Humanitarian wars are a modern form of imperialism. The standard pattern that the United States and its allies use to execute them is one where genocide and ethnic cleansing are alleged by a coalition of governments, media organizations, and non-governmental front organizations which are preceded by sanctions, isolation, and military intervention. This is the post-Cold War modus operandi of the United States and NATO.
In its execution, the United Nations has been party due to the hijacking of its posts and offices by Washington. Now Kofi Annan has been appointed with a mediating role in Syria, but his position on R2P should not be overlooked. Nor should the fact that the U.S. and its allies are not interested in a mediated peace be overlooked either.
The Seeds were in Iraq
As the Cold War began to wind down, NATO saw the opportunity that would arise from the geo-political vacuum that would be left by the collapse of the USSR and the dissolution of the Eastern Bloc. Not only did NATO begin transforming from a defensive organization into an offensive military body, but it began to embrace a humanitarian mandate for this purpose. It is through this embrace of humanitarianism that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was able to change into an offensive military alliance from the defensive one that it was suppose to be.
Unknown to the majority of people, including experts, NATO’s biggest military operation in the first decade after the Cold War was the Gulf War. NATO’s role took place unofficially in the shadows and it was on the basis of what NATO did during the Iraq War and the coinciding military operations that took place in the name of “humanitarianism” in Iraqi Kurdistan that the tempo was set for NATO’s humanitarian intervention in the former Yugoslavia. The no-fly zones that were created on humanitarian grounds in Iraq were also applied in the former Yugoslavia and as recently as 2011 in Libya.
Yugoslavia: Srebrenica and Racak
On July 11, 1995 the forces of the Bosnian Serb would march into the so-called UN Srebrenica Safe Area. The official NATO narrative is that U.N. troops agreed to withdraw from Srebrenica and let the Bosnian Serb forces take care of the local Bosniaks, but that once the Bosnian Serbs entered the area they slaughtered about 8,000 Bosniaks. This would be billed as the worst massacre in Europe after the Second World War.
In reality, the events of Srebrenica would be used and warped to justify a massive NATO response on the basis of public outrage. Bosniak leaders would also refuse to give the Red Cross the names of people who had fled Srebrenica, thus resulting in an inflated number of missing people, and the number of the dead would also later turn out to be significantly lower than originally reported. Media estimates also changed over time. The most senior U.N. official inside Bosnia-Herzegovina, Philip Corwin, would also lend his voice to those saying that the events in Srebrenica were distorted for political gain and military intervention by NATO.
Bill Clinton had actually instructed Alija Izetbegovic that 5,000 Bosniaks would need to be sacrified to bring NATO into the war as a combatant. Surviving members of the Bosniak delegation from Srebrenica have stated on the record that Izetbegovic said that NATO would militarily intervene against the Republika Srpska if at least 5,000 dead bodies could be produced. The Fall of Srebrenica, a U.N. report issued on November 15, 1999, also casually mentions this in paragraph 115. The Bosniak police chief of Srebrenica has also confirmed Clinton’s demand for a “sacrifice” from Izetbegovic to open the doors for NATO attacks against the Bosnian Serbs.
In the Bosnian War, horrible acts were committed by all sides, but the crime of the Bosnian Serbs was not ethnic cleansing for NATO. The crime of the Bosnian Serbs was that they were fighting to preserve Yugoslavia. Even Croats and Bosniaks in both Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina who wanted to preserve Yugoslavia and inter-ethnic peace were targeted, demonized, or killed. For example the Bosniak Fikret Abdic was charged as a war criminal in Croatia after he fled Bosnia-Herzegovina and Josip Rejhl-Kir the Croat police chief of Osijek was murdered by Croat nationalists for working to preserve the harmony between Croats and Croatian Serbs.
NATO intervened in Bosnia-Herzegovina to change the balance of power. The Bosnian Serbs were the most superior military force. Had NATO powers not internationalized the fighting and intervened, the Bosnian Serbs would have taken control of the country and maintained it as an integral part of Yugoslavia. This would have crippled or halted Euro-Atlantic expansion in the Balkans.
On January 15, 1999, the fighting in Racak between Serbian forces and the outlawed Kosovo Liberation Army, which the U.S. State Department itself labelled a terrorist organization, would be used to paint a similar picture of genocide and ethnic cleansing to justify war. By this time the Serbs had successfully been demonized by NATO and the media as the perpetrators of ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia, so NATO’s efforts to vilify the Serbs were made relatively easy. It is a matter of public record that U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright and the KLA leadership were working to create a humanitarian pretext for intervention. It was in this context that the U.S. and NATO had pressured the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to accept an arrangement where their military forces would leave Kosovo, but allowed the KLA to continue its attacks. This stroking of tensions is what NATO has tried to replicate in Syria through the so-called Free Syrian Army, which in reality is a terrorist organization linked to NATO and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
Arabdom: Libya and Syria
In 2011, the humanitarian card would be played again by NATO. Colonel Qaddafi was accused of massacring his own people, particularly in Benghazi. Packaged with the claims of jet attacks and foreign mercenaries, this prompted the U.N. to allow the U.S. and its NATO clients to impose another no-fly zone, like in Yugoslavia, which allowed for regime change to take place in Tripoli.
