Making Peace Vigil

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HUMANITARIAN INTERVENTION: WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?

Posted by strattof on May 19, 2011

Humanitarian intervention, or Responsibility to Protect (R2P) as the United Nations now calls it, is the reason given by the US and its NATO partners for the current bombardment of Libya with cruise missiles and air attacks.

In addition to bombing Libya, the US-led coalition is considering turning up to $300 billion of Libyan government money, currently in frozen assets in the US, over to the rebels, all to ‘alleviate humanitarian needs,’ according to a Canadian Foreign Affairs spokesperson.  

How can the difference in the response of western nations to the uprising in Libya, as compared to the uprisings in other Arab countries, such as Egypt or Yemen, be accounted for? Perhaps unfortunately for Libyans, Libya has Africa’s largest oil reserves. Also, in contrast to the leaders of many Arab nations, Colonel Qaddafi has not always been compliant with the wishes of western nations.

HUMANITARIAN INTERVENTION

Definition

Humanitarian intervention is one of the more recent euphemisms used by western countries to justify their many interventions in the affairs of other countries. Carried out by rich countries such the US, Canada, Britain, and France, these interventions almost always take place in countries such as Libya that are poor in terms of individual material well-being, but have one or more of the following: sought after natural resources, such as oil or copper; opportunities for substantial corporate investment by the intervenor; strategic value; a non-compliant leader. The ultimate goal of the interventions is world domination by western capitalist countries.

Examples

Iran 1953: The euphemism used here was “secular nationalism,” which the US and Britain employed as a pretext to overthrow the demo-cratically elected government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, who had nationalized the oil industry, and to install the Shah as an authoritarian monarch heavily reliant on US support.  

Chile 1973: When the US deposed the democratically-elected government of Salvador Allende, it was for the sake of “stability.” During his short presidency (he was elected in 1970), Allende had nationalized Chile’s banks and many of its US owned mines and industries.

Panama 1989: When the US invaded Panama in 1989, it claimed it was on “humanitarian grounds.” According to Human Rights Watch, the invasion “inflicted a toll in civilian lives that was at least four-and-a-half times higher than military casualties in the enemy, and twelve or thirteen times higher than the casualties suffered by U.S. troops.” The real goal of the invasion was to maintain control of the Panama Canal, which meant getting rid of the not always compliant Panamanian ruler Manual Noriega.

Somalia 1992: “Humanitarian intervention” was also the reason given for the deployment of a US-led UN sanctioned multinational force, which included Canadians, to Somalia in 1992. Situated on the Horn of Africa, Somalia is of strategic interest to western nations as it provides an excellent site from which to monitor events in the oil-rich nations of the Persian Gulf. In 1993, Canadian soldiers brutally beat and tortured a Somali teenager, Shidane Arone, who was searching for food near the Canadian base. Following a number of humiliations and disasters, the UN withdrew all troops from Somalia in 1995.

NATO

NATO was established in 1949, on the initiative of the US, to contain the Soviet Union and keep communism out of western Europe. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, NATO lost its purpose. However, instead of dissolving, NATO expanded, extending its activities to areas that had not formerly been NATO concerns.

  • In April 1999, NATO adopted a new Strategic Concept, reserving to itself the right to interfere in the internal affairs of any country.
  • In June 1999, without the backing of the UN, NATO initiated an aerial assault on Yugoslavia, giving “humanitarian intervention” as the reason. For 78 days, bombs rained down on a country about 1/5th the size of Nova Scotia, thus demonstrating the power of NATO. Strategically placed in relation to Russia, Yugoslavia also had a position of importance for the exploitation of the oil of the whole region, as well as having many mineral resources of its own. 

THE CANADIAN CONNECTION

  •  Canada is a founding member of NATO.
  • Many of the bombs dropped on Yugoslavia were carried by Canadian planes.
  • In 2000, in support of a US campaign to align the UN Charter more closely with NATO policy, Canada sponsored an International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. The task of the Commission was to reinterpret the UN Charter by replacing “national sovereignty/non-intervention in the affairs of another state” with “humanitarian intervention” as the basic principle regulating the relations among nations. In order to overcome the objections expressed by humanitarian agencies and organization “towards any militarization of the word humanitarian,” the Commission adopted the phrase “The Responsibility to Protect” as the title of its report.
  • Over the next decade, the UN Security Council adopted the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect as a set of norms regulating international relations. The UN Security Council resolution on Libya is the first military implementation of the R2P doctrine.

As a group, poor countries have explicitly rejected humanitarian intervention: “We reject the so-called right of humanitarian intervention which has no legal basis in the UN Charter or in the general principles of international law.”

             –113 countries of the Non-Aligned Movement, 1999

             –Group of 77 Summit, 2000

TAKE ACTION

Let Prime Minister Harper know you don’t want Canadians killing Libyans in the name of protecting Libyans: pm@pm.gc.ca or 613-992-4211

Send the same message to your Member of Parliament:

Ray Boughen, Palliser: boughr@parl.gc.ca  or 790-4646         

Ralph Goodale, Wascana: goodale@sasktel.net            or 585-2202

Tom Lukiwski, Regina-Lumsden: lukiwt@parl.gc.ca or 790-4747

Andrew Scheer, Regina Qu’Appelle: scheea@parl.gc.ca 790-4727

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2 Responses to “HUMANITARIAN INTERVENTION: WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?”

  1. Thank god some bloggers can still write. Thank you for this piece of writing…

  2. This specific posting, “HUMANITARIAN INTERVENTION: WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?
    Making Peace Vigil” was great. I’m producing out a replicate to present to my colleagues.
    Many thanks,Marlys

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