Libya situation

FYI..A comprehensive and balanced view of the Libyan crisis

Reprinted from Caribbean News Now! Commentary: Libya, by what right? Published on
April 1, 2011
By Sir Ronald Sanders

There has been a great debate over the military action in Libya by several
Western governments, supported by some Arab governments. The central
question has been: by what right are these governments intervening in the
internal affairs of a state?

Some context is necessary for the intervention that has been authorised by
the UN Security Council. Sir Ronald Sanders is a
business executive and
former Caribbean diplomat
who publishes widely
on small states in the global
community. Reponses to:
_www.sirronaldsanders.com_ (
An uprising in Libya against its tyrannical leader Muammar Gaddafi came in
the wake of similar rebellions against the autocratic leaders of Tunisia
and Egypt. It coincided with what appeared to be a sweeping movement in
Yemen, Bahrain and Syria which have now experienced unrest by large numbers of
people who want regime change and greater freedom in their societies.

When the rebellion in Libya started, Gaddafi was merciless in using the
military to try to stifle it. He even recruited mercenaries from African
states in the event that, as had occurred in Egypt, the military showed
reluctance to use violence against their own people. Many hundreds were killed
from the very outset. While the blood of Libyan people was being spilt, the
world was treated to the farce on television of Gaddafi declaring: “My people
love me. My people, they love me”. Gaddafi then went on to claim that the
unrest was created by al Qaida. He did not claim that it was fomented by
Western nations, nor did he assert that the uprising was the work of Western
oil companies intent on seizing Libyan oil.

Apologists for Gaddafi, and those who benefit from his financial help,
close their eyes to decades of despotic rule, brutal human rights abuses,
repression of dissent and murderous adventures in other countries. In trying to
stamp out this rebellion he set upon the populations of Brega and Zawiya
and terrorized the people of Misrata including by using military planes to
bomb them.

Members of both the Arab League and the African Union expressed great
alarm at the extent of force used by Gaddafi and they joined Western states at
the United Nations to call for action to try to stop him. On 27 February
the UN Security Council agreed Resolution 1970 which condemned the actions of
the Libyan authorities, demanded an end to violence, access for
international human rights monitors and the lifting of restrictions on the media.

As the situation continued to deteriorate with more civilians being killed
and Gaddafi’s failure to comply with Resolution 1970, the Security Council
met again and on 18 March adopted Resolution 1973 which called for an
immediate ceasefire and authorised “all necessary measures to protect civilians”
including the imposition of a no-fly zone. It did exclude a foreign
occupation force in Libya.

Resolution 1973 was supported by 10 members of the Security Council with 5
others abstaining. The 5 countries that abstained were China, Russia,
India, Brazil and Germany. Under Article 27 of the UN Charter, decisions of the
Security Council have to be made by an affirmative vote of nine members
including the concurring votes of the permanent members. In this case, 3
permanent members concurred and 2 did not. But, none of the permanent members
cast a veto which could have blocked the resolution, and since an abstention
is neither an affirmative nor a negative vote, it is not sufficient to
prevent action. All the permanent members would be aware of this procedure,
therefore it has to be assumed that Russia and China – the two permanent
members that abstained, but did not cast a veto, had decided it was in their
interest not to oppose the Resolution.

What was behind the Resolution and what further validates the intervention
in Libya is a decision taken by representatives of all governments at the
2005 World Summit. Governments agreed that where an individual state
subjects its people to genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against
humanity, the international community has “the responsibility to act”, and
“in this context”, to take collective action, in a timely and decisive
manner, through the Security Council “should peaceful means be inadequate and
national authorities manifestly fail to protect their populations”.

By his own actions of choosing to respond to the unrest by violence and
killing, Gaddafi set the stage for the intervention that followed based both
on the UN Charter and the decision of the 2005 World Summit on the
international community’s “responsibility to protect” people whose own state turns
on them.

At the time of writing, it is by no means clear how events in Libya will
end. Gaddafi and his ruling clique have shown no willingness to engage the
dissenters in a dialogue; if anything they have intensified their military
offensive. Meantime, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) has been
given leadership of the UN Security Council resolution to enforce a no-fly
zone and to protect the lives of civilians. Without committing ground
troops themselves in aid of the poorly-armed and militarily-untrained rebels,
the most that NATO can hope for is the isolation of the Gaddafi regime and
its eventual collapse.

