Stories & Reflections
excerpts from the article by Roger Cohen, published today in The New York Times
Hearings should be held in the U.S. Congress and throughout Western legislatures on these questions: How did we back, use and encourage the brutality of Arab dictators over so many years? To what degree did that cynical encouragement of despots foster the very jihadist rage Western societies sought to curb?
There you have the Cairo-Tripoli axis. They were useful, Mubarak and Qaddafi, for intelligence and renditions; for oil and gas in the case of the Libyan. They were also killers.
Disappear is a transitive verb for dictators. That’s what they do to foes, disappear them in the night for questioning that becomes a nameless forever.
No law governs these captives’ fate. They vanish “” and then they are tossed into mass graves. Qaddafi massacred over 1,000 political prisoners at Abu Salim in June 1996. Was Jaballa Matar among them?
It’s important to have names. The skulls in the sand were once sentient beings who screamed for justice.
Matar told The New Yorker this was “an appropriate moment for Americans to reflect on how they have for three decades allowed their elected officials to support a dictatorship as ruthless as Mubarak’s. To ask, for example, what are the reasons that have motivated the current vice president of the United States to say, as recently as Jan. 27, that Mubarak is no dictator.”
There are many reasons I oppose a Western military intervention in Libya: the bitter experience of Iraq; the importance of these Arab liberation movements being homegrown; the ease of going in and difficulty of getting out; the accusations of Western pursuit of oil that will poison the terrain; the fact that two Western wars in Muslim countries are enough.
But the deepest reason is the moral bankruptcy of the West with respect to the Arab world.
Timothy Garton Ash, in his book “Facts are Subversive,” quotes the Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz who wrote:
Do not feel safe. The poet remembers.
You may kill him “” another will be born.
Deeds and words shall be recorded.
Yes, the poet remembers, and Qaddafi’s deeds “” his crimes “” will be recorded. One day we will know what befell Jaballa Matar and the numberless dead.