The cruel farce of ‘humanitarian intervention’

April 8, 2017

Simon Jenkins: “It is a war crime to disable, maim or poison a victim by chemical or biological means, yet it is permissible to blow them to bits. Dropping chlorine evokes howls of horror. Dropping bunker busters does not. Cluster munitions, the most horrible of delayed action weapons, remain in the arsenals of NATO armies.

Many of us are now applauding this ‘aid to Syria’

Jenkins reflects that not a week passes without some new horror emanating from the vortex of the Middle East: “So called ‘wars among the peoples’ are, like all civil wars, distinctively terrible. Cities deaden the impact of an infantry advance. Reckless bombing takes over and accidents happen. Saudi Arabia bombs a funeral party in Sanaa. Russia bombs an aid convoy and a hospital in Aleppo. Western planes bomb friendly troops outside Mosul. There is no appetite for British troops on the ground. All talk is of bombing, intervention lite”.

Britain has already contributed too much to Syria’s hell:

  • It helped America create a power vacuum in neighbouring Iraq where Isis could form and flourish.
  • It then encouraged and gave material support to the rebels against Assad in 2012, ensuring that he would need support from Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.
  • American and RAF aircraft killed 80 Syrian soldiers protecting the town of Deir Ezzor from Isis.
  • British ‘intelligence’ has given America information, enabling them to kill many civilians alongside their stated targets.

Syria and the cruel farce of ‘humanitarian intervention: “Affecting to save people by bombing them from a great height is not just ineffective but immoral”

 Walking through Aleppo now

Jenkins gave many examples of this immorality and ineffectiveness – just four follow: ”Some 12,000 coalition bombing sorties have been directed at Isis in northern Iraq in the past two years. Tens of thousands of civilians have died in the ‘collateral’ carnage. In Syria, the human rights network estimates that Russian bombs have killed more Syrian civilians than Isis. Last year the Americans bombed an MSF hospital in Afghanistan. Bombs are unreliable. Stuff happens”.

He explains the appeal of airborne weapons to politicians down the ages

“For rich aggressors against poorly armed foes, they have glamour and immunity to counterattack, and have found new life in so called precision targeting and unmanned drones. In reality they have proved almost useless against fanatical soldiers with mortars and AK 47s. But they look good on television back home. They are ‘something being done’ “.

Jenkins describes the disintegration of the Middle East as a tragedy for Islam, but not the West’s business. Here we disagree, seeing it as a result of Anglo-Saxon West intervention, using soft and hard power.

The Scotsman reports that Alex Salmond, the SNP’s foreign affairs spokesman, joined Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn who is calling for greater effort to achieve a negotiated end to the conflict: “The British government should urge restraint on the Trump administration and throw its weight behind peace negotiations and a comprehensive political settlement.”

Corbyn: “Reconvene the Geneva peace talks and exert unrelenting international pressure for a negotiated settlement”

The Labour leader said: “Tuesday’s horrific chemical attack was a war crime which requires urgent independent UN investigation and those responsible must be held to account. But unilateral military action without legal authorisation or independent verification risks intensifying a multi-sided conflict that has already killed hundreds of thousands of people.

“What is needed instead is to urgently reconvene the Geneva peace talks and exert unrelenting international pressure for a negotiated settlement of the conflict.”

Jenkins: Nations and peoples do have a humanitarian obligation to aid those afflicted by war, to relieve suffering, not add to it, to aid those trying to comfort war’s victims and offer sanctuary to its refugees, not to take sides, guns blazing, in other people’s civil wars:

“British politicians would do better to spend their time organising relief than shouting adjectives, banging drums and dropping bombs”.

 

 

 


Paul Rogers’ January article has a bearing on yesterday’s London attacks

March 23, 2017

A Yardley Wood reader draws our attention to an article by Paul Rogers, professor in the department of peace studies at Bradford University, openDemocracy’s international security adviser

Some points made:

Rogers refers to the bombings of London’s transport network on 7 July 2005 (correction), when fifty-two people were killed on a bus and three underground trains. (The four perpetrators also died), describing it as “the defining event for Britain in relation to political violence, closely connected to the Iraq war although this was strenuously denied by the Blair government at the time”. He continues:

“This “disconnect” has remained a feature of British attitudes to al-Qaida, ISIS and other extreme Islamist groups, even if some people pointed out at the time that the loss of life on “7/7” was no higher than the daily loss of life in Iraq.

“Now, nearly twelve years later, the war goes on with a similar disconnect – there is simply no appreciation that Britain is an integral part of a major war that started thirty months ago, in August 2014. It may take the form of a sustained air-assault using strike-aircraft and armed-drones, but its intensity is simply unrecorded in the establishment media. This is a straightforward example of “remote warfare” conducted outside of public debate.