What was the alternative? US President Obama summed it up on March 28 in
an address to the American people when he told them: “There will be times
when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and our values
are. Sometimes, the course of history poses challenges that threaten our
common humanity and our common security -– responding to natural disasters,
for example; or preventing genocide and keeping the peace; ensuring
regional security, and maintaining the flow of commerce. These may not be America’
s problems alone, but they are important to us. They’re problems worth

Obama’s words to the American people hold validity for people all over the
world who cherish freedom and uphold the values of human and civil rights.
The world has shrunk in many ways through air travel, instant
communication, interaction between civil society organisations, and a growing sense
that mankind inhabits one planet. Only autocratic regimes still cling to the
notion that ruling regimes must act brutally against their own people to
keep themselves in power.

The “responsibility to protect” proclaimed by the World’s leaders in 2005
– whether all of them meant it or not – is now a principle whose time
shows every sign of having arrived and which a conscientious Security Council
should uphold whenever it is clearly necessary.

  4 comments for “Libya situation

  1. Gabrielchn
    April 5, 2011 at 3:19 AM

    Re: Libya situation
    Humanitarian Intervention
    Noam Chomsky

    _Boston Review_ ( , December,
    1993 – January, 1994
    The first question that comes to mind about “humanitarian intervention” is
    whether the category exists. Are states moral agents? Or were Machiavelli,
    Adam Smith, and a host of others correct in concluding that they commonly
    act in the interests of domestic power – in Smith’s day, the “merchants and
    manufacturers” who were “by far the principal architects” of policy and
    whose interests were “most peculiarly attended to,” whatever the effects on
    others; in ours, corporate and financial power centers, increasingly
    transnational in scale? A second obvious question has to do with those who are to
    be in charge: what do their institutions and record lead us to expect?

    There is ample documentary material supporting the belief that states are
    moral agents, in fact uniformly so. Without having read the texts, I
    presume that when the invasion of Afghanistan began to go sour, pre-Gorbachev Pr
    avda portrayed it as having begun with “blundering efforts to do good”
    though most people now recognize it to have been a “disastrous mistake” because
    Russia “could not impose a solution except at a price too costly to
    itself;” it was an “error” based on misunderstanding and naiveté, yet another
    example of “our excess of righteousness and disinterested benevolence.” The
    quoted phrases are those used to describe Kennedy’s invasion of South Vietnam,
    later expanded to all of Indochina, at the dissident extreme, well after
    the Tet offensive convinced US business leaders that the enterprise should
    be liquidated (Anthony Lewis, John King Fairbank). There is no need to
    sample the harsher parts of the spectrum.

    Furthermore, these examples generalize, though it is true that only in
    cultures with a deeply totalitarian strain do we find such notions as
    “anti-Soviet” or “anti-American,” applied to the miscreants who see something other
    than righteousness and benevolence in the actions of their noble leaders;
    imagine the reaction to a book on “anti-Italianism” in Milan or Rome, or
    any society with a functioning democratic culture.

    The pattern is familiar since biblical days. But the conventional
    pronouncements plainly do not suffice to refute skepticism about the morality of
    states. It is necessary to review the record, which reveals, unequivocally,
    that the category of “humanitarian intervention” is vanishingly small.

    One might take the heroic stand that in the special case of the United
    States, facts are irrelevant. Thus the Eaton Professor of the Science of
    Government at Harvard instructs us that the United States must maintain its
    “international primacy” for the benefit of the world, because its “national
    identity is defined by a set of universal political and economic values,”
    namely “liberty, democracy, equality, private property, and markets” (Samuel
    Huntington). Since this is a matter of definition, so the Science of
    Government teaches, it would be an error of logic to bring up the factual record.
    What may have happened in history is merely “the abuse of reality,” an elder
    statesman of the “realist” school explained 30 years ago; “reality itself”
    is the unachieved “national purpose” revealed by “the evidence of history
    as our minds reflect it,” and that shows that the “transcendent purpose” of
    the United States is “the establishment of equality in freedom in
    America,” and indeed throughout the world, since “the arena within which the United
    States must defend and promote its purpose has become world-wide” (Hans

    Assuming these doctrines, it would be an elementary error, in evaluating
    Washington’s promotion of human rights, to consider the close correlation
    between US aid and torture, running right through the Carter years, including
    military aid and independent of need, an inquiry that would be pointless
    to undertake as Shultz, Abrams, et al. took the reins. And our love of
    democracy is also immune to empirical evaluation. We may put aside the
    conclusions of years of scholarship, recently updated for the 1980s by Reagan State
    Department official Thomas Carothers: democratization in Latin America was
    uncorrelated (in fact, negatively correlated) with US influence, and the
    United States continued “to adopt prodemocracy policies as a means of
    relieving pressure for more radical change, but inevitably sought only limited,
    top-down forms of democratic change that did not risk upsetting the
    traditional structures of power with which the United States has long been allied.”
    We need not waste words on the nature of these “traditional structures.” In
    practice, “democracy” has been defined in terms of outcome, not conditions
    and process. But that cannot affect what is true by definition of our
    “national identity.”

