Revenge in Tripoli

Long-time readers of SciBlogs might remember the physicians and nurses working in Libya in the late 1990s, who were accused of purposefully infecting children with HIV-1, the "Tripoli 6".

Science established that they were innocent.

Basic logic established they were innocent (not only was there no motive for intentionally infecting children, or precedent with past behaviors, but unintentional infections due to improper sanitation in hospitals is a stock-standard thing we have to deal with in HIV World, even in a time as modern as the 1990s).

But the Libyan government did not want to own up to their own missteps, and needed a scapegoat, so they chose to imprison and torture a group of medical professionals for *years*.

Its impossible to really imagine what it would be like to live through something like that. Like coming face-to-face with someone who killed your child, some people 'forgive' them and try as best they can to move on. Some want revenge. I admire the former, but I dont blame the latter at all. I dont blame the tortured physicians/nurses response to the current political uprising in Libya:

The Palestinian doctor imprisoned in Libya for eight years alongside six Bulgarian medics on charges of deliberately infecting Libyan children with HIV has said he would like to see Muammar Gaddafi face the death penalty for his crimes.

However, Ashraf Jumaa El Hagoug, interviewed on Dutch television, said that he realised that the death penalty was not something that the International Criminal court (ICC) in The Hague would countenance. Nevertheless, he said he feels very strongly that justice should be seen to be meted out to Gaddafi.

"I'm desperately waiting for the moment when he disappears behind bars and feels the pain for himself. I was severely tortured and I still have the scars on my body 12 years after I was jailed in Libya...He must find out what it's like to be imprisoned. He should feel the isolation. He should experience the humiliation," said El Hagoug.

...Snezhana Dimitrova, one of the Bulgarian nurses who also spent more than eight years in a Libyan jail on the same charges has also said that the dictator must be brought to justice for his misdeeds... "Muammar Gaddafi belongs in the Hague and he must be sued not only because he committed crimes against us but against his own people", Dimitrova said on August 23.

I physically *cannot* imagine what they lived through, but I hope no matter what happens to Gaddafi, they find some comfort in it.

More like this

Soon, maybe as soon as the end of the month, the Libyan Supreme Court will hear the appeal of the five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor, the "Tripoli 6" (here, here, here, here, here and here). As it approaches there is intense activity from the international scientific community. On…
Declan Butler of Nature has issued a call for help from the scientific and medical blogosphere in protesting and raising awareness about an utter travesty of justice, a vile and utterly vicious miscarriage of justice. This is one that I can't help but throw the paltry weight of my own blog behind.…
Last fall, I and quite a few other bloggers wrote about the Tripoli Six. These are six foreign medical workers arrested for allegedly intentionally infecting over 400 children with HIV in a Libyan hospital and, thanks to the ignorant hysteria whipped up against them and the need of the Libyan…
About a month and a half ago, I posted an update to the story of the plight of a group of medical professionals who have come to be known as the "Tripoli 6" or the "Benghazi 6." These are six foreign medical workers who were falsely accused by Libyan authorities intentionally infecting over 400…

I have so many contrary thoughts on the death penalty that in half my moods I'm sort of okay with it, and other times not.

However, assuming that there exist any circumstances which could justify its exacting, the number of people killed/tortured/destroyed necessary to meet it has surely been met.

Also, I hope people who have better ethical reasoning skills/intuitions than I have are tasked with deciding this kind of thing. I do not think that I am sufficiently morally reflective, or ethically informed to be adequate to that task.


I remember that incident.ButI also remember the last 40 years of US policies that led to the Colonel being such a dipshit to 'foreigners,' etc. Sure, Lockerbie was kind of fucked up, but really, so are US/French policies toward colonialized nations.

I am all for his trial, as long as that pendulum swings both ways--and Bush, Rumsfeld, etc are held accountable for Guantanamo, etc.

I'll be for the death penalty as soon as US policy makers and policy leaders are held to the same standards as the poor, and the dispossessed--or, never.

And there is always that little issue about the CIA running around stirring up shit. They even used the CIA and a fake vaccine campaign in the pre-bin Laden-goes-to-sea episode.

