Senator John McCain’s description of the Libyan rebels as his “heroes” has raised numerous eyebrows. PJM editor David Steinberg has had the excellent idea of seeking comment from the senator’s office on the extensive video evidence of atrocities committed by some of the senator’s newfound “heroes.”
While one is at it, the senator should probably also be reminded about this: namely, his cordial handshake with Muammar al-Gaddafi in Tripoli in August 2009.
There is more here, including McCain’s allusion to the “spirit of mutual respect and friendship” that prevailed during his meeting with Gaddafi and other members of the Libyan leadership. In preparation for his 2009 visit to Tripoli, the senator received a U.S. State Department “scene setter.” The leaked briefing has been published by the Daily Telegraph. In it, the State Department identifies the Libyan government as “a critical ally in U.S. counterterrorism efforts” and notes, furthermore, that Libya “is considered one of our primary partners in combating the flow of foreign fighters.”
By the “flow of foreign fighters” is presumably meant the flow of foreign recruits to join al-Qaeda in Iraq. The senator’s new-found “heroes” will not have been particularly good allies or reliable partners in this respect. On the contrary, as I have discussed here, the eastern Libyan heartland of the rebellion was in per capita terms by far the largest supplier of foreign fighters to al-Qaeda in Iraq. One rebel military commander, Abdul Hakim al-Hasadi, has even admitted to having served as a recruiter of such fighters. Before that, al-Hasadi fought against American and coalition forces in Afghanistan. (See my PJM report here.)
On his own account at a press conference following his 2009 meeting with the Libyan leadership, one of the main topics of discussion was the sale to Libya of “non-lethal defense equipment” — whatever that is supposed to mean. The State Department “scene setter” speaks rather of the ordinary lethal variety. But the Senator did at least mention American concerns about the “status of human rights” in Libya. According to an AP report at the time, one particular area of American concern was the treatment of “ethnic minorities.”
Apropos this issue, once the senator has viewed the video clips of black Africans being lynched, beheaded, and otherwise abused by his “heroes,” he might want to tell the American public what kind of future he foresees for black Africans living in a Libya ruled by them. The five videos I presented in my PJM report on rebel atrocities only represent a fraction of the available evidence. I would be happy to provide the senator’s office additional examples.
It should be noted that to the degree that the black African victims of rebel atrocities are even acknowledged, they are typically described as “African mercenaries.” This is in keeping with rebel authorities’ own account of the conflict and the designation frequently serves as a sort of rationalization of the mistreatment that black Africans have suffered at the rebels’ hands.
But prior to the outbreak of the rebellion, an estimated two million immigrants from sub-Saharan African countries already lived and worked in Libya. As Chadian President Idriss Déby has pointed out, it is entirely possible that some of these immigrants ended up joining the regular Libyan army. As noted in my report, one of the victims of some of the most horrific abuse documented in the videos appears in fact to have been a Libyan citizen and a member of the regular army.
The rebels, in any case, make no secret of their disdain for Muammar al-Gaddafi’s well-known pan-Africanism and they have evident trouble hiding their racism toward black Africans in general. For example, one post on the “pro-revolution” website Feb17.info helpfully offers a selection of translated slogans to be chanted at solidarity protests around the world. The slogans include “oh Gaddafi king of the afro, you will now see the [real] Libyans” and “oh Living, oh Sustainer, the afro will die today.” (See the Google cache here.)
Perhaps the senator could also provide comment on these slogans.