Gaddafis death is a stain on the new Libya

Earlier this afternoon a colleague in my office remarked on today's Steve Bell cartoon. The one of a bloodied Gaddafi with a Libyan flag protruding from his bottom. She wondered if it went "too far".

I don’t know. Those images of a wounded, hounded Gaddafi apparently being stabbed in the anus by one of his captors are gross. Utterly disgusting. The previous footage was already horrific. This is fresh horror on top of that.

But Bell's cartoon, like a lot of his stuff, is surely not making an everyday "joke" out of this. To me it's a comment on the dark irony of the "new Libya" now having this brutality as one of its defining images. Never mind the (staged) heroic iconography of the WW2 Reichstag or the Iwo Jima flags, the cartoon seems to be saying, here's Libya's 21st-century war: ending with the cruelty and depravity of a man being tormented and tortured for sport.

I don't think Gaddafi's authoritarianism and his regime's trampling of human rights is going to be forgotten because of how he died. But the manner of his death, as a wounded, frightened human being, has actually made this incredibly unsympathetic figure seem pitiful and his captors look cruel and despotic. Nice work.

Meanwhile, also in today's Guardian, the paper's art correspondent Jonathan Jones argues that the "western world" has a "dangerous delusion" about war. He reckons the "west" ("us", he sometimes says) displays "doublethink" in objecting to the photographs of Gaddafi being brutalised.

Hmm. I think you can have a discussion about whether the news media should show these graphic images (as he says, they usually don't). But I don't know why he has to say people "wail" about how Gaddafi should have been kept alive and put on trial at The Hague. Is that so unreasonable? Jones talks about war being hell, but does that mean that everyone has to act like devils?

The butchering of Gaddafi – the trophy displaying of the body in a meat storage building, the ruling out of a full post-mortem examination – is a stain on the new NTC-led Libya. And the country's new rulers are already accused of allowing armed thuwwar (rebels) to carry out reprisal attacks on Gaddafi loyalists, detaining thousands outside the law and torturing many of them.

Today's Times has a good editorial (£) arguing that "nothing justifies the infliction of barbarities on men whose own behaviour was barbarous". Right. And you don't have to be a squeamish, double-thinking westerner to agree with that.

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