Drone Wars from Britain: How Many More?

CounterPunch, October 29, 2012

Urgent Purchase

Now we know that not only did the United Kingdom already have drones, but more are coming to join the Royal Air Force for surveillance and combat operations in foreign lands. And, for the first time, they will be controlled from Britain.

According to a report in the Guardian, the United Kingdom has made urgent purchase of five more Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles, which will double their number with the British military. Initially they will be deployed in Afghanistan and are expected to start operating within weeks. So, instead of sitting with their American counterparts in Nevada, the British “pilots” will be playing with videogame killing machines from RAF Waddington in the English county of Lincolnshire. These latest developments come as the United Nations has finally decided to investigate American drone strikes and other “targeted killings” of “terrorist suspects.”

In the main, three factors have influenced the British government’s decision: the prolongation of the war in Afghanistan beyond the military planners’ original estimates; the rise in the deaths and injuries of British and other Nato soldiers at the hands of Afghan security personnel; and President Obama’s plan to withdraw most of the U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Surely other Nato troops cannot stay in the country beyond that point.

Whether President Obama is reelected or Mitt Romney wins on November 6, it can be taken as certain that drone wars will continue in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and their use will be extended to other places. So mechanized, refined and cheap to manufacture are these instruments of the “war on terror.” In the present economic difficulties, the governing coalition of Conservative prime minister David Cameron and his Liberal-Democrat deputy Nick Clegg probably feels that Britain’s urgent purchase of Reaper drones is a “good investment.”

Sources in touch with American policymakers in Washington confidently predict that drone wars will continue. So, there seems to be no reason for the British government to withdraw its aircraft from the region. Under rules imposed by the European Union and the Civil Aviation Authority, drone missions can only be flown in certain places in Britain.

Civilian Deaths

In a recent article, I discussed a study by Stanford and New York universities’ law schools. It concluded that the CIA’s targeted drone killings in Pakistan’s tribal areas were politically counterproductive, killing many civilians and undermining respect for international law.

That British drones have been in operation from Creech air base in the United States has been a less known fact. The Ministry of Defence in London insists that only four civilians have died in its drone operations in Afghanistan––in line with the Obama administration’s claims of there being very few civilian casualties. However, British defence officials say they have no idea how many insurgents have died because of the “immense difficulty and risks” of verifying who has been hit.

Clive Stafford Smith, founder of the legal charity Reprieve, says that “decisions are being made that will ripple through the generations.” In a recent comment, he wrote: “Just as the secret Manhattan Project ushered in the nuclear age, so the military and their corporate colleagues are pressing forward with policies with very little public disclosure or debate.”

It is wholly inconsistent for any Western leader or government to assert that they have no idea how many insurgents have died because of “immense difficulty and risks” and yet for Prime Minister David Cameron to claim that by December 2010 British drones had “killed 124 insurgents in Afghanistan.” No wonder defence officials denied that the information came from them, and said that “they had no idea where the prime minister got the figure.” So the question arises, as Smith has raised, whether the kill-numbers are being “conjured up by politicians.”

For several years since the “war on terror” started a decade ago, the British government has sought to deny accusations that its forces have been involved in terror and torture––against mounting evidence. The Stanford and New York universities’ report is among the latest and most damning. The truth about the use of circling drones to terrify the 800000 citizens––men, women and children––in a remote tribal region is a kind of war forbidden under the Geneva conventions. But the rules of war are being changed with disregard for established conventions and law. The West’s drone policy is on trial.

In a legal challenge before the High Court in London brought by a man who lost his father in a CIA drone strike, Britain once again faces accusations of providing intelligence for such attacks and therefore of complicity. After reading a harrowing account of drone terror from Noor Khan, a resident of northwestern Pakistan, Lord Justice Moses described the evidence as “very moving.” It is our responsibility as citizens wherever we may be to read Noor Khan’s testimony and ask ourselves, “How many more?”

