Right now Libya is under a total media blackout. This is somewhat unprecedented in the recent uprisings we’ve seen in North Africa. While coverage in Tunisia was slight thanks to people’s lack of understanding, those with vested interest could still find videos and updates. In Egypt, the media coverage was so continuous put some stations on the map. But in Libya, the only thing we’re getting is occasional grainy footage of stuttered chaotic streets. It creates a disconnect with the world, and the world is at a loss to understand what is going on.
But it seems very clear from governmental officials and personal accounts that what is happening can be called nothing less than a massacre. There is some very graphic footage out there right now that is said to be of former soldiers. It was their punishment for refusing to fire upon their own people. Their bodies, burned alive, stacked neatly on the earth. A warning for those who dare refuse the dictator’s orders.
Shouting and splatters of blood renders many videos too gory for most, with bodies being dragged off while the tat-tat-tat of gunfire rings in the background. Now Al Jazeera is reporting that they’ve found advertisements for mercenaries in Guinea and Nigeria that pay $2000 a day. These same mercenaries have been spotted on the streets of Tripoli and Benghazi. There have even been reports of these same mercenaries using rape as a weapon and in case that’s not horrific enough: there are now reports of fighter jets actually dropping munitions on their own people, peacefully demonstrating below.
This is carnage. Saif al Islam, the son of Libya’s forty-year leader, went on State News yesterday and gave a long rambling speech. In it he noted that the rioters were made up of thieves and teenagers on drugs. In a complete disconnect that makes Mubarak look like a Nobel Laureate, he was quoted as saying, “Instead of crying over 200 deaths we will cry over hundreds of thousands of deaths. You will all leave Libya, there will be nothing here.” These are not minced words. This is very clear. They plan to kill as many as it takes to shut these protests down. This is a government without any semblance of civility or regard of human life.
And yet where is the international condemnation? While a number of Libyan ambassadors and diplomats have been quitting in protestation of the violence, the rest of the world is silent. There has been a bit here and there from the State Department in DC and the Prime Minister’s Office in the UK. But for the most part, everybody is scared to speak out. Oil in central Libya means that Western groups have a vested interest in how this plays out. Of course Ghaddafi is a bad guy. Nobody is trying to argue that he is somehow noble. But it has been shown that the west often prefers tyranny to democracy if it means they save some dimes at the pump. It gives a whole new meaning to the term “life is cheap.”
Without any pressure and without any moving pictures that can connect a Western audience and their sympathies to these people, I worry that Libya could slip through the cracks. The level of death and destruction on the streets has been almost unparalleled. And yet you still have covers of magazines like The Daily with a headline reading: Libya’s Civil War. No. This is not a civil war; this is a government sponsored mass execution of its own people. Libyans are not fighting Libyans in the street. To misreport that is incredibly irresponsible and shows just how little care the Western world is currently taking in this very fragile situation.
We will not see this revolution but we will see the after effects. Like many of history’s misses, weeks later we will see the dead women, the dead children, we will hear the stories of mass rape and of bombs falling from the sky onto the homes of innocents. We will see it and only then will the Western world cry out in abhorrence and anger. “How come you sat by and did nothing!” they will shout at the government and media outlets. “We wanted to know about this!” yet these same people will blithely turn the channel when the news updates were not followed by the latest footage.
A slaughter is going on as I type this. Lives are ending in gathering pools of blood as the seconds tick by. Gunshots are ringing out, mothers are weeping, babies are crying and orphans are being made. It is imperative that we do not push it aside and ignore it simply because there aren’t enough boringly colored pictures to hold our interest. Do not ignore the cries of the Libyans. Do not ignore their tragedies. Families abroad are weeping into telephones as they hear of their own uncles and brothers going out into the fight. This is a tenuous time that deserves our knowledge, our respect and deserves our coverage. Demand that your news outlets make this situation known. Write the President and Secretary of Defense asking for them to condemn the actions of this murderous dictator. The Libyans do not need the force of the United States or Europe. But they do need to know that their stories aren’t falling on a deaf world; a global community too busy to consider this annihilation worthy of a sound bite.
5 replies on “Understanding a Massacre”
Thank you, Olivia, for keeping news like this front and centre.
Some foreign journalists have finally been able to get across the border–as you know it had been closed to the foreign press previously–but now that the eastern side has been taken over by protesters, reporters have been coming over the border and reporting on what they see. I expect that coverage will improve, especially as they get into Tripoli.
I don’t even know what to say. I was born in Libya and this makes me so very very sad. Thanks for going into depth — with the lack of access to Libya and people feeling news fatigue after Egypt, I think a lot of people are choosing to numb themselves to this one.
Thank you for writing this. I caught the elder Gaddafi on CNN late this morning — it was truly scary. At some point later in the afternoon, a news outlet was talking about the Western predicament — what happens if Gaddafi decides to burn all the oil? He totally could. HE’S BURNING PEOPLE >> but it’s the oil that got the airtime.
That just freaking figures, doesn’t it?