I mean, I thougalth professionals took the Hyppocritical oath or something? Since when is imperialism/cultural imperialism in a patients interests?

Gaddafi's behaviour was absolutely disgraceful towards these doctors and nurses, plus being from the UK I am acutely aware of the cold-blooded murder of Yvonne Fletcher in London by Gaddafi's agents shows what scum he always was.

To think his regime had a position on the UN human rights committee highlights the willingness to turn a blind eye to this crap.

I'm opposed to the death penalty in principle, so I would favour locking him up and throwing away the key. But if he tries to defend himself against capture, I wouldn't lose any sleep if he was mortally wounded in the process.

At least some good might come out of this mess, then. Unfortunately, the leader of the transitional council appears to be the judge who originally sentenced the nurses, so the symbolism of payback is a little tainted.

I don't doubt there are many of Col. MooMoo's ostensible enemies who would dearly like to shut him up pronto. And without a trial. Him, and his hapless goons, like alMegrahi.

Right. Seeing as this is a very nice website in a very nice neighborhood, I'll STFU about that now.

Execution is invariably counterproductive.
Information is being destroyed.
And it buggers up the thought-processes of the executing "side", both before and for a long time after. Since a judicial murder seems to appal the executioners rather more than it does any notional criminal.
Or they would have been deterred, in theory.

That's assuming they get it right in the first place. As innumerable miscarriage/corruption cases show.
And as the Provisionals used to assert (mainly as a wind-up, I think), it's the easy way out, unless you're too old, sick and tired. Slobo may or may not have topped himself, Fred West did so, and Dr Harold Shipman, to name a few. And they were guys who knew a thing or two about death.
Time hangs horribly, especially for the young, fit and healthy.

Anyway, the last I heard, the sandy-arsed old bastard was still giving NATO the 2 fingers from a bunker or a tent somewhere. And I suspect may well continue to do so for some little while yet.

By dustbubble (not verified) on 24 Aug 2011 #permalink

Spence: "To think his regime had a position on the UN human rights committee highlights the willingness to turn a blind eye to this crap."

You don't think maybe that was a western negotiating tool? I mean, there they sit on the council, while the CIA is all up their ass at home? Bait and switch? Look at it now, not then.

And don't forget that the Americaqn Right uses the CIA a bit differently than the left( or what's left of the left...).

And why does everybody get all worked up when it comes to subterfuge and clandestine homicide when the "others" do it? I mean, sure, spies killing innocents sucks--but do you get as pissed when the west does it? Or Russia, or Israel?

The trial of Saddam Hussein, and the subsequent hanging? Pure propaganda, and pure neutralization of CIA assets. If anything is f#cked up, I would think that's it.

Lets leave Mouamar live, just to hear the stories he tells. That might be better reading than Wikileaks.

In fact, I am 100% against the death penalty for that reason alone. Imagine what a wealth of information these guys have? And on the domestic front--imagine what a resource the mind of a killer-sociopath can be to tell us what 'went wrong' here?

Unless of course--like Saddam--we don't want the cats out of the bag.

I see that everybody here on scienceblogs is doing their part to support the war effort. No questions that might annoy our dear leaders regarding the motives or conduct of the war.

Carry on, good citizens!

By Tsintsadze (not verified) on 24 Aug 2011 #permalink


Come now. Regale us with the latest Chomsky inspired conspiracy theory. I mean just because Chomsky never engages in archival research, refuses to conduct oral histories, has never filed a FOIA or MDR request, never consults the secondary literature or do complete any of the basic research tasks expected of your average graduate student does not mean he's unable to blow the lid off of every American conspiracy every, right?


That's an interesting idea. Unfortunately it totally ignores the actual historical facts. The various governments have treated Gaddafi badly because of what he has done, not the other way around. If you have any doubt about this just look at how he has interacted with his neighboring countries, especially Egypt and Chad. Or look at how the various former colonial governments have interacted with other long-time dictators who aren't as batshit insane.

Sure it might be fun to blame things on the West, and if one looks back far enough there are certainly problems in the area which are due in part to Western influence. But Gaddafi's treatment is really his own fault. He really is a batshit insane, megalomaniacal dictator. Sometimes the simple answer is the right one.

