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WhoWhatWhy Factchecks the Media: More Questions About the Libyan Sex Atrocity Reporting

Rape is tragically common in wartime—but did Qaddafi really order it?

STORY SUMMARY:

Media reporting of atrocities by the Libyan regime continues to heat up. The alleged crimes are horrific—Muammar Qaddafi ordering mass, Viagra-fueled rapes. But the claims are mitigated by some really poor journalism, raising suspicions that the public is falling victim to a disinformation campaign. Here’s the latest.

Stories with a sexual component have always been instant hits in the ratings, and things are only getting worse. According to the Project for Excellence in Journalism, last week, media coverage of Congressman Anthony Weiner and his pornographic tweets filled 17 percent of the “news hole” (space and time devoted by the media). The economy, by comparison, accounted for 11 percent. The Middle East also got 11 percent.

Actually, a greater percentage had something in common when you count stories on wieners of all kinds. Because a rapidly spiraling scandal involves the allegation that the embattled Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi ordered his troops to commit mass rape—and gave them Viagra to help fortify them in this atrocity.

As we noted previously, that story has been reported widely throughout the world. As we also noted, there’s scant evidence that it is true—at least at this point. Moreover, it shows signs of being part of a larger disinformation effort of the sort that has always been part and parcel of war. (A war whose true purposes, as you can see from an earlier analysis we did, is consistently obscured.)

Despite reasons to be cautious, the media have picked up the ViagraRape story with the sort of enthusiasm they showed for the Anthony Weiner saga.

The Weiner story at least turned out to be true. Though that doesn’t mitigate how the media pandered to public voyeurism—letting this one man’s personal misdoings dominate and shut out more substantive reports, on things that actually affect us and our world.

The Libyan mass rape story is another thing entirely. As we have noted, the coverage has been characterized by recklessness and laziness. And in this case, much more is at stake than a single congressman’s future.

***

Perhaps the ViagraRape story will turn out to be true. But so far there is no real evidence. There is also no logic in believing that a man in Qaddafi’s dire position vis a vis public opinion would order something like that. As brutal as he has been, there is no previous track record of him ordering mass rapes. And there are many reasons to be suspicious of the story.

Now comes the latest entry in the gullibility sweepstakes. From the hallowed BBC, of all places.

Libyan charities say they are getting reports that in the west of the country, which is particularly conservative, Col Muammar Gaddafi’s forces have tended to rape women and girls in front of their fathers and brothers.

“To be seen naked and violated is worse than death for them,” says Hana Elgadi. “This is a region where women will not go out of the house without covering their face with a veil.”

Ms Elgadi is in a group of Libyan volunteers offering medical help and HIV tests. The organisation is also offering to pay for abortions for women who have been raped in the war.

Well, Ms. Elgadi is “in a group of Libyan volunteers”. But she is not a Libyan volunteer herself, nor simply helping victims. She is an expat with a mission. On her Facebook profile, she lists herself as “Hana FreeLibya Elgadi”. She lives in London, and is an investment banker. Without in any way questioning Ms. Elgadi’s intentions, the fact remains that she is a declared partisan of the forces seeking to overthrow Qaddafi, not an impartial or expert eyewitness.

More from the BBC piece:

“Time is against us,” says Nader Elhamessi from the Libyan aid agency, World for Libya

“For the moment pregnancies can be disguised, but not for much longer. Many fathers will kill their own daughters if they find out they have been raped.”

…The charity World for Libya has engaged imams across the border in Tunisia to preach that rape is not the victim’s fault.

…World for Libya is trying to reach a group of teenage girls still inside Libya whose school was attacked by forces loyal to Col Gaddafi.

“The armed men separated the girls and raped those they deemed more attractive,” says Nader Elhamessi. “One of the girls cut her wrists and killed herself rather than face the shame. The rapes were only reported to us by the girls who were left alone.”

The reality is that rape has always been a byproduct of war and violence (involving even American soldiers on occasion) . But the best we have here is second-hand reports from teenagers who say they themselves were not harmed. That’s just not good enough before spreading a story like this.

Another basic thing journalists should do is explain what organizations are. We looked up “the Libyan aid agency World for Libya” and found that its website is hosted by a London ad agency. That agency is owned by Salah Mussa, a wealthy London-based real estate magnate and Libyan exile. His company, Chesterton, was glad to do business with Qaddafi not so long ago.

Chesterton hopes to open an office in Libya by November 2009 and work closely with the country’s sovereign wealth fund there, the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA).

Unfortunately for Mussa, Goldman Sachs was there first, managing to lose 98 percent of $1.3 billion the Libyan sovereign wealth fund gave it to invest. This was reported by the Wall Street Journal. Qaddafi, furious at the losses, became increasingly hostile to Western investors seeking Libya’s riches.

Back to the BBC story:

One family who contacted Ms Elgadi needed medication for HIV.