 [END]

On Power and Delusions of Grandeur

First the video of United States Marines urinating on bodies of Afghans who had been killed. Then the revelation that copies of the Quran had been burned at Bagram Air Base, which also serves as an American prison camp in Afghanistan. Nearly thirty Afghans and several NATO troops died in the violent reaction. And as I mentioned in my column of March 4, the BBC Kabul correspondent described these events, and the violent public reaction to them, as the tipping point for NATO in the Afghan War.

Just as the U.S. commander Gen. John Allen and President Obama hoped that apologies from them would help calm the situation comes another disaster. If official accounts are to be believed, an American soldier left his base in the middle of the night, entered villagers’ homes, woke up Afghan families from sleep and shot his victims in cold blood. After the killings, the soldier was reported to have turned himself up to U.S. commanders, and was flown out of the country. The accused has since been named as St. Sgt. Robert Bales.

CBS News later quoted Bales’ lawyer as saying that Bales “has an early memory of that evening and has a later of that, but he doesn’t have memory in between.”

Other reports tell a different story, indicating that a group of soldiers was involved. Looking drunk and laughing, they engaged in an orgy of violence, while helicopters hovered above.

The massacre was committed in Kandahar, a province where NATO forces regularly carry out night raids on Afghan homes. They capture and kill men sweepingly described as Taliban, their supporters or sympathizers. Male family members therefore leave their homes at night to escape foreign forces. This explains why 9 of the 16 murdered were children. The rest included at least four women, and five Afghans were wounded. Several bodies were burned.

The massacre of Kandahar has echoes of My Lai––a village in South Vietnam where American troops massacred unarmed civilians including women, children and old people almost exactly 44 years ago, on March 16, 1968. The full horror of the My Lai massacre took time to surface, for many attempts were made to downplay it. Soldiers who had tried to stop the killings were denounced by U.S. Congressmen and received hate mail and death threats. It took thirty years before they were honored. Only one American soldier, Lieutenant William Calley, was punished. He spent just three years under house arrest, despite being given a life sentence.

The conduct of the U.S. authorities following the massacre of Afghans will be under critical scrutiny. Those who must bear ultimate responsibility will have to live with the guilt for years to come. And the carnage will continue to haunt the conscience of many people in America and elsewhere. The general sentiment in Afghanistan had already been turning dangerously hostile to foreign troops. Now, reports from Kabul say that Afghans “have run out of patience.”

In the midst of these events (U.S. Marines urinating on dead bodies in January, Quran burning in February, massacre in March), President Obama decided to invoke a comparison between himself and two of history’s legendary figures, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. To me, the latest events in Afghanistan are dismaying, and the timing of the president’s attempt to invoke parallels with Gandhi and Mandela is sickening. It goes to show what power does to its holder.

Much has been written about the New York fund-raiser, where President Obama gave his address as he sought support for a second term. I repeat the obvious to say that the country he leads has been engaged in a number of wars resulting in deaths and destruction on a vast scale. Their legacies will continue to take a heavy toll. Even when U.S. forces have withdrawn from occupied lands, or high-altitude bombing without deploying American troops on the ground has ceased, we will not know how long and in how many places Obama’s secret wars are waged. In the November 2008 election, he had offered a hope of change for good. It remains as illusive as it was under his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Obama and NATO have moved and expanded the war theater––in Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Kenya, Somalia and possibly places we are not aware of. His tactics have steadily become more threatening with foes and friends alike, linking ever more war and routine matters of international relations, trade and so forth.

Despite the U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq and the Afghan project heading toward an end, there exists a more explosive situation from South Asia to North Africa. The scenario of a major war in the region haunts many. Obama may appear reluctant to attack Iran or Syria. But that clandestine warfare by major powers and their proxies continues is hardly in doubt. The Obama administration’s aggressive, interventionist instinct is on open display. And to draw parallels between himself and great souls such as Gandhi and Mandela is a grotesque parody of their historic struggles.