“Thus, when another attack within Britain on the scale of 7/7 happens, there will be little understanding of the general motivations of those responsible. People will naturally react with horror, asking – why us? Politicians and analysts will find it very difficult even to try and explain the connection between what is happening “there” and “here”.

“The straightforward yet uncomfortable answer is that Britain is at war – so what else can be expected? It may be a war that gets little attention, there may be virtually no parliamentary debate on its conduct, but it is a war nonetheless”.

He lists some of the factors which underpin this approach:

  • The post-9/11 western-led wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya have left three countries as failed or failing states, killed several hundred thousand people and displaced millions. This causes persistent anger and bitterness right across the Middle East and beyond.
  • While the Syrian civil war started as the repression of dissent by an insecure and repressive regime, it has evolved into a much more complex “double proxy war” which regional rulers and the wider international community have failed to address. This adds to the animosity.
  • The situation in Iraq is particularly grievous, given that it was the United States and its coalition partners that started the conflict and also gave rise directly to the evolution of ISIS. The Iraq Body Count project estimates the direct civilian death-toll since 2003 at more than 169,000. After a relative decline over 2009-13, an upsurge in the past three years has seen 53,000 lose their lives through violence.
  • Since the air-war started in August 2014 the Pentagon calculates that over 30,000 targets have been attacked with more than 60,000 missiles and bombs, and 50,000 ISIS supporters have been killed.
  • But there is abundant evidence that western forces have directly killed many civilians. AirWars reports that:”As ISIL was forced to retreat in both Iraq and Syria, the year [2016] saw a dramatic jump in reported civilian deaths from Coalition airstrikes. A total of between 2,932 and 4,041 non-combatant fatalities are alleged for 2016, stemming from 445 separate claimed Coalition-caused incidents in both Iraq and Syria.”
  • ISIS, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), and other groups have no air-defence capabilities yet are determined to continue the war, seeing themselves as guardians of Islam under attack by the “crusader” forces of the west. At a time of retreat they will be even more determined than ever to take the war to the enemy, whether by the sustained encouragement and even facilitation of individual attacks such as Berlin or Nice, or more organised attacks such as in Paris and Brussels.

These groups seek retribution via straightforward paramilitary actions, responding especially to the current reversals in Iraq. They want to demonstrate to the wider world, especially across the Middle East, that they remain a force to be reckoned with.

Rogers thinks that a repeat 7/7–level attack in Britain is probable, although when and how is impossible to say.  Again, it will not be easy to respond. But in trying to do so, two factors need to be born in mind:

The aim of ISIS and others is to incite hatred. Politicians and other public figures who encourage that is doing the work of ISIS, adding “This can and should be said repeatedly”.

And the links between the attack and the ongoing war in Iraq and Syria must be made: “That Britain is still at war after fifteen years suggests that some rethinking is required” and ends:

“Politicians who make these points will face immediate accusations of appeasement, not least in the media. But however difficult the case, it needs to be made if the tide of war is to be turned”.

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Max Hastings: the military historian who hates war

January 23, 2016

Sir Max Hastings has been called the leading voice in the anti-war sentiment: “(War) can cost an enormous number of lives and a lot of those people haven’t been killed by al-Qaeda or the Taliban but by our bombs and our guns.”

max hastings 2He describes the drone strikes as ‘pred porn’. “The military get seduced by watching live images and being able to say ‘take him out’ from their armchairs.

Everyone seems to think that the First World War in the trenches were awful but all wars are ghastly; the drone business can kid people there is a clean nice way of winning but there isn’t. You have to go in, get your hands dirty, see young men being maimed if you want war, the idea that you can push a few buttons in Lincolnshire and fire a few missiles from a drone is insane.”

Both his parents were journalists and he was determined to succeed in their world, becoming editor of two newspapers and author of 25 books.

“I was brought up to believe that the first duty of a journalist is to be a troublemaker, though I hope one is never an iconoclast doing it for the sake of doing it.”

Alice Thomson and Rachel Sylvester writing for the Times, see him as the leading voice in the anti-war sentiment.

He believes the prime minister was wrong to join the bombing campaign in Syria: “People like me have a responsibility to say, ‘Look there is no plan here, there is no coherent strategy.’ If we don’t say it, who will? . . . I’ve seen so many wars it makes me very wary that military action without purpose is a good idea.

“Cameron is not being correct to say it will keep our streets safe, this isn’t part of a coherent policy, we are making it up as we go along. I would focus far harder on what to do about Islamic radicalisation in this country and not just be thinking about making a gesture by dropping bombs in Syria . . .

