A number of diplomats who attended yesterday’s closed-door U.N. Security Council meeting on Libya say that U.S. ambassador Susan Rice raised the issue that Muammar Qaddafi has been issuing troops Viagra. Rice’s claim comes as reports of sexual violence perpetrated by Qaddafi loyalists has increased. If what Rice said is true, it’s horrifying. If commanders are issuing Viagra, diplomats say it would amount to a war crime, since it indicates they are being encouraged by their superiors to engage in rape to terrorize rebels. However, “Rice raised that in the meeting but no one responded,” a diplomat in attendance told Reuters. Why?
The diplomats’ objection seems to be twofold: both the fact that Rice didn’t offer proof for a story first reported in the British tabloid the Daily Mail as well as the impression that Rice said it in part to convince skeptics of the necessity of NATO-led air strikes. The tabloid is not the only paper to have reported the allegations about Viagra. Earlier this week, the New York Times said that an electrician fleeing from Libya to Tunisia heard rumors that soldiers had been given Viagra with orders to rape.
Proof of such an order in the middle of a budding civil war would be difficult to confirm. Margot Wallstrom, the U.N.’s special envoy on sexual violence during armed conflict, for example, chastised the council for not mentioning sexual violence against civilians in the resolution, despite the fact that reports were unconfirmed. But Rice’s allegation about Viagra and targeting children, another disturbing story covered in the British tabs, did come at a time when security council members like Russia, China, and India are voting down increased interference in the Middle East uprisings.
Updated: Contradicting Rice, U.S. military and intelligence officials told NBC News that there is no evidence that Qaddafi’s forces are being given Viagra and engaging in systematic rape in rebel areas. The officials added that although rape has been used as a weapon in many other African conflicts, they haven’t seen reports of that coming from Libya. [Reuters/MSNBC]