Friday, June 3, 2011

Mladic, war criminals and "humanitarian intervention"

Serbian war criminal Ratko Mladic is sitting in the Hague for his role in the siege on Sarejevo and the massacre at Srebrenica during the Bosnia war of the early 1990s. He certainly belongs in the Hague but so do Western war criminals like Henry Kissinger and George Bush. As NATO extends its 3 month war in Libya and  there are growing calls for Libyan dictator Muamar Gaddafi to join Mladic, the history of NATO wars in the Balkans offers lessons on "humanitarian intervention".
While justice has finally come for Mladic, it is still long awaited for other war criminals. Earlier this week an American tried to carry out a citizens arrest of Henry Kissinger for his role in an almost endless list of war crimes. As Richard Marini explained:

“When he got up on stage, I stood up and tried to place him under citizen’s arrest for the murder of innocent civilians in Cambodia, Vietnam, Chile, Iraq, east Pakistan, East Timor. The list just goes on...People like this need to be confronted, so people need to get out in the streets and demand that war criminals like him and war criminals of the Bush administration are prosecuted. I mean, even today, these war crimes still continue. Obama is still continuing it. People need to demand that these criminals are prosecuted.”

     The illegal Iraq War has killed a million people, including torture at Abu Ghraib and the siege on Fallujah, the Sarejevo of Iraq. The Afghanistan war has killed countless civilians--including by US kill teams--and drone attacks have spread to Pakistan. The illegal occupation of Palestine continues, and as the media are focused on Mladic the US-backed regimes in Yemen and Bahrain are massacring demonstrators. While there are growing calls for Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi to join Mladic in the Hague, NATO is burying its role in arming him from 2004 to 2010. Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper wanted to join the illegal Iraq War and is criminalizing war resisters, supported Israeli war crimes in Lebanon as a "measured response", and prorogued Parliament to distract from the Afghan detainee scandal.

     The narrow focus on Mladic not only ignores other and ongoing war crimes, but obscures the lessons from Western “humanitarian intervention” in the Balkans. The fall of the USSR gave US imperialism access to Caspian oil, and it used civil war in the Balkans as an excuse. As Ivo Daalder, an adviser to former US President Bill Clinton explained, “So long as the war festered, it proved impossible to exploit the opportunities created by the dissolution of the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe.” NATO imposed “no-fly zones” supposedly to protect the Bosnian Muslim population. These morphed into an open air war that failed to stop Mladic from committing his crimes, gave the green light to Croatia to cleanse its Serbian population, and ended with an ethnically-cleansed Bosnia under NATO control.
     This was repeated in Kosovo in the late 1990s, another “humanitarian intervention” based on geopolitical interests. As US energy secretary Bill Richardson explained at the time,

"This is about America's energy security. It's also about preventing strategic inroads by those who don't share our values. We're trying to move these newly independent countries toward the West. We would like to see them reliant on western commercial and political interests rather than going another way. We've made a substantial political investment in the Caspian, and it's very important to us that both the pipeline map and the politics come out right."

The war claimed to be protecting Kosovar Albanians and is credited with getting rid of Milosevic, but NATO bombs precipitated further atrocities by both Serb forces and KLA, killed many more and contributed to a refugee crisis. Despite NATO bombs, the people of Serbia liberated themselves through a revolution in 2000, the first step to bringing Mladic to justice. 

     Like Bosnia, NATO is using conflict in Libya to reassert control of an oil-rich region, this time one that is being rocked by popular revolutions. Like Bosnia, “no-fly zones” have morphed into an air war spreading depleted uranium without protecting people from Gaddafi. Like Serbians, the people of Libya and the broader Arab world have the ability to liberate themselves, and the best way we can help is by ending war and occupation in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya; stopping military sales and political support for Yemen, Bahrain, and other repressive regimes; welcoming war resisters, and one day sending our own war criminals to share a cell with Mladic and Gaddafi, beginning with Kissinger who's been invited to speak this month in Toronto. As Gerald Caplan writes,
"Unless some will attend in order to issue a citizen’s arrest against Dr. Kissinger – it’s been attempted in London and Dublin, and international arrest warrants were issued by judges in Spain and France – that means 2,630 Torontonians are prepared to pay good money to listen to a man responsible for untold human misery. This number is somewhat smaller than the 3,200 people murdered by the Pinochet regime in Chile that Henry Kissinger did so much to install and support."

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