“The mother, the father and the son were all raped by Col Gaddafi’s forces. The mother came to us when they discovered they had contracted HIV/Aids as a result.”

Viagra

…The International Criminal Court says it believes Col Gaddafi’s forces are using rape as a weapon of war. The ICC says it has reason to believe orders to rape were given, and the drug Viagra was distributed to fighters.

For more on the ICC’s claim, and how thin it is, see our previous piece.

BBC, continuing:

A major in the Libyan army who has now deserted told the BBC the shipments of Viagra were widely known about, but neither he nor his colleagues saw them.

The order to rape was not given to the regular army,” says the major, who did not want his name to be used, because his family is still in Tripoli. “Col Gaddafi knew we would never accept it. It was given to the mercenaries.”

So we are to take the word of an unnamed army major who deserted—and who himself says it was not the army, and that neither he nor his colleagues saw any Viagra in use. Just “widely known about” as it is “widely known about” by all of us who consume these “news reports.”

Mr Jamal, the UNHCR’s emergency co-ordinator for Libya, says it has not so far uncovered evidence that rape has been used as a weapon of war, although it has seen evidence of individual instances of rape throughout the country.

“We have also seen evidence that would seem to suggest that rape has been carried out by both sides, but we cannot say on what scale,” he says.

Jamal’s more balanced initial analysis appears late in the story, where it is easily missed by those who will naturally focus on the headline and lead paragraphs.

Libyan volunteers are advising international agencies on how to get Libyans who have been raped to come forward.

“A foreigner cannot go in there with a clipboard and a translator and get a response,” says Ms Elgadi.

This of course cuts out exactly those with the credentials and objectivity who can really be trusted to assess the situation.

Again, one cannot rule out the possibility that Qaddafi personally ordered mass rape. Or that he supplied Viagra to soldiers or mercenaries following his orders. But this follows a long history  of deliberate disinformation in war, notably the false stories conjured up by PR outfits during the Gulf War—including the notorious made-up tale of Iraqi soldiers throwing babies out of incubators at a Kuwaiti hospital. Congress bought that one, and the American people were up in arms, eager to support military action. The “mission creep” on Libya has expanded from an initial promise to “protect civilians” for a few days into what can only be described as yet another undeclared war.

Let the buyer beware.

 

GRAPHIC: http://www.instablogsimages.com/images/2008/11/01/why-soldie_Uiq6Q_16638_310x235.jpg


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  • http://www.facebook.com/ThePreambleProject Bill Wilt

    Read also Sir Arthur Ponsonby’s 1928 classic, Falsehood in War-Time, in which he describes the propaganda/lies about German atrocities, put out by his information department during World War I. One of my favorites was the tale  of an infant nailed to a barn door  by the “Hun”. 

        Ponsonby famously said: When war is declared, truth is the first casualty. (see below).    A very successful lie (successful in helping recruitment, keeping anti-German fervor at a fever pitch) was that the Germans amputated children’s hands, in Belgium.
        http://www.vlib.us/wwi/resources/archives/texts/t050824i/ponsonby.html#24    See chapter 8 (VIII): The Belgian Baby Without Hands.Here’s the headnote about the scanned-in version of Ponsonby’s tale:Arthur Augustus William Harry Ponsonby, 1st Baron Ponsonby of Shulbrede (16 February 1871 – 23 March 1946) was a British politician, writer, and social activist. He was the third son of Sir Henry Ponsonby, Private Secretary to Queen Victoria. Lord Ponsonby is probably most remembered for the statement: “When war is declared, truth is the first casualty.” The following was scanned and posted by Geoffrey Miller, on the WWI Listserve. ]

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  • http://twitter.com/revolutionXX Edgar Kaufmann

    anybody who knows Gaddafi and his family members knows that this are war mongering lies ! The opposite is right and has been found by indepenedent fact finging missions. Anything(!)  they told you about Libya is wrong and the complete opposite (!) is reality. check e.g. net-news-global.de africa/libya

  • Synthiman

    This reminds me of the tales leading up to the Gulf War of Irqi Soldiers removing babies from incubators and tossing them on the floor. Preposterous but it was pedaled as fact until it was revealed as a lie once it had it’s intended effect of getting people behind the war had been achieved and the war was on. 

  • SAGE1014

    the dumbed down public eats those stupid stories up,  and could care less about the fact that we are 10 years in
    AF,  and still not out of Iraq,   and we are broke!!!  Because of pointless, corporate profit wars!!!  my father,  a pow from the korean conflict,  would turn over in his grave.  WHO ARE WE

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RKPATGK7W4VNXIFXZE7AXC3A5M Tom Dee

    It is the same story used on Saddam but someone liven it up with the blue pill.   They did not have the ability to use the babyies being pulled off the machines because all the woman were raped and had abortions.  It would appear these stories used by nations we attack all come from a central organization.  Can it be the the USA has an official liars club other than the Senate?

