Does Qaddafi’s death make the Libyan war a success?

posted at 12:05 pm on October 21, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

That’s certainly what the White House would like people to think.  Much of the media seems to agree, at least in some degree.  The New York Times says that the video of a beaten Moammar Qaddafi still alive at the time of his capture provided a “harrowing … vindication” of Barack Obama’s decision to push NATO into bombing Libya on behalf of the rebels:

For President Obama, the image of a bloodied Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi offers vindication, however harrowing, of his intervention in Libya, where a reluctant commander in chief put strict limits on American military engagement and let NATO allies take the lead in backing the rebels.

Mr. Obama’s carefully calibrated response infuriated critics on the right and left, who blamed him either for ceding American leadership in a foreign conflict or for blundering into another Arab land without an exit strategy.

But with Colonel Qaddafi joining the lengthening list of tyrants and terrorists dispatched during the Obama presidency, even critics conceded a success for Mr. Obama’s approach to war — one that relies on collective, rather than unilateral, action; on surgical strikes rather than massive troop deployments.

First, the US hasn’t gone to war unilaterally since Grenada.  Both Afghanistan and Iraq were broadly collective military missions; Iraq had troops from dozens of countries on the ground in the invasion and in the later occupation.  Second, there is a great deal of question about just how “surgical” the NATO strikes in Tripoli and other heavily populated areas actually were.  We didn’t send troops, to be sure, but that allowed the fighting to continue for months on end — and Obama just sent 100 troops to Uganda as “advisors” in their civil war on behalf of a government that hasn’t held a fair election since the ruling junta seized power in 1986.

ABC is concerned that the war’s “success” will erode the War Powers Act that Obama completely ignored:

Does the success of the operation against Gadhafi change the minds of those who believe the War Powers Act was violated when the president did not seek congressional authorization for the deployment of military force? Not so much.

For supporters of the law the president still needed congressional authorization to continue operations 60 days after the deployment.

“The academics will debate this, but this will just further erode the War Powers Act,” says professor Sarah Kreps of Cornell University. “Congress had little leverage on what the president did.”

Both of these reports start from a perspective that the war actually improved matters in Libya.  However, that assumes facts not in evidence.  Getting rid of Qaddafi is only a success if what follows Qaddafi isn’t either another bloody tyrant, or worse, a terrorist regime ready to export radical Islamic jihad across North Africa and beyond.  NATO hopes that its intervention on behalf of the rebels will strengthen the democrats against the extremists, but one look at the mob that killed Qaddafi yesterday shows that the rebel forces aren’t high on discipline or the rule of law at the moment.  Since eastern Libya has long been a recruiting zone for al-Qaeda and other salafist terror groups, it’s not at all certain that NATO’s lack of boots on the ground will translate into influence, let alone success.

To paraphrase Winston Wolf in Pulp Fiction, it’s a little early to be patting each others’ backs, and it may not even matter a lot who or what replaces Qaddafi in terms of long-term security.  My colleague at the Week, Daniel Larison, writes today that the long-term ramifications of the Libyan adventure will be a disaster for the West:

Contrary to the hope that Libya would provide a deterrent to regime violence elsewhere, the political fallout from the war has stalled any international response to Syria’s crackdown. By exceeding the U.N. mandate they received in March, the U.S. and its allies have poisoned emerging democratic powers such as India and Brazil against taking any action in other countries. Libya has confirmed every skeptic’s worst fears that in practice, the “responsibility to protect” is little more than a pretext for toppling vulnerable governments.

Equally troubling from an American perspective is the ease with which the current administration launched a war against a government that had abandoned its former hostility, renounced unconventional weapons and terrorism, and provided some degree of security cooperation to the U.S. Pariah states now have no incentive to negotiate similar deals with the U.S. and its allies, and they have clear incentives to acquire the means of deterring a future intervention. This reduces diplomatic and political options in coping with these states in the future and makes conflicts with some of them more likely.

