For the Guardian’s Comment is free, “Death in Libya, betrayal in the West” is an article I wrote in response to news of the death, in a Libyan jail, of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi. A prisoner of the “War on Terror,” who was subjected to “extraordinary rendition” and torture for four years before being returned to Libya in 2006, al-Libi’s role in the sordid saga of the Bush administration’s response to the 9/11 attacks is particularly significant, because in early 2002, while being tortured in Egypt, he came up with an allegation about a connection between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein that was used to justify the invasion of Iraq.
Since breaking al-Libi’s story in the Western media on Sunday evening, I have written several articles examining the story from various angles — in particular, was he killed, or did he commit suicide, and why was the mainstream media so slow to pick up on the story? — but for the Guardian I thought it was significant to focus on how Libyan prisoners seized by the US in the “War on Terror,” or those who fled Libya seeking asylum in the UK, have become pawns in a political game.
This little-noticed story, which I touched on in my article, The “Suicide” Of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi: Why The Media Silence? has manifested itself as both countries have repatriated former prisoners and asylum seekers to face torture and show trials — or have attempted to do so — not because of the threat that they pose to the US and the UK, but as part of a morally bankrupt deal that followed Colonel Gaddafi’s pragmatic renunciation of terrorism in 2003, when he suddenly became a friend of the West, and his opponents were transformed, overnight, from freedom fighters to terrorists.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed, and also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.
For other recent articles on Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi — and Cheney’s monstrous and unprecedented crime — see: Dick Cheney And The Death Of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, Two Experts Cast Doubt On Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi’s “Suicide”, Lawrence Wilkerson Nails Cheney On Use Of Torture To Invade Iraq, Lawrence Wilkerson Nails Cheney’s Iraq Lies Again (And Rumsfeld And The CIA), and WORLD EXCLUSIVE: New Revelations About The Torture Of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi.
For a sequence of articles dealing with the use of torture by the CIA, on “high-value detainees,” and in the secret prisons, see: Guantánamo’s tangled web: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Majid Khan, dubious US convictions, and a dying man (July 2007), Jane Mayer on the CIA’s “black sites,” condemnation by the Red Cross, and Guantánamo’s “high-value” detainees (including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed) (August 2007), Waterboarding: two questions for Michael Hayden about three “high-value” detainees now in Guantánamo (February 2008), Six in Guantánamo Charged with 9/11 Murders: Why Now? And What About the Torture? (February 2008), The Insignificance and Insanity of Abu Zubaydah: Ex-Guantánamo Prisoner Confirms FBI’s Doubts (April 2008), Guantánamo Trials: Another Torture Victim Charged (Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri, July 2008), Secret Prison on Diego Garcia Confirmed: Six “High-Value” Guantánamo Prisoners Held, Plus “Ghost Prisoner” Mustafa Setmariam Nasar (August 2008), Will the Bush administration be held accountable for war crimes? (December 2008), The Ten Lies of Dick Cheney (Part One) and The Ten Lies of Dick Cheney (Part Two) (December 2008), Prosecuting the Bush Administration’s Torturers (March 2009), Abu Zubaydah: The Futility Of Torture and A Trail of Broken Lives (March 2009), Ten Terrible Truths About The CIA Torture Memos (Part One), Ten Terrible Truths About The CIA Torture Memos (Part Two), 9/11 Commission Director Philip Zelikow Condemns Bush Torture Program, Who Authorized The Torture of Abu Zubaydah? and CIA Torture Began In Afghanistan 8 Months before DoJ Approval (all April 2009), Obama’s First 100 Days: Mixed Messages On Torture (May 2009). Also see the extensive archive of articles about the Military Commissions.
For other stories discussing the use of torture in secret prisons, see: An unreported story from Guantánamo: the tale of Sanad al-Kazimi (August 2007), Rendered to Egypt for torture, Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni is released from Guantánamo (September 2008), A History of Music Torture in the “War on Terror” (December 2008), Seven Years of Torture: Binyam Mohamed Tells His Story (March 2009), and also see the extensive Binyam Mohamed archive. And for other stories discussing torture at Guantánamo and/or in “conventional” US prisons in Afghanistan, see: The testimony of Guantánamo detainee Omar Deghayes: includes allegations of previously unreported murders in the US prison at Bagram airbase (August 2007), Guantánamo Transcripts: “Ghost” Prisoners Speak After Five And A Half Years, And “9/11 hijacker” Recants His Tortured Confession (September 2007), The Trials of Omar Khadr, Guantánamo’s “child soldier” (November 2007), Former US interrogator Damien Corsetti recalls the torture of prisoners in Bagram and Abu Ghraib (December 2007), Guantánamo’s shambolic trials (February 2008), Torture allegations dog Guantánamo trials (March 2008), Sami al-Haj: the banned torture pictures of a journalist in Guantánamo (April 2008), Former Guantánamo Prosecutor Condemns “Chaotic” Trials in Case of Teenage Torture Victim (Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld on Mohamed Jawad, January 2009), Judge Orders Release of Guantánamo’s Forgotten Child (Mohammed El-Gharani, January 2009), Bush Era Ends With Guantánamo Trial Chief’s Torture Confession (Susan Crawford on Mohammed al-Qahtani, January 2009), Forgotten in Guantánamo: British Resident Shaker Aamer (March 2009), and the extensive archive of articles about the Military Commissions.
