Features: As the humanitarian warriors gloat

Here’s the key question in the Libyan War – Published on Pambazuka News, by Diana Johnstone, December 12, 2011.

The Libyan war has left a legacy of hatred, which may poison the lives of the people there for generations. But, writes Diana Johnstone, that is of no interest to the West, which doesn’t care about the human damage of their humanitarian killings … // 

… THE REAL CRUCIAL QUESTION:

In France, whose president Nicolas Sarkozy launched the anti-Kadhafi crusade, the pro-war unanimity has been greater than in the United States. One of the few prominent French personalities to speak out against it is Rony Brauman, a former president of Médecins sans frontières (Doctors Without Borders) and a critic of the ideology of “humanitarian intervention” promoted by another former MSF leader, Bernard Kouchner. The November 24 issue of Le Monde carried a debate between Brauman and the war’s main promoter, Bernard-Henri Lévy, which actually brought out the real crucial question.

The debate began with a few skirmishes about facts. Brauman, who had initially supported the notion of a limited intervention to protect Benghazi, recalled that he had rapidly changed his mind upon realizing that the threats involved were a matter of propaganda, not of observable realities. The aerial attacks on demonstrators in Tripoli were an “invention of Al Jazeera”, he observed.

To which Bernard-Henri Lévy replied in his trademark style of brazen-it-out indignant lying. “What!? An invention of Al Jazeera? How can you, Rony Brauman, deny the reality of those fighter planes swooping down to machinegun demonstrators in Tripoli that the entire world has seen?” Never mind that the entire world has seen no such thing. Bernard-Henri Lévy knows that whatever he says will be heard on television and read in the newspapers, no need for proof. “On the one hand, you had a super-powerful army equipped for decades and prepared for a popular uprising. On the other hand, you had unarmed civilians.”

Almost none of this was true. Kadhafi, fearing a military coup, had kept his army relatively weak. The much-denounced Western military equipment has never been used and its purchase, like the arms purchases by most oil-rich states, was more of a favor to Western suppliers than a useful contribution to defense. Moreover, the uprising in Libya, in contrast to protests in the surrounding countries, was notoriously armed.

But aside from the facts of the matter, the crucial issue between the two Frenchmen was a matter of principle: is or is not war a good thing?

Asked whether the Libya war marks the victory of the right of intervention, Brauman replied:

“Yes, undoubtedly… Some rejoice at that victory. As for me, I deplore it for I see there the rehabilitation of war as the way to settle conflicts.”

Brauman concluded: “Aside from the frivolity with which the National Transition Council, most of whose members were unknown, was immediately presented by Bernard-Henri Lévy as a secular democratic movement, there is a certain naiveté in wanting to ignore the fact that war creates dynamics favorable to radicals to the detriment of moderates. This war is not over.

“In making the choice of militarizing the revolt, the NTC gave the most violent their opportunity. By supporting that option in the name of democracy, NATO took on a heavy responsibility beyond its means. It is because war is a bad thing in itself that we should not wage it” … (full long text).

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