Larison looks to recent history to predict the outcome of the successful rebellion in Libya:

When dictatorships are violently overthrown, their successor regimes tend to devolve into some form of authoritarian government. Political culture, weak institutions, and post-conflict disorder all make it unlikely that Libya will be that much freer in the years to come than it was under Gadhafi. As in Iraq, it is questionable whether the possible gains will be worth the real losses that have already been and will continue to be suffered. As in Kosovo, which is often wrongly held up as a model of “successful” intervention, the post-war regime is liable to be criminal and corrupt. Twenty years ago, the liberation of Eritrea and Ethiopia from the brutal dictatorship of Mengistu was an inspiring story that very soon degenerated into authoritarianism and war. There is no reason to think that Libya’s story will be all that different.

No, and the fact remains — as Larison points out — that we have fewer options in dealing with Syria, which represented more of a threat to Western interests than did Libya at the time, or Uganda now.  The jury is still out on this adventure, and there is ample reason to believe we will regret our intervention in the long run.

Update: My friend John Noonan reminded me on Twitter of the parable of the Zen master:

We’ll see.

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The Ends justify the means. Right?

Or maybe not.

I am happy that Qaddafi is getting his absolute justice now, but frankly, the way Obama went about getting authorization, etc., is inexcusable.

neoavatara on October 21, 2011 at 12:07 PM

Is it a success for Obama? Nope!

For Libya, the rebels, the people, and Europe, maybe. But not for Obama.

Time will tell. Did they kill one dictator to only have another one step in, and justify brutality in the name of keeping order, and peace, and loyalty?

capejasmine on October 21, 2011 at 12:12 PM

Larison whined: “When dictatorships are violently overthrown, their successor regimes tend to devolve into some form of authoritarian government.”

Why does he love Gaddafi so much!! He wanted to marry him!! Now he’s sad that his lover is gone!!!11!1!!

Terp Mole on Every Libya Post, 2011 at annoying intervals

mankai on October 21, 2011 at 12:13 PM

Libya wouldn’t have happened without this woman
And that wouldn’t have happened without PRESIDENT GWB.

kurtzz3 on October 21, 2011 at 12:14 PM

Newsbusters

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: With Qadhafi’s death today, three men responsible for thousands of American deaths have been killed in almost as many months: Osama bin Laden in May, Anwar al-Awlaki in September and now Qadhafi, all by or backed by American force. I want to bring in Jake Tapper from the White House now. And Jake, the President was careful not to take too much credit in the Rose Garden, but behind the scenes White House officials have to be feeling some sense of vindication.

JAKE TAPPER: They do. They see this as a vindication for Obama’s foreign policy. One senior White House official telling me this evening, bin Laden, Awlaki, Qadhafi, all met their demise in some fashion because of decisions President Obama made. It’s part of the larger Obama foreign policy which is more international cooperation, smaller footprint, more focused applications of U.S. power. They said that, al-Qaeda, it’s been very, very targeted, the attacks the U.S. has made on al-Qaeda. And Libya, using the unique capabilities of the U.S. and then stepping back and letting NATO take control. All of this part of the Obama foreign policy and they do feel vindicated, George.

Dr. Goebbels is looking up and smiling approvingly.

Del Dolemonte on October 21, 2011 at 12:15 PM

Mission Accomplished!/

Christian Conservative on October 21, 2011 at 12:16 PM

When Bush was in office, a dictator was pulled from a hole, given a trial before a transitional Iraqi government, found guilty of capital crimes, and hanged. All this meant that the image of law and order was upheld, while ensuring a dictator was executed.

With Obama in office, a dictator is pulled from a hole, begged for his life and then shot in the chest by a mob.

Now, as far as I’m concerned, I don’t care how dictators die, so long as they die. But I’m an eeevil conservative, mind you. How do liberals and eternally “concerned” independents frame the two realities mentioned above?

Weight of Glory on October 21, 2011 at 12:16 PM

Extra-judicial whackings and US backed “regime change” with no consideration for the nature of the new regime are OK because we have Obama now.

forest on October 21, 2011 at 12:19 PM

The greatest Sharia enabler in modern history, Obama.

Hening on October 21, 2011 at 12:21 PM

Does Qaddafi’s death make the Libyan war a success?

If by success you mean:
- backing, and taking credit for, a rebel group that executed a man
- losing thousands of rockets that will be used against our planes/choppers and servicemen
- handing over $30 BILLION to the Muslim Brotherhood

Then, it was a success.

faraway on October 21, 2011 at 12:21 PM

Why do I smell a BIG FAT foreign policy check heading towards a Libyan faction?

