Category Archives: The Crime of Aggression (writings, documents)

Fifteen years of U.S. crimes in Afghanistan, Nov. 5, 2016
The 15-year U.S. war in Afghanistan barely gets mentioned, even when NATO airstrikes massacre 30 civilians
The U.S. war continues to take a heavy toll on Afghan civilians, yet Clinton and Trump never even discussed it
Ben Norton

At least 30 civilians, including women and children, were killed in NATO airstrikes in Afghanistan on Thursday. Dozens more civilians were wounded.

The site of the attack, in Afghanistan’s northern Kunduz province, was near the remnants of a hospital bombed by NATO forces almost exactly one year before.

These new casualties come just after the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan entered its 16th year. The ongoing conflict, which gets little coverage in the media and has hardly been mentioned in the presidential campaigns, is one of the longest conventional wars in U.S. history, and has taken an enormous toll on the South Asian country’s civilian population.

Airstrikes were called in on Thursday after heavy fighting erupted between Taliban militants and U.S. and allied Afghan forces in the northern village of Buz Kandahari.

Kunduz Governor Asadullah Amarkhil called the attack “a horrible incident,” Reuters reported. Afghan villagers brought the bodies of the slain civilians into the nearby city of Kunduz and held angry protests.

“These bodies you see here are either children or women, they are not Taliban. All innocent children and women killed here — look at the bodies there,” a resident told Reuters.

Two U.S. soldiers were also killed in the fighting.

This latest attack took place roughly three miles from the center of Kunduz, where NATO forces bombed a hospital operated by Doctors Without Borders in October 2015.

Last year’s attack killed another 30 civilians, including 14 hospital workers. A hospital nurse said there “are no words for how terrible” the bombing was, noting that “patients were burning in their beds.”

The U.S. military’s version of the story changed multiple times, and was full of contradictions. Ultimately, no U.S. officials lost their jobs because of the attack.

Doctors Without Borders called the hospital bombing a war crime. The U.N. high commissioner for human rights similarly said it could have been a war crime.

The medical humanitarian group, known internationally as Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF, emphasized that it had “communicated the precise locations of its facilities to all parties on multiple occasions over the past months.” Yet its facility was repeatedly bombed for more than 30 minutes, even after MSF “frantically phoned” Washington.

The Kunduz hospital was the only large medical facility in all of northeastern Afghanistan, yet MSF was forced to withdraw from the area after the attack.

Millions of Afghans have had their lives permanently changed by the U.S. war, which marked its 15th anniversary on Oct. 7 — an unpropitious date that came and went with little attention in the media, and virtually no acknowledgment by major American politicians.

More than a decade of nonstop war has pushed Afghanistan to the brink of catastrophe. And things are getting worse, not better.

At least 220,000 Afghans were killed in the first 12 years of the war, in a conservative estimate, according to a report by the Nobel Prize-winning organization International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

Since 2012, Afghan civilian casualties have increased, with children making up a growing portion of victims. The violence in 2015 was the worst since the U.N. began tracking the casualties.

In the first nine months of 2016, 2,562 Afghan civilians were killed, including more than 600 children, and another 5,835 were injured, according to the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.
A graph released by the U.N. mission shows how civilian casualties have gradually risen in the past several years.

A May report by Amnesty International noted that the number of Afghans “who have fled violence and remained trapped in their own country, where they live on the brink of survival,” has doubled in just over three years.

At least 1.2 million Afghans are displaced within their country — a rise by some 240 percent since 2013. Another roughly 2.6 million Afghans are refugees, stuck outside of their country’s borders.

Afghans make up one of the world’s largest refugee populations. Yet the European Union, which has backed the NATO war in Afghanistan that has displaced so many people, made a deal to send Afghan refugees to Turkey, in a plan experts said is illegal and immoral.

Even child refugees are not spared. From 2007 to 2015, the United Kingdom deported 2,018 unaccompanied children to Afghanistan — in another program human rights officials have warned is illegal.

None of this is to mention the enormous costs of the war for U.S. taxpayers. Numerous reports estimate that the war in Afghanistan has cost at least $1 trillion. That is money that could have been invested in social services, health care, infrastructure, education and so much more.

The war drags on. President Obama promised countless times that he would end it in 2014. Instead, he has extended it multiple times.

The Taliban was itself a product of U.S. war. In order to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the U.S. and its allies Pakistan and Saudi Arabia trained, armed and funded extremist Islamist militants, giving birth to the extremism that haunts the region today.

While fighting between the Taliban and U.S.-led forces escalates, Obama nears his last days in office. Neither Hillary Clinton, the most likely candidate for U.S. president, nor her opponent Donald Trump has presented a strategy for ending the war. The Afghan people, meanwhile, cannot wait. They are dying, suffering, losing their homes and loved ones.

As Nicholas Haysom, the U.N.’s secretary general’s special representative for Afghanistan, put it in February, mere statistics do not “reflect the real horror of the phenomenon we are talking about.”

“The real cost we are talking about in these figures,” Haysom continued, “is measured in the maimed bodies of children, the communities who have to live with loss, the grief of colleagues and relatives, the families who make do without a breadwinner, the parents who grieve for lost children, the children who grieve for lost parents.”

Ben Norton is a politics reporter and staff writer at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

Hillary Laughed ‘I Came He Died’

US and Britain wrangled over Iraq’s oil in aftermath of war, Chilcot shows

US and Britain wrangled over Iraq’s oil in aftermath of war, Chilcot shows

Terry Macalister, 7 July 2016, The Guardian

Iraq war inquiry finds Britain arguing for ‘level playing field’ for its companies in access to oilfields.

The US and British governments fought bitterly over control of Iraq’s oil following the toppling of Saddam Hussein, the Chilcot papers show. Tony Blair seemed more concerned than the Americans about any invasion being seen by critics as a war for oil, telling them it would be very damaging if the two countries were seen to “grab Iraq’s oil”.

But Sir David Manning, foreign policy adviser to Tony Blair, told Condoleezza Rice, the US national security adviser, in Washington on 9 December 2002 that Britain still wanted more of the spoils.

“It would be inappropriate for HMG [Her Majesty’s government] to enter into discussions about any future carve-up of the Iraqi oil industry,” he said. “Nonetheless it is essential that our [British] companies are given access to a level playing field in this and other sectors.”

UK government officials called in a team from BP for a briefing about the prospects for the Iraq energy sector on 23 January 2003, two months before the invasion, which ended in May.

Later that year, the British oil company started a technical review of the Rumaila field, the second largest in the world. By 2009 BP had won a service contract to raise production on the field, which has 20bn barrels of recoverable oil.

Edward Chaplin, the British ambassador in occupied Iraq, talked of raising “BP and Shell’s interests” when he held discussions with Iraq’s interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, on 13 December 2004.

Blair had told the US president, George W Bush, at a meeting mid-invasion on 31 March 2003, that a clearer picture was needed of the shape of a post-Saddam Iraq to “sketch out a political and economic future and dispel the myth that we were out to grab Iraq’s oil”.

Yet a civil service briefing note in the same year for Geoff Hoon – then the UK defence secretary – before talks with his US counterpart, Donald Rumsfeld, discusses the need for “Level playing field: big contracts to rebuild Iraq. Putting UK lives on line. Expect level playing field for UK business in oil and other areas.”

Sir Jeremy Greenstock, UK ambassador to the United Nations, identified budgeting and oil as the two clearest examples of issues on which the UK was not consulted by the US-run coalition provisional authority put in to run Iraq.

“We did not see anything whatsoever in the oil sector; they [the CPA] kept that very closely American, because they wanted to run the oil sector,” he told the Chilcot inquiry, and was quoted in the final report.

Meanwhile, a note between two British civil servants on 6 September 2004, headed “Energy strategy for Iraq”, highlighted that the UK was to take advantage of Iraq, which has some of the world’s largest oil reserves. It said: “Iraq’s energy sector development to be complemented by the increasing involvement of UK firms, leading to sustained investment over the next five to 10 years and substantial business for the UK.”

BP declined to comment.

Is media just another word for control?

Is media just another word for control?

by John Pilger, 2 January 2014
A recent poll asked people in Britain how many Iraqis had been killed as a result of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The answers they gave were shocking. A majority said that fewer than 10,000 had been killed. Scientific studies report that up to a million Iraqi men, women and children died in an inferno lit by the British government and its ally in Washington. That’s the equivalent of the genocide in Rwanda. And the carnage goes on. Relentlessly.
What this reveals is how we in Britain have been misled by those whose job is to keep the record straight. The American writer and academic Edward Herman calls this ‘normalising the unthinkable’. He describes two types of victims in the world of news: ‘worthy victims’ and ‘unworthy victims’. ‘Worthy victims’ are those who suffer at the hands of our enemies: the likes of Assad, Qadaffi, Saddam Hussein. ‘Worthy victims’ qualify for what we call ‘humanitarian intervention’. ‘Unworthy victims’ are those who get in the way of our punitive might and that of the ‘good dictators’ we employ. Saddam Hussein was once a ‘good dictator’ but he got uppity and disobedient and was relegated to ‘bad dictator’.
In Indonesia, General Suharto was a ‘good dictator’, regardless of his slaughter of perhaps a million people, aided by the governments of Britain and America. He also wiped out a third of the population of East Timor with the help of British fighter aircraft and British machine guns. Suharto was even welcomed to London by the Queen and when he died peacefully in his bed, he was lauded as enlightened, a moderniser, one of us. Unlike Saddam Hussein, he never got uppity.
When I travelled in Iraq in the 1990s, the two principal Moslem groups, the Shia and Sunni, had their differences but they lived side by side, even intermarried and regarded themselves with pride as Iraqis. There was no Al Qaida, there were no jihadists. We blew all that to bits in 2003 with ‘shock and awe’. And today Sunni and Shia are fighting each other right across the Middle East. This mass murder is being funded by the regime in Saudi Arabia which beheads people and discriminates against women. Most of the 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. In 2010, Wikileaks released a cable sent to US embassies by the Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. She wrote this: “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support for Al Qaeda, the Taliban, al Nusra and other terrorist groups… worldwide”. And yet the Saudis are our valued allies. They’re good dictators. The British royals visit them often. We sell them all the weapons they want.
I use the first person ‘we’ and ‘our’ in line with newsreaders and commentators who often say ‘we’, preferring not to distinguish between the criminal power of our governments and us, the public. We are all assumed to be part of a consensus: Tory and Labour, Obama’s White House too. When Nelson Mandela died, the BBC went straight to David Cameron, then to Obama. Cameron who went to South Africa during Mandela’s 25th year of imprisonment on a trip that was tantamount to support for the apartheid regime, and Obama who recently shed a tear in Mandela’s cell on Robben Island – he who presides over the cages of Guantanamo.
What were they really mourning about Mandela? Clearly not his extraordinary will to resist an oppressive system whose depravity the US and British governments backed year after year. Rather they were grateful for the crucial role Mandela had played in quelling an uprising in black South Africa against the injustice of white political and economic power. This was surely the only reason he was released. Today the same ruthless economic power is apartheid in another form, making South Africa the most unequal society on earth. Some call this “reconciliation”.
We all live in an information age – or so we tell each other as we caress our smart phones like rosary beads, heads down, checking, monitoring, tweeting. We’re wired; we’re on message; and the dominant theme of the message is ourselves. Identity is the zeitgeist. A lifetime ago in ‘Brave New World’, Aldous Huxley predicted this as the ultimate means of social control because it was voluntary, addictive and shrouded in illusions of personal freedom. Perhaps the truth is that we live not in an information age but a media age. Like the memory of Mandela, the media’s wondrous technology has been hijacked. From the BBC to CNN, the echo chamber is vast.
In his acceptance of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, Harold Pinter spoke about a “manipulation of power worldwide, while masquerading as a force for universal good, a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.” But, said Pinter, “it never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.”
Pinter was referring to the systematic crimes of the United States and to an undeclared censorship by omission – that is, leaving out crucial information that might help us make sense of the world.
Today liberal democracy is being replaced by a system in which people are accountable to a corporate state – not the other way round as it should be. In Britain, the parliamentary parties are devoted to the same doctrine of care for the rich and struggle for the poor. This denial of real democracy is an historic shift. It’s why the courage of Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange is such a threat to the powerful and unaccountable. And it’s an object lesson for those of us who are meant to keep the record straight. The great reporter Claud Cockburn put it well: “Never believe anything until it’s officially denied”.
Imagine if the lies of governments had been properly challenged and exposed as they secretly prepared to invade Iraq – perhaps a million people would be alive today.
This is a transcript of John Pilger’s contribution to a special edition of  BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme, on 2 January 2014, guest-edited by the artist and musician Polly Harvey. You can listen to the above transcript here

The War on Libya : An Imperialist Project to Create Three Libyas

The War on Libya : An Imperialist Project to Create Three Libyas

By Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
Global Research, July 29, 2011

TRIPOLI, July 28, 2011 The division of Libya into three separate countries is part of the US-NATO imperial design. It is part of a project shared by the U.S., Britain, Italy, and France.

The NATO war launched against Libya in March 2011 was geared towards the breakup of the country into three separate entities.

The NATO led war, however, is back firing. The Libyan people have united to save their country and Tripoli is exploring its strategic options.

Preface: Reality versus Fiction

Almost all of the text herein was written a few months prior to my trip to Tripoli. It is part of a series of articles on Libya which I have been updating. It is fitting to conclude it in Tripoli, Libya. To be here on the ground in Libya is to be witness to the lies and warped narratives of the mainstream media and the governments. These lies have been used to justify this criminal military endeavor.

The mainstream media has been a major force in this war. They have endorsed and fabricated the news, they have justified an illegal and criminal war against an entire population.

Passing through the neighbourhood of Fashloom in Tripoli it is apparent that no jets attacked it as Al Jazeera and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) falsely claimed. Now the same media networks, newspapers, and wires claim on a daily basis that Tripoli is about to fall and that the Transitional Council is making new advances to various cities. Tripoli is nowhere near falling and is relatively peaceful. Foreign journalists have also all been taken to the areas that are being reported to have fallen to the Transitional Council, such as Sabha and its environs.

The mainstream media reporting out of Tripoli have consistently produced false reports. They report about information from “secure internet services” which essentially describes embassy and intelligence communication media. This is also tied to the “shadow internet” networks that the Obama Administration is promoting as part of a fake protest movement directed against governments around the world, including Latin America, Africa and Eurasia.

The foreign press operating out of Libya have deliberately worked to paint a false picture of Libya as a country on the brink of collapse and Colonel Qaddafi as a despot with little support.

A journalist was filmed wearing a bulletproof vest for his report in a peaceful area where there was no need for a bulletproof vest. These journalists broadly transmit the same type of news as the journalists embedded with the armed forces, the so-called embedded journalists. Most of the foreign press has betrayed the sacred trust of the public to report accurately and fairly.

Not only are they actively misreporting, but are serving the interests of the military coalition. They are actively working “against Libya.” They and their editors have deliberately fashioned reports and taken pictures and footage which have been used to portray Tripoli as an empty ghost town.

Le Monde for example published an article on July 7, 2011 by Jean-Philippe Rémy, which included misleading photographs that presented Tripoli as a ghost city. The photographs were taken by Laurent Van der Stickt, but it was the editors in Paris who selected the pictures to be used for publication. Le Monde is an instrument of war propaganda. It is publishing material which serves to mislead French public opinion.

Sky News is no better. Lisa Holland of Sky News has always used the words “claimed,” “claim,” and “unverified” for anything that Libyan officials say, but presents everything that NATO says without the same doubt-casting language as if it is an unquestionable truth. She used every chance she had to degrade the Libyans. When she visited the bombed home of the daughter of Mohammed Ali Gurari, where the entire family was killed by NATO, she repeatedly asked if Qaddafi was responsible for the bombing to the dismay of those present, with the exception of the reporters who helped paint distorted pictures in the mind of their audiences and readers. She has deliberately distorted the underlying the reality of the situation, blaming Qaddafi, while knowing full well who had killed the Gurari family.

Other reports include those of Liseron Boudoul., Boudoul is a reporter for Télévision française 1 (TF1), who has been in Tripoli for months. She reported on March 22, 2011 that all the reports coming out of Tripoli are reviewed and censored by Tripoli. This statement was fabricated. If the Libyans had been censoring the news, they would not have allowed her to make that statement or for her and her colleagues to continue their disinformation campaign. Like all the other foreign journalists in Libya, she has witnessed the popular support for Colonel Qaddafi, but this important information has been deliberately withheld from her reports.

Much of what is being passed on as news by foreign reporters on the ground is a mirror of the US-NATO’s fake humanitarian mandate.

There is a real military-industrial-media complex at work in North America and Western Europe. Most of the media claims are nonsensical and contrary to the facts on the ground. They ignore the realities and hard facts. Were these to have been revealed, people in NATO countries would be mobilizing against their governments and against the NATO led war on Libya.

They have helped portray the victim as the aggressor. They use every chance they have to demonize the Libyan government, while upholding the legitimacy of NATO. Essentially many of these so-called journalists are professional propagandists.

The mainstream media has also basically worked as an intelligence branch of the Pentagon and NATO in multiple ways. The mainstream media has been party to atrocities and crimes and that point should not be lost when analyzing the war in Libya. British journalists have even been said to have given coordinates for bombings to NATO.

Libya: A Nation and its Society

Because of its geographic location, Libya has been at the crossroads, a meeting point of various ethnic groups and nationalities, The inhabitants of Libya are a mixed people of various stocks from Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, Europe, and Southwest Asia. Berbers, Egyptians, Greeks, people of Italian descent, people from the Levant, Iranians, Arabs, Turks, Vandals, Hadjanrais, Tuaregs (the Kel Tamajaq or Kel Tamashq), and several other groups have all contributed to the mosaic that constitutes the present population and society of Libya.

The genesis of the concept of a Libyan nation as a loosely-knit entity started with the imperial rule of the Ottoman Empire in North Africa. For the inhabitants of Libya it resulted in a shared feeling of similarity that intensified after the Italo-Ottoman War. After this war between the Ottoman Empire and Italy, the three Ottoman provinces in Libya fell under Italian colonial control.

From the Ottoman and Italian periods onwards up until the years after the Italian defeat the Eastern Libyans had much in common with their kindred in Egypt, while Western Libyans had much in common with their kindred in Tunisia and Algeria, and while Southern Libyans had much in common with their kindred in Niger, Chad, and Sudan. The inhabitants of Libya, however, also had much in common with each other. This included a shared history, a shared language with similar dialects of Arabic, a shared faith, and shared political goals.

Geographic proximity and a united feeling of animosity towards the Italians were also important ingredients in establishing a sense of nationhood. Under Italian rule of Libya this feeling of similarity amongst the local inhabitants eventually developed into a national identity as well as a resistance movement to Italian colonial rule. The aspirations of this indigenous resistance were local sovereignty and unity without any foreign yoke.

The Devil’s Game: Divide and Conquer

Libya has fallen deeper and deeper into a trap. The flames of internal fighting have been fuelled in Libya with the aim of replicating the same divisive scenarios that occurred in the former Yugoslavia and in Iraq. These plans are also aimed at igniting chaos in North Africa and West Africa in an effort to re-colonize Africa in its entirety.

The objective of Washington and its allies consists in confiscating and managing Libya’s vast wealth and controlling its resources. The have initiated a foreign-propelled civil war in Libya. Meanwhile the forces of Colonel Qaddafi have regained control of most of Libyan territory.

The coalition then decided to intervene when the Benghazi-based Transitional Council was lying in its deathbed and was in very desperate shape. If it had to, the Transitional Council was willing to make a deal with the “Devil” for its survival. Thus, the Transitional Council embraced its NATO enablers even closer.

It must also be asked, which Libyan tribes have publicly sided with the Transitional Council? This is a very important question that allows one to establish the extent of public support for the rebellion. Anyone who understands Libyan society also understands the heavy political weight and representation the tribes have.

Also, how many people remain in Benghazi? The demographics of that city have changed since the start of the conflict. Many people have fled to Egypt and abroad from Benghazi. This is not due to the fighting alone, but is tied to a lack of support for the Transitional Council, not to mention the foreign fighters that the TNC has brought, and the lawlessness prevailing in Benghazi.

Dividing Libya into Three Trusteeships

There have been longstanding designs for dividing Libya that go back to 1943 and 1951. This started with failed attempts to establish a trusteeship over Libya after the defeat of Italy and Germany in North Africa during the Second World War.

The attempts to divide Libya then eventually resulted in a strategy that forced a monarchical federal system onto the Libyans similar to the “federal system” imposed on Iraq following the illegal 2003 Anglo-American invasion. If the Libyans had accepted federalism in their relatively homogenous society they could have forfeited their independence in 1951. [1]

Great sacrifices were made by the Libyans who fought to liberate their nation. During the Second World War the Libyans allowed Britain to enter their country to fight the Italians and the Germans. Benghazi fell to British military control on November 20, 1942, and Tripoli on January 23, 1943.[2] Despite its promises to allow Libya to become an independent country, London intended to administer the two Libyan provinces of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica separately as colonies, while Paris was given control over the region of Fezzan (Fazzan), which is roughly one-third of Libya and the area to the southwest of the country bordering Algeria, Niger, and Chad. [3]

Following the end of the Second World War the victors and Italy attempted to partition Libya into territories that they would govern over as trust territories. It is because of the failure of this project that the Libyans gained independence as a united nation.