At the New York fund-raising event, Obama said that “the change we fought for in 2008 hasn’t always happened as fast as we would have liked … real change, big change, is always hard.” Next, making a leap into history, he continued, “Gandhi, Nelson Mandela––what they did was hard. It takes time. It takes more than a single term …”

Corruption infects our world in many forms: material and moral, visible and invisible, direct and indirect. But the underlying motive behind all things corrupt is a strong opportunistic instinct to benefit oneself at the cost of others by allurement or deception. No wonder politics has fallen so much into disrepute. The aphorism of the nineteenth-century English historian Lord Acton that “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” has acquired a special meaning today.

Employing his political mantra of “change” and attempting to show likeness with Gandhi’s and Mandela’s life and achievements is one thing. Truth is a different matter. Gandhi never aspired for any political office, never held one, and did not fight any election. After his incarceration in prison for 27 years, Mandela was a reluctant president of South Africa. And he made clear that he would serve only one term while a new generation of successors was groomed.

Above all, Mandela used his presidency to avoid a bloodbath and stabilize the country as apartheid collapsed. Precisely for these reasons, both Gandhi and Mandela were such formidable opponents of the unequal and unjust systems which they fought.

Non-violence was Gandhi’s tool. When violence erupted, Gandhi withdrew his movement against the British. He thought of others, Muslims and Untouchables he called Harijans (Children of God). He paid the ultimate price when a Hindu fundamentalist assassinated him in 1948. Neither Gandhi nor Mandela considered attacking another country, signing assassination orders, exaggerating or inventing facts about people they saw as adversaries.

Mandela’s African National Congress was inspired by Gandhi. But once the organization had realized that South Africa’s vast black majority was up against an apartheid regime whose brutality was exceptional, the ANC did engage in a low-intensity war. And the United States and Britain listed Mandela as a “terrorist.”

President Obama recently justified his drone attacks inside Pakistan by saying that they “have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties.” It is impossible not to interpret this as an admission that drones do kill and wound civilians. But it is a minor matter in the president’s eyes. Only a few days ago, the German news magazine Der SPEIGAL said that while under the Bush presidency there was a drone attack every 47 days, the interval now under President Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, is just four days. The Americans have “already executed 2,300 people in this manner.” Nobody has a chance today if this president decides that their time is up.

Gandhi’s agitation for boycott of British goods in favor of home-made products and his advocacy for an austere life were fundamental elements of the anti-globalization movement of his time. His ethos was “to consume less for the uplift of others from poverty and deprivation.” He lived the life he preached, for which Winston Churchill, then leader of the Empire, disparagingly called him the “naked fakir.”

In the world ruled by President Obama today, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, were he not in his nineties and so frail, would be his greatest enemies. And they could well have been on Obama’s list for drone attacks. Mercifully that is not the case, and this president can indulge in comfort.

Great people like Gandhi and Mandela use power to curb power. Barack Obama stands among those who use power to accumulate more of it. Therein lies the moral of any comparison in this debate.

[END]

P.S. I have introduced the word killings (instead of murders) in the second paragraph in view of ongoing developments in the case (March 20). CBS News update (May 19 5:53 PM) follows.

On US policy in the Middle East

A conversation with Kourosh Ziabari, Veterans Today, June 6, 2011

Kourosh Ziabari: Do you consider the chained, continuous revolutions in the Arab world a result of pan-Arabist, nationalistic sentiments of the peoples of region who rose up? Well, the dictatorial regimes of the region have been ruling for so many decades, but the people in these countries revolted against them quite suddenly and unexpectedly. Has the economic factor been the main contributor to the emergence of Middle East revolutions? Was it all about paying a tribute to Mohamed Bouazizi that turned violent and became a set of revolutions?

Deepak Tripathi: You have raised an important question. The answer is somewhat complex. Of course, from Libya to Bahrain there are similarities on the surface: repressive regimes, closed societies, ruling cliques imposing their will on the masses. Then there is the Orientalist syndrome in the West that Edward Said depicted so brilliantly in his book “Orientalism.” It is the tendency to lump all Muslims and other people in the East into one basket, and seeing them as exotic, but inferior, people who must be educated in western ways, and exploited. This is where lies the basic mistake, and it has proved disastrous.