Rovin on October 21, 2011 at 12:22 PM

As much as I despised Qaddafi, it was hard not to pity him watching the film of his last long moment.

But that gold plated pistol sure was cool.

Akzed on October 21, 2011 at 12:22 PM

Does Qaddafi’s death make the Libyan war a success?

It is a success for the Islamists, who will ultimately gain power in Libya, which gives them yet another nation from which to wage Jihad against Israel and the West. For the free world?….uh, not so much.

infidel4life on October 21, 2011 at 12:23 PM

PBHO: “I won.”

The rest of the world after Libya: “We lost.”

Khun Joe on October 21, 2011 at 12:23 PM

Typical for the JEF and every other incompetent I’ve ever met:
When it succeeds, claim credit. When it fails, blame someone else.

Success has many fathers, failure is an orphan (or a bastard).

Too bad this “success” consumed seven months and a billion dollars.

Joe Mama on October 21, 2011 at 12:26 PM

This is the key point:

Equally troubling from an American perspective is the ease with which the current administration launched a war against a government that had abandoned its former hostility, renounced unconventional weapons and terrorism, and provided some degree of security cooperation to the U.S. Pariah states now have no incentive to negotiate similar deals with the U.S. and its allies, and they have clear incentives to acquire the means of deterring a future intervention. This reduces diplomatic and political options in coping with these states in the future and makes conflicts with some of them more likely.

Fact is, while Qaddafi was a scumbag of the first order, he had knuckled under to American pressure, and was at least somewhat cooperative.

Now, we have al qaeda in the Libyan leadership, formed units of al qaeda fighters roaming the country, and thousands of surface to air missiles in their hands. Libya is on track to being Somalia 2.0, and at best will become a sharia state, at worst a giant terrorist training camp.

This adventure in wagging the dog will haunt us for decades.

Rebar on October 21, 2011 at 12:26 PM

If this had happened under Bush the MSM would have been all over him for violating a jaywalking offense. Libya is now a country in chaos. It has no functioning government or well disciplined army and an inventory of some 20,000 surface to air missiles that are similar to our stinger missiles that are unaccounted for………..ain’t that just great.

SC.Charlie on October 21, 2011 at 12:26 PM

Who gets the $30 billion?

faraway on October 21, 2011 at 12:28 PM

When Bush was in office, a dictator was pulled from a hole, given a trial before a transitional Iraqi government, found guilty of capital crimes, and hanged. All this meant that the image of law and order was upheld, while ensuring a dictator was executed.

With Obama in office, a dictator is pulled from a hole, begged for his life and then shot in the chest by a mob.

Now, as far as I’m concerned, I don’t care how dictators die, so long as they die. But I’m an eeevil conservative, mind you. How do liberals and eternally “concerned” independents frame the two realities mentioned above?

Weight of Glory on October 21, 2011 at 12:16 PM

Holy Apples and Oranges!

Saddam was actually captured by US troops and transported to a US base for interrogation (WMD’s remember!). Khaddafi was caught and executed by his own people. Two completely different situations here.

And don’t doubt for a second if Iraqi’s first found Saddam, he’d would have been dead immediately as well.

cornfedbubba on October 21, 2011 at 12:29 PM

Well, what do we want in Lybia? What was the point of the mission?

At times it reminded me of the OWS protesters. Obama had a target (Qaddafi) but what then? What was the actual goal? Democracy? That’s the same thing the protesters say, but what is that supposed to look like in Lybia?

29Victor on October 21, 2011 at 12:30 PM

Weight of Glory on October 21, 2011 at 12:16 PM

Great point. It’s amazing how the rules change to fit the party in charge.

milwife88 on October 21, 2011 at 12:31 PM

I say let Obama take credit for the hell that will soon emerge in Lybia.

stenwin77 on October 21, 2011 at 12:31 PM

Now, as far as I’m concerned, I don’t care how dictators die, so long as they die. But I’m an eeevil conservative, mind you. How do liberals and eternally “concerned” independents frame the two realities mentioned above?

Weight of Glory on October 21, 2011 at 12:16 PM

When a Democrat kills a dictator its good. When a Republican does it, its eeeevil. Quite simple and remarkably consistent.