The political scientist Henri Habib describes this best:

The Allies, hav[ing] introduced a division in [Libya], hoped to have enough time to achieve their own ambitions. In the meantime, the Four Big Powers – the U.S.A., the U.S.S.R., the U.K., and France – met on two occasions at Potsdam and at San Francisco to discuss among other things the future of the former Italian colonies in Africa, including Libya. They referred the matter to the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Big Four. The latter met in London in September, 1945, and later in April, 1946, but were unable to agree. The U.S. proposed a collective United Nations Trusteeship over Libya; the U.S.S.R. proposed a Soviet Trusteeship over Tripolitania; while France wanted it returned to Italy. Eventually, the Soviets adopted the French view, but insisted on a Soviet-Italian Trusteeship. The British were ambiguous on the future; Britain and the U.S. later accepted an Italian Trusteeship on the condition, Britain insisted, that Cyrenaica be excluded. On February 10, 1947, a peace treaty with Italy was signed in Paris without settling the question of the Italian colonies. The Italians renounced all rights to their former colonies. They were secretly encouraged to make this renunciation in exchange for a vague promise of a U.N. Trusteeship over some of their former colonies. The Paris Conference had established as a corollary to the 1947 Peace Treaty with Italy a special Four Power Commission of Investigation to study the conditions in the former Italian colonies. They visited Libya from March 6, to May 20, 1948. They also consulted with the Italian government. The Commission was unable to arrive at a common decision, and conflicting recommendations were made, despite a strong desire made by the Libyan people for their independence. […] When the foreign ministers of the Big Four met on September 13, 1948, to receive the recommendations, they had little choice but to refer the whole matter to the General Assembly of the U.N. scheduled to meet on September 15, 1948.
Thus the question of the Libyan and other Italian colonies was placed on the U.N. General Assembly agenda. [4]

Once the matter was handed to the U.N. General Assembly, the British and the Italians made a last-ditch proposal on May 10, 1949, called the Bevin-Sfora Plan for Libya that consisted in dividing Libyan territory into an Italian-controlled Tripolitania, a British-controlled Cyrenaica, and a French-ruled Fezzan. [5] The motion failed by a vote of one and if it were not for the crucial vote of Haiti the U.N. would have portioned Libya into three separate countries. [6] (See map below)

The defeat of the plans to divide Libya at the U.N. would not be the end of the project to divide the North African country. There was still the internal card, division from within. This is where King Idris came into the picture.

Soft Balkanization through a Federal Emirate

Libya could have ended up like Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and the Trucial Sheikhdoms which subsequently formed the United Arab Emirates. The British, the French, and the Italians did not give up their design for Libya, even when the U.N. General Assembly voted in favour of a united and independent Libya. They continued to try to divide Libya and even establish spheres of influence in consultaiton with the U.S. The focus was on Libyan federalism through an unelected National Assembly controlled by King Idris and a small circle of Libyan chieftains. [7]

The federalist system was unacceptable to many Libyans, which saw the new undemocratic National Assembly as a means of sidestepping the Libyan people. Moreover, the elected representatives from the heavily populated region of Tripolitania would be outweighed by the unelected chieftains from Cyrenaica and Fezzan. The official U.S. position was that the so-called “indigenous political leadership” of Cyrenaica and Fezzan enter the National Assembly with the elected representatives from Tripolitania on the “basis of equal representation for all parts of Libya.” [8] This was Orwellian double-speak that was meant to sidestep the will of the Libyan people. What was being pushed for by the U.S., Britain, France, and Italy was a country similar to the Arab sheikhdoms of the Persian Gulf.

In 1951, the U.S. State Department had this to say about the unelected National Assembly and King Idris:
The Department hopes and expects that all powers previously exercised by the Administering Authorities [meaning France and Britain] will, by the date fixed by the [U.N. General Assembly] (i.e., January 1, 1952) “have been transferred to the duly constituted Libyan Government”. Proclamation of independence is expected to follow thereafter, together with the assumption by [the] Emir (Idris Al Senusi) of his position as constitutional monarch of United Libya. [9]

This did not sit well with many Arabs. Egypt was highly critical and saw through the diplomatic deceit. The Egyptian and wider Arab opposition were based on the following rationale:

(a) the National Assembly (which prepared the [Libyan] constitution) should have been an elected rather than an appointed body (Egypt has contended previously that only an elected [or democratic] National Assembly in which the three parts of Libya […] were represented in proportion to their population could properly represent the people of Libya in the constitution-making process […]) ; (b) the form of government should be unitary rather than federal ; and (c) the present federation plan is merely a disguised method of maintaining old imperialist control over Libya by the interested great powers. [10]

In this regard, Henri Habib states: “When Libya obtained its independence in December 1951, federalism was imposed upon the country by King Idris and the foreign powers [specifically Britain, France, the U.S., and Italy] despite opposition from the majority of Libyans.” [11] He adds further: “Libyans saw their country deliberately divided by Britain and France, and [the] seeds of division planted among them.” [12]

Federalism, however, would be defeated by the steadfast pan-Arab demands for unity by the Libyan people:
Despite the initially strong opposition of King Idris and his British mentors, the country was forced by the nature of things to adopt the unitary system in April 1963. The federal experiment was a failure and even the king had to acknowledge it. A special royal decree was issued on April 27, 1963, abolishing federalism and establishing the unitary system. [13]

If Washington, London, Paris, and Rome had succeeded in their design, modern-day Libya would in all likelihood not have become a republic. Instead Libya would most probably have mirrored the model of the United Arab Emirates, as an Arab petro-sheikhdom in the Mediterranean and the only Arab sheikhdom outside of the Persian Gulf littoral.

Calculated Balkanization via Civil War: Dividing Libya into Trusteeships

There was more than just fate on the side of the Libyan people who had fought for their independence. The imperialist attempt to divide Libya into three territories was defeated by the Libyan people. In the words of Henri Habib:

Despite the attempts made by a number of powers to keep Libya divided and weak after 1951 by establishing a federal system in a homogenous state, the Libyans amended their own constitution in 1963, established a unitary state and removed a major obstacle to the unity of [Libya]. This obstacle was an administrative or structural impediment to the fuller evolution of independence which the Libyans sacrificed so much to achieve. [14]

During the previous scheme to divide their country many Libyans realized that the objective of the former colonial powers was to enhance the powers of King Idris. Idris was to serve as a foreign vassal and the “local manager” of foreign interests. His role would have been similar to the Arab monarchs in Jordan and Morocco. The purpose was to install a neocolonial regime while weakening Libya as a nation-State. [15]

Today, in the context of the US-NATO led war, the objectives to divide Libya into the three territories of Tripolitania, Cyrenaica, and Fezzan are very much alive. James Clapper Jr., the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, had testified to the U.S. Senate in March 2011 that at the end of the conflict Libya would revert to its previous federalist divisions which existed under the monarchy and that the country would have two or three different administrations. [16]

Thus, effectively Britain, France and Italy have resumed their neocolonial project to balkanize Libya into three separate states. All three countries have acknowledged sending military advisors to the Transitional Council: “Italian Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa said 10 military instructors would be sent and details were being worked out. He spoke Wednesday [April 20, 2011] after meeting with his British counterpart, Liam Fox.” [17] It is most likely that hundreds of NATO and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) military advisors and special troops are operating on the ground in Libya.

France has openly admitted funnelling weapons into the Western Mountains to forces hostile to the Tripoli government. [18] This constitutes a breach of U.N. security council resolution 1973. It constitutes a blatant violation of international law. The French government claims that they are sending weapons to civilians to protect themselves. This is a non-sequitur argument. It has no legal standing whatsoever and is an utter lie.

Weapons’ shipments have also been flown into Benghazi by these Western European powers and the U.S. under the disguise of humanitarian aid. Moreover there are signs that the small insurgency in the Western Mountains was coordinated by U.S. diplomats in November 2010. [19] One U.S. diplomat was asked to leave Libya in November 2010 for making unauthorized secret trips to the area, just as U.S. and French diplomats have done in Hama to stroke tensions in Syria. [20]

This war seeks to create divisions within Libyan society. Admiral Stravridis, the U.S. commander in charge of NATO, has told the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee in March 2011 that he believed that Qaddafi’s support base would shrink as the tribal cleavages in Libya came “into play” as the war proceeded. [21] What Stravridis indirectly spelled out is that the NATO operations in Libya will cause further internal divisions through igniting tribal tensions that will cement regional differences. This is one of the real aims of the bombing campaign. [22] The U.S. and NATO also know full well that if Colonel Qaddafi is gone that the Libyan tribes would bicker amongst themselves for power and be politically divided. This is why they have been very adamant about removing Qaddafi.

The U.S., Britain, France, Italy, and NATO have all banked on a power vacuum that would be left by Qaddafi if he leaves power or dies. This is why they want to kill him. They have calculated that there will be a mad dash to fill the power vacuum that will help divide Libya further and promote violence. They are also very well aware that any tribal conflicts in Libya will spread from North Africa into West Africa and Central Africa.

The NATO-led coalition against Libya is supported by covert intelligence operaitons on the ground as psychological operations (PSYOPS) to create internal divisions within the Tripoli government. This is intended to not only weaken the regime and to make it act more desperately, but it is also intended to compound the internal divisions within Libya.
Britain’s William Hague has offered sanctuary to any Libyan officials, such as Musa Al-Kusa, that wish to defect from Tripoli and has said that London will exempt them from international sanctions. [23] This British offer of “exemption” also illustrates that the international sanctions against Libya are a political weapon with very little moral or ethical meaning or drive.

Even within the Benghazi-based Transitional Council there are divisions that the Pentagon and NATO have been exploiting. The Wall Street Journal had this to report about the animosity between the so-called jihadist elements and the rest of the Transitional Council: “Some rebel leaders are wary of their [meaning the jihadists] roles. ‘Many of us were concerned about these people’s backgrounds,’ said Ashour Abu Rashed, one of Darna’s representatives on the rebel’s provisional government body, the Transitional National Council.” [24] It has also been disclosed that the Transitional Council forces are also fighting each other and using NATO against each other. [25]

Sowing the Seeds of Chaos: Al-Qaeda and Libya

U.S. officials have increasingly been talking about the expansion of Al-Qaeda in Africa and how the “Global War on Terrorism” must be extended into the African continent. This talking point severes the following objectives:

1. To bolster U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and a NATO-like alliance in Africa.

2. To control the Transitional Council, which is integrated by an Islamic militia as well prevent the development of an authentic and progressive opposition within Libya.

The U.S. and the E.U. would not not accept a truly independent Libyan government. In this regard, there are contingency plans which would allow the US and the E.U., if they so choose, to betray the Transitional Council or dispose of it like an outdated utensil. This is why the Pentagon and the mainstream media have started to speak about an Al-Qaeda presence in Libya.

Such scenario of betrayal should come as no surprise. The U.S. and its allies have consistently betrayed former allies. Saddam Hussein is one example and another is the Taliban government in Kabul, which was directly supported by the US.

Washington and its cohorts are deliberately keeping the Al-Qaeda card in reserve to use against the Transitional Council in case it refuses to cooperate with Washington and NATO. Regardless of a Transitional Council victory, they also want to use the Al-Qaeda card as a a justificaiton for future military interventions in Libya under the banner of the “war on terrorism”.

It is very likely that terrorist attacks will occur in Libya in some form like they did in Iraq following its 2003 invasion and occupation. These acts of terrorism will be covertly coordinated by Washington and its NATO allies.

In the words of Robin Cook the former foreign minister of Britain, Al-Qaeda is “originally the computer file of the thousands of mujahideen who were recruited and trained with help from the CIA to defeat the Russians [sic.; Soviets].” [26] Washington and NATO are now planning to use Al-Qaeda and the militant Islamists that they themselves created to fight countries opposed to their agenda, such as Syria and Libya, and to implant a new generation of subservient Islamist politicians into Arab countries, such as Egypt.

Dividing Libya: Destroying the Nation State

This war in Libya has nothing to do with saving lives. Truth is turned upside down: Killing is saving lives, being dead is being alive, war is peace, destruction is preservation, and open lies are presented as the truth. People have been blinded by a slew of lies and utter deception.

In this conflict most of the propaganda, most of the lies, and most of the hatred have invariably come from people who are not actually involved in the fighting. Others have been used as their pawns and Libya as their battlefield. All the known advocates of Pentagon militarism and global empire demanded for this war to take place, including Paul Wolfowitz, John McCain, Joseph Lieberman, Eliott Abrahams, Leon Wieseltier, John Hannah, Robert Kagan, and William Kristol.

There has been a blatant infringement of international law. War crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed by NATO in Libya. These crimes will never be investigated by the International Criminal Court (I.C.C.) or the U.N. Quite the opposite: the U.N. Security Council and the I.C.C. are political weapons, which are being used against Libya. The UN is silent on the use of depleted uranium (D.U.) ammunition or the bombing of civilian targets

This is not a a humanitarian war: the first target of the war was the Mint which prints and issues Libyan dinars and the country’s food storage facilities. Several humanitarian organizations were targetted including schools, a children center, hospitals, the offices of the Down’s Syndrome Society, the Handicapped Women’s Foundation, the National Diabetic Research Centre, the Crippled Children’s Foundation. Among the hospitals and medical facilities which have been bombed is a complex used for medical oxygen production.

The bombings have also targetted residential areas, a hotel, restaurants, a bus filled with civilians, Nasser University (a campus of Al-Fatah University), and a conference hall with participants involved in anti-war activism. Meanwhile NATO was supplying the rebels with offensive weapons [27]

What is happening in Libya is an insidious process.
The underlying objective is create divisions within Libyan society.

The war is dragging out, which in turn creates a situation in which the Transitional Council becomes increasingly dependent on the US and NATO military alliance. This is why NATO has deliberately prolonged the war and reduced its support to the Transitional Council’s forces on the battlefield. This is one of the reasons why rebel forces have been pushed back. Even the so-called “friendly fire” incidents whereby NATO bombed the Transitional Council’s tank column heading towards Tripoli are suspect. Was this a deliberate attack with a view to prolonging the fighting. [28]

NATO has now bombed advancing Transitional Council forces several times. The Transitional Council has found it hard to explain why NATO has been bombing its forces and has even been placed in a position where it had to apologize on April 2, 2011 to NATO when its frontline volunteers were killed by NATO war planes. [29] Internal political fighting within the Transitional Council may also be a factor behind these “friendly fire” NATO bombings.

Many reports have described the conflict as intensifying:

The pro-Qadhafi forces mounted a fierce assault on Ajdabiyah since Saturday morning [April 9, 2011]. Following classic military tactics, regime forces first resorted to the heavy artillery firing, which was followed by incursions by infantry troops inside the town. By afternoon, shells were landing at Istanbul street in the city centre, causing panic among several opposition fighters, who chose to hastily flee in their vehicles towards Benghazi. However, some among the opposition ranks stood their ground, and managed to control the north-eastern access to the town. But another artillery barrage appeared to have dislodged them from their fragile moorings. As the battle raged, NATO forces were pitching in with air strikes, which seemed unable to silence the regime’s heavy guns. On Sunday [April 10, 2011], NATO claimed that air strikes had destroyed 11 regime tanks ahead of Ajdabiyah. The government said it had shot down two opposition helicopters, signalling the high intensity of the fighting on the ground as well as in the air. [30]

In reality there is a virtual stalemate. The Transitional Council is not moving westward, but has also been entrenched in its eastward positions due to NATO support.

One objective of NATO is to control both sides. The idea is that as both sides become more desperate they will also increasingly turn to Washington and Brussels for a way out of the war and make more concessions to U.S. and E.U. demands. The Israelis are also another player that can be turned to by both sides in Libya.

Both Tripoli and Benghazi have talked with the U.S. and the E.U. through different channels, which include using individuals in unofficial positions. Kurt Weldon, a former member of the U.S. Congress for Pennsylvania, went to meet with Libyan officials at the start of April 2011. Weldon made the trip to Tripoli in coordination with the White House. The U.S. media tried to casually gloss over Weldon’s visit running articles about how he did not meet Qaddafi.

At the onset of the fighting Tripoli accepted Venezuelan offers for mediation, which the U.S. and the E.U. undermined and the Transitional Council rejected. Tripoli even said that it accepted an initial March 2011 African Union ceasefire and reform plan, which were ignored by Washington and its allies. Tripoli even requested that the African Union, the U.N., and the E.U. investigate for themselves the claims against the Libyan government. Worldwide, most governments, from Brazil and Nigeria to Malaysia and China, voiced support for a negotiated settlement in Libya, but this has been ignored by the U.S., NATO, and the unrepresentative group of Arab dictators they call their allies.

The Qaddafi family’s subsequent requests for diplomatic negotiations were also turned down by the U.S. and the main E.U. powers. [31] Afterwards, Tripoli again accepted African Union offers for mediation spearheaded by the Republic of South Africa and a repeated African Union proposal for a ceasefire, which the U.S. and the E.U. undermined again and the Transitional Council rejected. [32] The repeated African Union proposal called for a ceasefire, the creation of humanitarian corridors, protection of foreigners, and finally dialogue between both sides in bringing democratic reform. [33] A massive people’s initiative for a reconciliation march across the war zone in Libya was even started, which received little press coverage outside of Africa and a few countries. [34]

The government in Tripoli has even put together a new constitution. [35] Tripoli even gave orders for the military to leave Misurata (Misrata/Misratah) and allow the local tribes to establish political order and security in the city and its surrounding district. [36] During talks with Greece officials from Libya even tried to use billions of frozen dollars to provide humanitarian aid to the Libyan people on both sides of the conflict, but had their plan obstructed and blocked by France. [37]

As they did during the invasion of Iraq, the political ranks have started to show breaks in London. Conservative parliamentarians in the British Parliament, such as John Baron, David Davis, and Peter Bone, are starting to criticize their leader, Prime Minister Cameron. [38]
Baron told the British press that the war on Libya has changed significantly: “When it was put before the House, the emphasis was very much on humanitarian assistance. This has changed into a mission of regime change [in Libya].” [39]

The Geo-Politics of Dividing Libya

Of significance, Washington does not want to have a visible presence in the war in North Africa. It has deliberately let its allies take the lead in the operation and painstakingly tried to distance itself from the war. It has presented itself as cautious and reluctant to go to war. [40] Washington’s allies are in reality acting on behalf of the Empire. NATO is also in the process of performing the role of global military force acting indirectly on behalf of the United States.

This war is not exclusively about controlling energy reserves and the Libyan economy. The war also encompasses a strategy to entrench U.S. and E.U. control over Africa as well balkanize the entire African region. The U.S. and the E.U. were adamant regarding Tripoli’s project to develop and unify Africa, as opposed to the neocolonial strategy of maintaining Africa as a provider of raw materials and (unmanufactured) natural resources. [41]

It is worth noting, in this regard, that the Director of National Intelligence, in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee during a session focusing on Libya, stated that Russia and China constitute “mortal threats” to the United States. [42] The war in Libya is also meant to shore up the drive into Eurasia, which targets Russia, China, Iran, and Central Asia.

The Arab sister-republics of Lebanon and Syria are targets too. Syria has been destabilized and the groundwork is underway in Lebanon with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL). Control over Libya, Syria, and Lebanon would also complete the Mediterranean Union, which is a geo-political project of the E.U. and Washington to control the entire Mediterranean. [43]

Towards An African NATO

The war against Libya will also be used to create a NATO-like military structure in Africa that will be tied to AFRICOM. While speaking to the U.S. Senate Arms Services Committee, General Ham of AFRICOM pointed out that a military partnership with African states and support for regional military cooperation in Africa were strategic for Washington. General Ham was pointing to the fact that U.S. was planting the seeds of a NATO-like military structure in Africa that would be subordinate to Washington. In General Ham’s own words:

Secondly, building the Coalition to address the situation in Libya was greatly facilitated through the benefits of longstanding relationships and inter-operability, in this case through NATO. This is the kind of regional approach to security that U.S. Africa Command seeks to foster on the continent [of Africa]. U.S. Africa Command’s priority efforts remain building the security capacity of our African partners. We incorporate regional cooperation and pursuit of inter-operability, in all of our programs, activities, and exercises so our African partners are postured to readily form coalitions to address African security challenges as they arise. [44]

Libya is the crown of Africa and from Libya there is a perfect opening for the U.S., NATO, and the E.U. into the African continent. U.S. and NATO bases may also be established in the eastern portion of Libya and used as a staging ground for a possible war against Sudan. These bases could be established at the request of the Transitional Council and justified as a means of providing stability to North Africa and as a means of protecting the Libyan people in Benghazi.

The Destruction of the Libyan State

Washington and the E.U. want to privatize the Libyan public sector under the control of their corporations, take over Libyan industries, and control every aspect of the Libyan economy. On March 19, 2011 the Transitional Council declared that it had established a new Benghazi-based Libyan oil corporation and a new national bank under the auspicious of the Central Bank of Benghazi, which would be responsible for all of Libya’s monetary policies. [45] The new Benghazi-based institutions are an opening for an economic invasion and the colonization of Libya. The Central Bank of Benghazi, which is controlled by Britain’s Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC), could also be given control of the Arab Banking Corporation, which could be used as an umbilical cord by Wall Street and Canary Wharf for infiltrating Libya.

The Benghazi-based Transitional Council is already starting the process of exporting oil with the aid of Qatar from the Libyan seaport of Tobruk (Tobruq) near the Egyptian border. [46] The countries and corporations trading with the Transitional Council are all breaching international law. This act is not only intended to weaken Libya, but it also criminal and a form of economic exploitation.

Moreover, Libyan oil will be used to finance weapons sales. The Transitional Council will use the funds from oil sales that it receives to purchase weapons to fight the Libyan military. This will also violate the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The Associated Press reported about this on April 1, 2011 saying:

A plan to sell rebel-held oil to buy weapons and other supplies has been reached with Qatar, a rebel official said Friday, in another sign of deepening aid for Libya’s opposition by the wealthy Gulf state after sending warplanes to help confront Moammar Gadhafi’s forces.