The recent uprisings across the Arab world display two different currents. The bigger picture is that of people rising against pro-United States dictators, in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain. On the other hand, we see Libya and Syria, which are not pro-US. Many in the populations of these countries are fed up and can take no more. They want to breath fresh air. Now, in an ideal world the people of each country should be allowed to choose their own destiny without outside interference, but that is not the case in the real world. Western interference is a major cause of resentment in many countries in the region.

Having said this, I believe each popular uprising has its roots in local conditions and causes. In Egypt, it was a people’s revolution, of men and women, young and old, Muslim and Christian. They succeeded in overthrowing Hosni Mubarak and his party, but the future is by no means certain; the United States, with allies, continues its interference. America has considerable power because of the huge aid it gives to the Egyptian military every year. So we will have to see what transpires in Egypt. Tunisia, which started all this, is the same – how do long-oppressed people ensure that the system changes to their liking, not just a few faces? In other places, too, things are far from certain. In Bahrain, where the pro-US Sunni ruling family, representing one-third of the population at most, is engaged in the brutal suppression of Shi‘a majority – nearly two-thirds of the population. In Bahrain, it is oil that drives Western policy of support for the ruling family; in Libya, too, oil drives policy, but there Britain, France and Italy, and to lesser extent the Obama administration in the United States, are supporting the anti-Gaddafi forces, because Gaddafi is too independent, too unpredictable. InSyria, oil is not a factor – perhaps one of the reasons why the Western response has so far been limited to condemnations and warnings. And the Yemeni president is America’s surrogate; Yemen is vital for the security of Saudi Arabia, America’s strongest ally after Israel and the most reliable oil supplier.

The last part of your question concerns the Tunisian, Mohamed Bouazizi, street vendor who set himself on fire after being harassed by corrupt police. Bouazizi certainly touched million and millions of people right across the region, because they could easily identify with his harassment and humiliation.

KZ: As you may admit, Bahrain has one of the blackest human rights records in the Persian Gulf region. Its longstanding tradition of suppressing the Shiites, persecuting the bloggers and journalists, incarcerating and torturing the political activists attest to the fact that despite being a close ally of the United States, Bahrain is not a democratic country based on American-championed values. Why does the United States support such a repressive regime? Does the United States consider Bahrain a proxy to confront the hegemony of Iran in the region?

DT: Countering Iran is certainly the major factor behind US support for Bahrain, and explains the muted references from Washington to the brutality of Bahraini security forces – and let’s not forget many are foreign soldiers – and more recently Saudi forces who have entered the Emirate. The tactics used against peaceful demonstrators in Bahrainin recent weeks and months are some of the worst kind. How many countries are there in which hospitals are raided by security police and doctors treating wounded people are threatened?

As you know, Bahrain is a member of the Gulf cooperation Council, dominated by Saudi Arabia, and is there to prevent Iranian and Shiite influence spreading in the region. Bahrainis also the base of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which is so important for America’s strategy in the Gulf and the Middle East at large.

KZ: Do you agree with a military intervention in Libya? We already know that the Gaddafi regime, before the authorization of no-fly zone over Libya by the Security Council, had massacred scores of unarmed and innocent civilians in air-strikes on different cities of the country. Is a NATO-led military expedition necessary to preclude the killing of civilians? What’s your prediction for the future of the civil war which is taking place in Libya?

DT: The Gaddafi regime, no doubt, has been repressive over the last forty years, and I am very critical of its human rights record. It is Britain, France, Italy and the United States that have been swinging like a large pendulum: vehemently opposed to Gaddafi for decades, then friends with Gaddafi, and now enemies again.