Joshua: that simple answer doesn't explain, though, why Gaddafi's regime was often treated surprisingly well up until very recently (as Spence noted). The "everything is the West's fault" argument ignores historical facts, but so does "he's treated badly because he's a batshit insane dictator!"

@9 Joshua Z."Unfortunately it totally ignores the actual historical facts. The various governments have treated Gaddafi badly because of what he has done, not the other way around"

Whose and which facts are those, Josh? From the CIA factbook? I mean are you advocating for the oil-soaked cultural imperialism model or the 'a bit better/worse than Egypt model"?

O.K. Josh. Educate me--it really isn't my subject. But to me at least, batshit insane is an America that let Guantanamo happen; etc. Rumsfeld and Gonzalez, et ass jerking off to torture videos, while we bicker about date-rape in an elevator.

And we want to talk about Ghaddafi? Sure--lets do that, because it postpones the discussion of our own batshit crazy titans shitting all over the world, avoiding the neccesary discussion about sustainable energy, and lifting them burqas...

Ever get the feeling there is a bigger answer to questions no one asks? Me too.He's one of them

Pornalysis, nothing you have said is at all relevant. You seem to be confused about the claim I am making, and that may be my fault. So let me be clear: Saying that Gaddafi's situation is his own fault has nothing to do with anything else. Whether or not the US and the European's countries have treated him as they should or not is disconnected from what blood the US has on its hands.

Now as to the factual matters:

The US initially recognized Gaddafi's government. Relations grew strained as he supported militant groups around the world. The US didn't withdraw its ambassador until 1972, three years after Gaddafi rose to power, and only did so after Gaddafi had already started supporting militant groups that attacked civilians (what is colloquially called terrorism). Eventually, the US imposed trade embargos on a variety of goods especially those which could be used for military purposes.

The US was not alone in this. The UN made repeated resolutions asking Gaddafi to cooperate with international law. These resolutions were not passed by colonial fiat but often had Arab or African countries voting for them. Gaddafi was treated differently than other countries not because of any colonial issue but because of his repeated jingoism and funding of groups that most of the civilized world considered to be terrorists.

Nor was Gaddafi's repeated belicose behavior restricted towards Western targets. In 1977 there was the Libyan-Egyptian war which was unambiguously started by Libyan aggression. Libya continually also intervened with its neighbor Chad to the south. In that case, the situation is a bit more ambiguous because some groups in Chad apparently wanted Libya to come in.

Finally, if one had any doubt about Gaddafi's general attitude, in the mid 90s, when the PLO first began to negotiate with Israel, Gaddafi's response was to kick out the vast majority of Palestinians living in Libya. That is, at hints that the PLO would settle for anything less than the complete destruction of Israel, Gaddafi responded by kicking out an entire ethnic group from his country. This burned a lot of Gaddafi's remaining bridges in the Arab world.

So yeah, this doesn't have much to do with the US. Gaddafi really was a crazy third-world dictator who made his way to that position himself.

Just like the invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with the evil of the old US bagman Saddam Hussein, the invasion of Libya has nothing to do with the evil Quadaffi perpetrated against his people. On the contrary, the very same people that pushed on the "rebels" in Libya are propping up bloody despotisms next door. The imperialists have always tried to justify their invasions by pointing to the nefarious character of the local rulers.

This was simply banditry. On a colossal scale, that cost untold numbers of lives. It will likely lead to a severe drop in living standards for the masses and a massive increase in human misery. Not that most of you will care, once it is out of the headlines.

I thought Chris Floyd had a pretty good piece on this monstrous crime that most of you are supporting.

Sweet and lowdown: A crude analysis of the Libyan liberation

By Tsintsadze (not verified) on 24 Aug 2011 #permalink

As I understand it there really was a widespread belief among people in Libya that those nurses were guilty. It wasn't a conspiracy by Gaddafi to imprison a bunch of innocent people just to be evil. He let it happen because it avoided a potential domestic problem.

I'm sure there are also plenty of innocent victims of the "war on terror" who likewise would see Bush and Cheney dead or behind bars for their crimes, except that isn't very likely to happen.

