In more certain times, President Reagan once paraphrased a line from heavyweight boxer Joe Louis as a warning to terrorists and their sponsors: “You can run, but you can’t hide.” Col. Muammar Gaddafi, however, seems lately to have done a good job of both (yes, behind the Claude Rains goggles and the kaffiyeh at left, it is he, the imperial leader of Libya or, according to Reagan, the “flaky barbarian”). Two weeks ago Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Seymour M. Hersh reported in the New York Times that the air strike on Tripoli last April was, despite official denials, targeted on Gaddafi’s family living quarters rather than military or terrorist facilities, and that the raid’s precise aim was to kill him.
The aim, as it happened, was not so precise. Half of the mission’s 18 F-111s experienced problems with their laser missile-guidance systems; the only Gaddafi killed in the attack was the colonel’s 15-month-old adopted daughter, Hana. As a result, Gaddafi, 45, was left with the wits to gather the press for a rigorously composed photo op with Hana’s teddy bear (right). According to Hersh, whose reporting seems to be accurate, Gaddafi escaped with his life by only a hairbreadth this time (the latest of a dozen such attempts in as many years); some two hours before the strike, Israeli intelligence had spotted him working in the family tent. One U.S. general who spoke to Hersh concluded bitterly: “He must have been in the head.”