I have several misgivings about the NATO military operation inLibya. My first and most serious objection is that NATO has gone far beyond the remit approved in the UN Security Council 1973, which authorized “all necessary measures” to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas, excluding foreign occupation forces on any part of the territory of Libya. Legal scholars have pointed out that “all necessary measures” means starting with peaceful means to resolve what seems to be a tribal civil war between pro- and anti-Gaddafi forces. In this respect, Libya is quite different from Egypt, where tens of millions of people from all sections of society rebelled against the Mubarak regime. Second, NATO military planes are now hitting government targets far from opposition-controlled areas. Tripoli and Gaddafi’s own compound have been bombed. This was not envisaged in the Security Council Resolution 1973. Regime change was not part of it. I think these are serious violations of the UN authorization. Third, NATO aircraft are now operating as if they were the air force of the anti-Gaddafi forces; British, French and Italian ‘military advisers’ have been deployed in Libya; and there is talk of sending troops. This is taking sides, and goes beyond protecting civilians. Worst of all, we now have confirmed reports that NATO planes are bombing and killing people on their own side, the anti-Gaddafi side; collateral damage in Western euphemism. Fourth, and this is very serious, the West is being highly selective in picking on an oil-rich country for military action, while its friends, Bahrain and Yemen, willfully repress their populations. I fear we will see a long war in Libya.

KZ: Many political commentators believe that whoever assumes power in Egypt following the establishment of new constitution and formation of new government will be less friendly to Israel than the regime of Hosni Mubarak was. The same analysts believe that the new government in Egypt will be necessarily less hostile to Iran compared with the Hosni Mubarak’s regime. Do you agree with them? What’s your take on that?

DT: The climate in the Middle East has undergone a dramatic change following the Egyptian Revolution. Its effects go far beyond Egypt’s borders, and these effects will be long term. The people of Egypt and beyond yearn for democracy, human rights and dignity, but they are not going to be blind supporters of American policy. There will be all kinds of pressures, warnings, threats against the Egyptian military from the West that would like to indirectly control the peoples of the region. I hope that the military does not give in to these American-Israeli tactics. I believe that the ‘new Egypt’ – if it is allowed to choose its future path – will lead to a new climate that will mean better relations with Iran, Palestinians, and will be a force for good overall.

KZ: Answering to a question regarding the recent air-strikes on Libya, the White House spokesman Jay Carney said that it is not a U.S. policy to bring about regime change in Libya. It’s already clear to the international community that Gaddafi is a merciless terrorist. He massacred more than 6,500 citizens during the first three weeks of civil war in Libya. Why don’t the United States and its allies want to take action to change the regime of Gaddafi while they did the same with regards to Iraq and Afghanistan in a situation that they didn’t have any compelling excuse to do so? Is it all about American and European interests in Libya’s oil sector which is guaranteed by the Gaddafi regime?

DT: I have elaborated on the lack of consistency in Western policy, and the real factors behind Western and allied actions showing blatant disregard for universal human rights. Their actions amount to double standards wherever it suits them. They are not about democracy and human rights at all. Look at the reign of terror and torture under the ‘war on terror’ that President George W Bush waged, and that President Obama continues in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere.

KZ:Saudi Arabia was among the Arab countries which was somewhat encompassed by the wave of 2010-2011 protests of the Middle East and North Africa; however, it seems that strangulation and oppression, implicitly endorsed by the United States, is so intense that the people don’t have enough backbone and courage to rise up against the government and demand fundamental changes and reformations in the political structure of their country. Will the United States, as the most strategic partner of Saudi Arabia, allow the implementation of sociopolitical reforms in the structure the Saudi government? Will the sporadic movements of the Saudi people bear fruit?

DT: Saudi Arabia is a closed society, in many ways that theSoviet Union was before 1985, when Mikhail Gorbachev became the General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party. It took just six years for the Soviet state to collapse after the USSR began to open up. Communication and free movement are very difficult, if not impossible for the ordinary citizen, in such societies; and news of unrest does not readily reach the world. We know that Saudi citizens nevertheless do find ways to express their opposition, but they are crushed with brute force. Remember, Saudi Arabia’s security forces are among the best equipped in the Middle East, supplied by the Americans. They use these means to coerce their population. Despite all this, social discontent simmers under the surface. Failure to open up Saudi society and give the people their basic rights could have serious consequences.

