gadhafi - AP - June 28 2011
Libya leader Muammar Gadhafi. Photo by AP
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Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi recently made his own unique contribution to the link between sex crimes and war: He reportedly imported huge quantities of Viagra and gave them out to his soldiers, so that they could rape as many women as possible, as often as possible.

Terrifying reports have been published recently about systematic rape by members of the security forces in both Lybia and Syria, without eliciting an appropriate response. Countless women are being brutally raped in their homes, in jails and in interrogation rooms, and no one utters a peep. These are not extreme acts committed by deviants in the heat of battle - itself a grave issue that must be addressed. Rather, this seems to be a consistent policy dictated from on high: rape as a means of repression and control; rape as a tool of intimidation and terror; rape as a regime's strategy against its people; rape as a weapon; Viagra as a weapon, an unconventional weapon.

This behavior must be considered a war crime and dealt with accordingly by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which should gather evidence and identify the culprits at any level, including the most senior. Such behavior is further evidence that the regimes in both Syria and in Libya have lost their legitimacy. Not "have perhaps lost"; not "are gradually losing"; not "will have lost unless they implement reforms," as in the weak and shameful responses from the leaders of the free world.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has the tacit support of certain Western circles, including in Israel, because of his contribution to "regional stability" (a problematic claim, because instability is being exported from Syria and Iran to Lebanon and the Gaza Strip and could reach us as well ). But stability cannot be based on mass slaughter and on the systematic rape of women.

Even if the alternative to Alawite rule in Syria is unclear at the moment, the position of the West, and above all that of U.S. President Barack Obama, on this regime must be clear and unequivocal. Too many red lines have been crossed. Too many human rights have been trampled. To hesitate now because of uncertainty about the future is to take part in the crime. As Bertolt Brecht wrote in his beautiful poem "The Buddha's Parable of the Burning House," when the house is going up in flames and the fire is spreading to all the rooms, you don't ask what the weather is outside and what the alternatives are; you just leave.

The "Arab spring" caught the world unaware in a way that went beyond the mere element of surprise. Even now, months after the beginning of the protests, the revolutions, the calls for democracy and for the fall of repressive and torture-using regimes, it seems we still lack clear standards for addressing these momentous processes. The impotence of the West in this regard is disturbing and frustrating.

May we suggest beginning with the attitude toward women, with their status and rights. We must hope that the Arab spring will bring improvement in this area. Here is a simple moral litmus test: A regime that promotes the systematic rape of women has no right to exist and must not be granted recognition. Rape is an invasion of the most private place. Even if the body survives, the soul may die. Nearly 2,000 people have been murdered in Syria. But no one is counting the number of women who have been raped, the number of souls murdered. We only know how to count bodies.