An Eye for an Eye in Libya

We have to understand that the tragedy of conflict is not black and white—there aren’t morals, only choices. The “eye for an eye” proverb breathed by many of the gun doesn’t bring the permanent justice they seek – only the illusion of temporary, selfish reprisal that fails to engage the closure so desperately yearned. There’s a question of true loyalty of those once firmly aligned with the Gaddafi regime, yes—but is death truly the only way to appropriately handle old allegiance?

In the battle for Tripoli at the end of August, TIME contract photographer Yuri Kozyrev photographed the efforts by Gaddafi’s loyalists to “consolidate power” within the capital city . The bleached bones emerging from charred piles of what were once humans served as a literal testament to the unbiased brutality of this conflict—although certainly not the first graphic images moved from Libya, these may be the most graphic we’ve seen published by a major western news organization, short of this week’s proliferation of Gaddafi corpse visuals.

Almost exactly two months after these photographs were shot in Tripoli, the BBC reports that the bodies of 53 Gaddafi loyalists have been found in Sirte, some with “hands bound behind their backs” and “shots in the head”—signs pointing to deliberate execution of prisoners. Human Rights Watch is calling for an immediate investigation, but what justice comes from the outcome of said investigation. What motivates in a time of war?

The phrase “an eye for an eye” stems from the Hebrew Bible, in the book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 19, Verses 16-21:

“If a malicious witness comes forward to accuse someone of wrongdoing, then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days, 18and the judges shall make a thorough inquiry. If the witness is a false witness, having testified falsely against another, then you shall do to the false witness just as the false witness had meant to do to the other. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. The rest shall hear and be afraid, and a crime such as this shall never again be committed among you. Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”

Society today narrows its scope to the last verses of the passage above, especially the charge to forgo instincts of pity in the name of moral rectitude. But this rectification isn’t found through violence, nor is it dictated by God/Muhammad.

The fact that Libyans have failed to distinguish themselves from the violence of their past existence under Gaddafi is disheartening. The images of this latest massacre demonstrate that war pays no attention to the morals of those who fight, and will continue to yield sad realities. The folks at NoCaptionNeeded say it best:
“One of the challenges civilization faces today is not becoming habituated to the insidious, localized, but persistent and awful ways that human beings are being transformed into waste.”


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