    Those who are still not satisfied can be offered the doctrine of “change
    of course,” soberly invoked whenever the stance of noble intent becomes
    impossible to sustain. True, bad things have been done in the past for und
    erstandable reasons, but now all will be different. So our terrorist wars
    against the church and other deviants in Central America in the 1980s, leaving
    the region littered with hundreds of thousands of tortured and mutilated
    victims and ruining its countries perhaps beyond recovery, was really a war
    with the Russians. Now we will “change course” and lead the way to a bright
    future. The same line of argument had been used to dismiss as irrelevant the
    enthusiastic support for “that admirable Italian gentleman” Mussolini (FDR,
    1933) and for the moderate Hitler, both barring the Bolshevik threat; the
    resurrection of fascist collaborators and destruction of the anti-fascist
    resistance worldwide after the World War; the overthrow of democracies and
    support for neo-Nazi monsters throughout the world in subsequent years; and
    on, and on. Similarly, the second superpower invoked the threat of the Evil
    Empire as it carried out its atrocities at home and in the region.

    To evaluate these useful doctrines, we must again investigate cases,
    impossible here. What such inquiry reveals is that for both superpowers, the
    threat of the other served primarily as a device of population control,
    providing pretexts for actions taken on quite different grounds. Furthermore, we
    discover that policies were hardly different before and after the Cold War.
    True, Woodrow Wilson needed different pretexts. He was protecting the
    country from the Huns, not the Russians, when he invaded Haiti and the
    Dominican Republic, where his warriors – as viciously racist as the Administration
    in Washington – murdered and destroyed, reinstituted virtual slavery,
    dismantled the constitutional system because the backward Haitians could not see
    the merits of turning their country into a US plantation, and established
    the National Guards that ran the countries by violence and terror after the
    Marines finally left.

    The story has been the same since the origins of the Republic. The first
    great massacre, of the Pequots, was imposed upon us by “base Canadian
    fiends,” the President of Yale University explained. Thomas Jefferson attributed
    the failure of “the benevolent plan we were pursuing here for the happiness
    of the aboriginal inhabitants of our vicinities” to the English enemy, who
    forced upon us “the confirmed brutalization, if not the extermination of
    this race in our America. . . .” And on through the conquest of the national
    territory, the Philippines, the marauding in our “backyard,” and the rest
    of the disgraceful history, continuing through the Cold War without
    essential change – though as a global power, the United States by then placed
    Third World intervention in a much broader context of domination and control.

    As the Cold War ended, new pretexts had to be devised. George Bush
    celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall by invading Panama, installing the regime
    of a tiny minority of bankers and narcotraffickers who, as predicted, have
    turned Panama into the second most active center for cocaine money
    laundering in the Western Hemisphere, the State Department concedes, the United
    States still holding first place. The Red Menace having disappeared, he was
    protecting us from Hispanic narcotraffickers led by the arch-demon Noriega,
    transmuted from valued friend to reincarnation of Attila the Hun, in standard
    fashion, when he began to disobey orders. And we were soon to learn that
    in the Middle East, long the major target of our intervention forces, the
    “threats to our interests . . . could not be laid at the Kremlin’s door”
    (Bush National Security Strategy Report, March 1990); after decades of
    deception, the Soviet pretext can no longer be dredged up to justify traditional
    Pentagon-based industrial policy and intervention forces, so it is “the
    growing technological sophistication” of the Third World that requires us to
    strengthen the “defense industrial base” (AKA high tech industry) and
    maintain the world’s only massive intervention forces – a shift of rhetoric that
    at least has the merit of edging closer to the reality: that independent
    nationalism has been the prime target throughout.

