Moammar Qaddafi’s forces are now pounding Libyan towns to pieces. Tanks have shelled Zawiya, for instance, destroying its center and knocking down mosques. Aircraft are bombing Ras Lanuf and other places in the eastern province of Libya. It is a peculiar horror to watch a ruler attacking his own country, but it is not a novelty in the Arab world. When Hafiz Assad, the Syrian president, faced a challenge from the Muslim Brothers, he turned his artillery on their stronghold of Hama, and flattened it. Nobody knows how many died — at least 20,000 and maybe 30,000. They were buried in the rubble of the main square, and the area was then cemented over. Similarly, when Saddam Hussein was challenged by the Kurds he had them gassed, and when challenged by the Shia he had them shot. Ahmad Chalabi speaks of 300,000 dead in Iraq in over 300 mass graves.
Qaddafi is already displaying this inexorable kind of dictatorship, with the deployment of force built into the system. The only way to deal with it is to mount superior force against it, but democracies rarely have the will for that, and so Arabs time and again are killed for no better reason than that they are protesting against insufferable injustice.