It was not immediately clear when the possible oil sales could begin or how the arms would reach the rebel factions, but any potential revenue stream would be a significant lifeline for the militias and military defectors battling Gadhafi’s superior forces. [47]

France, Italy, and Qatar have all recognized the Transitional Council as the government of Libya. [48] The U.S., Britain, Germany, Turkey, and their allies have also all given various forms of recognition to the Transitional Council. They are all working now to control the new institutions of the Benghazi administered areas of Libya. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is also hovering over Libya under the pretext of furthering democracy amongst the Arabs. [49] They all plan on profiting off the interests from the loans that they are now giving to the Transitional Council.

Two Parallel Administrations in Libya

The U.S. and the E.U. are trying to manipulate the Libyan people to their advantage; they are using the Libyan people as cannon fodder. The objective is to create a deadlock and foment chaos across North Africa. Even the sniper attacks on both Libyan sides could be the work of U.S., British, French, NATO, Egyptian, and Khaliji (Gulf) Arab agent provocateurs. The objective is to manipulate the Libyans into destroying their country from the within. The destruction of Yugoslavia, namely the “Balkanization of the Balkans” is the model which is being applied to Libya, leading to its division and political subordination to Washington and Brussels.

There have been discussions about splitting the country up, between the regimes in Tripoli and Benghazi. The government in Tripoli would keep everything from Tripoli to somewhere near Misurata, while the Transitional Council would get to administer all the territory in the east running to the Egyptian border. [50] Two parallel Libyan governments are at present a reality. Benghazi already has U.N., U.S., E.U., Qatari, British, French, German, Turkish, and Italian diplomatic missions.

As mentioned earlier, the U.S. and the E.U. waited until the Libyan military had reached the doors of Benghazi and the Transitional Council was nearly on its deathbed to take action. This was no mere coincidence. David Owen, a member of the British House of Lords is worth quoting about the timing of the military intervention: “Without it, within hours, Benghazi would have fallen, and [Colonel Qaddafi] would have won.” [51] This was made to insure the indispensability of NATO to an acquiescent Transitional Council.
Israel and Libya

The supporters of the Transitional Council accuse the Qaddafi regime of being supported by Israel, while they themselves are openly supported by NATO and the Arab petro-sheikhdoms, which oppose democracy and freedom in their own countries. Both sides in Libya have to realize that NATO and Israel, as well as Saudi Arabia and the Arab petro-sheikhdoms, are allies and work closely together against the legitimate aspirations of the Arab peoples. They are merely being played one against the other.

Israel is also involved in this equation. The visit of Bernard-Henri Lévy to Benghazi serves Israeli interests. [52] Tel Aviv has sought to play both sides. Rumours about an Israeli plan to establish a military base on the Libyan eastern border with Egypt have also been circulating for months. What should also be considered is that just like the natural gas deal between Israel and Egypt, where Egyptian natural gas was sold to Israel below market prices, Libyan water from the Great Man-Made River could be diverted to Israel from a pipeline running through Egypt. Like South Sudan, it is being said that the Transitional Council will recognize Israel. Lévy has also said that the Transitional Council has told him that they intend to recognize Israel. [53]

The Role of Banks and Currency in the War on Libya

Banks have a role to play in this war. U.S. and European financial institutions are major players. The vast overseas financial holdings and sovereign funds owned by Libya are the “spoils of war” accruing to major Western banks and financial institutions.

In 2008, Goldman Sachs was given 1.3 billion dollars (U.S.) by the Libyan Investment Authority. [54] In unfathomable terms, Goldman Sachs told the Libyans that 98% of the investment value was lost, which means that the Libyans lost almost all their investment. [55] Goldman Sachs had merely appropriated Libya’s money wealth. The Libyan government and Goldman Sachs would then try to work something out by giving Libya huge shares in Goldman Sachs, but the negotiations failed in 2009. Nor was Goldman Sachs alone in taking Libyan money; the Société Générale SA, the Carlyle Group, J.P. Morgan Chase, Och-Ziff Capital Management Group and Lehman Brothers Holdings were all also holding vast amounts of Libyan funds. [56]

Signs of Hope: Libya’s Promise of Tomorrow. A New Strategic Axis?

The Libyans have realized that they need to continue on a pan-African path and to follow a model of self-sufficiency. Many in Tripoli have also started thinking about the future. Old disputes and animosities may also be put aside with other global players that are opposed to U.S. hegemony and opposed to NATO.

A strategic axis between Libya, Algeria, Syria, and Iran that will later include Lebanon may blossom as the Libyans begin to explore their strategic options on the political and security levels. Libya has realized that it has made mistakes and now knows that it must find a place in some sort of a global counter-alliance against the U.S. and its allies. Tripoli will eventually try to find a strategic equilibrium for itself in a geo-strategic concept that will balance Russia, China, and Iran.

A new strategic concept for the Libyans would also include Venezuela and the Bolivarian Bloc in Latin America. Venezuela, along with Syria, has been Libya’s staunchest supporter during the NATO war.

Eventually, Lebanon and Libya will also mend fences. The dossier of Musa Al-Sadr only remains between Lebanon and Libya on the insistence of Nabih Berri. The upper echelons within Hezbollah, including Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, have tried not to antagonize Berri and the leadership of the Amal Movement on the issue of Musa Al-Sadr as part of an effort to prevent divisions in the Shiite Muslim community of Lebanon, but if a strategic axis begins to form between Algeria, Libya, Syria, and Iran the issue of Al-Sadr will have to be resolved in Lebanon.

In France and Western Europe tensions are also rising internally and against Washington. Gaullism may become reinvigorated in a declining France. The people of Africa have also become even more aware of the exploitation of their continent and the importance of Libya to the rest of Africa.

Most importantly, the NATO bombings have helped bring much of Libya together too and have given the nation a new sense of mission.

The Libyan people have been reinvigorated with this sense of mission. They have been energized and a revolutionary spirit has been stirred and awakened in the youth.

When the dust settles, the people of Libya will begin to weed out political corruption. The worst enemy of all for the Libyans has been the enemy from within.

This war has chiefly been against the Libyan people. It has not been the Libyan military that has kept the country standing, but the Libyan people themselves and their resistance.

NATO has become tired and faces many internal and external pressures. Italy has now been forced to withdraw from the war. [58] Norway will also withdraw in August 2011. [59] France has even accepted what Paris and NATO refused to accept from the start of the conflict, namely to end the war and to stop bombing Libya if both sides in Tripoli and Benghazi start political talks. [60] In reality, Tripoli has been calling for political dialogue with an entire international chorus for months, but it has been the U.S. and the E.U. that have refused to listen. This also exposes the guilt of the U.S. and the E.U. in waging a war of aggression against Libya.

It should also be noted that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has also said that he was told that the war would end when the population of Tripoli revolted against Colonel Qaddafi. [61] This is a significant statement by the Italian Prime Minister. An analysis of cause and effect is very important here. It means that the war did not start as a result of any revolts, but was intended to instigate revolts against the Libyan government. This would explain why NATO has deliberately been targeting and punishing the civilian population. The aim has been to instigate them against Colonel Qaddafi.

The security of the familiar is gone. The issue of succession to Colonel Qaddafi was something that the Libyans thought little about or largely ignored prior to the conflict in Libya, but it is now something that has been addressed. If the war never happened, it is likely that there would have been a civil war in Libya once Qaddafi left. Now this is something that has been prepared for. Many of the corrupt people in Libya have also been exposed and have shown their true colours too. Libyans are no longer ignoring these problems as they did before.

Libya is not perfect and many of the Libyan people will be amongst the first to admit it. Now many of them are prepared to fix their problems at home for the sake of saving their country, their society, and their families. They face an uphill battle, but they are willing to fight and to make all the sacrifices needed for a better tomorrow. This inner recognition and will to change is the start of authentic change. These people will not give up even if NATO were to launch an invasion or increasing its bombings to devastating levels. Although the conflict is far from over, in the end history will judge the NATO war against Libya as a huge mistake and as the beginning of the end for NATO.

Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)


•    [1] Henri Pierre Habib, Politics and Government of Revolutionary Libya (Montmagny, Québec: Le Cercle de Livre de France Ltée, 1975), pp.19-20.
•    [2] Ibid., p.68.
•    [3] Ibid.
•    [4] Ibid., pp.70-71.
•    [5] Ibid., p.72.
•    [6] Ibid., p.73.
•    [7] Eds. Fredrick Aandahl et al., The United Nation; The Western Hemisphere, vol. 2 of Foreign Relations of the United States 1951 (Washington, D.C.: United States Government, 1979), p.25.
•    [8] Ibid.
•    [9] Ibid.
•    [10] Ibid.
•    [11] Habib, Revolutionary Libya, Op. cit., p.19.
•    [12] Ibid., p.68
•    [13] Ibid., p.20.
•    [14] Ibid., p.2.
•    [15] Ibid., p.68.
•    [16] U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, Testimony on the current and future worldwide threats to the national security of the United States, 112th Congress, 2011, 1st Session, 10 March 2011.
•    [17] Los Angeles Times, “3 Western powers sending military advisors to Libya,” April 20, 2011.
•    [18] Louis Charbonneau and Hamuda Hassan, “France defends arms airlift to Libyan rebels,” Reuters, June 30, 2011.
•    [19] Reuters, “Libya orders US diplomat to leave: report,” November 8, 2010.
•    [20] Ibid.; Voice of America (VOA), “US, Syria Clash Over Ambassador’s Hama Visit,” July 8, 2011; Bassem Mroué, “Syrian protesters attack US embassy,” Associated Press (AP), July 11, 2011.
•    [21] United States Senate Armed Services Committee, U.S. European Command and U.S. Strategic Command in review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2012 and the Future Years Defense Program,112th Congress, 2011, 1st Session, 29 March 2011; Infra. n.22 and n.61 (the bombings are meant to cause regime change).
•    [22] Infra. n.61; see the omission of the Italian Prime Minister that the NATO bombings are not a result of any revolt, but are intended to cause a revolt in Tripoli against Colonel Qaddafi.
•    [23] Harriet Sherwood, “UK paves way for flight of Libyan defectors,” The Guardian (U.K.), April 5, 2011; the important details on Hague’s announcement and London’s position are as follows: “Libyan ministers and officials who were prepared to abandon the regime would be ‘treated with respect and in accordance with our laws’, he added. ‘In the case of anyone currently sanctioned by the EU and UN who breaks definitively with the regime, we will discuss with our partners the merits of removing the restrictions that currently apply to them, while being clear that this does not constitute any form of immunity whatsoever.’”
•    [24] Charles Levinson, Ex-Mujahedeen Help Lead Libyan Rebels, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), April 2, 2011.
•    [25] This information has been passed on through numerous sources on the ground in Libya including members of the Non-Governmental Fact Finding Commission on the Current Events in Libya.
•    [26] Robin Cook, “The struggle against terrorism cannot be won by military means,” The Guardian (U.K.), July 8, 2005.
•    [27] “Arms Embargo – NATO Boarding,” The NATO Channel (May 24, 2011); Mike Mühlberger was the videos producer and reporter. Because of the legal ramifications this video would have NATO removed this video.
•    [28] Stephen Fidler, Charles Levinson, and Alistair Mcdonald, “Friendly Fire Raises Tensions in Libya,” The Wall Street Journal, April 8, 2011.
•    [29] Tara Bahrampour, “Libyan rebels struggle to explain rift,” The Washington Post, April 2, 2011; Transitional Council leadership statements to the international press about the death of its volunteers are as follows: “‘It was a terrible mistake, and we apologize, and we will not let it happen again,’ said Abdul Hafidh Ghoga, vice president and spokesman of the opposition’s Transitional National Council.”
•    [30] Atul Aneja, “AU begins mediation as Qadhafi forces advance,” The Hindu, April 11, 2011.
•    [31] Elle Ide, “Italy recognizes Libyan opposition council,” Associated Press (AP), April 4, 2011.
•    [32] Chris McGreal and Harriet Sherwood, “Libya: Gaddafi has accepted roadmap to peace, says Zuma,” The Guardian (U.K.), April 11, 2011; Quoting from the article: “The [African Union] delegation, consisting of the presidents of South Africa, Congo-Brazzaville, Mali and Mauritania, plus Uganda’s foreign minister, landed at Tripoli’s Mitiga airport after Nato gave permission for their aircraft to enter Libyan airspace. The planes were the first to land in Tripoli since the international coalition imposed a no-fly zone over the country more than two weeks ago.”
•    [33] Simon Denyer and Leila Fadel, “Gaddafi accepts African Union’s road map for peace,” The Washington Post, April 10, 2011.
•    [34] Ian Black, “Libya’s biggest tribe joins march of reconciliation to Benghazi,” The Guardian (U.K.), March 23, 2011; On a personal note, I also was told by sources inside Tunisia and Libya that any people attempting reconciliation marches were attacked.
•    [35] Maria Golovnina, “Libya pledges constitution but Gaddafi role unclear,” Reuters, April 10, 2011.
•    [36] Michael Georgy, “McCain visits rebels, Libya adjusts Misrata tactics,” Reuters, August 22, 2011.
•    [37] Solomon Hughes and Kim Sengupta, “Gaddafi regime staked £12bn on secret deal in bid to open peace talks,” The Independent (U.K.), June 10, 2011.
•    [38] The Daily Mail (U.K.), “MPs rebel over Libya mission creep as Cameron, Obama and Sarkozy promise to keep bombing until Gaddafi regime is gone,” April 15, 2011.
•    [39] Ibid.
•    [40] Julian Borger and Ewen MacAskill, “No-fly zone plan goes nowhere as US, Russia and Nato urge caution,” The Guardian (U.K.), March 1, 2011.
•    [41] Discussion with Mohammed Siala (Libyan Minister of International Cooperation), July 4, 2011.
•    [42] U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, Testimony on the current, Op. cit.
•    [43] Lebanon and Syria are already members and Libya is an observer member. Libya was scheduled to become a full member, but Colonel Qaddafi changed his mind, which upset France and the European Union.
•    [44] U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, U.S. Transportation Command, Op. cit.
•    [45] William Varner, “Libyan Rebel Council Forms Oil Company to Replace Qaddafi’s,” Bloomberg, March 22, 2011.
•    [46] Al Jazeera, “Libyan rebels ‘disappointed’ by NATO, April 5, 2011; Atul Aneja, “Opposition allies mull ‘political solution’ in Libya,” The Hindu, April 8, 2011.
•    [47] Brian Murphy and Adam Schreck, “Libyan opposition says it has oil deal with Qatar,” Associated Press (AP), April 1, 2011.
•    [48] Scott Peterson, “Italy rejects Qaddafi, recognizes Libyan rebel government,” Christian Science Monitor, April 4, 2011.
•    [49] Daryna Krasnolutska and Agnes Lovasz, “North African and Mideast Democracy a Condition for EBRD Loans, Mirow Says,” Bollomberg, April 21, 2011.
•    [50] Alan Fisher, “Libya leaders talk exit strategy,” Al Jazeera, March 4, 2011.
•    [51] Ibid.
•    [52] Kim Willsher, “Libya: Bernard-Henri Lévy dismisses criticism for leading France to conflict,” The Observer, March 27, 2011.
•    [53] Radio France Internationale, “Libyan rebels will recognise Israel, Bernard-Henri Lévy tells Netanyahu,” June 2, 2011.
•    [54] Margaret Coker and Liz Rappaport, “Libya’s Goldman Dalliance Ends in Losses, Acrimony,” The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), May 31, 2011.
•    [55] Ibid.
•    [56] Ibid.
•    [57] The Daily Mail (U.K.), “U.S. rescue chopper shoots six Libyan villagers as they welcome pilots of downed Air Force jet,” March 22, 2011.
•    [58] Voice of America (VOA), “Berlusconi Opposes Libya Mission; Rome Cuts Involvement,” July 7, 2011.
•    [59] Agence-France Presse (AFP), “Nato capabilities will be exhausted within 90 days in Libya,” July 11, 2011.
•    [60] Agence-France Presse (AFP), “France backs ‘political solutions’ in Libya crisis,” July 11, 2011.
•    [61] Lamine Chikhi et al., “Italy’s Berlusconi exposes NATO rifts over Libya,” ed. Elizabeth Fullerton, Reuters, July 7, 2011; Nicolas Carey (who was expelled from Tripoli and managed to immediately reappear in Misurata) also contributed to this report. As a note the reporting of Carey has to be carefully scrutinized.

Questions to readers

Just Foreign Policy Iraqi Death Estimator
10 challenging questions for readers
1. On what base did the Security Council determine in the morning of September 12, 2001, that the mass murder of the previous day was an act of “international” terrorism?2. On what evidence did the Security Council determine in its resolution 1456(2003) that terrorism was “one of the most serious threats to [international] peace and security”?

3. On what evidence did the United States conclude before October 2, 2001, that the mass murder of 9/11 was masterminded in Afghanistan or directed from there?

4. Who placed explosives in the Twin Towers and in World Trade Center no. 7 before 9/11?

5. Why have governments of Islamic nations failed to highlight the fact that no Muslims boarded the aircraft used as tools of mass murder on 9/11?

6. Why do US administrations act as agents for Zionist interests, such as urging other states to recognize Israel and its founding ideology, Zionism?

7. Why has Saddam Hussein not been charged for causing the deaths of half a million children in the sanctions period?

8. Why did the Palestinian people fail to secure even minimal rights in over half a century?

9. Why do UN member states refuse legal remedies to innocent victims of UN sanctions?

10. Why are political leaders suspected of torture, war crimes and crimes against humanity, so seldom prosecuted?

The webmaster will publish the most compellng answers. If you have a good answer, please contact him

UK Chilcot Inquiry: “The Iraq War Was Unlawful”. Unanimous Legal Opinion of Foreign Office Lawyers


UK Chilcot Inquiry: “The Iraq War Was Unlawful”. Unanimous Legal Opinion of Foreign Office Lawyers

Cameron government is blocking publication of their “official” report

By Carl Herman

Global Research, January 04, 2013

Washington’s Blog


The UK Cameron government is blocking publication of their “official” report on Iraq war until perhaps 2014 or later, according to the UK’s most popular newspaper website.

Perhaps this delay is in part because the Blair government was advised before the war by all 27 attorneys in their Foreign Affairs Office that war on Iraq was unlawful. That would mean armed attack on Iraq would be an unlawful War of Aggression, with identical criminal implication on US armed attack on Iraq.

Unlawful war requires US military to refuse all war orders and arrest those who issue them (more documentation here).

Public understanding that current wars “on terror” are not even close to lawful would end these wars. War law forbids all armed attack unless under attack by another nation’s government.

As I wrote in 2010:

All the lawyers in the UK’s Foreign Affairs Department concluded the US/UK invasion of Iraq was an unlawful War of Aggression. Their expert advice is the most qualified to make that legal determination; all 27 of them were in agreement. This powerful judgment of unlawful war follows the Dutch government’s recent unanimous report and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s clear statements.

This stunning information was disclosed at the UK Chilcot inquiry by the testimony of Foreign Affairs leading legal advisor, Sir Michael Wood, who added that the reply from Prime Minister Tony Blair’s office to his legal department’s professional work was chastisement for putting their unanimous legal opinion in writing.

Sir Michael testified that Foreign Secretary Jack Straw preferred to take the legal position that the laws governing war were vague and open to broad interpretation: “He took the view that I was being very dogmatic and that international law was pretty vague and that he wasn’t used to people taking such a firm position.”

Mr. Straw’s opinion is an Orwellian lie of the crystal-clear letter and spirit of the UN Charter that outlawed wars of choice in 1945. The UN Charter forbids all use of force except when explicitly authorized by the UN Security Council, or in a narrow definition of self-defense upon an armed attack by another nation’s government. This is arguably the single most important and clear law on the planet, the victory of the generation who sacrificed during World War 2, and damning criminal testimony for anyone in government to claim that this law is vague.

Violation of the laws to prevent war, a War of Aggression and a Crime Against Peace, are also arguably to worst crime a nation can commit.

UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith testified he ”changed his mind” against the unanimous legal opinion of all 27 of the Foreign Office attornies to agree with the US legal argument that UN Security Council Resolution 1441 authorized use of force at the discretion of any nation’s choice. This testimony is also criminally damning: arguing that an individual nation has the right to choose war violates the purpose, letter and spirit of the UN Charter, as well as violates 1441 that reaffirms jurisdiction of the Security Council in governance of the issue. This Orwellian argument contradicts the express purpose of the Charter to prevent individual nations from engaging in wars. A two-minute video of his mincing testimony is below as he pretends that war is still a lawful foreign policy option.

Moreover, the US and UK “legal argument” is in further Orwellian opposition to their UN Ambassadors’ statements when 1441 was passed that this did not authorize any use of force:

John Negroponte, US Ambassador to the UN:

[T]his resolution contains no “hidden triggers” and no “automaticity” with respect to the use of force. If there is a further Iraqi breach, reported to the Council by UNMOVIC, the IAEA or a Member State, the matter will return to the Council for discussions as required in paragraph 12.

Sir Jeremy Greenstock, UK Ambassador to the UN:

We heard loud and clear during the negotiations the concerns about “automaticity” and “hidden triggers” — the concern that on a decision so crucial we should not rush into military action; that on a decision so crucial any Iraqi violations should be discussed by the Council. Let me be equally clear in response… There is no “automaticity” in this resolution. If there is a further Iraqi breach of its disarmament obligations, the matter will return to the Council for discussion as required in paragraph 12.

The Chilcot inquiry was initiated from public outrage against UK participation in the Iraq War, with public opinion having to engage a second time to force hearings to become public rather than closed and secret. The hearings were not authorized to consider criminal charges, which is the next battle for UK public opinion.