    The end of the Cold War has broader effects on intervention policy than
    change of pretext. As US forces bombarded slums in Panama, Elliott Abrams
    noted that for the first time, the United States could intervene without
    concern for a Soviet reaction anywhere. Many have observed that the
    disappearance of the Soviet deterrent “makes military power more useful as a United
    States foreign policy instrument . . . against those who contemplate
    challenging important American interests” (Dimitri Simes, Senior Associate at the
    Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Dec. 1988). Such considerations
    aside, a rational person will recognize that policy flows from institutions,
    institutions remain stable, and thus intervention is likely to be
    undertaken, when deemed necessary, for much the same reasons as before.

    It is in this light that a reasonable person will evaluate policy
    pronouncements. Suppose that Brezhnev had announced that the USSR would no longer
    be content with containing the Evil Empire; rather, it would move to a
    policy of “enlargement” of the community of free and democratic societies. If
    they did not merely collapse in ridicule, rational people would ask just how
    the USSR had been defending freedom and democracy before. And they would
    react exactly the same way when Clinton’s National Security Adviser explains
    that we can now go beyond containment to “enlargement – enlargement of the
    world’s free community of market democracies,” adding that we are “of
    course” unlike others in that “we do not seek to expand the reach of our
    institutions by force, subversion or repression.” A reasonable person will ask
    just how we have been protecting democracy and markets, and will quickly
    discover our antagonism to democracy (unless “top-down” rule by the traditional
    gentle hands can be assured) and to markets (for us, that is; they are
    fine, indeed obligatory, for the weak, who are not entitled to the massive
    state intervention and protection that has always been a leading feature of
    policy, as in every successful developed society). As for our distaste for
    “force, subversion or repression” – again, no words need be wasted.

    It is a useful exercise to compare the actual reaction to Anthony Lake’s
    announcement of the new Clinton foreign policy with the reaction that
    minimal rationality would dictate. We can learn a good deal about our political
    and intellectual culture by carrying it out.

    It is not that the reaction lacked honesty. Thus The New York Times’s
    chief diplomatic correspondent, Thomas Friedman, outlined “the Administration’s
    foreign policy vision” quite accurately: its “essence” is “that in a world
    in which the United States no longer has to worry daily about a Soviet
    nuclear threat, where and how it intervenes abroad is increasingly a matter of
    choice”; the insight of Simes and others, when we understand the “nuclear
    threat” appropriately. The “essence” of policy was clarified further the
    following day in a report on the conclusions of the White House panel on
    intervention, announcing the end of the era of altruism. No more “nice guy,” as
    in the days when we turned much of the world into graveyards and deserts.
    Henceforth intervention will be where and how US power chooses, the guiding
    consideration being: “What is in it for us?” – the words highlighted in
    the Times report. To be sure, the “vision” is cloaked in appropriate rhetoric
    about “democracy” and all good things, the standard accompaniment whatever
    is being implemented, and by whom, hence meaningless – carrying no
    information, in the technical sense.

    The declared intent, the record of planning, and the actual policies
    implemented, with their persistent leading themes, will not be overlooked by
    someone seriously considering “humanitarian intervention,” which, in this
    world, means intervention authorized or directed by the United States.

    Consider, for example, the torture of Cubans, intensified with Cold War
    pretexts removed. It has two major elements: first, to ensure that the island
    is returned to its status as a US economic dependency and haven for rich
    tourists, drug traffickers, and the like, perhaps under a facade of
    democracy (with outcome controlled). Second, to punish Cubans for the crime of
    disobedience. Servants elsewhere must be taught the heavy cost of standing up
    to the Enforcer.

    Since these are natural policy imperatives, we find them quite generally.
    It was not enough to slaughter millions of people in Indochina and destroy
    three countries; two decades later, its people must still be ground to dust
    by economic warfare to teach the proper lessons, while in our peculiarly
    American way we whimper piteously about the tragic fate we have suffered at
    the hands of our Vietnamese tormentors, setting “guidelines” that they must
    follow for entry into our “civilized world” – and relaxing our grip only
    when the business community comes to fear that substantial profits are being

    Or consider Nicaragua, now reduced by US violence and economic warfare to
    virtually the level of Haiti, with thousands of children starving to death
    on the streets of Managua and far worse conditions in the countryside. Its
    people must suffer much more; the United States is nowhere near satisfied.
    In October 1993, the US-run international economic institutions (IMF, World
    Bank) presented new demands to the government of Nicaragua. It must reduce
    its debt to zero; eliminate credits from the national bank; privatize
    everything to ensure that poor people really feel the pain – losing water, for
    example, if they cannot pay. Nicaragua must cut public expenditures by $60
    million, virtually eliminating much of what remains of health and welfare
    services, while infant mortality rises along with disease, malnutrition, and
    starvation, offering new opportunities to condemn the “economic
    mismanagement” of the despised enemy.