KZ: Do you agree with the idea that the Middle East revolutions, specially the popular uprisings in Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan and Egypt, will be of Iran’s interests? Does the destabilization of U.S.-backed Arab regimes in the region empower Iran politically, strategically?

DT: According to the Oxford English Dictionary, to which I subscribe, a revolution in the political context is “forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system.” Uprising is an “act of resistance or rebellion” to achieve that end. It is important not to confuse the meaning of the two terms. In the late twentieth century, what happened in 1979 in Iran was a revolution; and between 1989 and 1991 there were revolutions in what was then the Soviet bloc. In the new century in recent months, Egypth as had a revolution, in the sense that a dictator and his ruling party that had a monopoly over power, have fallen. What replaces it is not certain yet. We will have to see until after the elections at least.

Bahrain,Yemen, Jordan, Syria, perhaps Libya, are all experiencing rebellions of one kind or another. How it all ends in each case – we will have to wait and see. As of now, the ruling structures in these countries are shaking; they may be collapsing; but they are still there. Equally important, what impact does it all have on the Palestinian struggle will have to be seen.

In the wider geopolitical context, these events do indicate that the United States is losing its grip over the region. In fact, America had been losing its grip for some years. It is just that the military occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and America’s militaristic foreign policy may have given the opposite appearance to those who fail to look beyond the immediate.

If the people of each country can decide how their country should be run, it would be a good thing. I find the idea that a big power far and away can dictate to others anywhere most objectionable. And I don’t see the events in West Asia as a victory for one country or another. The tide of history is going in its own inevitable direction, popular movements are making huge waves and contributing to that tide of history. The final outcome is not yet certain, so the struggle will need to go on.

KZ: What will be the implications of the Middle East revolutions for the Israeli regime? Will Israel suffer from the change of government in Egypt and the fundamental political reforms which are going to happen in Jordan?

DT: I have alluded to these matters in my previous replies. I will summarize my answer here.  What is happening in the Middle East at present is going to limit Israel’s scope for arbitrary conduct. The overthrow of the Mubarak regime in Egypth as been a huge setback to Israel, because frankly Mubarak was acting like an American and Israeli surrogate to continue the occupation of Palestinian territories, and in the broader interests of Western policy in the Middle East. In Jordan, as elsewhere, change looks inevitable, though I hesitate to predict what form it will take. I think it is never a good idea to underestimate the big players’ capacity for manipulation and deceit. In a sense, the West learned the lesson very quickly in Egypt, where it was slow to act during the anti-Mubarak protests. Eventually it dumped Mubarak when it realized he was a too big a liability to carry, and then picked Libya and Syria to reestablish its pro-democracy credentials. The West, in the guise of NATO, has switched to a pro-democracy posture by siding with the anti-Gaddafi forces in Libya and with the opposition to Bashar al-Assad in Syria. But that makes Western policy in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Yemeneven more inconsistent, if not hypocritical.

[END]

Mission Creep in Libya

Palestine Chronicle (April 23, 2011)  

Some commentators and politicians are describing it as mission creep – a slide into deeper military involvement in Libya, going beyond the original goal, and inviting unpredictable consequences. In simple terms, it is the decision by Britain, France and Italy to send military officers to organize the flagging rebel campaign against Muammar Gaddafi’s forces. These “advisers” are being deployed mainly in the rebel stronghold, the eastern port city of Benghazi, to train and counsel the anti-Gaddafi forces, who have thus far failed to make much headway against the Libyan army and have been beaten back in several places. Defense experts acknowledge that there will be more military personnel to protect these “advisers.”

How does a humanitarian operation turn into “mission creep?” A brief look at events in little more than a month provides an answer. Resolution 1973 approved by the United Nations Security Council on March 17, 2011 authorized “all necessary measures … to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas … while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.” But any process of employing “all necessary measures” should begin with peaceful attempts. Otherwise, only military force has been employed. Indeed, the African Union put forward a plan including these steps: an immediate ceasefire; unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid; the protection of foreign nationals; a dialogue between the government and rebels on a political settlement; and the suspension of NATO air raids. Furthermore, Turkey, a NATO member, had already begun to mediate between the two sides in Libya. But the West and the rebels insist that Gaddafi must go first.