“What worries me is his short-termism — his idea of strategy is how to get through until Tuesday. He doesn’t think through what he says, he once described Isis as an existential threat. He’s a clever man, he ought to know better”.

He also believes it is “nonsense” for the prime minister to suggest that 70,000 moderate Syrians are ready to fight. “We just don’t know. The prime minister should be leading a proper debate rather than chucking out spurious figures. There are three threats, Isis, migration and the Syrian war. We can try to combat Isis and treat the refugee crisis seriously but we should not take sides in Syria. There is no point in getting rid of tyrants if we replace them with anarchy or something worse.”

Sir Max, who has just written his first book on military intelligence, The Secret War: Spies, Codes and Guerrillas, 1939-1945, says: “It has been a huge mistake to run down our Foreign Office so our diplomatic presence is weakened. A lot of our best information has come not from spies with moustaches but diplomats in suits . . .In peacetime the best brains don’t need to waste their minds in intelligence but during difficult times and wars intelligence is the front line. Instead of buying the F-35 [fighter jet] we would do much better to spend a fraction of that money identifying and employing really clever people to work in analysis and cybersecurity . . . we need to give up some freedom so we can monitor these people.”

On social media Isis is winning, he thinks: “I would love to scrap the aircraft carriers and run a social media offensive against Isis that destroyed their propaganda machine. Isis is just a ludicrous death cult with no coherent vision to offer rational people. They are absurd.”

What is lacking is people who understand the nuances of battle. “The recent debate in the Commons was preposterous . . . Hilary Benn’s speech was passionate but juvenile, we need to be pragmatic. Politicians can’t give all the answers but they have to pose the questions. The public aren’t as stupid as most politicians think.”


The human face of war

June 19, 2015

harry patch quote

kenji gotoA Japanese journalist, Kenji Goto, captured and executed in Syria by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Isis,  is rightly remembered, but – in general – the killing of 2000 Palestinians (July-August 2014) is referred to only by that impersonal number.

Is this a cynical media selection of the messages they know their political and corporate masters wish to convey to their voters ?

Gaza health official, Dr Ashraf al-Qedra, gives recognition and respect by naming many of the dead and his list may be read here.

In 2003, pictures of 42 British soldiers who had died in Iraq to date were cut, pasted and filed (scanned below). As the Independent on Sunday headed it “Forty-two reasons why we should be told the truth about the conflict”.

killed in iraq 03killed in iraq bottom rows2 03

Truthful media headlines and photographs would bear out the words of WW1 veteran Harry Patch: “War is organised murder, and nothing else.


Some hope for constructive dialogue: Putin and Psaki

October 27, 2014

Neil Buckley (FT) reports (October 24th & 26th) that President Vladimir Putin attended a meeting of foreign academics and journalists at the Valdai International Discussion Club in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. This summary adds excerpts from the Associated Press report by Vladimir Isachenkov with contributions from Matt Lee in Washington.

putin at valdai sochi 

President Putin said that the US has been undermining the post-Cold War world order and stressed the need for a new system of global governance. (AP) He criticised the United States for what he called its disregard of international law and unilateral use of force.

On October 26th, Buckley added to his account of Putin’s charges: “US had repeatedly violated the rules through military action – sometimes with NATO or European allies – in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya and instigating often ill-fated “coloured” revolutions. Along the way, President Putin alleged, it had even used Islamist terrorists and neo-fascists as instruments. That had made the world much more dangerous. Americans were ‘constantly fighting the consequences of their own policies, throwing all their efforts into addressing risks they themselves created’ “.

He insisted that Russia has no intention of encroaching on the sovereignty of its neighbours, alleging that US support for ‘an armed coup’ against former president Viktor Yanukovich in February triggered Crimea’s breakaway from Ukraine and the current conflict. (AP) “Russia is not demanding some special, exclusive place in the world,” he said. “While respecting interests of others, we simply want our interests to be taken into account, too, and our position to be respected.”

(AP) President Putin accused the U.S. and its allies of trying to “tailor the world exclusively to their needs” since the end of the Cold War, using economic pressure and military force and often supporting extremist groups to achieve their goals. He cited the wars in Iraq, Libya and Syria as examples of flawed moves that have led to chaos and left Washington and its allies “fighting against the results of their own policy.”

A string of US-led military interventions from Kosovo to Libya was listed with the comment:

“This is the way the nouveaux riche behave when they suddenly end up with a great fortune – in this case, in the shape of world leadership and domination. Instead of managing their wealth wisely … I think they have committed many follies.”