Shtetl G on October 21, 2011 at 12:31 PM

Calypso Louie is right.
http://www.theroot.com/buzz/video-minister-farrakhanthats-murderer-white-house

borntoraisehogs on October 21, 2011 at 12:32 PM

Fact is, while Qaddafi was a scumbag of the first order, he had knuckled under to American pressure, and was at least somewhat cooperative.

Now, we have al qaeda in the Libyan leadership, formed units of al qaeda fighters roaming the country, and thousands of surface to air missiles in their hands. Libya is on track to being Somalia 2.0, and at best will become a sharia state, at worst a giant terrorist training camp.

This adventure in wagging the dog will haunt us for decades.

Rebar on October 21, 2011 at 12:26 PM

Qaddafi ordered an American plane BLOWN out of the sky.

Glad to see you idiots prefer he be alive and in office.

cornfedbubba on October 21, 2011 at 12:33 PM

SC.Charlie on October 21, 2011 at 12:26 PM

Plus, there are no “boots” on the ground to police this aftermath..chaos is going to ensue….

Static21 on October 21, 2011 at 12:33 PM

cornfedbubba on October 21, 2011 at 12:29 PM

I believe the point he was making was the fact that the Iraq was had congressional approval and Obama took matters into his own hands. Do I think that if Sadam was captured by his own people would he have suffered the same fate…yes. Those people are brutal. Besides…I thought that this whole Libya thing WASN’T a “war”?

milwife88 on October 21, 2011 at 12:34 PM

Qaddafi ordered an American plane BLOWN out of the sky.

Glad to see you idiots prefer he be alive and in office.

cornfedbubba on October 21, 2011 at 12:33 PM

How many planes are going to be blown out of the sky, with 20,000 missiles in the hands of the jihad?

Perspective.

Rebar on October 21, 2011 at 12:35 PM

The rapid, 21st-century dissemination of unfiltered video footage of his death across the world is a huge success. Consider it a YouTube postcard to Assad, Ahmadinejad, and Kim Jong-il.

Lawdawg86 on October 21, 2011 at 12:36 PM

Khaddafi was caught and executed by his own people. Two completely different situations here.
cornfedbubba on October 21, 2011 at 12:29 PM

Really? Huh.

Weight of Glory on October 21, 2011 at 12:38 PM

I’m trying to be realistic not optimistic. My gut says that it will be decades, maybe centuries, before any resemblence of true democratic republic develops and until then, we’re probably going to regret it. Too many tribes and a penchant for trouble as the religious try to rule the secular. Besides oil, what is there? When that’s gone, they may be in a world of hurt. I don’t think this will be Dubai II.

Bob in VA on October 21, 2011 at 12:38 PM

Glad to see you idiots prefer he be alive and in office.
cornfedbubba on October 21, 2011 at 12:33 PM

For your sake, I hoped you’d warmed up before making such an extreme stretch.

pambi on October 21, 2011 at 12:39 PM

Glad to see you idiots prefer he be alive and in office.

cornfedbubba on October 21, 2011 at 12:33 PM

uh huh.

Now, as far as I’m concerned, I don’t care how dictators die, so long as they die.
Weight of Glory on October 21, 2011 at 12:16 PM

Weight of Glory on October 21, 2011 at 12:39 PM

What enquiring minds *really* want to know:
- – Is there a place in ObamaCare for Q-Daffy’s nurse ??

/.

CaveatEmpty on October 21, 2011 at 12:40 PM

Consider that there was no predefined metric for success in Libya. What a deal, right? Killing MoMo, while a stark and clear victory over tyranny, was not the end state that was agreed upon days, weeks, months ago.

By the way, since we voluntarily turned over the responsibility and C2 for this operation, how is it that the administration can assume any of the credit? Shouldn’t it go to the ‘international community’ or something. Whoever that is…/

ted c on October 21, 2011 at 12:43 PM

The entire middle easy is falling into the abyss of radical Islam and Israel is in jepardy

ldbgcoleman on October 21, 2011 at 12:43 PM

Is there another example in the history of the U.S. where an American President was behind the assassination of another country’s leader who was not at war with the US???

albill on October 21, 2011 at 12:43 PM

And don’t doubt for a second if Iraqi’s first found Saddam, he’d would have been dead immediately as well.

cornfedbubba on October 21, 2011 at 12:29 PM

And don’t for a second think that if Bush’s Sec. of State came out on video saying “We came. We saw. He died” the SDM and the Left wouldn’t be crapping their pants, shouting about human rights rather than, “yay! a dictator’s dead!”. All I’m pointing out is how much easier it is to frame something as a success when you have a SDM.