Concentrated US corporate media will not report the Chilcot inquiry “emperor has no clothes” facts and conclusion that the current US wars are unlawful. The US Senate Church Committee revealed CIA infiltration of US corporate media to disinform the American public to support US political agendas.

The cost of these unlawful wars is over a million Iraqi lives above those expected to have died in pre-war conditions and $3-$5 TRILLION in long-term US taxpayer costs (that’s $30,000 to $50,000 per average US household of $50,000 annual income; do the math to figure your family’s share).

US Senate and House Committee investigation has shown through all disclosed evidence that all of the justifications for war with Iraq were known to be lies at the time they were presented to the public. You are an irresponsible citizen if you do not verify these easily-understood facts from the disclosed evidence. A colluding corporate media for unlawful wars is a lame excuse for inaction when the facts are in front of you now.

U.S. threatens to commit aggression against Iran

The US military option for Iran is ‘ready,’ American ambassador to Israel says
Daniel Shapiro’s comments, made at closed forum in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, broadcast on Channel 2 news

By Michal Shmulovich and Greg Tepper May 16, 2012, 9:20 pm 0

US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro. (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)

The United States has completed its planning for a military strike on Iran, the US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro said in remarks at a closed conference in Tel Aviv that were broadcast on Israel TV on Wednesday night.

“It would be preferable to resolve this diplomatically, and through the use of pressure, than to use military force,” Shapiro said in comments that were recorded Tuesday and were broadcast Wednesday. “But that does not mean that option isn’t available. Not just available, it’s ready. The necessary planning has been done to ensure that it’s ready.”

Shapiro, the Channel 2 TV report said, was speaking at a closed forum in Tel Aviv — reportedly an Israel Bar Association event — and the comments were recorded by a newspaper reporter. The TV item noted that the envoy had apparently not intended for his remarks to be publicly aired.

The broadcast of the Shapiro comments came a day after Israel TV reported that the Israel Air Force is soon to take part in joint military exercises in the US. The IAF has not trained in the US for several years.

The exercises, to be held in the coming months, will strengthen the relationship between the IAF and the US Air Force as they practice carrying out joint operations, according to the report.

Israeli and US air defense forces are also to take part in a major joint drill later this summer in Israel to simulate a massive attack. Thousands of US soldiers are expected to arrive in Israel for the drills.

The various reports come amid ongoing concern in Israel and the US over Iran’s drive toward a nuclear weapons capability. Israel’s leaders have said Iran must not be allowed to go nuclear, and indicated that they are contemplating military intervention if all other efforts to thwart Iran fail. US President Barack Obama has said Iran must not get the bomb, and ruled out the notion of containment, but has urged patience to give economic sanctions and other pressure more time to work while stressing that the military option is “on the table.”

In Israel on Tuesday, American National Guard and Israeli Home Front Command forces conducted search and rescue drills. The operations would be applicable in the case of either an earthquake or a missile barrage, officials said. If there were a major aerial missile attack or a large enough earthquake in Israel, US forces might assist in search and rescue operations.

“Responsibility to Protect” as Imperial Tool: The Case for a Non-Interventionist Foreign Policy

February 20, 2012
“Responsibility to Protect” as Imperial Tool
The Case for a Non-Interventionist Foreign Policy


The events in Syria, after those in Libya last year, are accompanied by calls for a military intervention, in order to “protect civilians”, claiming that it is our right or our duty to do so. And, just as last year, some of the loudest voices in favor of intervention are heard on the left or among the Greens, who have totally swallowed the concept of “humanitarian intervention”. In fact, the rare voices staunchly opposed to such interventions are often associated with the right, either Ron Paul in the US or the National Front in France. The policy the left should support is non-intervention.

The main target of the humanitarian interventionists is the concept of national sovereignty, on which the current international law is based, and which they stigmatize as allowing dictators to kill their own people at will.  The impression is sometimes given that national sovereignty is nothing but a protection for dictators whose only desire is to kill their own people.

But in fact, the primary justification of national sovereignty is precisely to provide at least a partial protection of weak states against strong ones. A state that is strong enough can do whatever it chooses without worrying about intervention from outside. Nobody expects Bangladesh to interfere in the internal affairs of the United States.  Nobody is going to bomb the United States to force it to modify its immigration or monetary policies because of the human consequences of such policies on other countries. Humanitarian intervention goes only one way, from the powerful to the weak.

The very starting point of the United Nations was to save humankind from “the scourge of war”, with reference to the two World Wars.  This was to be done precisely by strict respect for national sovereignty, in order to prevent Great Powers from intervening militarily against weaker ones, regardless of the pretext.  The protection of national sovereignty in international law was based on recognition of the fact that internal conflicts in weak countries can be exploited by strong ones, as was shown by Germany’s interventions in Czechoslovakia and Poland, ostensibly “in defense of oppressed minorities”.  That led to World War II.

Then came decolonization. Following World War II, dozens of newly independent countries freed themselves from the colonial yoke. The last thing they wanted was to see former colonial powers openly interfering in their internal affairs (even though such interference has often persisted in more or less veiled forms, notably in African countries).  This aversion to foreign interference explains why the “right” of humanitarian intervention has been universally rejected by the countries of the South, for example at the South Summit in Havana in April 2000. Meeting in Kuala Lumpur in February 2003, shortly before the US attack on Iraq, “The Heads of State or Government reiterated the rejection by the Non-Aligned Movement of the so-called ‘right’ of humanitarian intervention, which has no basis either in United Nations Charter or in international law” and “also observed similarities between the new expression ‘responsibility to protect’ and ‘humanitarian intervention’ and requested the Co-ordinating Bureau to carefully study and consider the expression ‘the  responsibility to protect’ and its implications on the basis of the principles of non-interference and non-intervention as well as  the respect  for territorial integrity and national sovereignty of  States.”

The main failure of the United Nations has not been that it did not stop dictators from murdering their own people, but that it failed to prevent powerful countries from violating the principles of international law: the United States in Indochina and Iraq, South Africa in Angola and Mozambique, Israel in its neighboring countries, Indonesia in East Timor, not to speak of all the coups, threats, embargoes, unilateral sanctions, bought elections, etc. Many millions of people lost their lives because of such repeated violation of international law and of the principle of national sovereignty.

In a post-World War II history that includes the Indochina wars, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, of Panama, even of tiny Grenada, as well as the bombing of Yugoslavia, Libya and various other countries, it is scarcely credible to maintain that it is international law and respect for national sovereignty that prevent the United States from stopping genocide. If the US had had the means and the desire to intervene in Rwanda, it would have done so and no international law would have prevented that.  And if a “new norm” is introduced, such as the right of humanitarian intervention or the responsibility to protect, within the context of the current relationship of political and military forces, it will not save anyone anywhere, unless the United States sees fit to intervene, from its own perspective.

US interference in the internal affairs of other states is multi-faceted but constant and repeatedly violates the spirit and often the letter of the UN Charter.  Despite claims to act on behalf of principles such as freedom and democracy, US intervention has repeatedly had disastrous consequences: not only the millions of deaths caused by direct and indirect wars, but also the lost opportunities, the “killing of hope” for hundreds of millions of people who might have benefited from progressive social policies initiated by leaders such as Arbenz in Guatemala, Goulart in Brazil, Allende in Chile, Lumumba in the Congo, Mossadegh in Iran, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, or President Chavez in Venezuela, who have been systematically subverted, overthrown or killed with full Western support.

But that is not all. Every aggressive action led by the United States creates a reaction. Deployment of an anti-missile shield produces more missiles, not less. Bombing civilians – whether deliberately or by so-called “collateral damage” – produces more armed resistance, not less. Trying to overthrow or subvert governments produces more internal repression, not less. Encouraging secessionist minorities by giving them the often false impression that the sole Superpower will come to their rescue in case they are repressed, leads to more violence, hatred and death, not less. Surrounding a country with military bases produces more defense spending by that country, not less, and the possession of nuclear weapons by Israel encourages other states of the Middle East to acquire such weapons. If the West hesitates to attack Syria or Iran, it is because these countries are stronger and have more reliable allies than Yugoslavia or Libya. If the West complains about the recent Russian and Chinese vetoes about Syria, it has only to blame itself: indeed, this is the result of the blatant abuse by Nato of Resolution 1973, in order to effect regime change in Libya, which the resolution did not authorize. So, the message sent by our interventionist policy to “dictators” is: be better armed, make less concessions and build better alliances.

Moreover, the humanitarian disasters in Eastern Congo, which are probably the largest in recent decades, are mainly due to foreign interventions (mostly from Rwanda, a US ally), not to a lack of them. To take a most extreme case, which is a favorite example of horrors cited by advocates of the humanitarian interventions, it is most unlikely that the Khmer Rouge would ever have taken power in Cambodia without the massive “secret” US bombing followed by US-engineered regime change that left that unfortunate country totally disrupted and destabilized.

Another problem with the “right of humanitarian intervention” is that it fails to suggest any principle to replace national sovereignty. When NATO exercised its own self-proclaimed right to intervene in Kosovo, where diplomatic efforts were far from having been exhausted, it was praised by the Western media. When Russia exercised what it regarded as its own responsibility to protect in South Ossetia, it was uniformly condemned in the same         Western media. When Vietnam intervened in Cambodia, to put an end to the Khmer Rouge, or India intervened to free Bangladesh from Pakistan, their actions were also harshly condemned in the United States. So, either every country with the means to do so acquires the right to intervene whenever a humanitarian reason can be invoked as a justification, and we are back to the war of all against all, or only an all-powerful state, namely the United States (and its allies) are allowed to do so, and we are back to a form of dictatorship in international affairs.

It is often replied that the interventions are not to be carried out by one state, but by the “international community”. But the concept of “international community” is used primarily by the United States and its allies to designate themselves and whoever agrees with them at the time.  It has grown into a concept that both rivals the United Nations (the “international community” claims to be more “democratic” than many UN member states) and tends to take it over in many ways.

In reality, there is no such thing as a genuine international community. NATO’s intervention in Kosovo was not approved by Russia and Russian intervention in South Ossetia was condemned by the West. There would have been no Security Council approval for either intervention. The African Union has rejected the indictment by the International Criminal Court of the President of Sudan. Any system of international justice or police, whether it is the responsibility to protect or the International Criminal Court, would need to be based on a relationship of equality and a climate of trust. Today, there is no equality and no trust, between West and East, between North and South, largely as a result of the record of US policies. For some version of the responsibility to protect to be consensually functional in the future, we need first to build a relationship of equality and trust.

The Libyan adventure has illustrated another reality conveniently overlooked by the supporters of humanitarian intervention, namely that without the huge US military machine, the sort of safe no-casualty (on our side) intervention which can hope to gain public support is not possible. The Western countries are not willing to risk sacrificing too many lives of their troops, and waging a purely aerial war requires an enormous amount of high technology equipment. Those who support such interventions are supporting, whether they realize it or not, the continued existence of the US military machine, with its bloated budgets and its weight on the national debt. The European Greens and Social Democrats who support the war in Libya should have the honesty to tell their constituents that they need to accept massive cuts in public spending on pensions, unemployment, health care and education, in order to bring such social expenses down to an American level and use the hundreds of billions of euros thus saved to build a military machine that will be able to intervene whenever and wherever there is a humanitarian crisis.

If it is true that the 21st century needs a new United Nations, it does not need one that legitimizes such interventions by novel arguments, such as responsibility to protect, but one that gives at least moral support to those who try to construct a world less dominated by a single military superpower. The United Nations needs to pursue its efforts to achieve its founding purpose before setting a new, supposedly humanitarian priority, which may in reality be used by the Great Powers to justify their own future wars by undermining the principle of national sovereignty.

The left should support an active peace policy through international cooperation, disarmament, and non-intervention of states in the internal affairs of others. We could use our overblown military budgets to implement a form of global Keynesianism: instead of demanding “balanced budgets” in the developing world, we should use the resources wasted on our military to finance massive investments in education, health care and development. 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.

Moreover, the left should strive towards strict respect for international law on the part of Western powers, implementing the UN resolutions concerning Israel, dismantling the worldwide US empire of bases as well as NATO, ceasing all threats concerning the unilateral use of force, stopping all interference in the internal affairs of other States, in particular all operations of “democracy promotion”, “color” revolutions, and the exploitation of the politics of minorities.  This necessary respect for national sovereignty means that the ultimate sovereign of each nation state is the people of that state, whose right to replace unjust governments cannot be taken over by supposedly benevolent outsiders.

It will be objected that such a policy would allow dictators to “murder their own people”, the current slogan justifying intervention.  But if non-intervention may allow such terrible things to happen, history shows that military intervention frequently has the same result, when cornered leaders and their followers turn their wrath on the “traitors” supporting foreign intervention.  On the other hand, non- intervention spares domestic oppositions from being regarded as fifth columns of the Western powers – an inevitable result of our interventionist policies.  Actively seeking peaceful solutions would allow a reduction of military expenditures, arms sales (including to dictators who may use them to “murder their own people”) and use of resources to improve social standards.

Coming to the present situation, one must acknowledge that the West has been supporting Arab dictators for a variety of reasons, ranging from oil to Israel, in order to control that region, and that this policy is slowly collapsing. But the lesson to draw is not to rush into yet another war, in Syria, as we did in Libya, claiming this time to be on the right side, defending the people against dictators, but to recognize that it is high time for us to stop assuming that we must control the Arab world. At the dawn of the 20th century, most of the world was under European control. Eventually, the West will lose control over that part of the world, as it lost it in East Asia and is losing it in Latin America. How the West will adapt itself to its decline is the crucial political question of our time; answering it is unlikely to be either easy or pleasant.

JEAN BRICMONT teaches physics at the University of Louvain in Belgium. He is author of Humanitarian Imperialism.  He can be reached at

NATO’s Libya War: A Nuremberg Level Crime

NATO’s Libya War: A Nuremberg Level Crime

Stephen Lendman, August 2011

The US/UK/French-led war on Libya will be remembered as one of history’s greatest crimes. It violates the letter and spirit of international law and America’s Constitution.

The Nuremberg Tribunal’s Chief Justice Robert Jackson (a US Supreme Court Justice) called Nazi war crimes “the supreme international crime against peace.”

His November 21, 1945 opening remarks said:

“The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated.”

He called aggressive war “the greatest menace of our times.”

International law defines crimes against peace as “planning, preparation, initiation, or waging of wars of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances, or participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the foregoing.”

All US post-WW II wars fall under this definition.

Since then, America waged direct and proxy premeditated, aggressive wars worldwide, killing millions in East and Central Asia, North and other parts of Africa, the Middle East, and Europe, as well as Central and South America.

Arguably they exceed the worst of Nazi and imperial Japanese crimes combined, including genocide, torture mass destruction of nonmilitary related sites, colonization, occupation, plunder and exploitation.

Third Reich criminals were hanged for their crimes. America’s remained free to commit greater ones, notably today against Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Palestine, and the ongoing Libya atrocity – a scandalous “supreme international crime against peace,” demanding justice not forthcoming.

In fact, US war criminals are considered hostis humani generis – enemies of mankind. War crimes are against the jus gentium – the law of nations. Established international law addressed them, including the UN Charter. It’s unequivocal explaining under what conditions violence and coercion (by one state against another) are justified.

Article 2(3) and Article 33(1) require peaceful settlement of international disputes. Article 2(4) prohibits force or its threatened use. And Article 51 allows the “right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member….until the Security Council has taken measures to maintain international peace and security.”

In other words, justifiable self-defense is permissible. However, Charter Articles 2(3), 2(4), and 33 absolutely prohibit any unilateral threat or use of force not:

— specifically allowed under Article 51;

— authorized by the Security Council; or

— permitted by the US Constitution only amendments ratified by three-fourths of the states can change.

In addition, three General Assembly resolutions also prohibit non-consensual belligerent intervention, including:

— the 1965 Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention in the Domestic Affairs of States and the Protection of Their Independence and Sovereignty;

— the 1970 Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations; and

— the 1974 Definition of Aggression.

Moreover, various post-WW II Conventions, including the four Geneva ones and their Common Article 1 obligate all High Contracting Parties to “respect and ensure respect for the present Convention in all circumstances;” namely, to apply its principles universally, requiring High Contracting Parties “search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, such grave breaches, and shall bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before its own courts.”

At Nuremberg, the concepts of individual and command criminal responsibility were addressed, the Tribunal Principles holding that “(a)ny person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefor and liable to punishment….(c)rimes against international law are committed by men, not by abstract entities, and only by punishing individuals who commit (them) can the provisions of international law be enforced.”

The Rome Statute’s Article 25 of the International Criminal Court (ICC) codified this principle, affirming the culpability of persons committing crimes of war and against humanity.

In addition, commanders and their superiors are specifically culpable if they “either knew or, owing to the circumstances at the time, should have known that the forces were committing or about to commit such crimes, (and) failed to take all necessary and reasonable measures within his or her power to prevent or repress their commission or to submit the matter to the competent authorities for investigation and prosecutions.”

Moreover, Nuremberg established that immunity is null and void, including for heads of state, other top officials, and top commanders. Further, genocide, crimes of war and against humanity are so grave that statute of limitation provisions don’t apply.

As a result, every living past and present US president, top and subordinate officials, and Pentagon commanders involved in war(s) should be prosecuted for their crimes before a special Nuremberg-type tribunal, holding them fully accountable.

Genocide, other forms of mass murder, targeted and indiscriminate destruction, and other crimes of war and against humanity are too intolerable to go unpunished.

Nonetheless, America and its conspiratorial allies commit them – today, horrifically against Libya, a small nonbelligerent country being terrorized, destroyed, and plundered lawlessly in the name of “liberation.”

America is the lead offender, committing what its 1996 War Crimes Act calls “grave breaches,” defined as “willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological (or other illegal) experiments, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health.”

As a result, Libya is an ongoing atrocity, a Nuremberg level crime, one of history’s greatest.

Yet on August 22, Obama had the audacity to say America, its “allies and partners in the international community (are committed) to protect the people of Libya, and to support a peaceful transition to democracy.”

In fact, unspeakable war crimes are being committed to “protect the people of Libya.” Included are civilians being terror bombed daily, to break their morale, cause panic, weaken their will to resist, and inflict mass casualties and punishment.

However, Geneva and other international laws forbid the targeting of civilians. The Laws of War: Laws and Customs of War on Land (1907 Hague IV Convention) states:

— Article 25: “The attack or bombardment, by whatever means, of towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings which are undefended is prohibited.”

— Article 26: “The officer in command of an attacking force must, before commencing a bombardment, except in cases of assault, do all in his power to warn the authorities.”

Article 27: “In sieges and bombardments, all necessary steps must be taken to spare, as far as possible, buildings dedicated to religion, art, science, or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospitals, and places where the sick and wounded are collected, provided they are not being used at the time for military purposes.”

The besieged should visibly indicate these buildings or places and notify an adversary beforehand. Given today’s intelligence and high-tech capabilities, belligerents can easily identify civilian and military targets.

Fourth Geneva Convention protects civilians in time of war. It prohibits violence of any type against them and requires treatment for the sick and wounded.

In September 1938, a League of Nations unanimous resolution prohibited the:

“bombardment of cities, towns, villages, dwellings or buildings not in the immediate neighborhood of the operations of land forces….In cases where (legitimate targets) are so situated, (aircraft) must abstain from bombardment” if this action indiscriminately affects civilians.

Long ago Washington trashed international and constitutional laws, planning for Libya what’s ongoing in Iraq and Afghanistan – conquest, colonization, occupation, plunder and exploitation, excluding any form of democracy it reviles, including at home.

Major Media Scoundrels Lead Role in America’s Wars

When America goes to war, its media are key, reporting disinformation, propaganda, managed news, and straight Pentagon handouts instead of real information, commentaries and analysis people deserve.

In the lead, The New York Times operates as the equivalent of an official information and propaganda ministry, posing as independent journalism.

August 24 was no exception, writers David Kirkpatrick and Alan Cowell headlining, “Qaddafi Defiant After Rebel Takeover,” saying:

“Rebel fighters scoured Tripoli on Wednesday in their continued search for an elusive and defiant” (Gaddafi) after NATO landed them on Tripoli’s shores with orders to terrorize and loot. They’ve taken full advantage, what Kirkpatrick and Cowell didn’t explain.

Instead they gloated about a “rebel victory” very much not won, especially because nothing from Times or other major media reports is credible. Repeatedly they’ve been caught lying.

Other same day Times reports headlined:

“Libyans Rejoice in a Castle Filled With Guns and the Trappings of Power,” referring to Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound they reportedly stormed with no verification of precisely what’s going on.

“Waves of Disinformation and Confusion Swamp the Truth in Libya,” referring mainly to what it calls “a republic of lies,” not its own shameless daily propaganda, making everything it reports suspect, unreliable, or falsified.

“Airstrikes More Difficult as War Moves to Tripoli,” ignoring NATO’s ongoing terror bombing, including Apache helicopter gunships machine-gunning civilians on Tripoli streets, making it unsafe to be out when they’re flying.

“After the Revolution, Hurdles in Reviving the Oil Sector,” leaving unexplained Western plans for Libya’s oil, excluding rivals China and Russia, as well as falsely calling Washington’s insurgency a “revolution.”

It’s standard New York Times policy to represent wealth and power interests, betraying readers in the process who deserve better.

Fabricating Celebratory Tripoli Street Euphoria

On August 23, Metro Gael’s Global’s article headlined, “The Libya Media Hoax: Fabricating Scenes of Jubilation and Euphoria on Green Square,” providing another example of media lies, saying:

It “will surely go down in history as one of the most cynical hoaxes committed by corporate media since the manipulated pictures of Iraqis toppling Saddam Hussein’s statue” after America’s 2003 invasion.

