Sunday, September 23, 2007

war is illegal - Chomksy

Q&A: War in the Name of Peace

Interview with Jean Bricmont, author of 'Humanitarian Imperialism'

BRUSSELS, Sep 20 (IPS) - International law is seen by many to have been
shunted aside by Western powers when launching their most significant
military operations in the past decade.
In 1999, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation lacked any mandate from
the United Nations when it attacked Serbia. In Afghanistan, the U.S.
continued bombing in 2002, even when the government that replaced the
Taliban asked it to stop (lest the civilian death toll rise).
And the United States asserted a highly disputed entitlement to launch a
pre-emptive strike against Iraq a year later, citing bogus claims that the
country had weapons of mass destruction and had played a role in the Sep
11, 2001 attacks.
In his new book 'Humanitarian Imperialism', the pacifist intellectual Jean
Bricmont exposes how human rights have been used to justify military
exploits that he regards as legally dubious and morally odious.
A 55-year-old professor of theoretical physics in Belgium's University of
Louvain, Bricmont is also editor of 'Chomsky', a new collection of
articles on the linguist and trenchant political analyst Noam Chomsky.
Bricmont spoke to IPS Brussels correspondent David Cronin.

IPS: You have suggested that NATO's bombing of Serbia in 1999 was a
turning point for a new form of imperialism. Why do you think so?

JB: There were several reasons against that war but there was so little
reaction from people on the left. If you exclude a very small number of
individuals who knew better, everyone was convinced the war was necessary
and the U.S. should intervene for humanitarian reasons, irrespective of
the particularities of the case.

I don't agree that it was a good thing to destroy international law. I
don't agree that the situation in Kosovo was so dire, that it was
necessary to bomb (Serbia). And I don't agree that the removal of (then
Serbian president Slobodan) Milosevic was a good thing, irrespective of
everything else.

Milosevic was elected. Maybe his election was not pure. But there is no
pure democracy in the world. In France, you needed six times as many votes
to elect a communist in urban areas as you do to elect a (right-leaning)
Gaullist in rural areas. But nobody says France is not a democracy.

IPS: Much of 'Humanitarian Imperialism' deals with Iraq. Why do you reject
the widely held view that the oil industry should be blamed for the war

JB: Of course, oil had a role to play in a trivial sense. The U.S. doesn't
want Iraq's oil under the feet of Iran, Saudi Arabia or even the present
Iraqi government.

But the naïve view of the peace movement that the U.S. went there to rob
oil doesn't seem defensible. I don't know of any evidence that the oil
industry lobbied for war.

Every war needs war propaganda. And the oil industry -- to my knowledge --
have not done any war propaganda at all.

The Zionist lobby, on the other hand, have always done war propaganda. If
you open an American newspaper, you will find columns that are written by
people who are Zionist and pro-Israel, even if they are not all Jews. It
is fair to call (President George W.) Bush and (Vice-President Dick)
Cheney Zionists, even if they are not Jewish. Especially Cheney.

IPS: The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 was preceded by huge protests
across Europe. Why has the peace movement lost that momentum?

JB: I'm not a sociologist but if I can resort to conjecture: many people
went out in the streets because they thought the war would turn ugly. Of
course, it did turn ugly but not in the way that was thought. There were
no weapons of mass destruction. And don't forget that (then British prime
minister) Tony Blair was talking about missiles being launched within 45

The people in the peace movement were either genuinely anti-war or
genuinely concerned about the interests of their own countries.

There are different situations in different countries. In Britain the
anti-war movement faced a problem of deciding who to vote for. The
Conservatives are as gung-ho as Labour. And with the Liberal Democrats,
the system is biased against them.

IPS: Given your criticism of Israel's tactics in the Palestinian
territories, do you think there is a case for boycotting Israeli goods?

JB: Yes, there should be a campaign for a boycott. That is one way that
citizens have to show they are angry.

Some people say: why not boycott the U.S.? I think we should boycott the
U.S. but I don't see how this could be done practically.

In Britain and the U.S., a large part of the population does not agree
with the government. In Israel, there is much more homogeneity. Even the
moderates in the genuine peace camp are very marginal.

IPS: Reviewers have pointed out that your book doesn't examine the
situation in Darfur. What should the West do about the killings there?

JB: My book is not against intervention within the framework of the UN. In
principle, maybe something could be negotiated there. A peacekeeping force
can be sent when there is a peacekeeping agreement to prevent rogue
elements from destroying the peace. But when you send a peacekeeping force
before you have a peacekeeping agreement, that is war.

It also seems to me that some people are using Darfur to change the
subject away from Iraq. Iraq may be the worst humanitarian crisis in the
world. You have three-four million refugees and maybe one million dead.

IPS: You are quite critical of human rights organisations for being
selective in deciding what rights they focus on. Why is that?

JB: Human Rights Watch says it will not discuss whether a war is
legitimate or not. All it wants is for war parties to respect the Geneva
Convention. The Geneva Convention is not respected in any war.

IPS: You've also written that the left in Europe is only moderately less
in favour of unfettered capitalism than the right. Can you explain what
you mean by that?

JB: It is amazing how after the fall of communism, democracy became the
new cause. The left adopted this and turned it into a pro-Western,
anti-Third World discussion.

Look at the way the left complains about China. When the Chinese said
recently that they want to improve the rights of workers in Chinese
factories, big Western corporations said: 'If you do that, we will move
abroad, we will move to Vietnam.' This is not something the left is
concerned about. It just blames the Chinese leaders for everything.