Unless gaddafi personally tortured me, I'd be more inclined to blame the society and the people that wanted a "dear leader" dictator. Even now, you'll find Lybians who'll passionately defend him and say he's "like a father". Bletch.

Thing is: peropl are like that everywhere. The world simply isn't worthy of these medical professionals.

France's official position:

Sarkozy launched the international joint action against Kadhafi's regime.

What is said by the opposition, and quite understood:

Sarkozy launched the international joint action against Kadhafi's regime because he was strongly criticized for his inaction in the Tunisian Jasmine Revolution.


As for me and the direct result of these uprisings: I live in the city that sees the most passing of thousands of "refugees" from both Tunisia and Lybia, after they cross the Italian border. These are the dregs and the criminals trying to escape the wind of change in their countries. Most Tunisians arriving in Nice are Ben Ali sympathizers, or just common criminals who escaped from jail during the revolution. Crime rate has increased a lot around here lately, especially rapes and physical agressions.

And let me not mention those men that threw women overboard while crossing the Mediterranean so their boat would be lighter.

I wonder if you guys heard about these oversea.

pornowotevs, as stupid and incoherent as always:

I remember that incident.ButI also remember the last 40 years of US policies that led to the Colonel being such a dipshit to 'foreigners,' etc.

So tell us, porno-boy, exactly what US policies provoked, or justified, imprisoning and torturing noncombattant medics based on knowingly-fabricated charges?

This injustice wasn't even CONNECTED to any US policy, let alone provoked or justified by it. Turning this into an anti-American screed is either jaw-droppingly stupid, or the action of a Republican plant.

Josh, in regards to your statement, I appreciate the education on the facts as you see them. I will look further, but thank you for that synopsis.

But he really was a crazy third world dictator? What is the standard of that? More or less evil than Pinochet? More or less evil than any other US installed dictator? I doubt it--by the numbers of torture victims alone, unless new data is forthcoming.

Your patriotism is indeed noble, and your cultural imperialism either naive, or deliberately blind.

"You seem to be confused about the claim I am making, and that may be my fault."

I am still looking for that claim, Josh, and if your claim is that it's all Gaddafi's fault, he's a maniac, he should be westernized, or murdered, then I disagree,
and you are wrong.

Libya did not/does not exist in a bubble, and as stated above, the CIA et. al. has precedent for misusing medical professionals in covert activity, and frankly, medical professionals need to take a unified stand against being used as spies. ( think MKULTRA, and Sid Gottlieb, as well as this latest 'revealed' para-sailing bin Laden incident).

I am not condoning, nor agreeing with Khaddafi's decisions, but then again, decisions made under national duress can be maniacal--as we see with Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush, et al. And don't get me wrtong, but if I worked in the CIA I would be the guy stirring up all that jingoistic shit for my paycheck too.

But I don't.

So are you saying that Gaddafi lived in a bubble, that his decisions were isolated, and wrong, based on mental illness?
Because he certainly had cause to over-react, based in the recent past, and also cause to doubt the veracity of western medical credentials.

I am saying that he is actually less maniacal than our own leadership of THAT ERA, by numbers of victims. I am certainly not saying he is more, or his decisions LESS jingoistic than decisions being made around him at that time by others.

And in nations where the rule of law is expected, but not upheld by the outside powers that be, I don't imagine that there is a rule of law--killing his son, for instance? Who was punished for that? What outside court slid the bar and said " killing a Gaddafi child is o.k. but a Bush or a Reagan is off linits."

What rule of law is followed when the lawgiver breaks the laws? Surely some form of madness followed after that. So when arguing about national policies--in this case Americas endless wars waged against 'dictators' that it creates, or props up, or installs only to knock them down later, I am merely suggesting there may be a better model, but we haven't found it yet.

Like sustainable energy, and whirrrled peas...

If the platform that you are endorsing--imperialist invasions vis-a-vis crusades--is genuine, then why aren't we in the torture ridden, oil soaked (environmentally hazardously oil soaked) Nigeria?

If 'humanitarian' why not yet in the Congo--or China? Oh, that's right: China is the endgame...

