Thursday, July 26, 2007

Shooting Fish in a Barrel

This is almost too obvious a comparison. Four nurses and one doctor from Bulgaria are accused by Libya of intentionally spreading HIV/AIDS in a Libyan hospital, arrested, tortured, tried, and sentenced to death. However, after international pressure and diplomatic efforts, they are freed.

The stories of their torture, however, are horrific and rightly bring condemnation on Libya. And while NPR would lead you to believe their release was effected solely by the US, the picture is, of course, much more complicated than that. France, in the person of Madame Sarkozy, and the European Union, were deeply involved. Bulgaria worked for the release of its citizens, and it may be their release was purchased in part by forgiveness of Libya's debt to Bulgaria. But the truly interesting issue, from an American point of view, is the horror story of their arrest and treatment. Consider, first, what the Palestinian doctor, who was held with the nurses for 8 years, had to say:

"I'm really disappointed with the whole Arab world and how they have treated our case. Only foreigners were accused in this case because they are Christians, and this is against our morals."
Substitute "Muslim" for "Christian," and you have a statement which applies to every "detainee" and "enemy combatant" currently in US custody anywhere in the world. And this could be an account from Gitmo:

In an official handwritten 2003 declaration to the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry, Snezhana Dimitrova, who was not at the news conference, detailed her two months of physical torture in a Tripoli police station after her arrest in Benghazi in February 1999.

Dimitrova recounted having her arms tied together behind her back, and being hung from a door by her arms.

"Even when I wasn't on the door anymore but on the floor, I thought I had no arms," her statement said. "Tens of men's legs kicked me, then they made me stand up and started to slap me. Everything hurt. I had no strength. I was beaten like a dog, my hair had fallen over my eyes, my blindfold had fallen off and my nose was bleeding."
These are not new allegations, by the way; they were known in 2005. Whether their revelation swayed the efforts of American diplomats is not known. That we hear such accounts and despise the governments that would engage in them, is obvious. People falsely accused of monstrous crimes with no evidence, in order to protect a government unable to protect their citizens from injury and threat, and then the accused tortured to force their confessions, tried and sentenced to death, and only finally released under extreme diplomatic and international pressure.

Well, the only difference between Libya and the US now, is that Libya has acknowledged that pressure and released the prisoners it never should have held.

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