IPS: Can I ask you about the European Union and the current efforts by its
leaders to introduce a reform treaty that is largely the same as the
constitution rejected by voters in France and the Netherlands in 2005. I
understand you were pleased by the 'No' vote in France?

JB: I wasn't entirely happy. I was happy that at least the media was

But I have no illusion about why people voted 'No'. They voted because of
nationalism. Fifty-five percent of people voted 'No' and of that 35
percent were from the left and 20 percent were from the right.

There is nothing telling me that that the reason why people on the left
voted 'No' was all for social reasons and not for reasons of nationalism.
With the victory of (centre-right candidate Nicolas) Sarkozy (in a
presidential election earlier this year), a lot of people who voted for
him had voted 'No'. People over 65 who voted overwhelmingly for Sarkozy
had voted 'No'.

The failure I see in Belgium at the moment (where Dutch and
French-speaking parties have not yet formed a coalition government several
months after a general election) could anticipate the future of Europe.
Why should the Finns, Portuguese, Irish and Greeks be feeling closer to
each other, more than Flemish and Walloons feeling closer to each other?

Without a common feeling, how do you build a country with bureaucracy and
free markets? There is an enormous amount of delusion (about European

IPS: Finally, I've been told that you are the man who effectively
introduced Noam Chomsky to francophone Europe. Is that true?

JB: I first met Chomsky when I went to listen to him in Princeton (the
U.S. university) in the early 1980s. After the first Gulf War, I invited
him to Belgium to speak at the Flemish university VUB.

In France it has been an uphill battle to put him on the map. (Journalist)
Philippe Val attacked him recently because (Osama) bin Laden mentioned him
in his recent video.

He is still being demonised and misrepresented. (END/2007)


N-deal will spell doom for NPT: Chomsky

NEW DELHI: Noam Chomsky, the world's foremost linguist better known for
his trenchant criticism of the US foreign policy, has once again flayed
the Bush administration ? this time for the India-US civil nuclear

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor, who has been
named in several opinion polls as the most important public intellectual
alive, has issued a statement, titled ?Why we oppose the Indo-US military
ties?, which is also signed by seven noted Left-leaning intellectuals.

Terming the India-US nuclear co-operation agreement as "capstone" of the
new bilateral strategic alliance, the statement doing rounds on blogs this
week says they oppose the deal for three related reasons:

First, "The deal is another attempt by the Bush administration to weaken
the framework of international law." They note, "India refused to sign the
(Nuclear) Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968 because, it claimed, the
NPT put into place a hierarchy between nuclear weapons states and
non-nuclear weapons states. Now, the US government is playing kingmaker,
pretending that it is in a lawful position to welcome India into the
nuclear weapons club."

Second, "The deal will intensify the instability of the South Asian
subcontinent." Noting the confidence-building measures undertaken by India
and Pakistan in recent years, Mr Chomsky and others say: "One of the means
to build confidence in the region was the creation of a natural gas
pipeline from Iran through Pakistan into India. The ?peace pipeline? would
have tied the region together and raised the stakes for negotiations over
belligerence. They are unhappy with the nuclear deal because "the peace
pipeline is a casualty of this agreement". Moreover, "the nuclear deal
does nothing to hamper the Indian nuclear weapons sector, whose growth
will fuel an arms race with Islamabad and Beijing".

Third, "The deal is intended as a part of the Bush administration's wish
to isolate Iran. It is by now clear that the US ?coerced? India's votes at
the International Atomic Energy Agency meetings of September 2005 and
February 2006."

They point out that the Hyde Act passed by the US Congress in 2006
"specifically demanded that the US government ?secure India's full and
active participation in US efforts to dissuade, isolate and, if necessary,
sanction and contain Iran for its efforts to acquire weapons of mass
destruction?". Mr Chomsky, along with Naomi Klein, Howard Zinn, Medea
Benjamin, Judith LeBlanc, Mike Davis, John Bellamy Foster and Vijay
Prashad, has urged "the US population to reject this agreement".

This is not the first time Mr Chomsky, in his large number of interviews,
talks, articles and blog entries, has opposed the growing bonhomie between
Washington and New Delhi.

In an interview in April on India-Pakistan relations, he had noted: "The
agreement with India was in serious violation of US law, the export law
from the early 1970s that was passed after the Indian test (of 1974). It
was also in violation of the rules of the two major international
organisations, one that controls, or tries to control, nuclear material
exports, the other that tries to control missile technology exports."

Referring to the IAEA and the NSG, he said: ?It's a sharp blow against two
of the elements of the international system that's trying to prevent
proliferation of nuclear technology, weapons technology, and missile
technology. It was predictable that as soon as the US broke it, someone
else would break it, too. And shortly after, China approached Pakistan
with sort of a similar agreement... Russia will probably do the same and
others will do the same," he said in the interview conducted as part of a
symposium on the centenary of Mahatma Gandhi's Satyagraha movement.

In a talk delivered in Beirut in May, reproduced as ?Imminent Crises:
Threats and Opportunities? in the June issue of Monthly Review, Mr Chomsky
said that ?Bush's recent trip to India and his authorisation of India's
nuclear weapons programme are part of the jockeying over how ... major
global forces will crystallise? in planning for their energy needs.,prtpage-1.cms

Bookmark and Share
posted by u2r2h at 12:32 AM


Post a Comment

<< Home