See the Washington Post: a brief history & picture gallery of key military interventions by the United States.

us intervention

President Putin asserted that Russia was a strong country and could weather the measures. He advised the US and Russia to draw a line under recent events and sit down with other big economies to redesign the system of global governance along “multipolar” lines.

Noting that since the US had ridden roughshod over existing rules – for example when it invaded Iraq without UN Security Council backing – he suggested the UN could be “adapted to new realities”, while regional “pillars” of a new system could help to enhance security. President Putin warned that the alternative could be serious conflicts involving major countries: (AP) “hopes for peaceful and stable development will be illusory, and today’s upheavals will herald the collapse of global world order”.

Hopeful?

Alexander Rahr, a leading German expert on Russia and Putin biographer, said he believed Moscow was “not looking for confrontation”. Realpolitik might yet come into play, notably because of the crisis in the Middle East. “America needs Russia’s help in dealing with ISIS,” he said. “That might start to change things.”

Moscow was ready for “the most serious, concrete discussions on nuclear disarmament” and to discuss rules on when military intervention in third countries was permitted, President Putin said. In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters that the U.S. has been able to work with Russia on a range of issues and hopes to engage with Moscow again on areas of mutual concern.

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Are competing oil and power-related interests weaving this murderous web?

October 14, 2014

Ajamu Baraka was the founding executive director of the US Human Rights Network from July 2004 until June 2011. The network grew from a core membership of 60 organizations to more than 300 U.S.-based member organizations and 1,500 individual members who worked on the full spectrum of human rights concerns in the U.S. A summary of his article follows; read it in full here.

Background from another source:

Last year the European Court of Human Rights held Turkey responsible for the deaths of 38 people in a 1994 attack on two Kurdish villages, and ordered Ankara to pay €2.3 million in compensation. It awarded an additional 5,700 euros to the 38 plaintiffs who lost relatives or were injured, and rejected Turkish findings blaming the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for the bombings. The court also found that Turkish investigators of the incident were not independent and had tried to withhold findings from the victims. Read more on this subject here.

Back to Ajamu Baraka:

ajamu baraka dalai lama

Ajamu Baraka reports U.S. military spokespersons claimed that they are watching the situation and have conducted occasional bombing missions but are concentrating anti-ISIS efforts in other parts of Syria – bombing empty buildings, schools, small oil pumping facilities, an occasional vehicle and grain silos where food is stored to feed the Syrian people. He adds:

“Turkey also seems to be watching as the Kurds of Kobani fight to the death against ISIS. They are to be sacrificed because they are ‘the wrong kind of Kurds’ . . .

kobani attacked

Kobani, the largely Kurdish district that straddles the border with Turkey, is being attacked by ISIS forces; Belal Shahin, a Kobani refugee in Suruc, told MSNBC: “Isis came into the villages. They beheaded people as well as animals. But the whole world has blocked their ears in order not to hear. And they’ve become dumb. There’s nothing to stop them”.

Baraku explains: “Masoud Barzani and the bourgeois Kurds of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) are the “good Kurds” and the predominant force among the Kurds of Iraq. Their control of almost 45% of Iraqi oil reserves and the booming business that they have been involved in with U.S. oil companies and Israel since their “liberation” with the U.S. invasion makes them a valued asset for the U.S. The same goes for Turkey where despite the historic oppression of Kurds in Turkey, the government does a robust business with the Kurds of Iraq”.

The situation is different in the Kurdish self-governing zones in Syria. In Kobani, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) – linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a Turkey-based Kurdish independence organization labelled a “terrorist” organization by the U.S. and Turkey – provide the main forces resisting the ISIS attack.

Baraka points out that the ISIS attack in Kurdish territory converges with the strategic interests of Turkey and the US in denying control of territory because Turkey wants to undermine the self-governing process among Kurds, Christians and Sunni Arabs. There appears to be an agreement that the US will not oppose Turkey taking parts of Syrian territory which could form a “buffer zone” along the Syrian-Turkey border.

He adds that this is why U.S. government spokespersons have been floating the idea of a no-fly zone in Northeastern Syria in the U.S. state/corporate media, presenting the action as necessary to protect civilians from attacks by the Syrian forces: ‘the humanitarian hustle’ again.

Baraka’s conclusion – right or wrong: “The current situation in Kobani is part of the cynical farce that is the fight against ISIS. Turkey has no interest in preventing Kobani from falling to ISIS when it suits its strategic interests to deny the Kurds any semblance of self-determination. And the U.S. is not interested in altering the balance of forces on the ground in Syria by seriously degrading ISIS militarily and undermining its primary short-term strategic objective of regime change in Syria”.