Weight of Glory on October 21, 2011 at 12:44 PM

cornfedbubba on October 21, 2011 at 12:33 PM

So this is how we should treat people wanted for murder (or whatever crime you want) in the U.S.? Vigalante groups hunt the wanted down, beat him/her, then execute on the spot? No trial, no justice?

That is not the American way. That is not what “American exceptionalism” in the world is about.

albill on October 21, 2011 at 12:45 PM

Wait until Iraqi government collapses into the arms of fanatical Muslim Chub Mooki All Sadr.

Finally we’ll get the glorious Caliphate that the world needs.

Thank you President Obama you are the gift that keeps on giving.

Caliphate FOREVER!!!

PappyD61 on October 21, 2011 at 12:45 PM

And don’t doubt for a second if Iraqi’s first found Saddam, he’d would have been dead immediately as well.

cornfedbubba on October 21, 2011 at 12:29 PM

Stereotyping Iraqis now, are we?

Sure, many Iraqis would do do, but many Iraqis, particularly his own people, would try to continue to protect him. Fact is, he managed to stay hidden for months after we went in. And it wasn’t Iraqis who wanted him dead who were protecting him.

Del Dolemonte on October 21, 2011 at 12:45 PM

Khaddafi was caught and executed by his own people. Two completely different situations here.

cornfedbubba on October 21, 2011 at 12:29 PM

Khaddafi was caught and executed by rebels backed by Obama.

Did Obama put any pressure on the rebels to bring him to justice? Let’s see the evidence.

ALINSKY RULE 4: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”

faraway on October 21, 2011 at 12:46 PM

“To paraphrase Winston Wolf in Pulp Fiction…”

“That’s good coffee…!”

Seven Percent Solution on October 21, 2011 at 12:49 PM

There was one city left in the battle of Libya.
Everyone figured Qaddaffi was there.
The US and NATO have troops on the ground of some sort.
The US and NATO could have strongly and repeatedly put the word out that Qaddaffi was to be taken alive.
Did they???

——————————
So the rumor of why Qaddaffi is not buried is that it is not Qaddaffi. His own body guard killed this Qaddaffi in the hopes that he would be buried quickly…evidence gone….

albill on October 21, 2011 at 12:52 PM

cornfedbubba on October 21, 2011 at 12:33 PM

I don’t remember you calling for George W. Bush to do this.

Really Right on October 21, 2011 at 12:54 PM

Obama will own whatever path Libya takes post-Qaddafi, but if, by no small miracle, it succeeds, it will be because of pure luck.

BohicaTwentyTwo on October 21, 2011 at 12:55 PM

Obama will own whatever path Libya takes post-Qaddafi, but if, by no small miracle, it succeeds, it will be because of pure luck.

BohicaTwentyTwo on October 21, 2011 at 12:55 PM

When islam is involved, the only luck you get is bad luck.

Rebar on October 21, 2011 at 12:58 PM

I don’t have any problem with assassinating dictators per se.

The SAME PEOPLE who spent 8 years castigating George Bush for everything bad that will ever happen in Iraq are now throwing themselves a victory parade for killing one guy and leaving yet another Muslim nation in complete anarchy.

logis on October 21, 2011 at 1:05 PM

You will note that 0bama targets only the more secular Muslim nation leaders for deposition and/or execution. Completely hands off the fundamentalist theocrats.

There are no coincidences, Delia, Only the illusion of coincidence.

LegendHasIt on October 21, 2011 at 1:05 PM

Gadhafi body stashed in shopping center freezer

“How much a pound is Gadhafi today? Is it good?”

Ward Cleaver on October 21, 2011 at 1:06 PM

Is there another example in the history of the U.S. where an American President was behind the assassination of another country’s leader who was not at war with the US???

albill on October 21, 2011 at 12:43 PM

Excellent question, my friend.