Shamefully, Al Jazeera committed the latest fraud, airing fake live Green Square celebrations, its reporter, Zeina Khodr declaring, “Libya is in the hands of the opposition.”

She lied and knew it. In fact, Al Jazeera’s footage was “an elaborate and criminal hoax. The report had been prefabricated in a” Doha, Qatar studio.

Qatar is a NATO coalition member, its troops on the ground aiding insurgents along with US and UK special forces.

Libyan intelligence knew about the fake footage in advance, warning about it ahead of its release on “Rayysse state television.”

The idea is old and familiar – to create an illusion of non-existant mass support for NATO and insurgents Libyans revile. It’s done to diffuse popular resistance against them.

The full article can be read through the following link:

It explains a classic PsyOps deception, this time aired by an alleged trusted source, showing it’s as corrupted as the rest, lying instead of reporting accurately.

A Final Comment

Mahdi Nazemroaya is a friend, a Middle East/Central Asian analyst, a Center for Research on Globalization (CRG) research associate, and a regular Progressive Radio News Hour contributor.

Providing accurate reports from Tripoli, he got death threats. Two other friends – Lizzie Phelan and Franklin Lamb, as well as other independent journalists also faced recriminations for doing what corporate media scoundrels don’t – their job.

In an email, Mahdi said: “I am afraid I will be executed in cold blood.”

That’s been the NATO-wrought danger in Libya, notably in Tripoli, being carpet bombed and strafed by helicopter gunships, machine-gunning civilians in cold blood.

On August 24, CRG Director Michel Chossudovsky wrote about Mahdi, saying:

In Libya for over two months, he was dedicated to “honest factual reporting, with a concern for human life, in solidarity with those Libyan men, women and children who lost their lives in bombing raids on residential areas, schools and hospitals.”

He literally risked his life doing it, telling this writer he had to stay supportively for the people he so much cares about. That commitment goes way beyond good journalism and analysis. It’s an expression of character too few others have.

Mahdi has it, so do Lizzie, Franklin, and other honest journalists who went to a war zone to report truths – fully, accurately, and courageously, “challeng(ing) the lies of the mainstream media,” said Chossudovsky.

In so doing, they “threaten the NATO-media consensus,” in the process jeopardizing their own safety.

NATO wants to make Libya an Orwellian society in which “War is peace. Freedom is slavery,” and “Ignorance is strength.” Orwell also said: “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

It’s also a courageous one when done at great personal risk. Mahdi, Lizzie, Franklin, and others reporting accurately are true heros, supporting Libyans and free people everywhere while putting themselves in harm’s way.

It doesn’t get any more heroic than that!


On August 24 at 4PM Tripoli time, the International Red Cross rescued (or negotiated the release of) over 30 journalists trapped inside the city’s Rixos Hotel. A ship heading to Tripoli’s seacoast will take them out of the country.

Reports from the London Guardian, CNN, and other corporate media sources falsely claimed Gaddafi loyalists held them hostage, when, in fact, they were threatened by insurgent hooligans.

Hopefully they’re now safe, but won’t fully be until heading home out of harm’s way.

An overnight email from Mahdi said:

“In Corinthia Hotel. Will head to Malta then home via Europe.”

Further updates will follow.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Should inciters to aggression be prosecuted?

Editor’s Note: This year, the U.S. news media cheered the opening of the $450 million Newseum in Washington, a self-congratulatory celebration of American journalism.

However, rather than giving themselves that expensive pat on the back, the major U.S. media organizations might have done something to show remorse for their complicity in the Bush administration’s propaganda that justified the invasion of Iraq.

As freelance journalist Peter Dyer notes, prosecutors at the Nuremberg Tribunals deemed such journalistic support for war crimes to be a capital offense:

October 16 is an anniversary that should hold considerable interest for American journalists who have written in support of ”Operation Iraqi Freedom” – the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Sixty-two years ago, on Oct. 16, 1946, Julius Streicher was hanged.

Streicher was one of a group of 10 Germans executed that day following the judgment of the first Nuremberg Trial – a 40-week trial of 22 of the most prominent Nazis.

Each was tried for two or more of the four crimes defined in the Nuremberg Charter: crimes against peace (aggression), war crimes, crimes against humanity, and conspiracy.
All who were sentenced to death were major German government officials or military leaders. Except for Streicher.

Julius Streicher was a journalist.
Editor of the vehemently anti-Semitic newspaper Der Stürmer, Streicher was convicted of, in the words of the judgment, “incitement to murder and extermination at the time when Jews in the East were being killed under the most horrible conditions clearly constitut(ing) … a crime against humanity.”

Presenting the case against Streicher, British prosecutor Lieutenant Colonel M.C. Griffith-Jones said: “My Lord, it may be that this defendant is less directly involved in the physical commission of the crimes against Jews. … The submission of the Prosecution is that his crime is no less the worse … that he made these things possible – made these crimes possible which could never have happened had it not been for him and for those like him. He led the propaganda and the education of the German people in those ways.”

The critical role of propaganda was affirmed at Nuremberg not only by the prosecution and in the judgment but also in the testimony of the most prominent Nazi defendant, Reichsmarshall Hermann Goering:
“Modern and total war develops, as I see it, along three lines: the war of weapons on land, at sea and in the air; economic war, which has become an integral part of every modern war; and, third, propaganda war, which is also an essential part of this warfare.”

Two months after the Nuremberg hangings, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 59(I), declaring:

“Freedom of information requires as an indispensable element the willingness and capacity to employ its privileges without abuse. It requires as a basic discipline the moral obligation to seek the facts without prejudice and to spread knowledge without malicious intent.”

The next year another General Assembly Resolution was adopted: Res. 110 which “condemns all forms of propaganda, in whatsoever country conducted, which is either designed or likely to provoke or encourage any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression.”

Although UN General Assembly Resolutions are not legally binding, Resolutions 59 and 110 carry considerable moral weight. This is because, like the United Nations itself, they are an expression of the catastrophic brutality and suffering of two world wars and the universal desire to avoid future slaughter.

Propaganda Crimes

Most jurisdictions have yet to recognize propaganda for war as a crime. However several journalists have recently been convicted of incitement to genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

Because there is stiff resistance, especially from the United States, the effort to criminalize war propaganda faces an uphill battle.

However in legal terms it seems relatively straightforward: if incitement to genocide is a crime, then incitement to aggression, another Nuremberg crime, could and should be as well.

After all, aggression – starting an unprovoked war – is “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole,” in the words of the judgment at Nuremberg.
Criminal or not, much of the world now sees incitement to war as morally indefensible.

In this light and in light of Goering’s three-part recipe for war (weapons, economic war and propaganda) it is instructive to look at the role which American journalists and war propagandists have recently played in bringing about and sustaining war.

The Bush administration began to sell the invasion of Iraq to the American public soon after 9/11.

In order to coordinate this effort President Bush’s chief of staff, Andrew Card, established the White House Iraq Group (WHIG) in the summer of 2002 expressly for the purpose of marketing the invasion of Iraq.

Among the members of WHIG were media figures/propagandists Karen Hughes and Mary Matalin.

WHIG was remarkable not only for its recklessness with the truth but for the candor with which it acknowledged it was running an advertising campaign. A Sept. 7, 2002, New York Times article entitled TRACES OF TERROR: THE STRATEGY; Bush Aides Set Strategy to Sell Policy on Iraq reported:
“White House officials said today that the administration was following a meticulously planned strategy to persuade the public, the Congress and the allies of the need to confront the threat from Saddam Hussein….

” ‘From a marketing point of view,’ said Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff who is coordinating the effort, ‘you don’t introduce new products in August.’ ”

It was as if the “product” – the unprovoked invasion of a sovereign state – was a consumer good, like a car or a TV show. The sales pitch was the manufactured “imminent threat” of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
In other words, the business of WHIG was incitement to aggressive war primarily through the propaganda of fear.
Along those lines WHIG’s most prominent member, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, invoked the specter of an Iraqi-generated nuclear holocaust in a Sept. 8, 2002, CNN interview with Wolf Blitzer:
“We do know that there have been shipments going into Iran, for instance – into Iraq, for instance, of aluminum tubes that really are only suited to – high-quality aluminum tools that are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs. … The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”

The smoking gun/mushroom cloud images were among the most memorable of all the White House war propaganda. They were generated just a few days earlier in a WHIG meeting by speechwriter Michael Gerson.

The existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was central to the Bush administration’s campaign for war. Other important elements were Saddam Hussein’s ties with Al Qaeda and the strongly implied association of Iraq with the tragedies of 9/11.
All were false. In propaganda, though, selling the product trumps truth.

Unquestioning Submission

The role played by American mainstream media during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq was marked by widespread unquestioning submission to the Bush administration and abandonment of the most fundamental journalistic responsibility to the public.

This responsibility is embodied not only in Resolution 59 but in the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics as well, which states: “Journalists should test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error.”
The failure of influential American journalists, such as the New York Times’ Judith Miller, to test the accuracy of information played a critical role in the Bush administration’s successful effort to incite the American public to attack a country which was not threatening us.
Though she was far from alone in selling the case for war, Miller — through her seemingly uncritical reliance on dodgy informants — was probably responsible to a larger degree than any other American journalist for spreading the fear of nonexistent Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

As such she and other influential journalists who failed in this way bear a share of moral, if not legal, responsibility for hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees and all the other carnage, devastation and human suffering of “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

Some prominent American media figures, however, went considerably further than simple failure to check sources. Some actively and passionately encouraged Americans to commit and/or approve of war crimes, before and during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Prominent among these was Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly who – regarding both Afghanistan and Iraq – advocated such crimes forbidden by the Geneva Convention as collective punishment of civilians (Gen. Con. IV, Art. 33); attacking civilian targets (Protocol I, Art. 51); destroying water supplies (Protocol I Art. 54 Sec. 2) and even starvation (Protocol I, Art. 54 Sec. 1).

Sept. 17, 2001: "The U.S. should bomb the Afghan infrastructure to rubble: the airport, the power plants, their water facilities, and the roads" in the event of a refusal to hand over Osama bin Laden to the U.S.
Later, he added: “This is a very primitive country. And taking out their ability to exist day to day will not be hard.  … We should not target civilians. But if they don’t rise up against this criminal government, they starve, period.”
On March 26, 2003, a few days after the invasion of Iraq began, O’Reilly said: “There is a school of thought that says we should have given the citizens of Baghdad 48 hours to get out of Dodge by dropping leaflets and going with the AM radios and all that. Forty-eight hours, you’ve got to get out of there, and flatten the place.” [See Peter Hart’s “O’Reilly’s War: Any rationale—or none—will do” Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, May/June 2003]

Collective Punishment

Another tremendously influential journalist, Pulitzer Prize winner and former executive editor of the New York Times, the late A.M. Rosenthal, also advocated attacking civilian targets and collective punishment in regard to waging war against Muslim nations in the Middle East.

In a Sept. 14, 2001, column, “How the U.S. Can Win the War”, Rosenthal wrote that the U.S. should give Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria and Sudan three days to consider an ultimatum demanding they turn over documents and information related to weapons of mass destruction and terrorist organizations.
During these three days, “the residents of the countries would be urged 24 hours a day by the U.S. to flee the capital and major cities, because they would be bombed to the ground beginning the fourth day."

Right-wing media figure Ann Coulter, on the Sean Hannity Show on July 21, 2006, called for another war and more punishment of civilians, this time in Iran:

”Well, I keep hearing people say we can’t find the nuclear material, and you can bury it in caves. How about we just, you know, carpet-bomb them so they can’t build a transistor radio? And then it doesn’t matter if they have the nuclear material.”

This pattern of the major U.S. news figures advocating aggressive wars even predated 9/11. Three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman published a strident call for war crimes including collective punishment of Serbs and the destruction of their water supplies over the Kosovo crisis:
“But if NATO’s only strength is that it can bomb forever, then it has to get every ounce out of that. Let’s at least have a real air war. The idea that people are still holding rock concerts in Belgrade, or going out for Sunday merry-go-round rides, while their fellow Serbs are ‘cleansing’ Kosovo, is outrageous. It should be lights out in Belgrade: every power grid, water pipe, bridge, road and war-related factory has to be targeted.

"Like it or not, we are at war with the Serbian nation (the Serbs certainly think so), and the stakes have to be very clear: Every week you ravage Kosovo is another decade we will set your country back by pulverizing you. You want 1950? We can do 1950. You want 1389? We can do 1389 too.” [New York Times, April 23, 1999]

These casual — even joking — comments about inflicting war on relatively weak countries came from American journalists and media figures at the very top of their profession. Each was addressing an audience of millions. It is difficult to overstate their influence.

Over the past decade alone, the massive destruction and carnage wreaked by American pursuit of “the supreme international crime” of aggression has been enabled by negligent, reckless and/or malicious use of this influence.
Sadly, the words of Nuremberg Prosecutor Griffith-Jones concerning the propaganda of German journalist Julius Streicher hold considerable meaning today for some of the most prominent journalists in the country which, 60 years ago, provided the guiding light at Nuremberg:

Streicher “made these things possible – made these crimes possible which could never have happened had it not been for him and for those like him.”

In 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 127 in which “the General Assembly … invites the Governments of States Members … to study such measures as might with advantage, be taken on the national plane to combat, within the limits of constitutional procedures, the diffusion of false or distorted reports likely to injure friendly relations between States.”

Unfortunately, 60 years later, little progress has been made. War propaganda is still legal and very much alive – flourishing, in fact, as demonstrated by periodic calls for one more invasion of a country which has never threatened the U.S.: Iran.

As matters stand today, with the United States still the world’s preeminent military power, the American propagandists who enabled Operation Iraqi Freedom and other wars of aggression have little need to worry about their legal responsibilities under the Nuremberg principles.
A strong case can be made, though, that they have blood on their hands.

Peter Dyer is a freelance journalist who moved with his wife from California to New Zealand in 2004. He can be reached at .

Bombing Iraqi children

Letter from Mosul

Middle East International, 2 July 1999

By Felicity Arbuthnot

MOSUL, IRAQ'S LARGEST NORTHERN city, lies in the Governorate of Nineveh, immortalised in John Masefield's poem Cargoes – "Quinquereme of Nineveh from distant Ophir … ” and Kipling: "… our pomp of yesterday, at one with Nineveh and Tyre … "

The area has been inhabited continuously for 6,000 years, its castles, monasteries and churches testament to the past and to a unique Christian heritage. St Matthew and Jonah are reputedly buried here. The area has the largest Christian population in Iraq.

The staccato stutter of anti-aircraft fire herald British and American planes patrolling the "no-fly? zone. Apart from a brief lull in March and a few days in May, there have been daily bombings since the December crisis with Iraq. Targets seem bizarre, like flocks of sheep.

Dominican Father Jandat al-Kazzi at the Church of the Clock, built in 1862 and named after a clock donated by the wife of Napoleon III, is erudite, measured and incandescent with anger. From south Lebanon, the 60-year-old, grey-haired priest, 13 years in Mosul, told of his love for the Iraqi people and accused the US and Britain of hypocrisy.

“How can they call themselves Christians? They are bombing a civilisation 6,000 years old, and the United States, a country which has no history, no civilisation is bombing every day. Every day there are new widows, new widowers, new orphans. Every day sisters lose their brothers, parents lose their children. Twenty four people were killed in a nearby village just recently. They are bombing villages. Many of these are Christian villages. Iraqi people are very moral, they have lost everything due to the embargo. They have only their morality left.

“The Americans are lying. They should say they are bombing for the sake of bombing, not pretend they are bombing military bases. They aren't. Their planes fire from 15km away; Iraq's anti-aircraft guns have a range of 5km. How can they say they are threatened?"

Having observed numerous military installations all over Iraq, it is evident that most of the vehicles, transporters, tanks and anti-aircraft guns appear to date from the 1950s.

Driving along the drought-riven, dust-bowl dry, almost barren land (Iraq is suffering the worst drought in living memory), we come upon the scene of the most bizarre and haunting attacks. Just visible from the road was an area scattered with putrefying dead sheep and goats lying amid fragments of metal, shredded tyres and a twisted, holed, portable water tank. On 30 April, the flock and the family tending it were bombed.

Hassan Yunis Ayub (40) was a friend and relative of the family who lives in the same village. "It was a Friday, so a little earlier there had been about 50 people there, sharing the sabbath meal. After they left, a plane came and circled for a long time, then bombed." Ayub shook with emotion and grabbed my notebook and pen: "I must write their names." His hand shook as he recorded them, tears on his cheeks. They were Jirjis Ayub Sultan (60), his son Ahmad (36) and Ahmad's children Luqman (13), Ahmad (12), Murtada (11) and Sultan (6).

Walking amongst the decaying sheep's corpses, the dead sheepdog lying at the head of the flock turning pieces of metal with one's foot, viewing the distance debris had been hurled, the blackened crater where a 500lb bomb landed, made me shiver. "The old man lost his head, arms and legs. Only his torso was left," said Ayub. He described how the tyre of their tractor was found 600 metre away, adding quietly: "We searched for bodies but could only gather pieces."

Hassan suddenly remarked: "Sultan had just finished his first year at school. His grades were good, he was so proud. He'd taken a ball-point pen [banned under sanctions and incredibly precious] and scrap of paper [also hard to get] with him to practise writing. What do they want from us? Our pens? Four days later another flock of sheep was bombed on the other side of the mountain and twelve people killed, along with 205 sheep and some cattle.

Father Jandat's rage reflects that of everyone in this area. They conclude that the UN not only vetoes writing materials, in scrupulous violation of its own Charter and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, but is responsible for blowing to bits a family in which a six-year-old shepherd boy has proudly acquired some.

When I asked the Ministry of Defence in London about the legitimacy of targeting sheep, an official replied: “We reserve the right to take robust action if threatened."

Iceland?s refusal to prohibit propaganda for war and aggression

Iceland’s refusal to prohibit propaganda for war and aggression
by Elias Davidsson, February 2007

Iceland has declared that it cannot comply with Article 20(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which requires states parties to prohibit by law “any propaganda for war”. It claimed that such “a prohibition against propaganda for war could limit the freedom of expression”. Leaving aside the contrived argument that freedom of expression precludes the outlawing of war propaganda (Iceland prohibits by law various forms of expression, such as the dissemination of pornography, advertising alcool and tobacco, the promotion of racism, etc.), the material below demonstrates that the refusal to prohibit propaganda for war and aggression undermines one of the main goals of the international community and of the UN Charter.

Imperial reasoning for the right to commit aggression

Imperial reasoning for the right to commit aggression

British House of Commons
Standing Committee D
Tuesday 10 April 2001
International Criminal Court Bill [Lords]

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough):

“War is rarely, if ever, started or initiated by democracies [1] It is highly unlikely that the present Government or a successor Conservative Government would be an aggressor in the sense that I envisage that term being defined under article 5. It is the totalitarian regimes who will be guilty of the crime of aggression, and I doubt whether such regimes are likely to be susceptible to the jurisdiction of the ICC. Have any totalitarian regimes signed up to the Rome statute? If they had, would they ratify it? If not, is anything to be gained by including the crime of aggression in that statute”? [emphasis added]

I assume that the crime of aggression, when it is defined at the first review conference seven years after the coming into existence of the ICC, will bite only on countries that have signed up to the review process. They may be members of the ICC assembly of states parties. Although they will be willing to accept the existence of the ICC and, to a limited extent, its jurisdiction over their own territory and citizens, they may not accept the majority view on the crime of aggression.

France and, I think, Israel and several other signatories to the statute have already entered reservations. That suggests that they may not want, as the Foreign Secretary does, to travel the whole journey and sign up to everything in the statute of Rome. If such countries are not prepared to sign up to everything, will they be bound by the majority’s definition of the crime of aggression even if they are not part of that majority? Will their citizens, military or civilian, be accountable to the ICC for what the majority believes aggression to be? If so, to what extent will the purpose of the statute of Rome be undermined and destroyed, and its full effects inhibited, by minority countries taking a different view on aggression?

I am particularly concerned about the military, as we have had both formal and informal representations from former and current members of the armed forces about the effect of this legislation on their ability “in the case of current, serving members “to wage legitimate war[2] on behalf of the United Kingdom. We wish to be able to reassure them that the Bill that we are discussing, and the statutes that will be incorporated, in part, into our domestic law, will not inhibit or in any way damage their ability to carry out their lawful duties on behalf of the people of this country in time of war.


Comments by Elias Davidsson:
[1] Wars and acts of aggression have been committed by numerous so-called democratic States in recent times, including the United States, Israel and the United Kingdom.

Afghanistan designated as combat zone from Sept. 19, 2001

Afghanistan Combat Zone Executive Order
Executive Order Designation of Afghanistan and the Airspace Above as a Combat Zone




Pursuant to the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including section 112 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (26 U.S.C. 112), I designate, for purposes of that section, Afghanistan, including the airspace above, as an area in which Armed Forces of the United States are and have been engaged in combat.

For purposes of this order, I designate September 19, 2001, as the date of the commencement of combatant activities in such zone.

December 12, 2001.

Afghanistan: The Unnecessary War

Afghanistan: The Unnecessary War

Milan Rai

The First Dodgy Dossier

Three years ago, on 4 October 2001, Tony Blair presented a dossier to the House of Commons to justify war on Afghanistan. The dossier concluded (although little evidence was available) that, “The attacks of the 11 September 2001 were planned and carried out by Al Qaida, an organisation whose head is Usama Bin Laden. The attack could not have occurred without the alliance between the Taleban and Usama Bin Laden, which allowed Bin Laden to operate freely in Afghanistan, promoting, planning and executing terrorist activity.”

