Saturday, November 11, 2006

Tripoli Six

The Tripoli Six have gotten quite a bit of news coverage lately. Basically there are five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor accused by Libya of infecting some 400 children with HIV. There is a good chance that if international pressure is not successful, they will end up with the death penalty.

The major evidence for this is that Ghaddafi claims there is no HIV in Libya, so it must have come from outside. These doctors are outsiders, so it must be them. The CIA and the Mossad have been blamed, and Libya has offered to trade their release for the release of a terrorist and $6 Billion.

The charge is obviously bogus, and most likely, the hospital just reuses syringes and is too cheap to test blood for AIDS, so it gets spread around. They have to blame someone so they blame a foreigner. Blaming a Palestinian is also too easy because Palestine is almost Israel.

Groups all around the world are calling for their release, bla bla bla. Zillions of scientists have offered scientific proof that it is highly unlikely that they actually did it. . . As if this matters. It is funny that they go through the motions of actually proving the obvious. The fact that the Libyans are using them as scapegoats is far more obvious than any long-winded bit of scientific evidence of their innocence that a team of doctors can conjure up.

But there is something missing from all these news stories about this affair. First, how did these medical personnel get there? Who are they? And what the hell are they doing in Libya?

One must assume that there are risks that you are taking when you go to work for Ghadaffi. There is no expectation that you will be treated fairly. There is no expectation that you have any type of redress should something go wrong, and there is no expectation that you will be treated fairly.

When I first saw this I assumed that one of the following was going on: (1) Libya needed medical staff, so they advertised, and six people were dumb enough to say to them selves "with medical staff in high demand all over the world, why not work in Libya?" Or (2) they said to themselves "Those poor Libyans. The world hates them for no reason. They spend their money on financing terrorism, so they have no money to train doctors, so I better help them." Or (3) "Screw politics. Their people still need help, they are paying. I'll go to Libya and work."

Look, I have no idea why these people actually went to Libya to work, and I really feel bad for any victims of Ghadaffi. But isn't their reasons for going relevant to how much I should be willing to help? If they went because it was the only place the six of them could find work, then I am feeling very bad. If, and I have no idea whether this is true, they went because they really hate America and the effects of the former American boycott of Libya, and want to do whatever they can to undermine the impact of American sanctions on Libya, then why should I try hard to help them. (Who can't imagine a Palestinian doctor thinking that getting paid well to help Libyans is a great way for him to hate Israel.)

So I really don't know their story. But I would like to. I think it is a very morally relevant factor in my willingness to help. Should I feel bad for them as people, or as victims of Ghadaffi? Who goes to work in Libya? Did they go there because they had little choice or because they really believed that Ghadaffi was a good guy and wanted to help? If they initially put their trust in the good will of the Libyan government, it seems like it is not my job to rectify their bad and possibly malicious judgement.

By the way, here is another interesting thing I noticed: The prestigious journal Nature published an Open Letter to Gaddafi calling for a fair trial. The list of signatories is on Nature's website. They are all Nobel Prize winners in Science. But neither of the two Muslim Noble Prize winners (Salam or Zewail) are listed among the signatories. With 113 Science Nobel prize winners, that is a conspicuous absence.

1 comment:

Lucy said...

You assume the risk when you jump into the lions den that you might be attacked! It's not a secret who Ghadaffi is and what he stands for. A person's motives must be questioned when they go to Libya for employment. One can feel bad for the innocents who live there - but you can help from afar - sponsor a visa for them - so they can leave - that is if they really felt bad. There are also other countries in Africa who dont have terrorist loving leaders who are in dire need of medical assistance. They could have offered their medical expertise somewhere else. The Tripoli six could have gone elsewhere when to satisfy their altruistic urges. They remind me of the peaceniks who go to Iraq or Gaza and then get kidnapped or beheaded and people are surprised when it happens!!! That's what happens in the lions den.

If they really needed work - find an employer who is not a terrorist! Do I have an urge to save them from the firing squad? Absolutely not! They should have never gone there in the first place!