OneVision on October 21, 2011 at 1:15 PM

People in Yemen are comparing our coward in chief to Stalin. Yes, Stalin.

http://www.salon.com/2011/10/20/the_killing_of_awlakis_16_year_old_son/singleton/

scalleywag on October 21, 2011 at 1:17 PM

Is there another example in the history of the U.S. where an American President was behind the assassination of another country’s leader who was not at war with the US???

albill on October 21, 2011 at 12:43 PM

Or the 16 yr old son of a terrorist attending a bbq with his family?

scalleywag on October 21, 2011 at 1:18 PM

cornfedbubba on October 21, 2011 at 12:33 PM

You sunny day patriots are a joke. So is your CinC.

hawkdriver on October 21, 2011 at 1:23 PM

You will note that 0bama targets only the more secular Muslim nation leaders for deposition and/or execution. Completely hands off the fundamentalist theocrats.

There are no coincidences, Delia, Only the illusion of coincidence.

LegendHasIt on October 21, 2011 at 1:05 PM

Absolutely nailed it. What country is next – Jordan, perhaps? God, let’s hope not.

OneVision on October 21, 2011 at 1:23 PM

Does Qaddafi’s death make the Libyan war a success?

Only if one believes the myth that representative democracy is going to break out all over Libya, with multi-ethnic inclusion and religious freedom prevailing.

Not gonna happen.

So, in effect, the answer is a firm “No!”

coldwarrior on October 21, 2011 at 1:28 PM

CaveatEmpty on October 21, 2011 at 12:40 PM

As an older American, I can see an opportunity for some in-home nursing care.

coldwarrior on October 21, 2011 at 1:31 PM

Clinton: ‘We came, we saw, he died’…

Imagine if Cheney had said that about Saddam – what a firestorm of a backlash would come from the US press and around the world. People would be calling for Cheney’s resignation…

albill on October 21, 2011 at 1:51 PM

All this demonstrates is that liberals are extremely shortsighted and incompetent. For liberals everything can be explained in terms of flipping a switch.

jdkchem on October 21, 2011 at 2:04 PM

Remember why The Marine Hymn includes “…the shores of Tripoli.”

With tribes “controlling” Libya, access to the Mediterranean by a whole lot of “interesting” folks is assured. Then there is the oil that Europe once got. Capice?

NATO vs. tribes? That’s worked well every time it’s been tried. /

Caststeel on October 21, 2011 at 2:30 PM

Does Qaddafi’s death make the Libyan war a success?

I thought this was a ‘Kinetic Military Action’?

pain train on October 21, 2011 at 2:49 PM

Watching peabrains contort themselves in order to spin this negative is so entertaining. Keep trying! Eventually you may hit on something that comes close to making sense. In the meantime you can always hope and pray for bad news from Libya, as you have for months.

Constantine on October 21, 2011 at 3:04 PM

Constantine on October 21, 2011 at 3:04 PM

Hey, retard: How’s Saddam Hussein’s health these days?

logis on October 21, 2011 at 4:09 PM

Constantine on October 21, 2011 at 3:04 PM
Hey, retard: How’s Saddam Hussein’s health these days?
logis on October 21, 2011 at 4:09 PM

Maybe you should check in on the Iraq thread where everybody’s crying about how there’s no longer an opponent to Iran in the middle East. Remind them what a great idea that was.

Constantine on October 21, 2011 at 4:22 PM

Constantine on October 21, 2011 at 3:04 PM
Hey, retard: How’s Saddam Hussein’s health these days?
logis on October 21, 2011 at 4:09 PM

Maybe you should check in on the Iraq thread where everybody’s crying about how there’s no longer an opponent to Iran in the middle East. Remind them what a great idea that was.

Constantine on October 21, 2011 at 4:22 PM

Just a helpful hint: If someone calls out, “Hey, retard,” don’t answer!!

There Goes The Neighborhood on October 21, 2011 at 4:40 PM

Constantine on October 21, 2011 at 4:22 PM

Just a helpful hint: If someone calls out, “Hey, retard,” don’t answer!!

There Goes The Neighborhood on October 21, 2011 at 4:40 PM

I’ve found that’s the only way liberals know when someone is talking to them.

You ever see the Far Side cartoon where the guy is talking to his dog, but all the dog hears is “Blah Blah. Blah blah Ginger. Blah, blah blah GINGER!”

Liberals are the same way, except with insults.

logis on October 22, 2011 at 3:54 AM