There’s always been a freedom fighter in every terrorist; and equally, a terrorist in every freedom fighter. What you call it depends on where you stand, what glasses you have on, and what you need.
As always, Frances, your words – when not unbelievably beautiful, have a sharp way of cutting to the quick and stirring up deep reflection…
And at the same time – what do we call the “terrorists” who want others’ resources – who control people and nations as if they all were pawns?
Who are the international real estate lawyers or judges or juries who can find a legal name and sentence for those who confiscate lands and property as if the deeds were their own?
What are they named who bomb to near extinction history and land as if the inheritors and all they have inherited from their earth and their ancestors were “up for grabs” – and the tillers and the educators of the young are forced to wander the earth – lucky if they are fortunate to escape with the shirt on their back?
What do we call the maker’s of modern empire – sculptors of metals hurling fury and leaving screams in their wake? Who are the engineers & wardens who re-invent & invent anew physical and psychological traps of torture? Who are these among us – lauded for courage & skill – who imprison with neither the mitigation of fact or findings nor the light of law?
Who are the ones who run about with our national sanction and yet who hold regard neither for rights nor freedom nor any other sacred trust?
How do we describe those who disregard promises made (whether international, to another nations, to “hired” fighters or to fellow humans who’ve been “trashed”?)
How do we name the inhumane qualities that are more contagious in our time than any swine flu – which make out of the life of the single prisoner hell on earth?
Something other than fighters for freedom, eh?
This from Jason Leopold of the ever-investigative The Public Record:
This is truly an outstanding article and your coverage this week has been superb. You, yes you, single- handedly kept this story alive and ensured that we know the truth.
I am none too happy with Obama’s decisions as of late. Releasing the documents was a good move but what good does it do to release evidence of war crimes if you’re not going to do anything about it? We need serious criminal investigations.
This from the Talking Dog:
It’s been several days now, and, near as I can tell, this is still not all that big a story here (other than as part of what Wilkerson is doing viz Cheney), and let’s face it: it’s not going to be. Have we reached the point where we can “move on from the Iraq thing and the Bush thing and the torture thing, and let’s worry about health care and the economy…” a/k/a the John Kerry 2004 electoral strategy…?
I don’t know… It looks like “pragmatism” is the order of the day, until there is enough of an outcry to change it… but this will take an awful lot. Even this story has been dutifully hijacked for the usual partisan purposes by the usual corporate sources, hence the focus on what Pelosi knew, as if she were herself carrying out the torture, or wasn’t threatened with summary arrest by Bush if she said anything, or of course, even if she were actually told anything! But there you are: everything is reduced to a shouting match, and nothing is actual reporting, let alone context, although note, they won’t, for example, set up a shouting match with Pan Am 103 and Lockerbie families, because, well, that wouldn’t serve corporate interests…
Well… keep on getting this out there… we’ve now reached the point where the MSM is now behaving as compilers from “the real news sources”… which ain’t them. Amazing… Well, go get ‘ em!
And here’s TD’s take on it all:
[…] al-Libi’s “Suicide”, Lawrence Wilkerson Nails Cheney On Use Of Torture To Invade Iraq, In the Guardian: Death in Libya, betrayal by the West (in the Guardian here), Lawrence Wilkerson Nails Cheney’s Iraq Lies Again (And Rumsfeld And The […]
Truly shameful – Bush, Blair, Cheney, Rumsfeld – How will they be depicted in 100 years? I know how they should be. Since when did imprisoning 700+ people without charge or trial for so many years demonstrate the claims for democracy. It just proves the “do as I say, not as I do” mentality and has set back the world 50 years in my opinion.
Like previous comments say, “why is this evidence so toothless? Why aren’t prosecutions pending?”
Writer, campaigner, investigative journalist and commentator. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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