In Syria, the U.S. and its cohorts have sought to use Homs like another Srebrenica, Racak, and Benghazi. They have sought to use the same tactic for the stroking of tensions. The U.S. and its allies want to force the Syrian Army to stop fighting while the insurgent forces of the Syrian Free Army are given a free hand to launch attacks, just like they did with the Yugoslav military and the KLA. Russian and Chinese demands that both sides observe a ceasefire offset this strategy.
What stands in the way of another intervention is a firm resolve by Moscow and Beijing at the U.N. Security Council as well as the chain of alliances that Syria is tied to involving Iran. Damascus and its allies, however, should be wary of anymore traps to tie Syria down politically and legally through one-sided agreements. Nor should the Syrians place their trust in the United Nations.
Kofi Annan and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P)
Much praise is being given to Kofi Anna as the special envoy of both the Arab League and United Nations. There should, however, be caution applied when dealing with Annan. In this regard, his history with humanitarian intervention needs to be assessed.
According to Richard Holbrooke, who was intimately tied to the balkanization of Yugoslavia, Annan was one of the most supportive figures for U.S. foreign policy in the Balkans. Annan was actually instrumental in helping put together the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) with Canadian diplomats. Furthermore, Mr. Annan owes his rise to power to the U.S. and the events of Srebrenica and the fighting in the former Yugoslavia. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali was pushed aside by the United States to make way for Annan as the head of the United Nations.
Kofi Annan is also openly supportive of R2P. He was actually in Ottawa as a panellist for a discussion about R2P (The Responsibility to protect – 10 ears On: Reflections on its Past, Present and Future) held at the University of Ottawa on November 4, 2011. Prior to his arrival Allan Rock, the president of the University of Ottawa and the former Canadian ambassador to the U.N., and Lloyd Axworthy, the president of the University of Winnipeg and the former Canadian foreign minister who championed R2P, co-authored an article about R2P in the Ottawa Citizen on October 25, 2011. Both Axworthy, who would be on the panel with Annan, and Allan Rock, who would be hosting Annan at the Centre for International Policy Studies, would praise the war in Libya calling it a victory for R2P.
At the panel, Annan would additionally be joined by the decidedly pro-NATO Canadian parliamentarian Christopher Alexander from the governing Conservative Party of Canada. Alexander is the parliamentary secretary to Peter MacKay. Mackay is the current defence minister of Canada and voiced support for wars against Syria and Iran. Christopher Alexander was also a Canadian diplomat in Russia for several years, the former Canadian ambassador to NATO-garrisoned Afghanistan, and the deputy special representative of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). The R2P panel was moderated by Lyse Doucet, a correspondent for the BBC and a friend of Alexander.
What is important to note about the R2P panel at the University of Ottawa is that it was supportive of R2P. Kofi Annan also voiced his support for NATO’s military intervention in Libya. When asked about Syria, no firm answer was given, but Annan walked a supportive line. Finally, both Annan and Axworthy proposed that regional organizations be given R2P mandates. For example, the African Union should be able to intervene on the behalf of the international community in African countries like Uganda and Sudan or that the Arab League likewise be given an R2P mandate in countries like Syria.
These points are key factors. They should not be overlooked. Annan’s impartiality should be questioned, especially in light of the position on Libya and his supportive views for NATO military intervention.
Humanitarianism: The Face of Modern Imperialism
The NATO military interventions in Yugoslavia were colonial invasions masqueraded under the charade of humanitarian endeavours. Moreover, what NATO did in Yugoslavia was intervene in gradual phases in a piecemeal plan to divide and conquer the country. According to General John Galvin, the former supreme commander of NATO, this was done because NATO officials knew that an all-out invasion during the disintegration of the country would result in a massive guerrilla war with high costs for NATO. It can also be added that a NATO intervention would have had the inverse effect of unifying Yugoslavia instead of allowing the federal state to dissolve.
At the start of 2011, both Libya and Syria were holdouts to NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue and also had reservations about the European Union’s Union for the Mediterranean (UfM). This effectively means they were both holdouts to Euro-Atlantic expansion. While the protests in Bahrain and Jordan went unnoticed, all eyes were directed towards Libya and Syria. This is because of imperialist interests to subvert both Arab states.
Atlanticism is on the march. Both NATO’s operations in the Balkans and the Arab World are intended to expand the Euro-Atlantic Zone. Its involvement in African Union missions in East Africa are also tied to this. For all observers who take a detailed look at the restructuring of states vanquished by NATO, this should be very clear. Humanitarianism has become the new face of modern imperialism.
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
Strategic Culture Foundation, 30 March 2012.
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is a Sociologist and award-winning author. He specializes on the Middle East and Central Asia. He has been a contributor and guest discussing the broader Middle East on numerous programs and international networks such as Al Jazeera, Press TV and Russia Today. Nazemroaya was also a witness to the "Arab Spring" in action in North Africa. While on the ground in Libya during the NATO bombing campaign, he reported out of Tripoli for several media outlets. He sent key field dispatches from Libya for Global Research and was Special Correspondent for Pacifica’s syndicated investigative program Flashpoints, broadcast out of Berkeley, California. His writings have been published in more than ten languages. He also writes for the Strategic Culture Foundation (SCF) in Moscow, Russia.