Libya Needs to Shape Up

The Middle East has always presented a conundrum to Western observers, but the events currently unfolding in Libya are nothing short of ridiculous. Because of major shortages in proper medical care, many organizations have set up shop to help the country’s impoverished. Seven years ago, a group of Bulgarian nurses working at a hospital in Libya were charged by the Libyan government with spreading AIDS among 400 children being treated at the hospital. Since then about fifty of these patients have died. The nurses have claimed that the virus was not spread because of the nurses’ criminal negligence, but rather by the widespread poor hygiene of the hospital. More disturbing are the recent revelations regarding the treatment of these medical staff in the Libyan prisons. All five confessed to deliberately spreading the virus for a War on Islam, but later claimed that the confessions were extracted through torture, including beatings and electric shocks. The nurses filed suit in Libyan court, claiming that they were the victims of mistreatment by the police, but this past June, a Libyan court cleared the police of any wrongdoing. Bulgarian Prime Minister Georgi Parvanov and President Bush both called on Libyan leader Muammar Qadaffi to free the nurses from prison and have them returned to Bulgaria. “There should be no confusion in the Libyan government’s mind that those nurses ought to be, not only spared their life, but out of prison,” Bush told reporters. “We will continue to make that message perfectly clear.” Libya has demanded monetary compensation for the release of the nurses, but Bulgaria has refused to pay this so-called “blood money.” Meanwhile, the European Union has continued to lobby for clemency for the Bulgarian nurses. This is a major setback at a crucial time for Libya, which has striven to increase its favorable standing in global affairs throughout the past few years. Libya formally declared an end to its pursuit of nuclear weapons in December 2003, slowly entering the former pariah state into the civilized realm of the international community. Libya also provided information to Western intelligence agencies that led to the arrest of Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan, thus cracking the largest black market for nuclear material and information in the world. In April 2003, Libya agreed to pay $10 million to the families of each of the 270 victims of the 1988 Lockerbie airline bombing. The Pan Am Boeing 747 blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 259 aboard and 11 on the ground. Two Libyan intelligence agents were found guilty of masterminding the bombing, and Qadaffi was assumed directly responsible for ordering the bombing. However, by admitting blame and providing compensation for the catastrophe, Libya bolstered its international image. Libya has also improved its standing in the context of global foreign policy by heading the United Nations Human Rights Committee. Libya has made a great deal of progress in developing an affirmative role in the world. With so much focus on trying to spread democracy into the Middle East, leanings towards democracy in Turkey, Egypt, and Libya have bolstered the steadfast belief that the peoples of the Middle East can be freed. Turkey has continued its negotiations to enter the European Union, and Egypt held its first democratic elections ever. Libya was once a terrorist state and one of the most backward nations in the world. They have come a long way since those days, but diplomatic idiocy of this variety is the surest way back to being a pariah among nations.