Ethical issues such as these are notoriously difficult to settle. Moreover, in most cases, there is no objective solution. Coincidentally at the same time as this release, I noticed a small news item on BBC -- Vietnam massacre soldier 'sorry'. It goes on to say that the the US army officer convicted for his part in the notorious My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War has offered his first public apology. It reports "Calley, 66, was convicted on 22 counts of murder for the 1968 massacre of 500 men, women and children in Vietnam."
And here's the rub.
He was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the killings in 1971. Then-US President Richard Nixon commuted his sentence to three years' house arrest.Three years house arrest? For killing 500 people? And now he says he is sorry. Nobody asked the relatives of those 500 killed how they felt. In most cases the massacre was complete -- there were no relatives left to grieve over the dead. The Charlie Company of the US Army made sure they did a complete job. And presumably with a war going on, these men, women and children killed were so much 'collateral damage'. (You can see the details here.)
This post does not want to point fingers either at the Americans, the British or the Libyans. Any death is a tragedy and when hundreds die in a brief apocalyptic moment, it leaves a permanent scar on public consciousness. We still remember the Lockerbie bombing, we still remember (those of us who are old enough) the My Lai massacre. But our reactions are modulated by the affinity we feel for those who have died.
That's human nature.