April 22, 2011


From People's Voice

The bombing of Libya by NATO countries, including Canada, has sparked debates in the anti-war movement. While most anti-war groups and activists condemn the imperialist military intervention, a few have tried to justify the war on "humanitarian" grounds. These arguments have had some impact in the wider public, especially since Libyan opposition forces made the initial calls for a "no-fly zone" against Gadaffi's government.

One expression of these differences was seen at the Vancouver April 9 rally against the war in Afghanistan, organized by the broad-based StopWar coalition. StopWar speakers and a statement condemned the NATO war against Libya, warning that this attack has serious potential consequences.

But Libyan speakers at the rally argued that Gadaffi's forces are committing serious crimes against the people of Libya. While these speakers argued against any foreign military presence "on the ground" in Libya (and opposed the NATO occupation of Afghanistan), they supported the NATO bombing campaign. Vigorous arguments broke out, and most Libyan-Canadians at the rally declined to take part in the anti-war march which followed the speakers.

A devastating criticism of the "humanitarian war" position has been written by U.S. commentator Edward S. Herman, responding to an essay by Lebanese activist Gilbert Achcar, arguing that "general anti-war principles" may require "exceptions".

"This kind of argument," writes Herman, "brings to mind analogous special case positions in defense of torture (of the prisoner who may have information on the ticking bomb); and it reminds me of the claim of a set of defenders of the military attack on Yugoslavia that this was `illegal but legitimate.' His ultimate position, of defending the attack on Libya, but urging constructive criticism, calls to mind Randolph Bourne's remark on the war‑supportive intellectuals of World War I: `If we responsibly approve, we then retain our power for guiding. We will be listened to as responsible thinkers, while those who obstructed the coming of war have committed intellectual suicide and shall be cast into outer darkness.' This was, of course, nonsense, and the responsible liberal thinkers of that bloody era merely contributed to justifying war..."

Herman then takes on Achcar's argument that imperialist intervention would have been warranted in the case of Rwanda.

"Achcar clearly swallows the standard narrative on the Rwanda `genocide,' in which the imperialist powers just `stood by'... But in fact the Western powers didn't just stand by; they actively intervened throughout, but not to contain the killing: Paul Kagame, the primary actor before, during and after the mass killings, was trained at Ft. Leavenworth; his Rwanda Patriotic Front's 1990 invasion of Rwanda from Uganda was not punished by the Security Council; his subsequent infiltration and subversion of Rwanda was actively supported by the United States, UK, Belgium, Canada and therefore the UN; his forces shot down the plane carrying Rwanda president Juvenal Habyarimana back to Kigali on April 6, 1994, generally acknowledged to have been the `triggering event' in the mass killings; and Kagame's well‑prepared military forces were in action within an hour or two of the shoot‑down...

"Achcar misreads history in suggesting that Western intervention was missing in Rwanda and that if the imperial powers had intervened they might have prevented 500,000‑1 million casualties. The imperial powers were there and contributed positively to those deaths...

"Achcar's pro‑intervention policy stance here rests heavily on a threatened Gadaffi bloodbath, that `Western governments and everybody else' anticipate. This is a classic imperialist response that goes hand‑in‑hand with demonization and frequently inflated claims of target villain violence. Gadaffi, like Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, has moved quickly from a quasi‑friend and ally to `another Hitler.' One of the durable justifications for the Vietnam war was the likelihood of a bloodbath by the evil forces of communism if the United States were to exit without victory, although the real bloodbath (maybe 3 million civilians) was inflicted by the United States...

"While focusing heavily on the `nature of Gadaffi's regime,' Achcar doesn't discuss the nature of the imperial West's regimes, their now systematic power projection by force, and their treatment of civilians in countries they attack. He doesn't ask how their concern for Libyan civilians can be genuine when simultaneously they support the crackdown on Bahraini civilians and the invasion of Bahrain by Saudi Arabia. Assuredly he doesn't refer to Madeleine Albright's 1996 statement that the U.S. policy‑caused death of 500,000 Iraqi children was `worth it' as indicative of U.S. concern over foreign civilian well‑being. Or the significance of the almost daily reports of civilians killed in Afghanistan and Pakistan by U.S. drone attacks, and the many thousands of `collateral damage' deaths in these countries and Iraq. Weapons evolution with drones and cluster bombs has tended to enlarge civilian casualties. Shouldn't this be mentioned in evaluating claims that a military response featuring air‑power will serve to protect civilians?...

"Perhaps most amazing is Achcar's acceptance of the imperial powers as the "good cops" who can properly bring law and order through violence to the citizens needing protection. Is it reasonable to give the power to straighten things out by force to imperialist powers that have been most guilty of using force in violation of both law and moral principles? The United States is daily killing civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan, among other places, has an ongoing torture gulag, and has engaged in a steady stream of wars in violation of the UN Charter. It is the bedrock of support for Israeli aggressions and ethnic cleansings. Shouldn't that rule out approving it as an instrument of supposed justice in protecting Libyan civilians?...

"Achcar tells us that this intervention to protect civilians in Libya will prove `embarrassing' to the imperial powers, as the next time Israel bombs Gaza or Lebanon the world will demand a no-fly zone and picket for the same, and Achcar himself `definitely' will join the picket line. But why wasn't there a demand for a no-fly zone with Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 2006 and attack on Gaza? And why isn't Achcar picketing today against the killing of Bahraini civilians with the aid of a Saudi invasion force and the drone attacks on Afghanistan and Pakistan that take a heavy civilian toll right now? Perhaps he is too busy worrying about civilians in the latest U.S‑.targeted state."
- Comments

1 comment:

  1. NATO is the Great Satan so often spoken about in Islam. But it not only is a danger to Muslims, its existence threatens everyone on the planet. NATO must be stopped for the good of all.



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