Bronwen Maddox, Foreign Editor of The Times, found “so many puzzling omissions” that the dossier began to “undermine itself”, with “few clues even to the form of evidence for September 11: almost nothing on money or phone records”. It seemed “lame – to the point of advertising a deficiency – to say that a signature of an al-Qaeda attack is the absence of a warning”. (Times, 5 October 2001, p. 8)

Eminent lawyers consulted by the Independent on Sunday (7 October, p. 7) and the Telegraph (5 October 2001, p. 6) doubted that the dossier would support an indictment for murder against bin Laden. Anthony Scrivener QC: “it is a sobering thought that better evidence is required to prosecute a shoplifter than is needed to commence a world war.” (Times, 5 October 2001, p. 7)

The Justification For War

Nevertheless, the Prime Minister said in the House of Commons that the case was proven, and war would follow: “there is no alternative unless the Taliban regime do what they have so far obviously failed to do and yield up bin Laden”. (Hansard, 4 October 2001 col 678)

The Taliban Agreed To Extradite Bin Laden

Almost at the moment of this assertion, the Daily Telegraph carried an extraordinary story under the heading “Pakistan halts secret plan for bin Laden trial”, a story which completely undermined Blair’s case for war. (Telegraph, 4 October, p. 9)*

According to this report, leaders of two Pakistani Islamic parties, the Jamaat-i-Islami and the Jamaat Ulema-e-Islam, negotiated bin Laden’s extradition to Pakistan to stand trial for the 11 September attacks. Under the conditions of the agreement, bin Laden would have been held under house arrest in Peshawar, and then tried.

The first stage of the negotiations was carried out in Islamabad in Pakistan, on Sat. 29 September, when Mullah Abdul Salaam Zaeef, the Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan, met with Qazi Hussain Ahmad, leader of the Jamaat-i-Islami, and Hamid Gul, a former director of Pakistan’s powerful Inter Service Intelligence agency.

The final stage of the negotiations was in Kandahar, on Mon. 1 October, when Qazi, and Maaulana Fazlur Rahman, head of the Jamaat Ulema-e-Islam, met Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar.

“The proposal, which had bin Laden’s approval, was that within the framework of Islamic shar’ia law evidence of his alleged involvement in the New York and Washington attacks would be placed before an international tribunal. The court would decide whether to try him on the spot or hand him over to America’s, reported the Telegraph.

There had been earlier indications from the Taliban that it was willing to extradite its troublesome guest. There were three striking features of this report. Firstly, extradition was not only possible, it had actually been agreed. Secondly, the deal is said to have had “bin Laden’s approval”. Finally, breaking with earlier offers from the Taliban, it was stated that extradition to the United States (previously anathema) would have been a real possibility.

Who Killed The Deal?

Why did the deal not go ahead? Despite being agreed by Mullah Omar, head of the Taliban, the extradition was apparently vetoed by Pakistan’s President Musharraf, on the grounds that he, Musharraf, “could not guarantee bin Laden’s safety”. An implausible suggestion.

Intriguingly, according to the Telegraph, the US Ambassador to Pakistan, Wendy Chamberlain, knew of the deal all along.

A US official had earlier suggested that “casting the objectives too narrowly would risk a premature collapse of the international effort if by some lucky chance Mr bin Laden were captured”. (FT, 20 September 2001, p. 7) It may be that a US veto killed the deal.

If bin Laden’s extradition had truly been the key goal in Washington and London in the aftermath of 9/11, Blair and Bush would have praised this opening, publicized it, sought to support it with inducements. Instead, we had only silence. This was consistent with the rebuffs delivered to every Taliban overture.

Rebuffing Earlier Taliban Offers

The Taliban Information Minister, Qudrutullah Jamal, said a week after 11 September, “Anyone who is responsible for this act, Osama or not, we will not side with him. We told [the Pakistan delegation] to give us proof that he did it, because without that how can we give him up”? (Independent, 19 September 2001, p. 1)

Until 1 October 2001, the Taliban refused to to “hand over Osama bin Laden without evidence” (Taliban Ambassador Mullah Zaeef, Times, 22 September, p. 1, emphasis added). On 1 October, they agreed to bin Laden’s extradition to Pakistan without evidence of his guilt.

The US consistently brushed aside such opportunities for a nonviolent solution. Ari Fleischer, White House spokesperson said repeatedly that there would be “no negotiations, no discussions” with the Taliban. (Telegraph, 22 September, p. 1)

No Justification For War

This story blows an enormous hole in the government’s rationale for war. The British and US people were told that we were being forced to go to war because the Taliban had refused point-blank to hand over bin Laden. The Telegraph story revealed, however, that in fact the Taliban, far from refusing to contemplate extradition, had agreed to hand over bin Laden for trial, possibly in the US.

There were three central legal and moral questions: What was the evidence against bin Laden? If there was evidence, were there nonviolent methods of securing him for trial? Was the force used by the US and British governments legal? Whatever one thinks of the “evidence” against bin Laden presented in October 2001, the fact of the matter is that there was a nonviolent alternative to war – and it was rejected not by the Taliban regime, but by Britain and the US.

The alternative was to negotiate extradition. Negotiation of international conflicts is a duty under Article 33 of the UN Charter.

Professor Robin Therkauf, a lecturer in the political science department at Yale University, lost her husband Tom in the World Trade Centre on 11 September. In the days before 4 October, Professor Theurkauf wrote,

“What we need less of is war rhetoric and war against Afghanistan in particular, and to explore the possibility of a judicial solution. In the short term, the first priority should be to hunt down and arrest the criminals with the goal of achieving justice, not revenge. This is a task left not to the military but to investigative police forces, who can prepare for a trial.”

This was not a utopian dream, but entirely realistic, in the light of the Telegraph report.

In a BBC radio interview, Professor Theurkauf said, “The last thing I wanted was for more widows and fatherless children to be created in my name. It would only produce a backlash. As the victim of violence, I’d never want this to happen to another woman again.”(Quotes taken from Radio 4, 2 October, and The Friend, 28 September)

Unfair Chance

President Bush said of the Taliban, “I gave them a fair chance.” (Times, 8 October 2001, p. 2) In fact, Bush and Blair rejected negotiations and nonviolent alternatives to war, supported by the mass media.

This is worth remembering as Afghanistan limps towards an opium-soaked, warlord-ridden, US-style “democracy”.

Liberated Women

What about Afghan women? “In parts of Afghanistan, women have stated that the insecurity and the risk of sexual violence they face make their lives worse than during the Taleban era”. (Amnesty International, October 2003)

The US has “failed, misguided and betrayed Afghan women by giving them false hope,” says T. Kumar, an Amnesty International advocacy director for Asia and the Pacific. (22 September 2004)

Published Saturday, October 16th, 2004

Is the War in Afghanistan Just?*

Symposium on the War in Afghanistan:

Is the War in Afghanistan Just?

Darrel Moellendorf

The following article, published on the website of Imprints, a Journal of Analytical Socialism, is the first in a series of articles published in connection with a Symposium on the War in Afghanistan posted on Imprints’ website  It must be noted at the outset that all participants parted from the assumption that the events of 11 September 2001 were linked to Afghanistan (instigated, planned and/or financed from there). None of the participants questioned this assumption and none provided any evidence for this assumption. For more information on such evidence, or the lack thereof, see section on 9/11 – The webmaster.


HE US led military response to the 11 September terrorist attacks is yet another in a series of post-Cold War conflicts that has divided the left. In days gone by it was relatively easy to gain consensus among people and parties of the left against US intervention in various parts of the world. Typically such intervention sought to rollback electoral or military advances by democratic or socialist forces. In the political dynamic of the Cold War, the US could be counted on invariably to be on the wrong side. With the Gulf War, the invasion of Haiti, the war against Serbia, and now the war in Afghanistan, that apparently solid left-wing anti-war consensus has crumbled.

Part of the difficulty in gaining leftwing consensus on post-Cold War conflicts is that there is no general agreement on the left about the considerations that determine the justice of war. This is only part of the problem since there may be room for reasonable disagreement about the application of the criteria of the justice of war. Agreement on the criteria, however, does provide at least the hope of productive discussion on the morality of war. I shall defend what I take to be the correct considerations and apply them to the war in Afghanistan. Although these considerations cast some doubt on the justice of the war, I believe that several of the particular judgements that have to be made in coming to an overall assessment are necessarily on much less firm ground than is desirable, and that the question of the justice of resorting to war is distinct from the question of whether once war was begun the moral balance was in favour or against it. My focus will be on the justice of resorting to war in this case, or on matters of jus ad bellum, rather than the justice of the conduct of the war, or matters of jus in bello. Questions of the justice of conduct are of obvious importance in a moral assessment of any war, but space does not permit extending this discussion to those issues. And in any case, the question of the justice of resorting to war is the more fundamental one for it addresses not merely the means by which the war is prosecuted but whether it should be, or should have been, initiated at all.

I. Jus ad bellum

I maintain a middle position that not all wars are permissible, say, for reasons of national interests, and that not all wars are morally objectionable. I would imagine that this middle ground has widespread intuitive appeal, but the real job is in setting out the requirements of justice that define it. The necessary criteria, I believe, are just cause, reasonable likelihood of success, proportionality and last resort.

Why are these the necessary conditions for the justice of war? The starting point is that because war causes all manner of intended and unintended suffering, there is a general presumption that it is wrong. A war that is not a response to an injustice, or that is likely to fail, or that creates more injustice than it corrects, or that could have been avoided is one that cannot defeat the presumption against causing suffering.

Would these conditions taken together provide sufficient reason to resort to war? If in the absence of alternatives resorting to a war reasonably calculated to improve a significant injustice is not justified, then it is difficult to imagine when resorting to war would ever be justified. Of course, one response to this is to claim that this merely shows that it is difficult to imagine when resorting to war really is justified. In other words, the presumption against causing suffering is a very strong one. Clinching the argument against this pacifist perspective is not possible here, and perhaps not at all. One thing that might be done, however, is to imagine situations real or not terribly ideal in which all of the above conditions are met and the wrong that could not be rectified without going to war is very grave. Pacifists can still bite the bullet, as it were, in these cases, but not without allowing a great deal of preventable injustice. This provides some reason to believe that the criteria taken collectively provide a sufficient condition for resorting to war to be just.

The doctrine of jus ad bellum guides our judgements of whether resorting to war in the given circumstances is just. From what time frame should information be drawn when assessing this matter? We can imagine two responses: One holds that in judging the justice of a war all information is relevant, both that which could have been known prior to the initiation of hostilities and that which could only have come to light afterwards. For after all, what we want to know is an objective matter: In light of all the relevant evidence and considerations, was it just to go to war. Knowing this may provide some guidance for the future. Alternatively, any evaluation of the justice of a war, if it is to offer a moral evaluation of the actions taken by the belligerents, and those who opposed the initiation of the war, must be restricted to the considerations that were available to them prior to the beginning of the war. One cannot hold war-makers responsible on the basis of considerations that could not have been known at the time. To ask whether a war is just within these constraints on information, then, is to seek an answer that is relevant to assessing the moral responsibility of the prosecutors of the war. This is my interest in what follows.

II. Anti-imperialism

There is a view that traditionally has had considerable credence on the left that goes roughly like this: All wars by imperialist powers are to be opposed because by the nature of imperialism they are either (a) lacking in just cause, or (b) compromised by bad intentions even where just grounds exist, or (c) politically too dangerous for the future even though satisfying all the criteria for jus ad bellum.

The claim that an imperialist war lacks just cause is not apparent a priori. For according to standard views of imperialism the relationship between a war by an imperialist state and injustice is contingent. Classical accounts of imperialism take it to be the export of capital from developed states to less developed ones. The criticism of imperialism on these accounts is that it tends to produce competing economic interests in colonising states, and the defence of these interests typically requires state military action. Assuming this account, it would remain an empirical matter in any given case of war whether the war fulfilled the criteria of jus ad bellum. Perhaps an imperialist state may act on reasons other than the protection of the economic interests of its powerful citizens; or perhaps for some reason these interests coincide with justice in a given situation. Post-war accounts of imperialism often take it to involve financial or trade arrangements that cause the development of the developed economies at the expense of the underdevelopment of the less developed economies. Even if some version of the underdevelopment thesis is true, it does not follow that all wars by imperialist powers are all-things-considered unjust. Perhaps a war may do nothing to overthrow imperialist economic relations, but results in the replacement of a dictatorship with institutions of parliamentary democracy. In general, a criticism on the basis of just cause has to rest on more than the observation that it is prosecuted by an imperialist state.

What of the other two disjuncts of the anti-imperialist position stated above? Suppose the anti-imperialist shows that, despite just grounds for war, the state’s intentions are suspect. Notice that this criticism involves a very different concern than the four criteria I offered above. Each of the four is objective in the sense that it does not ask us to enquire about the state-of-mind of the war-makers. But perhaps we should. Perhaps we should worry that an otherwise just war is a pretext for insidious intentions. This I think is problematic, misguided and unnecessary. It’s problematic because states are corporate bodies and therefore may have multiple and perhaps even conflicting intentions. Saladin Meckled-Garcia believes that the intentions of a war-making state can be inferred by its past actions with respect to international law, various (unstated) influences on policy, the attitudes of the branches of government and the wider political culture and the state’s behaviour both in international bodies and with respect to other states. I see no reason to suppose that any of this material is going to provide the basis for a reliable inference about a single intention of a state. As with real persons, many and diverse intentional accounts may go some ways toward explaining actions. But more problematic is the possibility of multiple and even conflicting intentions among policy-makers who agree on the action to be taken. The phenomenon of internal conflict is familiar enough in real persons, but it is multiplied many times in the case of corporate bodies.

Worrying about the intentions of war-making states is any case misguided because the intentions of the government are irrelevant to the justice of its actions. Suppose that a state instituted a basic income grant as a means to co-opt growing unrest among the impoverished. This does not affect the justice of the policy although it should make those concerned with justice doubtful about what more to expect from the government in the absence of a struggle.

Additionally, worrying about the intentions of war-making states is unnecessary because the three criteria of just cause, reasonable likelihood of success and proportionality in combination sort out those wars that are likely to serve the ends of justice within moral constraints from those that are not. Consider two possible replies. The first is that these criteria are blind to insidious intentions, assuming for the sake of argument that such intentions can be reliably inferred. I maintain nevertheless, as in the example of the provision of the basic income, that consideration of state intentions is unnecessary to an evaluation of the justice of its policy. The second is that good intentions will provide additional assurance that the ends of justice are served. If, however, intentions are only important in the service of just ends, then we have all the necessary considerations we need with the criteria of just cause, reasonable likelihood of success and proportionality. If a war is unlikely to succeed or to be proportional, being the result of good intentions will not make it any more likely. If it is to succeed or be proportional, considering the intentions is unnecessary. Nor, contrary to the claims of Meckled-Garcia, is assessing the intentions of belligerents necessary to identify the existence double standards. Double standards among belligerents exist when any of the four criteria that I have endorsed are selectively required or enforced.

Meckled-Garcia also asserts that the criteria that I endorse do not state which consequences are important when considering the justice of war. This is false. The considerations raised by the above the criteria are primarily focused on the likely consequence of the war, not the intentions of the war-makers. And that, I believe, is as it should be.

The remaining element of the above-characterised anti-imperialist position appeals to the possible precedent effect of supporting a war that satisfies the criteria of jus ad bellum. There are two problems with this criticism: First, it confuses the force of moral principles with the force of politics. Whether or not a justified principle will later be used to rationalise unjust practices depends upon whether or not those who oppose injustice will later have the political means and will to prevent it. This is a matter of voting, lobbying and organising. It has nothing to do with the content of a principle. Additionally, the moral judgement that underlies this concern is troubling, for it tells us to ignore a present injustice ” perhaps a great one ” even when correcting it is reasonably likely to succeed because of the possibility that corrective action will rationalise uncertain future injustices. If we took that principle seriously we would be paralysed with respect to the possible correction of all manner of present injustices since with any action-guiding principle there is the possibility that it could be misused. In sum, the anti-imperialist critique of a war should address the criteria of jus ad bellum that I supported in section I.

III. Just cause and sovereignty

The traditional criterion of just cause holds that just cause for war exists if and only if either the territorial integrity or political sovereignty of a state has been violated or there is a credible imminent threat of such a violation. This statist conception of just cause has no place in a theory of the justice of war, and is anathema to egalitarian politics. For it shields all manner of correctable injustice that might occur within a state, just as invoking the privacy of the family shields all manner of injustice that might occur within domestic relations.

Taking justice for individuals seriously requires replacing the traditional criterion of just cause with one that is sensitive to injustice. A better criterion would be that intervention into the affairs of other states is just only if the intervention is directed towards advancing justice either in the basic structure of the state or in the international effects of its domestic poli to war. Not all domestic injustices provide the necessary grounds, only injustices to the basic structure do. This provides room for the politics of democratic self-government to address domestic policy injustices. But since those affected by international injustices typically have no voice in domestic democratic self-government, an international injustice that is the effect of domestic policy may be a just cause for resorting to war. This criterion then is sensitive both to democratic self-governance and to existing injustice. It strikes a balance between holding that any act of a state, in virtue of being an act of self-determination is protected, and that any injustice that a state commits is a justified ground for war.

IV. The war in Afghanistan

How well does the war in Afghanistan measure up against the criteria of jus ad bellum that I advocate in sections I and III? I shall discuss the war in light of each of the four criteria.

Just cause

Looked at one way the application of the criterion of just cause seems pretty straightforward. A state that gives refuge to terrorists who plan and execute foreign attacks that intentionally result in the deaths of more than two thousand civilians of other states is certainly one whose domestic policy results in serious international injustices. Additionally, the states whose citizens died in such attacks have a duty to protect the security of their citizens, which duty justifies pursuing those who carried out the attacks both to prevent them from carrying out further attacks and to deter others from trying something similar. Hence, one could claim that preventing and deterring future attacks on civilians is a justified cause of war.

There are, however, several criticisms of the justice of the cause of the war in Afghanistan that require consideration. I wish to examine four.

1. The strength of Islamic fundamentalism in the region is the product of US cold war policy.

There are well-documented accounts of the provision of aid to Islamic militants by the CIA in an effort to turn back the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and to cause trouble for the Soviet Union more generally. It is unclear whether bin Laden actually benefited from this aid. In any case, the larger movement of which he is a part certainly did benefit. So, it is highly plausible that the strength of Islamic fundamentalism in that area is a product of US policy. In a sense, then, the current threat to the security of US civilians is in part the result of the certain activities of the US government.

Although the role of the US government in creating the present security threat is an indictment of its Afghanistan policy (and perhaps its Cold War policy more generally), it does not provide the basis for rejecting the existence of just cause for the war in Afghanistan. The argument that it does would seem to be the following: Since the US government is in very significant ways responsible for the threat to US (and other) civilians, it has no right to attempt to destroy the threat. But this is nonsense. Consider an analogy. Due to the negligence or recklessness of the tourist guides, a group of tourists are brought under attack by armed bandits. It in no way follows that these guides have no right to protect the tourists from the bandits. On the contrary, it would seem an additional moral failure if the tourist guides did not try to protect the tourists from a threat the guides themselves are in part responsible for. I see no reason why the same reasoning does not apply in the case of the terrorist threat from Islamic fundamentalists.

2. The real intent of the war-makers is to secure strategic oil reserves.

One criticism of the war is that the purported cause of the war to defeat terrorism is a pretext for the war’s real intention, namely to access strategic oil reserves in central Asia. According to this view, the war is really naked imperialism dressed-up as self-defence. Insofar as this is a criticism of the intentions of the US and its allies it is (for the reasons argued above) weak: Intentions are difficult to ascribe to governments; they are no help in assessing the justice of policy; and enough work can be done by determining whether the war is reasonably likely to be successful and proportional in the pursuit of a justified cause. So, if the war is reasonably likely to offer security from terrorism without creating significant injustices, it might be justified even though it may also open up central Asian oil reserves to Western imperialism

In any case it seems implausible that the prevention of terrorist attacks is not the main intent of the US leadership. If an agent has mixed intentions for an action, the “real” or primary one must exist even if the secondary ones don’t exist. Additionally, to claim that one has an intention requires some evidence of the disposition to act on it. Hence, the advocate of the criticism of this section has to give evidence that the US had a willingness to engage in warfare in pursuit of Central Asian oil even in the absence of the terrorist attacks. To the best of my knowledge, no one who defends this criticism has been able to offer such evidence. The objection seems to be no more powerful than the claim that the intentions of the US and its allies are mixed.

3. Terrorism is a justified countermeasure to terrorism.

Terrorist actions can be defined as violent actions that involve intentionally and successfully killing or severely harming non-combatants. According to this definition the two attacks of 11 September on the World Trade Centre are terrorist actions. The attack on the Pentagon may not be; and if the fourth plane was headed for the White House and the commander-in-chief it also may not be. There is some ambiguity with respect to these last two attacks because although the targets of these attacks may have been military ones, they nonetheless involved using passengers merely as means to effect the destruction of military targets. It might be objected that this definition of terrorism is too broad, for what makes an action terrorist is that its perpetrators also intend to cause terror. I see no reason for this additional requirement. Although we call violent acts against non-combatants resulting from their intentional targeting terrorist because they typically cause terror, their moral import is less the terror caused, and more the physical harm done to non-combatants and their property. So, regardless of whether these acts in fact cause terror they are typically wrong in virtue their intentional harm to innocents.