    • Anonymous

      The US Congress passed legislation to provide the US armed forces with  money to spread lies outside the USA. There was even a Congressional hearing (2010 I think) about these lies coming back to the USA. Apparently it would be illegal for US taxes to be used to lie to US citizens. Your politicians accepted the excuse that that completely predictable result was an accident. Yes, the USA has an official liar’s club and all US citizens should have noticed. Incidentally, viagra does not increase libido. It provides more nitrous oxide in the penis and that helps only those who have an erectile dysfunction because of a shortage.
      donthomson1@hotmail.com

    • Anonymous

      The US Congress passed legislation to provide the US armed forces with  money to spread lies outside the USA. There was even a Congressional hearing (2010 I think) about these lies coming back to the USA. Apparently it would be illegal for US taxes to be used to lie to US citizens. Your politicians accepted the excuse that that completely predictable result was an accident. Yes, the USA has an official liar’s club and all US citizens should have noticed. Incidentally, viagra does not increase libido. It provides more nitrous oxide in the penis and that helps only those who have an erectile dysfunction because of a shortage.
      donthomson1@hotmail.com

    • Anonymous

      The US Congress passed legislation to provide the US armed forces with  money to spread lies outside the USA. There was even a Congressional hearing (2010 I think) about these lies coming back to the USA. Apparently it would be illegal for US taxes to be used to lie to US citizens. Your politicians accepted the excuse that that completely predictable result was an accident. Yes, the USA has an official liar’s club and all US citizens should have noticed. Incidentally, viagra does not increase libido. It provides more nitrous oxide in the penis and that helps only those who have an erectile dysfunction because of a shortage.
      donthomson1@hotmail.com

  • Anonymous

    Nayirah story, V Clarke of  Hill & Knowlton the PR, company .  
    Is any such company involved with the Viagra story, I don’t know yet.

  • D.

    I think we need to examine the idea that women are not likely to report these crimes, due to societal pressures and behaviors. Rape has historically been used as a weapon, and is still used today. Women fear for their existence in these countries,and these allegations should be addressed with a careful and educated eye. 

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  • http://profiles.google.com/dayofrageindc Joseph Zrnchik

    This Gaddafi/Viagra nonsense is nothing but propaganda and information warfare directed against the American people to get them to go for ANOTHER illegal war.  It also shows that the ICC is a tool of Western powers.

    Notice the rebels are in the part of the country that contains all the oil.

    NATO Making Libya a Failed State

    http://beforeitsnews.com/story/707/207/NATO_Making_Libya_a_Failed_State.html

  • Anonymous

    While the act of rape itself is an abomination, consider this: since when have fighting men in a combat zone- usually far from home and not having the company of a woman for extended periods- EVER needed chemical ‘enhancement’ in order to perform, legally or otherwise?

    OR, are we being set up for the follow-on story of the plight of Libyan soldiers in rape squads who just couldn’t *ahem* stand at attention long enough to get the job done and have been shown the door in favor of someone better equipped for the job? The shame of being treated like so much hanging meat, right?

    The whole thing smells of nothing but pure propaganda of the basest sort, and unworthy of even the name propaganda- it’s lies, and more lies, and all put in print to justify a war that can’t be justified.

  • Contact

    A story on CNN on June 17th gives some evidence but not quite enough:
    http://goo.gl/zFTt6

  • Tazmama33

    Well, besides the horror of honorable religious women who place high levels on being chaste– allegedly being heartlessly and viciously assaulted– is disturbing enough; but the real questions we should be asking is: 
    WHO IS SUPPLYING THE VIAGRA?  
    I question the credibility of rumors that VIAGRA would even be an over-the-counter drug that would even be accessible, let alone, acceptable in their culture and religion!!!!  
    But if this is true, the next valid question is: WHO invented Viagra and who’s giving it to Qadaffi and his minions?  
    Answer: Pfizer–in ENGLAND invented Viagra and the highest CONSUMER of this crap?  Americans, PROBABLY! 
    Follow the drug dealers and we will find the OTHER CULPRITS.
    BUT until all these rumors are even verified, which it seems they are not –AND I PRAY THEY ARE NOT TRUE!–  Let’s not forget that our own Government has an ugly propensity of creating scapegoats and offering us DISINFORMATION in order to “muddy up the waters of truth” AND distract the American Public of our Government’s political and amoral infamies, which usually pan out as ruses to get some more warmongering going because some country has got SOMETHING THEY WANT TO STEAL!

    • Anonymous

      suggestion you use fewer CAPITALS in your postings. you can get across your points well without them. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

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  • David

    http://www.federaljack.com/?page_id=37933   These are some ugly photos and the videos are not for the faint at heart.  Be warned before you click on them.  This is sick stuff.

    http://theintelhub.com/2011/06/23/the-ugly-truth-video-of-libyan-rebel-beheading-gadhaffi-soldier-and-other-nato-war-crimes/

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