    The $60 million figure was perhaps selected for its symbolic value. Last
    year the already privatized banks shipped $60 million abroad, following
    sound economic principles: playing the New York stock market is a far more
    efficient use of resources than giving credits to poor bean farmers. The bean
    harvest was lost, a catastrophe for the population, though the sophisticated
    understand that such considerations are irrelevant to economic
    rationality. Nicaragua has now been ordered to fully privatize banks, to ensure that
    what capital there is will be efficiently used, with consequences that are

    On Nicaragua’s Atlantic Coast, 100,000 people are now starving to death,
    with aid only from Europe and Canada. Most are Miskito Indians. Nothing was
    more inspiring than the laments about the Miskitos after a few dozen were
    killed and many forcibly moved by the sandinistas in the course of the US
    terrorist war, a “campaign of virtual genocide” (Reagan), the most “massive”
    human rights violation in Central America (Jeane Kirkpatrick), far
    outweighing the slaughter, torture, and mutilation of tens of thousands of people
    by the neo-Nazi gangsters they were directing and arming, and lauding as
    stellar democrats, at the very same time. What has happened to the laments,
    now that 100,000 are starving to death? The answer is simplicity itself.
    Human rights have purely instrumental value in the political culture; they
    provide a useful tool for propaganda, nothing more. Ten years ago the Miskitos
    were “worthy victims,” their suffering attributable to official enemies;
    now they have joined the vast category of “unworthy victims” whose far worse
    suffering can be added to our considerable account. The pattern is
    remarkably uniform in time and place, along with the impressive inability to
    perceive it.

    Not surprisingly, terrorism has the same status. When the State Department
    confirmed that its Honduran-based terrorist forces were authorized to
    attack agricultural cooperatives, Michael Kinsley, again at the liberal dovish
    extreme, cautioned against thoughtless condemnation of this official
    policy. Such international terrorist operations cause “vast civilian suffering,”
    he agreed, but they may nevertheless be “sensible,” even “perfectly
    legitimate,” if they “undermine morale and confidence in the government” that
    Washington seeks to overthrow. Terror is to be evaluated by “cost-benefit
    analysis,” which we are authorized to conduct to determine whether “the amount
    of blood and misery that will be poured in” yields “democracy,” in the
    special sense of US political culture. Our wholesale terrorism need satisfy only
    the pragmatic criterion; retail terrorism by others, who lack our innate
    perfection, is the “plague of the modern age” to be punished with arbitrary
    harshness by the same judge and executioner, amidst a chorus of praise for
    his unparalleled virtue.

    As in the case of Vietnam and Cuba, so we now stand in judgment over
    Nicaragua for its crimes against us. In September, the Senate voted 94­p;4
    to ban any aid if Nicaragua fails to return or give adequate compensation
    (as determined by Washington) for properties of US citizens seized when
    Somoza fell – assets of US participants in the crushing of the beasts of burden
    by the tyrant who had long been a US favorite, and whose murderous National
    Guard was supported by the Carter Administration right through its
    massacre of tens of thousands of people in July 1979 – and beyond. Shortly before,
    the Senate had cut off aid until Nicaragua proves that it is not engaged
    in international terrorism, the stern judges being those who were condemned
    by the World Court for the “unlawful use of force” against Nicaragua, and
    ordered to pay compensation, which would have amounted to billions of
    dollars; naturally Washington, with the applause of intellectual opinion,
    dismissed the Court with contempt as a “hostile forum” (New York Times). US
    threats finally compelled Nicaragua to withdraw the claims for reparations after
    a US-Nicaragua agreement “aimed at enhancing economic, commercial and
    technical development to the maximum extent possible,” Nicaragua’s agent
    informed the Court. The withdrawal of just claims having been achieved by force,
    Washington has now abrogated the agreement, suspending its trickle of aid
    with demands of increasing depravity and gall. The press maintains its
    familiar deafening silence.

    Torture of Vietnamese, Cubans, Nicaraguans, Iraqi children, and others, is
    a policy priority for the reasons already mentioned, which are understood
    in the Third World, though excluded from our well-insulated political
    culture. The prevailing mood was captured by a leading Brazilian theologian,
    Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns of São Paulo: throughout the South “there is
    hatred and fear: When will they decide to invade us,” and on what pretext?