The objection of this section may be put as follows: Terrorism is not always wrong because the principle of non-combatant immunity is conditional. It constrains a warring party only if its enemy observes it. The US and other Western states are instrumental in the execution of policies that intentionally target non-combatants in, for example, Iraq where UN sanctions cause the death of some 40,000 children under five each year, more than 15 times as many people who died in all four attacks on 11 September. These deaths are not spectacular, nor are they the subject of around the clock CNN coverage, but they are just as final as those on 11 September. This lack of regard for non-combatant immunity on the part of the US justifies intentionally targeting non-combatants on US soil.

One might try to reject this argument on the grounds that trade sanctions do not intentionally target non-combatants. Rather sanctions target regimes; their goal is to topple regimes or at least change their policies. The problem with this response is that it allows too much. For it maintains that an activity does not intentionally target civilians if its goal is to topple regimes or at least change their policies. According to this view smashing aeroplanes into busy city buildings also may not intentionally target non-combatants. In fact, in both cases civilians are intentionally targeted as a means to affecting the policies of regimes.

The real problems with the argument lie elsewhere. First, even if one accepted the conditional nature of the principle of non-combatant immunity, it would only justify terrorist attacks sanctioned by those states that are the victims of the terrorism supported by Western states. Second, and most importantly, there are good reasons to think that the principle of non-combatant immunity is not as weak as the argument requires. Perhaps there are conceivable circumstances in which the principle has exceptions, but I have difficulty imagining realistic circumstances in which it has exceptions. The presumption in favour of non-combatant immunity is much higher than the argument requires, even if it is not quite indefeasible.

The standard reasons in favour of the principle of non-combatant immunity are twofold. One is opposition to using persons merely as a means. The other is that intentionally targeting civilians dramatically increases the misery of war. Perhaps cases are imaginable in which just the opposite is true. The possibility of such cases gives some reason to doubt the complete indefeasibility of the principle, at least if one allows that consequences matter. Still, the two reasons provide a very strong presumption in favour of the principle. And in the absence of arguments that honouring such a principle would result in catastrophic consequences, the principle stands. In the case of the 11 September attacks there is absolutely no reason to believe that the terrorist attacks were to prevent such consequences ? indeed they wrought horrific consequences. So, the criticism fails.

4. There is insufficient evidence to establish Osama bin Laden’s responsibility.

This criticism of the claim that the war in Afghanistan satisfies the criterion of just cause accepts the general terms of the argument that just cause exists for the effort to prevent and deter further attacks of terror. The devil, the criticism maintains, is in the detail. The Bush administration has not been very concerned to make public evidence that would establish Osama bin Laden’s or Al Qaeda’s responsibility for the 11 September attacks. It has failed in this regard to take seriously the democratic requirement of justifying the war to the population, even if most of the population and press were generally not in the mood to demand a justification. Prime Minister Blair, on the other hand, has been especially eager to make the case, releasing a document summarising the evidence against bin Laden and Al Qaeda in October just prior to the beginning of the war, and an updated version later in November.

Of the two documents released by Blair, the earlier is the more important since what is at issue is whether there was sufficient evidence of the responsibility of bin Laden and Al Qaeda prior to the beginning of the war. The document claims to provide sufficient evidence of this and of the capacity for further attacks. On a question as important as whether going to war is just, it would be unreasonable to adopt a stance that simply gave the British government the benefit of the doubt. One has to examine the evidence.

The case is made on the basis of several categories of evidence, including (1) historical evidence to establish a motive and a will for terrorist attacks against the US, (2) similarities between the 11 September attacks and previous attacks for which there is good evidence implicating bin Laden and Al Qaeda and (3) alleged actions and pronouncements directly implicating bin Laden and Al Qaeda in the 11 September attacks.

The evidence under the first two categories is much stronger than that under the third. With respect to motive, the document cites quotations by bin Laden, now in the public domain, to the effect that Muslims have a religious duty to terrorise Americans as a reprisal for the US presence in the Middle East. It also contains public statements by bin Laden praising the 1993 attack on the World Trade Centre as well as the attacks on US troops in Somalia in 1993 and on the US embassies in Kenyan and Tanzanian in 1998.

The document also cites testimony and admissions linking bin Laden and Al Qaeda to the embassy bombings, the attack on the USS. Cole and a failed attempt on Los Angeles International Airport. One of the persons apprehended in the attack on the embassy in Kenya, Mohamed Sadeek Odeh, admitted personal involvement, and identified three others who intelligence authorities claim are members of Al Qaeda or Islamic Jihad. This later claim, however, has no independent confirmation and is therefore of questionable value in making a case against Al Qaeda. Additionally intelligence reports claim that Odeh phoned a number in Yemen requesting money, and that that number was also used to contact bin Laden on the same day. Stronger evidence is to be found in the statement of Khaflan Khamis Mohamed, arrested for the bombing of the embassy in Tanzania. Mr. Mohamed admitted membership in Al Qaeda. Assuming Mr. Mohamed’s statement is credible, it is implausible that Al Qaeda would be behind only one of two embassy bombings on the same day. The surviving member of the two-person bombing-party on the embassy in Kenya, Al ‘Owali, identified the two commanders of the attack on the USS. Cole as participants in the east African embassy bombings. So, there would appear to be a plausible evidentiary trail connecting Al Qaeda to the USS. Cole attack. Additionally, Ahmed Ressam, arrested crossing the border from Canada into the US with over 100 lbs. of bomb-making material admitted both to planning to set-off a bomb at Los Angeles International Airport and to having received training in Al Qaeda camps.

The above evidence seems to demonstrate a will by Al Qaeda members to attack US sights, and a number of attempts to do so on fairly large scale although the scale pales in comparison to that of the 11 September attacks. The testimonials and admissions do not directly implicate bin Laden. The unconfirmed intelligence report of the phone call to him provides a fairly slender thread. However, since it is generally agreed that he is the leader of Al Qaeda, he can be implicated in conspiracies to attack the various targets through his leadership role. As the document states, there are additional similarities between the earlier attacks and the attacks of 11 September, namely the involvement of suicide missions, the coordination of attacks on the same day, the absence of warning and the existence of long-term planning.

The third category, comprising evidence of actions and pronouncements directly implicating Al Qaeda members and bin Laden in the 11 September attacks, is generally weak. The document cites seven pieces of evidence in this regard:

(i) The positive identification of at least three of the hijackers as associates of Al Qaeda.

The media has provided speculation about the identities of these three, but no independent confirmation of the claim.


This existence of an anti-US and anti-Jewish propaganda campaign has been independently confirmed in the press, but not one threatening attacks.

(iii) An assertion by bin Laden, prior to 11 September, that he was preparing for a major attack on the US

There is no further detail or evidence provided to support this claim. There was a rumour circulating in the media that bin Laden had tipped-off his mother just prior to the attacks. The veracity of this rumour has been challenged by independent media sources. However, Abdel-Bari Atwan, editor of the Al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper, claims that bin Laden’s followers warned his newspaper by telephone of a major attack three weeks in advance of 11 September.

(iv) A warning to bin Laden associates to return to Afghanistan prior to 11 September.

I have found no independent confirmation of this claim in the media.

(v) Statements by bin Laden associates prior to 11 September providing the date of the attacks.

This also does not appear to have independent confirmation.

(vi) The identification of one of bin Laden’s closest associates as responsible for the attacks.

No further detail or evidence is provided to support this claim. There has been some speculation in the media about who this might be, but no independent confirmation.

(vii) Evidence of a “very specific nature” relating the guilt of bin Laden and his associates that is too sensitive to release publicly.

A worry that greater detail may compromise security sources may be the reason for the lack of detail. Apparently greater detail has withstood the scrutiny of the leaders of the two main opposition parties in Britain. The impression this makes is likely to depend upon how predisposed one is to believe the proclamations of the government, the leaders of the ruling party, and the leaders of the main opposition parties; and any determination of whether one should be so predisposed would of necessity involve the examination of a number of historical cases.

The sort of examination referred to above, however, may be unnecessary. If the evidence provided under the first two categories discussed above is sufficient to establish that bin Laden and Al Qaeda are the probable causes of the 11 September attack, and if probable cause is the correct standard against which to measure the evidence, then a further examination of the evidence under the third category need not detain us.

What does the evidence of the first two categories establish? It establishes that bin Laden and Al Qaeda have the motivation and the will to carry out the 11 September attacks. This alone makes them suspect. The case is strengthened, however, by the resemblance of the 11 September attacks to previous attacks for which there is strong evidence of bin Laden’s and Al Qaeda’s responsibility. This still does not make it probable that they were responsible, for there may be other organisations with similar motives, capabilities and manners of attack that are at least as likely to have committed it. The final reason to believe that bin Laden and Al Qaeda are probably the cause is that there do not appear to be other non-state agents with the same combination of motives and capabilities. Much of the British government’s case necessarily rests on this point, and complete confidence in it would require a thorough examination of known terrorist organisations. But it seems a plausible point. Hence, it appears probable that bin Laden and Al Qaeda are responsible for the 11 September attacks.

The remaining matter is the degree of proof required in order to establish just cause in the pursuit of suspected threats to security. In cases of requests for extradition, under US law the standard is probable cause, which can be establish by hearsay evidence and evidence not admissible in criminal matters. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is not required to make the case for extraditing someone to stand trial. Although there was no extradition treaty between the US and Afghanistan, the US’s demand to handover bin Laden for trial was similar to the kinds of demands that are subject to the standard of probable cause in extradition treaties. Given the nature of the demand, it is reasonable to require nothing more than probable cause in this case.

It might be objected that before beginning a war greater certainty than probable cause should be required because it is in the nature of wars to cause great suffering especially to innocent persons. There are several problems with this view. First, it would be inappropriate to require a showing of criminal guilt prior to a criminal trial. If this standard were to be required, there would be no reason to require a trial. In any case, a showing of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt must be the product of a process that fairly weighs the claims of the adversaries. Certitude beyond a reasonable doubt cannot properly be expected in the absence of a trial. Second, if probable cause is the appropriate standard in a request to hand over bin Laden and to dismantle Al Qaeda camps, then it would be inappropriate to require a higher standard in formulating a response to the failure to handover. Finally, a worry of eventual further attacks from those who were responsible for the attacks on 11 September seemed justified. Requiring a higher standard than probable cause would allow those who were the probable cause of that attack and who were quite possibly planning other attacks to remain free to do so, perhaps indefinitely.

To summarise, on the basis of only some the evidence provided by the British government and independently confirmed, Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda can reasonably be thought to be the probable causes of the 11 September attacks; and this suffices to defend the justice of the cause of the war against the criticism that there is insufficient evidence of responsibility.

IV. A reasonable likelihood of success

The criterion of reasonable likelihood of success traditionally stipulates that wars can be justified only if the cause pursued is reasonably likely to be achieved. Assuming the war is justified only if it pursues a just cause, if the means of war are unlikely to achieve the end, then the war is unjust. In the case of the war in Afghanistan the just cause is to prevent and deter future attacks against US and other civilians. There are reasons to doubt the likelihood of success in this pursuit by means of a war.

One reason has to do with the nature of the enemy. By all accounts Al Qaeda is a highly decentralised organisation with autonomous cells in a large number of countries, perhaps as many as 34. Thus, there is reason to worry about the organisation of reprisal attacks from multiple locations. These quite probably would require long-term planning. It may be responded that taking out the training camps in Afghanistan will prevent the education of additional terrorists. This, however, does nothing to prevent attacks from those who are already trained and operating in other countries.

Another reason to doubt the likelihood of success is that the deterrent force of the war is probably severely limited. The idea behind deterrence is that if there is a credible threat that the cost of certain kinds of actions is on the increase, the motivation to act in that manner may be lowered. The cost in this case is supposed to be death in warfare. It is, however, doubtful that death in warfare would be seen as a prohibitively high cost for members of terrorist organisations who are willing to engage in suicide missions. On the contrary, a military campaign may rather increase resentment within some quarters of Islam, thereby increasing the motivation for terrorist attacks. Admittedly, any speculation about the motives of possible terrorists will be more or less a priori. This is one of many uncertain judgements that we are stuck with in forecasting the likely responses to the war.

Perhaps the deterrence claim has greater force with respect to governments that may be considering allowing international terrorists refuge within their borders. If the war serves to deter other governments in this way, it may indirectly have some deterrent effect on members of terrorist organisations, insofar as other governments may be more willing to police them. Terrorists might nonetheless operate clandestinely within the borders of a state.

Even if the war’s preventive and deterrent effects are doubtful one might still wonder whether not going to war would be worse still. Perhaps, if the US did not go to war it would be as if it were declaring its impotence in protecting against terrorist threats and this would bring even more attacks than going to war. So, even if war is not likely to succeed in increasing security, it may be more likely than the alternatives; and perhaps this is enough to satisfy the moral requirement of likelihood of success.

Suppose that the claim about probabilities is true in this instance. Is the re-interpretation of the moral requirement plausible? It amounts to taking the criterion of likelihood of success in comparative terms: An option would satisfy the criterion even if its success were improbable because it is still more probable than the alternatives. In this case the high probability of great suffering caused by war, particularly in the attacked country, would be discounted against a low probability of success in increasing security for citizens in the attacking country. This view requires one to accept something like ChristopherBertram’s claim that states may weigh the interests of citizens differently from those of non-citizens. That claim, however, would permit wars simply in virtue of their service to citizens” interests without any consideration of global justice. The danger of justifying wars of naked self-interest is one reason to think that states should not give different weight to different persons? interests depending on their citizenship status. If states should not do this, it is hard to see how a war that is likely to fail and likely to produce a great deal of suffering in another state can be justified on the basis of the interests of the citizens of the warring state.

The claim that states may not weigh the interests of persons differently on the basis of their citizenship is compatible with the claim that states may have special responsibilities to their citizens. A state may be primarily responsible for the security interests of its own citizens, although responsible for the security interests of non-citizens if their state fails to protect them. But unless a state may merely discount the interests of non-citizens, it may not engage in a war that is likely to fail simply because it is more likely than other alternatives to succeed in the pursuit of a just cause.

A more promising response to the doubts about likelihood success is to re-interpret the criterion with an additional requirement. One might claim that a war that is more likely than other options to succeed and that is not reasonably likely to fail meets the criterion, at least in cases where the cause presents a grave danger. This version of the criterion does not require weighing peoples’ interests unequally since a likely loss is not to be pursued at the expense of the interests of non-citizens. Such an interpretation may be necessary if the European war against Nazi Germany is to be found to be just prior to the entrance of the Soviet Union.

I have some sympathy with the relaxing of the constraint of likelihood of success to this limited degree. In the case of the war in Afghanistan it would require showing that resorting to war was more likely to succeed than other alternatives. Non-belligerent means were being pursued. UN Security Council Resolution 1373 required extensive counter terrorist efforts of member states. Intelligence and police operations were underway and showing some success in Europe. The financial assets of Al Qaeda were being frozen. Diplomatic efforts with Afghanistan to have bin Laden tried might have born some success.

However, the most difficult matter to be handled peacefully probably would have been the destruction of Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan since the Taliban seemed to rely on the assistance of Al Qaeda to maintain control over the country. Because we are dealing with empirical and counterfactual forecasts with few analogies to past experience, there is room for reasonable disagreement. Certainly diplomatic efforts to achieve the destruction of the training camps would have been worth the effort, but it is hard to be very optimistic about how successful they would have been. There is a basis then for believing that the war satisfies the re-interpreted criterion of reasonable likelihood of success.

Even if there are grounds for believing that the war meets the (re-interpreted) criterion of reasonable likelihood of success in the short-term. Over the long-term the effort to reduce terrorism of which the war is a part is much more likely to fail if the war serves to build additional resentment against the US. Perhaps the war may succeed in the short-term, but produce a longer-term failure. Once again we are engaged in speculative forecasts. It would seem that resentment could be limited to some degree if three policy restrictions were observed. First, counter-terrorist wars should seek multi-lateral legitimacy. Second, they should scrupulously observe the requirements of jus in bello. And third they should be accompanied by a more just US foreign policy. With respect to the latter, consider US support for the sanctions against Iraq and the policies of Israel. Even if we assume that there is a just cause for intervention against Iraq in the pursuit of deterring its manufacture of weapons of mass destruction, the means of sanctions are massively disproportionate. These sanctions have killed more non-combatants than all use of weapons of mass destructions combined. Additionally, the US has remained steadfastly solicitous of Israel despite its direct and indirect involvement in a host of human rights violations, including the forced removal of Arabs, the occupation of territories, the destruction of Palestinian residences, the massacres in Lebanon, and the torture of detainees.

Whether the war in Afghanistan meets the requirement of proportionality would appear to depend on whether it meets the requirement reasonable likelihood of success. If it is likely to fail, it is not likely to result in a net gain for justice. One might respond that the war satisfies proportionality independently of likelihood of success. For if it was reasonably likely to cause the collapse of the Taliban, a brutally unjust regime, this might be counted as a gain for justice, and perhaps a reason to think that proportionality could be satisfied independently of reasonable likelihood of success in combating terrorism.

The problem with this view is that it was not at all clear just prior to the war that a new regime would offer much improvement on the injustices of the Taliban. Human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch were warning the US against alliances with many of the Northern Alliance leaders who were blamed for several attacks on civilians, summary executions, rampages and widespread rapes. Prior to the US military response the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan were sceptical of its results and equally critical of the Taliban and the Northern Alliance. So, at the time, there was reason to doubt that the collapse of the Taliban would improve the situation much. Therefore, proportionality could not be satisfied independently reasonable likelihood of success.

VI. Last resort

The criterion of last resort requires that reasonable measures be taken to seek the achievement of the just cause of the war through non-violent means. It does not require that belligerents take all conceivable measures, no matter the time spent or the opportunities lost. Last resort in this case, then, should be understood as the last resort for preventing and deterring additional terrorist attacks.

The several weeks between the terrorist attacks of 11 September and the initiation of the aerial campaign offered ample time to pursue a diplomatic solution that may have prevented the war. Since the US did not have an extradition treaty with Afghanistan, there is reason to believe sensitive bilateral diplomacy would be required in order to achieve the extradition of those believed to be responsible for the attacks. In fact, however, the US never sought bilateral discussions with the Taliban. They were content merely to work with the Pakistani intermediary. Of course, Pakistan, and not the US, had diplomatic relations with the Taliban, but this need not have prevented the US from seeking discussions.

Any contention that bilateral discussions were certain to fail seem facile in the face of the horrors that war unleashes. Moreover, there is some evidence that the Taliban may have been in the mood for compromise. There were reports of defections in their ranks; and they had shown signs of willingness to make concessions. Immediately preceding the aerial campaign they expressed a willingness to talk about having bin Laden tried in Afghanistan or even a third country; they released British journalist Yvonne Ridley; and they offered to release 18 foreign aid workers. The biggest sticking point probably would have been the dismantling of Al Qaeda training camps. But an appropriate regard for the moral costs of war requires making even improbable attempts to prevent it where the costs of doing so are not prohibitive. Since US made no attempts at bilateral diplomacy, it seems reasonable to conclude that the war in Afghanistan is not a war of last resort.

VII. Before and after the beginning

I have argued that the war in Afghanistan meets the criterion of just cause. Whether it satisfies the criterion of reasonable likelihood of success is less clear, but this looks plausible in the short-term at least if the criterion is re-interpreted. However, any confidence in the long-term success of the effort to reduce terrorism of which the war is a part would certainly be strengthened if the war were not largely a unilateral effort, if it were conducted justly, and if it were accompanied by a more just US foreign policy. In the absence of these, the war is less likely to bring long-term security and may generate additional resentment. The war’s satisfaction of proportionality depends upon its satisfaction of reasonable likelihood of success. Finally, the war was not one of last resort. Since the four criteria are necessary conditions of the justice of war, resorting to war was unjust. Still, some restraint in the moral condemnation of the war may be in order.

Unlike an assessment of just cause, assessments of reasonable likelihood of success, proportionality, and last resort require extensive empirical speculation concerning what might have happened if a different policy had been pursued and what still might happen as a result of the chosen policy. Facing up to this, I think, requires accepting that there is probably room for reasonable disagreement. Once one accepts that the cause of a war is just, any further criticism of the war has to be tempered by the fact that remaining judgements are not about matters in which a great degree of certainty can be had.

Additionally, a judgement that resorting to war was unjust does not entail that it should have been halted once it began and before it had been given a reasonable chance to achieve its objectives. Bertram thinks that this is a “weird” claim. I think that there is a simple, but important, moral reason for this: Once one engages upon an unjust course of action, one acquires responsibility for events set in motion that would not otherwise have occurred. This responsibility may require seeing through a course of action that it would have been better not to have started. There are three reasons to think that once the war had been started the second best course of action may have been to give it time to meet its objectives within the constraints of the just conduct of war. First, since the cause is just, the achievement of its goal would be a moral good. Second, if the war only fails with respect to last resort, there may be no way after war has begun, and before the Taliban’s military defeat is immanent, to reconstruct the negotiating opportunities lost by going to war. Third, in entering an on going civil war, the US and its allies owed a duty to those who had come to rely on them for survival. Pulling-out of the war may well have left many people exposed to hostility. These reasons would not entail that the war should have been pursued indefinitely if it had become clear that its objectives could not be met. If it is clear that a war cannot succeed in its cause, then it should be halted in a manner that honours the responsibilities the belligerent party has assumed in engaging in the war.

In the end my conclusion is an uncomfortably mixed one: Resorting to war in Afghanistan may have been unjust although I concede that the reasons for believing this do not offer the kind of certainty of belief that we would like to guide our actions. Moreover, once the war began it may have been the lesser of two evils. One larger moral of this story is that when a cause is just, the left’s evaluation of the war should be both sensitive to the amount of speculation that is necessarily involved in much of the remaining evaluation of the war and flexible enough to consider the important moral change that an unjust war may bring about.