Since the US-led bombing of Libya started immediately after Resolution 1973, critics would be forgiven for concluding that the Security Council and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon have become tools of Prime Minister Cameron of Britain and President Sarkozy of France, with President Obama apparently dragging his feet. Ban Ki-moon, looking for another term as UN Secretary General, is culpable in what amounts to a Western attempt to invoke a seemingly justifiable humanitarian principle when, in reality, the intention and preparation for a military assault were already in place. Any hope of a peaceful outcome stood no chance. Had the Obama administration, particularly his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, acted a little more decisively in friendly countries, Bahrain and Yemen, when the rulers there brutally suppressed civilian protesters, the Western powers would have enjoyed the benefit of credibility. Gaddafi may well have seen a determined and consistent humanitarian policy on the part of the West.

Unfortunately, Britain and France have preferred military intervention all along. Cameron and Sarkozy are weak and unpopular men struggling with strong currents of domestic opposition to a range of economic and social policies of their governments. Every beleaguered leader knows that a crisis abroad helps to shore up support at home. What other reason could there be behind such zeal for another military adventure in Libya after the disastrous wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan in the last decade?

In a boastful exclusive on April 20, 2011, the British newspaper Independent reported the deployment in Libya of “one of the most battle-hardened commanders in the British Army, with extensive experience in combat in Afghanistan.” The Defense Ministry’s message was “here comes Britain’s own Rambo, fresh from Helmand.” But those who have closely followed British military units in Basra in Iraq and Helmand in Afghanistan know that their achievements have been far from glorious. And the American military took over in both places. In the event of British, French or Italian casualties in the Libyan civil war, further escalation and deployment of troops is a real possibility.

Even members of Prime Minister Cameron’s own Conservative Party in Parliament are doubtful about the way the Libyan operation is evolving. The House of Commons backed Security Council Resolution 1973. But John Baron, a Conservative, is among a number of parliamentarians now strongly critical of the British Prime Minister, who wrote an article with President Obama and President Sarkozy, asserting that “Gaddafi must go, and go for good.” Recalling that Parliament had “only given its backing for a no-fly zone to protect civilians,” several MPs have accused the government of seeking “illegal” regime change in Libya.

Western claims that “Gaddafi is killing his own people” need an honest examination in a wider context. War is a crime whenever and wherever civilians are killed and wounded. When peaceful protesters are killed or suppressed, it is an offense against humanity. When Gaddafi’s troops kill civilians, it is a crime. Equally, when in Bahrain the ruling family’s foreign mercenaries, and Saudi forces who have recently moved in, kill peaceful protesters demanding their basic rights, those troops are committing a crime.

Violence against civilians in mosques and hospitals, denying treatment to the wounded and threatening doctors are among the worst of offenses. So is the violence against demonstrators by Yemeni government forces; killings by American drone attacks and death squads in Pakistan and Afghanistan; and the dreadful civilian casualties among the besieged Palestinian population in Israel’s war on Gaza. Above all, the United States kills people, including its own, based on flawed justice, hunch, suspicion or whim. Unleashing brutal and blind terror is as much in the nature of civilized governments as it is of outlaw regimes.

[END]

Obama’s Policy on China and Iran

Deepak Tripathi

(CounterPunch, July 20, 2009)

Recent disturbances in Iran and China have drawn attention to not only the fragility of their socio-political systems but also to contradictions in how the United States and other Western powers react to such events. America’s response  to demonstrations in Iran after the presidential election of June 12, 2009 has grown from one of caution to aggression and confrontation. On the contrary, its reaction over the outbreak of violence between Uighurs and Han Chinese in the far-flung region of Xinjiang in south-east China three weeks later has been one of timidity and silence. More