A New Generation Draws the Line – Humanitarian Intervention and the ”Responsibility to Protect” Today (Noam Chomsky) [2012]

chomsky r2p By juxtaposing the story of the UK- and US-sponsored massacre on East Timor and the ethnic cleansing of former Yugoslavia, Chomsky reveals deep hypocrisy in the dominant narrative. I’ll go through the main points of the book briefly here:

  • ‘R2P’ (*Responsibility to Protect’) does not stand for a new era, but has its roots in the historic indignation of colonialist powers over the barbarism in less developed countries.
  • The key paragraph in ‘R2P’ states that R2P is to be enacted if the UN Security Council fails to act quickly enough. Through this mechanism, an effective bypass of the whole UN has been achieved, and a quite explicit shift of power from the UN (however harmless, at least with a pretense of democracy) to NATO (a military gang, which by the way excludes most Eastern and Southern nations of the world). The rhetorics play on emotional strings and on a ‘sense of guilt over the passivity of the ‘international community’ at the time of the Rwandan massacre, for instance. This goes hand in hand with the current general ideology of Western Europe and USA, which presents these powers as benevolent giants, at their worse passively watching other nations commit crimes against their own peoples – never facing the actual record of decades (centuries) of colonial and neo-colonial state violence by proxies throughout Latin America, Asia and Africa. NC on responsibility and passivity/neglect: The humanitarian catastrophe in East Timor was not ”the product of [the] neglect” of the liberal democracies. It was substantially their creation…
  • From Jean Bricmont’s (Belgian professor of theoretical physics) introduction:
    • The main target of the humanitarian interventionists is the concept of national sovereignty…
    • If this sounds utopian, it is not more so than the belief that a stable world will emerge from the way our current ”war on terror” is being carried out.
  • R2P was met by objections from most non-NATO countries in April 2000, at the G-77 summit in Havana, where they stated: ”We reject the so-called ‘right’ of humanitarian intervention…”
  • Purposes of the attack (nota bene: not war): proving the ‘credibility of NATO’, maintaining the stability [defined as subservience] of East Europe, allowing a boom for hi-tech industries/military industries, and allegedly – stopping ethnic cleansing.
  • General Clark [NATO Commanding General]: Serb atrocities will be an ”entirely predictable” consequence
  • East Timor: referendum of 30 August 1999 – 80% voted for independence (from hiding), atrocities
  • The air force that was able to carry out a pin-point destruction of civilian targets in Novi Sad, Belgrade, and Pancevo a few months before lacked the capacity to drop food to hudreds of thousands of people facing starvation…
  • UN Ambassador Moynihan:
    • The Department of State desired that the United Nations prove utterly ineffective in whatever measures it undertook. This task was given to me, and I carried it forward with no inconsiderable success. ‘
  • Suharto sacked after financial crisis, resisted IMF programs: On May 20 1998, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called upon Suharto to resign… A few hours later, Suharto transferred formal authority to his hand-picked Vice-President B.J. Habibie. […] On January 27 1999, Habibie made the unexpected announcement that if the East Timorese are not willing to accept Indonesia’s offer of autonomy, then the government would recommend to the People’s Consultative Assembly that Indonesia relinquish control…
  • US intelligence warned that the KLA ”intended to draw NATO into its fight for independence by provoking Serb atrocities.” The KLA was arming and ”taking very provocative steps in an effort to draw the West into the crisis…” [For instance, through cross-border attacks from Albania.]
  • It turns out after the war, that the evidence do not prove any ethnic cleansing  before the bombing, but rather Serbian violence directed against KLA and fellow separatist organizations. However, and as General Clark expected, ethnic violence spiked after the NATO bombings. In yet another ironic turn, more Serbs and Montenegrins were displaced from Kosovo during the bombing (in proportion to the whole population), and also, many Croats left, and
    • Amnesty reported at the year’s end that ”Violence against Serbs, Roma, Muslim Slavs and moderate Albanians in Kosovo has increased dramatically…
  • The so-called peace negotiations at Rambouillet were carefully designed – as was the whole attack – to keep the UN out. In fact, the ‘killer clause’ in the Rambouillet accords stated that NATO forces would be the peacekeepers in all of Yugoslavia (not only Kosovo), prompting Lord Gilbert (Great Britain’s ‘second most senior defence minister’) to state
    • I think the terms put to Milosevic at Rambouillet were absolutely intolerable: how could he possible accept them? It was quite deliberate.
  • NATO bombed ‘Serbian state TV and radio killing sixteen journalists on the grounds that it was ‘a facility used for propaganda purposes’… ‘
  • NC finishes with a concise discussion of the human ‘rights’, that supposedly require bestial military aggression to be upheld; it turns out that these rights do not include the right to life (unnecessary deaths), protection from torture, etc.
  • He wraps up the bag by explaining why readers should not be puzzled – as Adam Smith explained in the 18th century:
    • ‘merchants and manufacturers’ were the ‘principal architects’ of policy and made sure that their own interests had been ‘most peculiarly attended to,’ however ‘grievous’ the effect on others…
inchoate = outvecklad

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