    The Nicaraguan case raises another issue that will not be overlooked by
    serious people considering the prospects for “humanitarian intervention.” The
    leader of such intervention will be a state that is remarkable not only
    for its violence, impudence, and moral cowardice, but also for its
    lawlessness, not only in recent years. Washington’s dismissal of the World Court
    decision had its counterpart when Woodrow Wilson effectively disbanded the
    Central American Court of Justice after it had the audacity to uphold Costa
    Rican and Salvadoran claims that the United States was violating their
    sovereignty by imposing on Nicaragua, safely occupied by Wilson’s troops, a treaty
    granting the United States perpetual rights over any canal. The United
    States has sought to undermine the UN ever since it fell “out of control” in
    the 1960s. Washington is far in the lead in vetoing Security Council
    resolutions in these years, followed by Britain, with France a distant third and
    the USSR fourth. The record in the General Assembly is similar on a wide
    range of issues concerning human rights, observance of international law,
    aggression, disarmament, and so on, though the facts are rarely reported, being
    useless for power interests. The United States record at the 1989­p;90
    Winter session of the UN, right after the Berlin Wall fell, is
    particularly informative in this respect; I have reviewed it elsewhere, and there is
    no space to do so here. Such facts, available in abundance, have yet to
    disrupt the chorus of self-praise.

    The standard rendition of the unreported facts is that “the Soviet veto
    and the hostility of many Third World nations made the United Nations an
    object of scorn to many American politicians and citizens,” though with these
    disruptive elements gone and the UN safely under US rule, “it has proved to
    be an effective instrument of world leadership, and, potentially, an agency
    that can effect both peace and the rule of law in troubled regions” (David
    Broder, Washington Post). The same message has resounded through the
    doctrinal system with scarcely a discordant note – yet another achievement that
    any dictator would admire.

    Nothing changes as we move to the new Administration. Clinton won great
    praise for his courage in launching missiles at a defenseless enemy without
    loss of American lives (only expendable Iraqi civilians). In a typical
    reaction, the Washington Post praised him for “confronting foreign aggression,”
    relieving the fear that he might not be willing to resort to violence as
    freely as his predecessors; the bombing refuted the dangerous belief that
    “American foreign policy in the post-Cold War era was destined to be forever
    hogtied by the constraints of multilateralism” – that is, by international
    law and the UN charter. At the Security Council, Clinton’s Ambassador
    defended the resort to force with an appeal to Article 51 of the UN Charter,
    which authorizes the use of force in self-defense against armed attack until
    the Security Council takes action, such self-defense being authorized when
    its necessity is “instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means and
    no moment for deliberation,” according to standard interpretations. To
    invoke Article 51 in bombing Baghdad two months after an alleged attempt to
    assassinate a former president scarcely rises to the level of absurdity, a
    matter of little concern to commentators.

    The prospective leader of “humanitarian intervention” is also notorious
    for its ability to maintain a self-image of benevolence whatever it does, a
    trait that impressed de Tocqueville 150 years ago. Observing one of the
    great atrocities, he was struck that Americans could deprive Indians of their
    rights and exterminate them “with singular felicity, tranquilly, legally,
    philanthropically, without shedding blood, and without violating a single
    great principle of morality in the eyes of the world.” It was impossible to
    destroy people with “more respect for the laws of humanity,” he wrote. So it
    has always been, to this day.

    Several qualifications must be added. The United States is not
    significantly different from others in its history of violence and lawlessness.
    Rather, it is more powerful, therefore more dangerous, a danger magnified by the
    capacity of the elite culture to deny and evade the obvious.

    A second qualification is that intervention undertaken on the normal
    grounds of power interests might, by accident, be helpful to the targeted
    population. Such examples exist. The most obvious recent one is Vietnam’s
    invasion of Cambodia in December 1978 after years of murderous Khmer Rouge attacks
    on Vietnamese border areas; under comparable conditions, the United States
    would probably have nuked Phnom Penh. The Vietnamese invasion removed Pol
    Pot, terminating major atrocities, though that was not the motivating
    factor. And we recall the response in the West to the prime example of
    “humanitarian intervention” in recent years. The United States and its allies at
    once reconstituted the defeated Khmer Rouge at the Thai border so that they
    could resume their depredations. There was furious denunciation of the
    “Prussians of Asia” who had dared to remove Pol Pot (New York Times). The
    doctrinal system shifted gears: instead of invoking the issue of MIAs, we would
    henceforth punish Vietnam for the crime of ridding Cambodia of the Khmer
    Rouge. When it became impossible to deny that Vietnamese troops had withdrawn,
    the system shifted smoothly back to the old pretext – which remains
    unsullied by any notice of the lack of interest about MIAs from earlier wars, the
    atrocious US treatment of POWs in Vietnam, Korea, and the Pacific War, or
    the obscenity of the entire enterprise of holding Vietnamese to account for
    what they have done to us.