And I am sure you think Hugo Chavez is also a threat? Remeber how he got out of that US staged coup? He got ELECTED...

If you want to tell me anything, tell me about the actual covert-ops that went into that destabilization( like those crazy anti-Gaddafi propaganda posters that were cranked straight out of a psy-ops handbook)--but the outcome, is irrelevant, because the die is cast.

Even though against international law and treaty, involvement is favorable to patriotic interests, so of course you take that position.

Good to see Raging Bee is calm and rational as ever :-)

Carry on...

By Skepcheck (not verified) on 25 Aug 2011 #permalink

...and frankly, medical professionals need to take a unified stand against being used as spies.

So now you're blaming the doctors for what happened to them? How exactly, did the doctors in this case fail to "take a unified stand against being used as spies?"

TsinTsadze: Nin hao a!?

But thanks for that link."Of course, you can find cranks and crackpots like, say, Patrick Cockburn, who has only been doing frontline reporting in the region for decades, coming out with nonsense like this, in a recent piece about the "murderous rebels in Libya"

Couldn't have said it better myself. Isn't it amazing what jingoism resounds with the violent impulses that lurk in the minds of the neo-left?

Phil: "And let me not mention those men that threw women overboard while crossing the Mediterranean so their boat would be lighter." yeah, shame shame shame.

But rhetorical question: if it was her or you for the sharks, one choice? Let me preemptively say "how noble of you."

Isn't it amazing what jingoism resounds with the violent impulses that lurk in the minds of the neo-left?

It MIGHT be amazing if you could cite an actual example of someone on the "neo-left" saying such things.

Josh Z, here is a summation that I can agree with, and one that actually notes how this whole war war war thing is also an assault on American liberty, not one in favor of it.

"Today's Team Blue dethroning of a tinpot dictator lowers the bar for tomorrow's Team Red assault on Iran,"


"Iâd be happier still if A) it had been accomplished and owned by the oppressed people of Libya themselves (which would have been less than easy, to say the least), B) if the action didnât require breaking U.S. law and lowering the intervention bar even further; and C) if the trend line in U.S. foreign policy dominance and spending wasnât continuing to drive us toward imperial bankruptcy."

Porn, I'm going to ignore your over the top rhetoric and accusations from your first reply. As to your second reply which is apparently more measured, you aren't going to get an argument from me, because I agree with most of that. The claim I was responding to was the assertion that Gaddafi's behavior was in response to the US, that his behavior is somehow the fault of the US and the "colonial powers". This claim is, as I already explained, with specific factual details, pretty much bullshit. Whether the US should have gone into Libya and whether the whole affair creates extremely worrying precedents is a completely distinct question.

Josh, assuming arguendo, that nothing you have said is relevant other than your opinion, and a set of 'facts' of which you are 'aware', I am going to ignore your re-assertions and restatements of your original position because they are bullshit.(argument ala Josh)

Or I can just say, yeah, you're right--the CNN told us so (Anderson Cooper is a stooge).

Your facts are actually conflated corporate opinions, media and propaganda campaigns designed to have you, Josh, say exactly what you said. You are a product of purchased opinion, and your re-statement becomes 'fact' to some.

Unless you were there for the last 30 years, know the Colonel, or have access to his interior agencies, your facts are just inflated, hyper-conflated opinions.

But without a doubt, we are there illegally, which is actionable enough, and we have yet to determine 'how much we were there' BEFORE we were "there".

Might do you some good to look up Laos, and Cambodia, and how much we were 'there' too, even when we 'weren't there.'

In the meantime, "Whether the US should have gone into Libya and whether the whole affair creates extremely worrying precedents is a completely distinct question."

Yup, that is a distinct question--and? What exactly are you asking? Did you mean a "distinctly different question"?

Perhaps, perhaps not.

Ok. Last attempt:

You said that "the last 40 years of US policies... led to the Colonel being such a dipshit to 'foreigners'". This is the comment I'm disagreeing with. The point is that Gaddafi has managed to be a dipshit independent of US interaction.

