Friday, April 1, 2011

Blogger Russ Baker calls Libya rape charge anti-Qaddafi propaganda

Author and blogger Russ Baker has written a column alleging that Eman al-Obeidy's charge that she was gang-raped by pro-Qaddafi militiamen may be the product a propaganda campaign to drum up support for war. His column oddly fails to explain how this pro-war propaganda conspiracy managed to make Qaddafi's secret police brutalize and kidnap this woman before multiple television news cameras. He also offers no evidence whatsoever to refute her charges. He does, however, attempt to minimize their importance.

He writes:

(A)s awful as rape is, it is hardly uncommon anywhere in the world, and the fact that this story would get so much attention—and generate such a strong response—has to be viewed with restraint. It may not be true, and even if it is, why would it get this much publicity at this particular moment...

Contrary to what Baker's column implies, there is no mystery as to why this story got such wide coverage. The victim, after allegedly being kidnapped and raped by pro-Qaddafi militiamen, sought out a public forum where foreign media would be present. When she attempted to tell a hotel dining room filled with reporters the shocking details of what had happened to her -- in eloquent, passionate and entirely plausible terms -- secret police pounced on her, manhandled her, beat several reporters and arrested her. All of this happened before cameras which were able to record the regime's brazen brutality even in this public setting. The regime then issued a series of false, defamatory and contradictory refutations of her charges, none of which explained their behavior towards her, all of which highlighted the bad faith with which they were handling the matter. The victim has since disappeared. Baker fails to explain or even address her disappearance. More to the point, why does Russ Baker believe that such an amazing public display of brutality as this woman's arrest was should somehow have been ignored by the assembled press corp -- in order to avoid the appearance of being anti-Qaddafi?

Independent human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch have documented the brutal and arbitrary detention of rape victims routinely practiced under Qaddafi's rule. Now that Eman al-Obeidy has publicly accused Qaddafi's militias of rape, and the regime has kidnapped and slandered her, does Russ Baker think that she will fare better than the other rape victims who didn't publicly accuse the regime?

Russ Baker should be deeply ashamed of this column. While he has the right to oppose military action against Qaddafi, he should know better than to imply that Qaddafi's victims are merely dupes of Western imperialism, or, as he would have it, agents of "psyops–disinformation efforts designed to sway public opinion (by) the Pentagon and CIA". In slinging such a baseless charge against a rape victim who was seen being brutalized, he does his cause no good whatsoever. He would do better to call for her immediate release and an independent investigation of what happened to her and those who she was travelling with when the crime occurred. More importantly, by making such a charge in a widely read column, Baker gives aid and comfort to those who are currently holding Eman al-Obeidy prisoner. They may well use his logic to justify whatever they subject her too. In the name of opposing "psyops–disinformation efforts", he has become an unwitting agent of those used by the Qaddafi regime to justify their arbitrary brutality.

Baker writes of himself in his bio at Huffington Post that he "has a track record for making sense of complex and little understood matters..." In this column, he makes utter nonsense of a readily understandable matter. That can't be good for his track record.

Read Baker's column here: Libya Rape Charge: View With Caution � SpeakEasy

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