    Furthermore, unlike states, people are moral agents. Occasionally, the
    population has compelled the state to undertake humanitarian efforts. I need
    not discuss the Somalian intervention, transparently cynical from its first
    days. But consider a real example: the protection zone that the Bush
    Administration reluctantly extended to the Kurds in northern Iraq, after tacitly
    supporting Saddam Hussein as he crushed the Shiite and Kurdish uprisings.
    Here public opinion played a decisive role, overcoming the Administration’s
    commitment to the rule of a unified Iraq by an “iron fist,” whether wielded
    by Saddam or some clone, as Washington explained by way of the Times chief
    diplomatic correspondent.

    The sincerity of the concern for the Kurds is demonstrated by what
    happened as public attention waned. They are subject to Iraqi embargo in addition
    to the sanctions against Iraq. The West refuses to provide the piddling
    sums required to satisfy their basic needs and keep them from Saddam’s hideous
    embrace. The UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs prepared a 1/2 billion
    dollar relief and rehabilitation program for Kurds, Shiites, and
    poverty-stricken Sunnis in central Iraq. The Clinton Administration – “haunted by the
    pictures of Kurdish women and children cut down by poison gas,” the
    President assured the UN – offered $15 million, “money left over from
    contributions to a previous UN program in northern Iraq,” the director of Middle East
    Watch reports.

    Finally, the conclusions that a rational observer will draw about US-led
    “humanitarian intervention” do not answer the question whether such
    intervention should nevertheless be undertaken. That is a separate matter, to be
    faced without illusions about our unique nobility. We can, in short, ask
    whether the pursuit of self-interest might happen to benefit others in
    particular cases, or whether unremitting public pressure might overcome the demands
    of the “principal architects” of policy and the interests they serve.

    There is also a more fundamental question: Can our political and
    intellectual culture, our society and institutions, undergo the radical
    transformations that would be required for an American citizen to use such phrases as
    “American humanitarian intervention” or “enlargement of the world’s free
    community of market democracies” without shame? The fate of much of the world
    depends on the answer we give to that question.

  2. Lennox Linton
    April 5, 2011 at 3:25 AM

    RE: Libya situation
    Gabriel Christian et al:
    Finally, I get it. We live in an imperfect world and unfortunately for the people in Libya yearning for the freedom of the human spirit, despot Gaddafi just happens to be a feature of our imperfect world with the God given right to kill those who no longer want him to rule them. What the heck? La bloody vie! Whose dumb idea is it that 42 years in charge could ever be enough? So why doesn’t the civilized world just sit back and enjoy the Colonel’s brutal butchery of as many Libyans as he needs to kill so that he can continue to enjoy the exclusive privilege of despotic rule? Its called the divine plan… the spontaneous unfolding of natural law. Damn Obama! Damn Sarkozy! Damn Cameron! Who the hell do they think they are to be interfering? God Bless the Butcher of Tripoli through whose madness and bribe money diplomacy, corrupt Labour Party politicians in the Eastern Caribbean will live happily ever after.
    And so it goes!

  3. Gabrielchn
    April 5, 2011 at 3:31 AM

    RE: Libya situation
    Dear Lennox:

    First of all it is not Anti-American to criticize a tendency toward
    war-making, and against peace. I reiterate here that I criticized the rush to
    war in Libya, yet hold no brief for any leader who massacres his own. If I
    did not know you better, it would seem that you inferred that one Gaddafi
    supporter who accepts massacre, where one passes on articles written by
    others which are at deviance from the mainstream media, as I have done. I sought
    to simply share alternate views. I abhor group think. We must
    respectfully agree to disagree, and still love each other for that spirit of
    intellectual inquiry without which we may become that which we criticize.

    “God given right to kill those who no longer want him to rule them.”

    The above is a regrettable statement where made in response to my
    stance against the war in Libya.

