National Public Radio reported this morning on shocking evidence of ethnic cleansing in Libya. After the war ended last year, and former dictator Muammar Qaddafi was killed, and the global media departed, the residents of the predominantly Arab town of Misrata slaughtered, tortured, and expelled residents of the neighboring, predominantly black town of Tawargha. The pretext was a bizarre, racist conspiracy theory: that all 30,000 black residents of Tawargha had risen up to rape the Arab women and girls of Misrata.
As Steve Inskeep of NPR reports, the United Nations conducted an investigation and found no evidence whatsoever to support the rape story. A more likely source of ill will was the fact that Qaddafi sought to arm the residents of Tawargha and incited them to join in his offensive against Misrata, which was repelled with assistance from NATO.
Beyond that recent conflict, there is an enduring racism against black Africans that is shared widely in the Arab world. Qaddafi stoked that hatred even further by hiring black mercenaries from Niger and other neighboring countries to fight for his regime–troops who would likely have succeeded were it not for outside intervention. In recent years, Qaddafi had also styled himself as a “pan-African” leader who could unite the Maghreb north with the sub-Saharan south–an ambition at odds with the Arab world’s aspirations.
The media has largely ignored racial and ethnic violence in post-Qaddafi Libya–much as it downplayed vigilantism and violence perpetrated against black Libyans during the war’s progress. President Barack Obama, carrying out the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine of national security adviser Samantha Power, was focused on impending atrocities threatened by the Qaddafi regime–and he, like the media, turned a blind eye.
Now, thanks to Inskeep (who is a frequent target of criticism at this website for his left-wing political bias, but who nonetheless deserves credit in this case), it is no longer possible to ignore the local atrocities and regional security threats that have emerged since the fall of the brutal Qaddafi dictatorship. A mainstream media that rushed to point out post-Saddam Hussein problems in Iraq has thus far been largely silent in Libya.
The mainstream media likewise let President Obama off the hook for going to war with no approval from Congress, in explicit violation of the War Powers Resolution. When the Obama administration claimed–laughably–that American forces were not involved in “hostilities” in Libya, despite U.S. leadership in NATO, the media barely resisted.
It is noteworthy that in his re-election campaign, Obama is not touting his “leadership”–which inspired the phrase “leading from behind”–in the Libya war among his other feats of foreign policy. That is partly because it contrasts so sharply with his reticence in Syria (where the atrocities are worse than any that had occurred in Libya immediately prior to U.S. intervention) and his reluctance in Iran. For now, at least, the silence is broken.
Photo Credit: John W. Poole, NPR