave and so we are not going to specify who is not a target and there are obvious reasons why we don’t do that. It depends on their behaviour, not on who they are.”