This doesn't make the US intervention there legal. It doesn't make the intervention there morally justified. It doesn't make the intervention pragmatically useful for long-term US goals. Etc. I can (and mainly do) agree with you that the US intervention was of questionable legality, I can agree with you that pragmatically may have been a very bad idea, and I can agree with you that continued oversea adventures run a serious risk of bankrupting the US. These questions are logically distinct issues from whether the US is responsible for Gaddafi's eccentricities.

Last chance, Josh--forever?

Gee--hate to waste your time and all...How about I just don't respond to your questions about my comments? Or we can agree 80% onthe issue, and spend some time examining the apparently independent, organic 'psychosis' and Qaddafi.

But I think I now know what you are saying--you are making a moral argument, and I disagree with your overall conclusion.

"This doesn't make the US intervention there legal. It doesn't make the intervention there morally justified."

And "I can agree with you that continued oversea adventures run a serious risk of bankrupting the US"

I would put those two statements together, Josh, and come up with

"U.S. policies are not merely at risk of, they ARE morally bankrupt."

And Josh, I would even guess that having one of your children blown to bits by a nation that claims moral high ground on terrorism, could--in some small way, cause or enhance eccentricity in an individual.

Would you agree to that? That perhaps his "deviance" is in some way a reflection of a larger psychosis, not merely an organic insanity?

But what do either of us know about it? After all, neither of us are revolutionaries, right?

I'm not trying to make a moral argument. Far from it. The issue in question that I was responding to is purely causal. My point was trying to divorce the moral and pragmatic considerations from the causual issues. That is, separating "why is Gaddafi a disphit?" from "What(if anything) is/was the proper response to Gaddafi being a dipshit." I don't know what you mean by organic insanity so without a definition, I can't respond to that in any useful way.

(And the reason why I said that that would be my last post was that it didn't seem like we are getting anywhere, although xkcd 386 seems to have struck again.)

Josh:@xkcd 386 Possible. i am not as interested in raging, rageful debates and arguement as much as dialogue. If that was my thing, I would have responded to the troll up there.

Organic causes of insanity include brain injury. From
"Organic mental disorders may be caused by inherited physiology, injury, or disease affecting brain tissues, chemical or hormonal abnormalities, exposure to toxic materials, neurological impairment, or abnormal changes associated with aging. "

Ah, I see the distinction you are trying to make (although I'm not sure it is a useful distinction. We are our brains. A mental disorder means something is happening in the brain.) In this context, organic seems to only apply to large-scale changes of a semi-diagnosable form. In that context, I'd have to say that I lack the expertise to speculate on such matters.

I'm just sayin'...the assertion that he is a megalomaniac, a nut, etc. may well be true, but the reverse may also be true--that his condition did not exist in full-blown form until he was thus assaulted.

Paranoia in a disorder works like that, as does schizophrenia, schizotypal, bi-polar, borderline personality, and PTSD.

OCD's can be triggered by certain events and so forth. Even eating disorders and alcoholic/drug addiction can be exacerbated by such pressure.

I am merely saying that he isn't entirely nuts, and the US isn't entirely non-culpable.

In that light, I am also tired of hearing how our destabilization efforts are "part of a better plan" every time the oil folks get in there, and how 'sure, it's an illegal war--but we're stuck with it now, make the best of it."

That's not my America. We need more long term solutions, and dictator after dictator propped and chopped is so 1899-Saddam.

Keeping these guys alive is crucial to comprehending history, and what it is that "we" as a nation have become. I mean, just imagine the stories that one of these guys could tell us about how our nation does business while we're not looking?

Without that information--or in turning our heads--we become little Eichmann's laboring away at the paperwork, while others--well, you get the picture.

That's not my America. We need more long term solutions, and dictator after dictator propped and chopped is so 1899-Saddam.

Another erv thread hijacked by sheer incoherent stupidity. Short answer: Libya, and international affairs in general, are far too important, and far too complex, to bother arguing with "pornoriented amateur rapeologists" and other such incoherent wankers who clearly have no idea what they're talking about.

Hey, Raging Braindead: "Short answer: Libya, and international affairs in general, are far too important, and far too complex"

Looks like I called this one 'close' to right, huh, huh? You ass of a man.

Far too important...far too absolute ass.