This symposium on September 11th and the war in Afghanistan consists of three papers. Although the papers by Christopher Bertram and Saladin Meckled-Garcia were originally drafted as responses to an initial piece by Darrel Moellendorf, Moellendorf has revised his paper in the light of their responses and they have also revised in the light of his. The accounts for oddities of cross-reference. Bertram and Meckled-Garcia have not responded to one another’s papers, which are each directed at Moellendorf’s.

An earlier version of this paper was presented at a Hoernl’ research seminar in the Philosophy Department of the University of the Witwatersrand. I am grateful to participants for the many helpful comments. I would also like to thank the editors of Imprints for giving me this opportunity to think through my confused thoughts on the war in the context of a lively debate, ChristopherBertram and Saladin Meckled-Garcia for their thought provoking responses and for allowing me to revise in light of their own papers, and Thad Metz, Michael Pendlebury, and Kok-Chor Tan for advice on an earlier draft.

A defence of this view can be found in Robert Holmes, On War and Morality (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989).

I discuss the pacifist position at greater length in Cosmopolitan Justice (Boulder: Westview Press, 2002), chp. 7.

Cf. Nikolai Bukharin, Imperialism and World Economy (London: Merlin Press, 1976); Rudolf Hilferding, Finance Capital (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1981); J.A. Hobson, Imperialism: A Study (London: James Nisbet and Co., 1902); and V.I. Lenin, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, Collected Works, vol. 19, (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1964) and Rosa Luxemburg, The Accumulation of Capital (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd., 1963).

The classic texts in underdevelopment theory are Paul A. Baran, The Political Economy Of Growth (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books Ltd., 1978), Arghiri Emmanuel, Unequal Exchange (London: Monthly Review Press, 1972), Andre Gunder Frank, Capitalism And Underdevelopment in Latin America (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1969) and Immanuel Wallerstein, The Capitalist World-Economy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979).

Consider article two of the United Nations Charter: “2(4) All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.” Leland M. Goodrich, et al., Charter of the United Nations, 3rd edition (New York: Columbia University Press, 1969), p. 60. In fairness, there is a very extensive debate in the literature about whether 2(4) would sanction unilateral interventions that do not violate territorial integrity and political sovereignty but promote justice. For representative samples of the negative answer cf. Michael Akehurst, “Humanitarian Intervention,” in Hedley Bull (ed.) Intervention in World Politics (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1984), pp. 95-118; and Ian Brownlie, “Humanitarian Intervention”, in John Norton Moore (ed.) Law and Civil War in the Modern World (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974), pp. 217-228. For representative samples of the affirmative answer cf. Richard B. Lillich, “Humanitarian Intervention: A Reply to Ian Brownlie and a Plea for Constructive Alternatives”, Law and Civil War in the Modern World, pp. 229-251; and Fernando R. Teson, Humanitarian Intervention, 2nd edition (Irvington-on-Hudson, N.Y.: Transnational Publishers, Inc., 1997).

The concept of the basic structure is set out by John Rawls. He takes the basic structure to be “the way in which the major social institutions distribute fundamental rights and duties and determine the division of political advantages for social cooperation.” Among major social institutions Rawls includes “the political constitution and principal economic and social arrangements.” John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, revised edition (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999), p. 6.

For a longer discussion of this principle see my Cosmopolitan Justice, chp. 5

For a recent example see Peter Popham’s “Taliban is a ‘monster hatched by the US'”, Independent, 17 September 2001.

“Osama bin Laden: The Truth about the world’s most wanted man”, Independent, 16 September 2001.

Although not subscribing to the exclusivity of imperialist intentions, George Monibot argues for the motivational importance of central Asian oil reserves in “America’s Pipe Dream: The war against terrorism is also a struggle for oil and regional control”, Guardian, 23 September 2001.

See also C.A.J. Coady, “The Morality of Terrorism”, Philosophy, vol. 60, no. 1, (1985), pp. 47-69.

For a defence of the conditional nature of non-combatant immunity see George I. Mavrodes, “Conventions and the Morality of War”, Philosophy and Public Affairs, vol. 4, no. 2 (1975), pp. 117-131.

John Mueller and Karl Mueller, “Sanctions of Mass Destruction”, Foreign Affairs, 78:3, May/June, 1999, p.49.

Responsibility For The Terrorist Atrocities In The United States, 11 September 2001, 4 Oct. 2001. Available at”NewsId=2686.

Ibid, secs. 22 and 54.

Ibid. However, in this regard it is noteworthy that although the document claims that bin Laden has taken responsibility for the Somalia and embassy attacks, it does not adequately substantiate that claim. See the claim is made at sec. 4.

Ibid, sec. 47.

Ibid, sec. 46.

Ibid, secs. 47-48.

Ibid, sec. 58.

Ibid, sec. 55.

Ibid. sec. 5.

Ibid, secs. 61-62.

For an example of some of the speculation see Julian Borger, Giles Foden and Richard Norton-Taylor, “Does it make him guilty of terror attacks””, Guardian, 5 October 2001 and Chris Blackhurst, “Missing: Crucial facts from the official charge sheet against Bin Laden”, Independent, 7 October 2001.



“US suspects Osama bin Laden”, Business Day, 12 September 2001.

See Borger et al. and Blackhurst for some of the speculation.

“The evidence would not convict in court – but it does justify a limited war,” Independent, 5 October 2001.

Responsibility For The Terrorist Atrocities In The United States, 11 September 2001, sec. 69.

Jordan Puast, et al., International Criminal Law (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press), p. 320.

One call for proof can be found in Chris Blackhurst’s, “Missing: Crucial facts from the official charge sheet against Bin Laden.”

“Bin laden active in 34 nations”, Business Day, 14 September 2001 and Maurice Tamman, “Al Qaeda’s web remains a threat, experts warn”, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, 12 December 2001.

See Robert E. Goodin, “What Is So Special About Our Fellow Countrymen””, Ethics, vol. 98, no. 4, (1988), pp. 663-686.

John Mueller and Karl Mueller, “Sanctions of Mass Destruction.”

For one account of the causes of US solicitude towards Israel see Noam Chomsky’s The Fateful Triangle (Boston: South End Press, 1983), chp. 2.

I did not clearly see the manner in which consideration of proportionality incorporates considerations from just cause and likelihood of success in Cosmopolitan Justice, p. 120.

“Rights Group Cautions Against US Siding with Afghans Tied to Abuses”, The Los Angeles Times, 7 Oct. 2001.

“Taliban should be overthrown by the uprising of Afghan nation”, RAWA statement on the US strikes on Afghanistan, 4 Oct. 2001,

There was no way to know at the time how many Afghani civilians would die as the result of the war, and there are still no firm estimates in the public record, but some Médécins San Frontières workers estimate the dead to be between 2,000 and 3,000. See Ian Taylor, “Afghans are dying, but who’s counting'”, Mail and Guardian, 15-21 Feb. 2002

43″ name=”_ftn43″ title=””>[42] ‘Another way of winning’, Guardian, 6 Oct. 2001.

Taliban “will try Bin Laden if US provides the evidence”, Guardian, 5 Oct. 2001.

“British journalist to freed by Taliban”, Independent, 6 Oct. 2001.

“Taliban’s last-minute offer fails to halt inevitable”, Independent, 8 Oct. 2001.

On the War in Afghanistan, interview with Noam Chomsky

On the War in Afghanistan
Noam Chomsky interviewed by Stephen R. Shalom
ZNet, January 2002
Shalom: The war in Afghanistan, which policymakers reliably believed might lead to a humanitarian catastrophe, would have been immoral even if there were no plausible alternatives. Nevertheless you and other war critics have frequently been asked about alternatives and I’d like to explore your answers to elaborate and clarify them. You’ve drawn attention to the fact that the United States dismissed Taliban offers to turn over bin Laden to a third party for trial. Clearly the U.S. sought nothing less than war. But that doesn’t show that there were genuinely peaceful alternatives to war. If the Taliban had given up bin Laden, it probably would have been related to the fact that Washington moved a massive military force to Afghanistan’s borders. While the U.S. rejection of peace overtures demonstrates Washington’s preference for war, it does not show that the absence of coercive power would have succeeded in bringing the perpetrators of September 11 to justice. (And the same follows for other cases where the U.S. rejected concessions designed to forestall war: by Saddam Hussein in 1990- 91 or by Serbia in 1999.)

None of this makes these wars just, but it does raise the question whether pacific means can adequately combat terrorism (or, more accurately, some terrorism, since the U.S. “war on terrorism” is only aimed at the terrorism of enemies, not of allies, nor of Washington itself).

: These and what follows are hard questions, and merit careful thought. I’ll try to run through them step by step, expressing some qualms and not so much trying to give answers as outlining some ways in which we might proceed in the search for answers.

Perhaps it’s useful to begin by reiterating two obvious but important points, just as framework:

(1) If we propose some principle that is to be applied to antagonists, then we must agree — in fact, strenuously insist — that the principle apply to us as well.

(2) While we should certainly seek to reach our own considered judgments about questions of fact, we must recognize that it is a very long step between our opinions, however convincing we find them, and proposals for action. That step requires argument — substantial argument when the actions proposed have large-scale human consequences: bombing some country, for example.

With this as background, let’s turn to the very important issues brought up in the questions.

First, suppose someone were to pose the question: were there “genuinely peaceful alternatives to war”? Before addressing the question, we would clearly have to consider whether it is properly formulated. As put, it seems to presuppose that if peaceful means failed, the US would be entitled to resort to war to gain its ends — in this case, killing or capturing suspected perpetrators of the crimes of Sept. 11 and those associated with them. But both of us reject the assumption that the US had a right to resort to war. As you point out at the outset, war under the actual circumstances “would have been immoral even if there were no plausible alternatives.” Suppose, however, that someone does accept the assumption, and therefore poses the question, as formulated. Here point (1) arises: do we accept the assumption when it applies to us? Do we agree that Nicaragua or Cuba or Haiti or (it’s easy to continue) have had the right to resort to massive violence to kill or capture suspected perpetrators of crimes committed against them who are protected from extradition within the US? Crimes that easily compare to Sept. 11, unfortunately.

The case of Nicaragua is particularly clear, and in fact uncontroversial because of the judgment of the World Court and the (vetoed) Security Council resolutions supporting it. But take a lesser case, lesser in that those charged with for terrorism are not U.S. leaders (among them, those now conducting the second “war against terrorism” that Washington has declared in the past 20 years), but rather are just harbored by the US. History doesn’t offer controlled experiments, but these cases — there are several — are rather close to the one under discussion.

Take Haiti. The U.S. is refusing extradition of Emmanuel Constant, the leader of the paramilitary forces that were responsible for thousands of brutal killings in the early 1990s under the military junta for which the Bush #1 and Clinton administrations were providing not-such-hidden support. Constant’s guilt is hardly in doubt. He was sentenced in absentia by a Haitian court. The elected government has repeatedly called on the U.S. to extradite him, again on September 30, 2001, on the anniversary of the military coup. The request is refused, probably because of concerns about what he might reveal about ties to the U.S. government during the period of the terror, which was not slight: relative to population, it is as if some foreign state, say Iraq, were supporting terrorist forces in the U.S. that had murdered hundreds of thousands of people among other terrible atrocities. The request for extradition is not merely refused, but ignored, scarcely even reported, right in the midst of the furor about the killing of thousands of Americans by suspects harbored by the Taliban. Do we then conclude that Haiti had no “genuine peaceful alternative to war”? And since it does not have the capacity for war against the U.S., that it had no alternative to the resort to other means, perhaps bioterror, or blowing up buildings, maybe small nuclear weapons which could perhaps be smuggled into the U.S.” None of us would ever accept such conclusions in this case, or much more extreme ones like it. Should we, then, accept the conclusion in the case at hand? That would seem to be a prima facie violation of the principle (1).

Let’s put that aside, and accept what is often the tacit assumption, that the U.S. had the right to resort to the threat or use of violence if there was no “genuine alternative,” that is, no other way to compel the Taliban to turn over bin Laden and his associates. We now turn to the factual question: was there an alternative? Here too there is a preliminary problem — on which I’m sure we agree, but it’s perhaps worth bringing up anyway, just for clarity. There is a procedure for extradition. The first step is to present compelling evidence against the suspect. Here the situation is quite different from Haiti, or the contra war, or Operation Mongoose and subsequent terror against Cuba carried out from the U.S.; and many cases like it in which the evidence was clear and uncontroversial. Maybe the U.S. had compelling evidence about bin Laden, maybe not. But it flatly refused to present any evidence to the Taliban, in fact, refused even to request extradition, presumably because that would have suggested some limit on the imperial prerogative to act without any authority. The demand was: hand him over, or else; and if you do, we may leave you alone (overthrowing the Taliban regime was a late afterthought). No government, surely not the U.S., would ever accept such a demand, unless compelled to by the threat of extreme violence. There was, then, no alternative to such threat, if that was the demand, as it was. But that offers no justification for the threat of violence, or its implementation.

Putting aside that issue, would the Taliban have turned over bin Laden and others without the threat of violence? My own judgment is much like yours: highly unlikely. But we do not really know, since no efforts were made, and various Taliban offers, however ambiguous, were summarily dismissed. Similar questions arise for earlier years. But even if we are confident of our judgment, principle (2) arises. There are no consequences, unless we fill in, somehow, a missing chain of argument. That doesn’t seem easy.

I think similar considerations arise in the case of Saddam Hussein. The great fear of the Bush #1 administration in August 1990, after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, was that in “the next few days Iraq will withdraw,” leaving “his puppet in,” and “everyone in the Arab world will be happy” (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Colin Powell). That is, Saddam would do pretty much what the U.S. had just done in Panama, except that Latin America was far from happy. Were those expectations accurate? Were Saddam’s subsequent offers of negotiated withdrawal from August to early January 1991 real? We can’t know, because they were rejected outright and scarcely even reported. It’s reasonable to argue that, if real, the offers were based on the likelihood that massive force would be used. But that brings up (2) once again, and unless the missing chain of argument can be supplied, the most we can conclude is that threats issued through the Security Council, to counter aggression, are legitimate. That much seems to me correct.

Similarly, in the case of Serbia, one can debate whether something like the agreement of June 1999 — a compromise between the Serbian and NATO stands on the eve of the bombing — could have been reached by diplomatic means, without 78 days of bombing. We don’t know, for the same reasons. What about the need for the threat of force? Here the situation is complex. We have to explore what was happening up to late March 1999, not a simple story. For example, we should take note of the fact that the British, the most hawkish element of the U.S.-run coalition, attributed most of the atrocities in Kosovo to the KLA guerrillas as late as January 1999 (which seems inconceivable, but that was their judgment), and there is extensive evidence that nothing much changed afterwards. That there was severe Serbian repression and atrocities, for many years, is not in doubt, but overcoming it was not a concern for the West — one reason why Albanians resorted to violence, putting the issue on the agenda finally, by 1998. That does raise a question about the efficacy of violence, though not the one posed in the question: it raises the question of the legitimacy of terrorist violence (as the U.S. and Britain termed KLA actions, up to the time when they began to support them).

Shalom: The proper procedure for dealing with terrorism is to present evidence to the appropriate international bodies and allow them to act according to the dictates of international law. This, you’ve noted, was the approach followed by Nicaragua in response to U.S. terror attacks in the 1980s, though Nicaragua was denied justice by U.S. obstructionism. U.S. hypocrisy is thus evident — but the further implications of the Nicaragua example are not clear. Should we generally urge the U.S. (and others) to go to the UN, or does the UN’s inability to deal with U.S. terrorism discredit it as a venue for justice?

To be sure, if the U.S. had chosen to make its illegal actions legal by going through the UN, this wouldn’t guarantee that the actions would have been just. Actions can be legal and not be just. Putting the population of Afghanistan at risk of mass starvation would not be just whether authorized by the UN or not. But are there any enforcement actions that the UN might have taken in response to September 11 that would have been both legal and just?

Chomsky: It’s true enough that the UN cannot act without authorization of the great powers, primarily the US. For example, the UN could never even take up the US wars in Indochina, because it was understood that if it did, the organization would simply be dismantled. Similarly, the UN could do very little — though it could have done more than it did — when the US rejected the World Court and Security Council judgments on its terrorist war against Nicaragua. But does that discredit the UN “as a venue for justice”? I don’t think that’s quite the proper way to put the conclusion. There’s little doubt that the Nuremberg Tribunal was a case of “victor’s justice.” Even the chief prosecutor conceded that, pretty frankly. But despite the hypocrisy, I don’t think it was wrong to try and convict the Nazi war criminals. Criminal justice systems are invariably unjust, unfortunately. But that is not enough to disqualify them, in the world as it exists. We can try to change that world, surely, but we have to make choices and reach decisions within it. If the US had chosen to follow the course required by treaty obligations and international law, there would have been no impediment.

But that brings up the second question, which is quite pertinent. There’s little doubt that the Security Council would have authorized U.S. actions, had the U.S. not preferred to act without any such authorization, presumably in order to establish firmly that there is no outside authority to which it must defer — a very natural stance for a system of overwhelming power. But that would not have made the actions right and just; only legal, a different matter, as you point out. Were there actions that would have been right and just? Here’s one possibility, so far from a radical stance that it was proposed by the Vatican and many others, and even in the leading establishment journal, Foreign Affairs (Jan 2002), by the preeminent Anglo-American military historian, the very conservative Michael Howard: “a police operation conducted under the auspices of the United Nations…against a criminal conspiracy whose members should be hunted down and brought before an international court, where they would receive a fair trial and, if found guilty, be awarded an appropriate sentence” (I’m putting aside his remarkable judgments about other matters, here irrelevant). That seems a reasonable procedure, though it was never so much as contemplated. If so, in accord with principle (1), it would be reasonable if applied to the U.S. as well — though that cannot happen short of substantial changes internal to the U.S.; our responsibility.

Shalom: One alternative you’ve discussed is supporting indigenous forces which might have ousted the oppressive Taliban. Quoting Afghan voices, you noted that opposition elements wanted support from the outside, but no U.S. bombing. But were these oppositionists really in position to defeat the Taliban without external military action? RAWA called for an uprising of the Afghan people — but calling for it doesn’t make it a reality, given who’s got the guns, and other RAWA suggestions seem to acknowledge as much. Sonali Kolhatkar has reported on ZNet that RAWA and others “have proposed for years and which has been completely ignored — the intervention of a UN peace keeping force — one which will disarm all the armed factions in Afghanistan and set the stage, as it did in East Timor (no thanks to the US which was actively selling arms to Indonesia to continue their massacres of Timorese),” for democratic rule in Afghanistan. Foreign arms supplies to Afghan factions seemed not to be aiding an “uprising of the Afghan people,” but instead strengthening one anti- democratic warlord or another. Hence the question of whether the elimination of the Taliban might have required some form of international action. (A similar question applies in the case of Iraq. While it’s clear that the U.S. refusal to back Kurdish and Shi’ite insurgents in March 1991 allowed Saddam to remain in power, by the mid-1990s Iraqi opposition forces were no match for Saddam’s repressive apparatus. As Andrew and Patrick Cockburn have recorded [Out of the Ashes], the U.S. supported various opposition groups who failed miserably in their efforts to depose Saddam.)

Chomsky: Let’s begin by recalling principle (2): we can reach our own judgments about this, but they have no force, unless a long chain of missing argument is filled in somehow.

That aside, were the proposals of Afghans as to how to eliminate the Taliban regime feasible? First, it wasn’t just RAWA. Similar proposals were made by the U.S. favorite, Abdul Haq, who also condemned the bombing as harmful to the efforts by him and others to dismantle the regime from inside, charging that the U.S. undertook the bombing just as a way to demonstrate that it runs the world by force. Even more striking was the endorsement of a similar position in late October in a meeting of 1,000 Afghan leaders — some who came from within Afghanistan, some in exile — that was, for once, reported. The New York Times described the meetings as “a rare display of unity among tribal elders, Islamic scholars, fractious politicians, and former guerrilla commanders.” There was indeed unity on some things, not others: they were unanimous in condemning the bombings, then going into their fourth week, and called for other ways to overthrow the Taliban, rather like RAWA and Abdul Haq. Similar assessments have also been suggested by specialists on Afghanistan, e.g., Pankaj Mishra, in the New York Review (Jan 17, 2002, dated Dec. 20), who is judging in retrospect.

The Afghan proposals seem to me reasonable too, for what it’s worth. But it’s not worth much, for one reason because I don’t know enough to have a confident judgment. In any event, I do not see how to fill in the chain of argument required to establish the conclusion that these are matters to be decided by Washington, or by U.S. and British commentators, rather than by Afghans.

On Iraq, it seems to me as well that the chances of a popular uprising were dim after the U.S. undermined the rebellions of March 1991, preferring Saddam’s “iron fist” and “stability” to the likely outcome of popular rebellions (as the New York Times and others pointed out, honestly). I’d be cautious, however, about U.S. support for opposition groups; that’s not exactly their report. But whatever the judgments we reach, the same questions arise. Indigenous elements have priority in the choice of action — though it is not determinative; no particular factor ever is. If there is a serious proposal as to how to overthrow Saddam, we should surely want to consider it. He remains as much of a monster as he was when the U.S. and Britain strongly supported him. But it’s impossible to discuss in the abstract. We have to consider particular proposals.

These are sound and appropriate questions. Sometimes they have clear answers; specifically, when we are perpetrating crimes or share responsibility for crimes, not a small category by any means, and a category that is not permitted to enter the arena of mainstream discussion, for understandable reasons. In other cases, the questions typically do not have easy answers. Sometimes we may not be able to conjure up any reasonable answer. There is surely not going to be any general formula for such cases, though there are simple principles that provide at least some guidelines.