    This is a red herring and a sad diversion that ensnares a progressive
    President, Obama, for whom we voted in a 3rd war of choice. The drain on
    America’s economy, the cost in lives – such as the more than 800,000 Iraqis
    killed so far as a direct result of that war, is what I resist and condemn here.
    The consistent stance in pursuit of peaceful resolution of conflict is why
    we support Dr. Peter St. Jean and the Peace Summit. A culture of peace is
    better than a culture of war; that is our view.

    If one were to take the position of NATO, then we have to enforce the
    principle that intervention in civil wars in now normative principle in
    international law. This is not about Pro or Anti Gaddafi. It reminds me of the
    old McCarthyism that anyone who condemn US policy domestic – or foreign – is
    anti American. No Lennox, et al, those who protest America’s descent into a
    plutocratic entity enmeshed in wars are defending the democratic practice
    of free speech and equality of opportunity. What if the pro Confederate
    French and British had intervened in the US Civil War to thwart Abraham
    Lincoln’s mission to emancipate the slaves? It almost happened, but for the
    success of the Union Army. No one today can deny that it was right and proper
    for the US Civil War to be handled by the American people. In Libya, the UN
    Mission could not even complete its investigation before this rush to war.
    The African Union mission tried to mediate the conflict but its mission
    leader had to abandon his trip. He could not go to Tripoli or Benghazi, because
    of the “No Fly Zone.” This is a rush to war and it is not even won and
    they are busily signing oil contracts!!! Go figure.

    I am confident that where the Libyan desires to be rid of Gaddafi, or any
    despot, they shall succeed. No leader can oppress his people in
    perpetuity. History proves that.

    I object to US intervention in the Libyan civil war. I do believe that the
    Libyan people will get their freedom, the same way the South Africans did
    – who by the way had no support from NATO after decades of massacres much
    worst than that alleged.

    Now about Dominica: Where we organize, lovingly reach out to those with
    whom we differ, educate the masses about our laws, economics, the science of
    sustainability, the need for volunteerism and civics as a means for uplift,
    transparently build alliances from the grassroots and rely on the power of
    the people, then no dictatorship or errant government can long endure.
    However, in our desire for better in Dominica, let us not conflate the war
    in Libya with our situation in Dominica. That would be a mistake. Dominica
    is not Libya. Our struggle of years have built a different ethic on our
    island. Despite our detractors efforts to tarnish those of us who seek better,
    we have never sought the breakdown of law and order on Dominica. We have
    warned that – where our government engages in misrule – disorder can and
    will come. We have acted to warn, caution and tamp down criminal conduct in
    high and low places. And that is how we must struggle – but do so with
    wisdom. For all our disabilities and failings, there is democratic space within
    which to work and build for better on Dominica. Let us not make any mistake
    and be carried away by passion, to deny otherwise. Indeed, we must seek to
    increase the democratic and rule of law space on Dominica and hold
    Government and people to account. But we shall rue the day, where we demonize those
    who have demonized us and so unwittingly become that which we criticize.

    In countries where people lack a mediative culture, they easily lose sight
    of due process and resort to violent actions and not reason.

    That is not our way. Let us not muddle the message of hope that we seek to

    I remain,

    Truly yours,


  4. Lennox Linton
    April 5, 2011 at 3:34 AM

    RE: Libya situation
    Your eloquent waffle on what is and what is not Anti-American is merely an attempt to hide your understandable pro Qaddafi sympathies behind opposition to US involvement in another war. I am not buying it. No where in my brief piece was there any attempt to, as you suggest “hurl the inflammatory banner of Anti-Americanism against the anti-war movement”. But that was not enough. You actually found the unmitigated gall to infer that I am seeking to curtail your views because I do not agree with them. Gabriel, is this really you? How do I curtail your views by expressing mine? Should I conclude that you are therefore seeking to curtail my views because you do not agree with them?
    Like you my brother, I read. I am aware of the views on all sides of this Libyan crisis from the mainstream media and beyond
    Unfortunately, I must have missed the anti-war pieces that you penned with respect to Iraq and Afghanistan. You were probably not aware then that Noam Chomsky and others were writing against these wars and so you did not diligently forward their articles to my mail box.
    Comrade, let us just agree that I disagree with you and save your lectures about “McCarthyism”, the abhorrence of “group think” and “plutocratic entities enmeshed in wars” for Cecil Joseph and the other members of your pro-Qaddafi brigade in the Skerrit cabal.
    That is not too much to ask? Is it?
    Bless UP!

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