Evacuation of war-wounded in Libya: first-person account by MSF nurse


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Editor’s note: Alison Criado-Perez, a nurse with Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) shares this first-person account of evacuating war-wounded people out of Misrata. Ali is a nurse working for MSF in Libya and Tunisia. She has previously worked in Nigeria, Colombia, Uganda and Central African Republic. The video embedded in this blog post shows Ali actually treating a patient on the boat described in the account shared below.


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It’s 11.30 on Sunday morning, and we are sitting in international waters, 20 miles off the Libyan coast, trying to make a vital contact to give us the all clear to enter the port of Misrata. The tension is rising, as we only have enough fuel to wait for another half hour or so. We’ve been here on stand-by for several hours – where has our contact disappeared to? Earlier this morning, in a briefing, we’re told of precautions to take in a war zone……. Am I really doing this? It’s all rather surreal.

We are a team of 13, a mixture of international MSF expats and Tunisian volunteer medics, who have opted to come on this mission to rescue war-wounded from Misrata and transport them to the safety and medical care of Sfax in Tunisia. The trip has been discussed and planned for a couple of weeks, following a plea from overwhelmed medical staff in the hospital of Misrata for assistance, but the final green light only came a day or so ago. We left early yesterday evening, aboard the 216-seater San Pawl ferry, converted to carry about 60 patients on mattresses, and 30 walking wounded. We don’t know what the exact patient list will be, especially as Misrata was shelled last night, but the potential list of 90 includes a couple on ventilators, many open fractures and amputations, those with multiple organ injuries, head injuries, post-gunshot chest injuries. It’s all very daunting.

Continue reading “Evacuation of war-wounded in Libya: first-person account by MSF nurse”

Ex-Congressman in Libya to ‘Help’ Once Proposed Arming Gadhafi

Over at Wired Danger Room blog, Noah Shachtman reports on former US Congressman Curt Weldon, who traveled repeatedly to Libya over the last decade and ended up so cozy with the Gadhafi regime that the firm Weldon worked for once floated the idea of selling arms to Tripoli. “Now that Gadhafi is under assault from NATO airstrikes and rebel ground troops, it should come as no surprise that Weldon is back in Libya, ‘to try to help negotiate a political settlement with Gadhafi and family,’ according to CNN.”

Yemen conflict: “Can you hear me now? Good!” (photo)

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Supporters of Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh stand on pillars during a rally to show their support, in Sanaa April 1, 2011. Embattled Saleh told a huge rally of supporters on Friday that he would sacrifice everything for his country, suggesting he has no plans to step down yet. (REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)

War and video: Some thoughts on the flood of graphic “conflict clips” online

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(Bullet holes are seen on the windshield of a car used by insurgents after an attack at Camp Phoenix in Kabul. Ahmad Masood / Reuters)

The Guardian invited me to write a quick opinion piece on the explosion of new sources of graphic online conflict videos, and what that sudden availability of explicit, violent material means for news coverage and for each of us as individual witnesses. Snip:

I do believe that truth is a good thing. And to the extent that the flood of bloody videos pouring out of Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, Libya and elsewhere right now document the truth, they are important. As commercial cable news networks (at least, in the US) evolve into something more like entertainment channels than the news outlets they began as, our access to these ugly streaming truths matters even more. Distant shots of missile drops are less likely to inspire empathy than a YouTube clip of a man in Libya whose lower jaw has just been blown off, who is still shouting for freedom. And yes, that video exists; the tireless Twitter chronicler Andy Carvin at NPR (@acarvin) tweeted it last week, along with many other videos like it. (I don’t know how he does it; I could not keep up his tolerance or his pace.)

But human beings do not have an endless capacity for empathy, and our capacity is less so in the mediated, disembodied, un-real realm of online video. At what point does access to war gore become harmful to the viewer, and at what point do each of us who observe this material for the purpose of reporting the story around it, become numb or begin to experience secondary trauma?

“I keep having to remind myself that we’re bearing witness,” Andy told me recently, when we were discussing how the volume of material was affecting him personally. “Otherwise, I think I would’ve lost my mind.”

Atrocity Exhibition(Guardian “Comment is Free” blog, thanks Matt Seaton)

Related: At the Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal has a piece up gathering thoughts on this topic from others around the web today.

Kill Team: Mark Boal’s Rolling Stone profile of US unit accused of murdering Afghan civilians, shooting trophy photos

Online today at Rolling Stone, and in the current print issue on newsstands: “The Kill Team,” Mark Boal’s feature on a group of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan who are accused of murdering innocent civilians, mutilating their corpses, and taking “trophy photos” of the bodies. How and why did their officers fail to stop them? Includes gruesome and explict war crime photos censored by the Pentagon.

Photo (pixelated by us): “In the process of suppressing the photographs, the Army may also have been trying to keep secret evidence that the killings of civilians went beyond a few men in 3rd Platoon. In this image, the bodies of two Afghan men have been tied together, their hands bound, and placed alongside a road.”

Update: Michael Yon has seen some of the same material, and disagrees strongly with Boal’s conclusions, calling the story “bullshit.”

Anthrax Redux: Did the Feds Nab the Wrong Guy?

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Illustration for WIRED by Goñi Montes

Noah Shachtman has an epic, 11,000 word piece in the current issue of Wired Magazine on the biggest case in FBI history. It’s a long read, but an amazing one. Here’s an intro to the story, from Noah:

For years, FBI agents insisted that they knew exactly who launched the anthrax attacks that killed five people and scared the living hell out of the county in the fall of 2001. Now, the Bureau is admitting for the first time that the case still has major holes.

Days after Army biodefense researcher Bruce Ivins committed suicide, the FBI declared that he was the one who mailed the lethal, spore-filled letters. The combination of ground-breaking science and circumstantial evidence damning Ivins was overwhelming, the Bureau insisted. Then the FBI ended this biggest investigation in its history: a nine-year, thousand-suspect manhunt to track down the anthrax killer.

But in an interview with WIRED, agent Edward Montooth, who headed up the anthrax investigation, acknowledges that he’s still unsure of everything from Ivins’ motivation to when Ivins brewed up the lethal concoction. “We still have a difficult time nailing down the time frame,” Montooth says. “We don’t know when he made or dried the spores.”

And Montooth isn’t alone. The scientists who developed the most convincing evidence against Ivins have even deeper reservations. Paul Keim, who identified the anthrax strain used in the attacks, now tells WIRED, “I don’t know if Ivins sent the letters.” Claire Fraser-Liggett, who used DNA sequencing to tie the killer spores to an anthrax flask in Ivins’ possession, concedes that “there are still some holes.”

It’s been nearly a decade since the deadliest biological terror attack ever launched on U.S. soil. The manhunt that followed it ruined one scientist’s reputation and saw a second driven to suicide. But an in-depth look at the anthrax investigation in this month’s WIRED magazine shows that nagging problems remain. Despite the FBI’s assurances, it’s not at all certain that the government could have ever convicted Ivins of a crime.

Anthrax Redux: Did the Feds Nab the Wrong Guy? (wired.com)