Saturday, September 19, 2020





September 19, 2020.

Compiled by Dick Bennett for a Culture of Peace, Justice, and Ecology.

(#1 June 26, 2012).

For a knowledge-based peace, justice, and ecology movement and an informed citizenry as the foundation for change.


CONTENTS HUMANITARIAN INTERVENTION (Liberal Humanitarianism) Newsletter #2,

Books Questioning the Motives and the Results of “Humanitarian War”

Jean Bricmont, Humanitarian Imperialism (2006); see Newsletter #1

Richard Seymour.  The Liberal Defense of Murder.  (2008).

Dennis Perrin.  Savage Mules: The Democrats and Endless War (2008).
Tariq Ali, ed.   Masters of the Universe?  NATO’s Balkan Crusade.  Verso, 2000. 


Humanitarian War Google Search, 9-16-2020

Newsletter #1



From Google:  What is the purpose of humanitarian intervention?

Humanitarian intervention, actions undertaken by an organization or organizations (usually a state or a coalition of states) that are intended to alleviate extensive human suffering within the borders of a sovereign state. 

What’s at Stake:   Humanitarian intervention is only effective if human rights are protected on both sides. Conversely, Humanitarian War, which is defined as “major uses of armed force in the name of humanitarianism,” can be the militarized, imperial strain of humanitarian intervention.



  Richard Seymour.  The Liberal Defense of Murder (2008).


Philippe Sands.  War - what is it good for?  The Guardian.  Fri 20 Feb 2009 19.01 EST

Philippe Sands measures the power of an argument that all use of force is wrong.

This book addresses two issues: why the US uses force, and why some leftists
and liberals provide support. Both give rise to speculative responses, and propel the writer into a hazardous exercise. Who can say, after all, the real reason that President Bush decided to go to war in Iraq, or what truly motivated a particular individual to lend support. Beyond instinct or intuition, both issues require mastery of many factors - history, geopolitics, money, psychology, political philosophy, to suggest but a few. To engage in both tasks, as Richard Seymour does with this ambitious book, is to undertake a project that faces considerable hurdles.

Seymour believes that the US has long been engaged in an imperial enterprise, and that its foot soldiers include a great number of liberals and progressives (Nick Cohen and Michael Ignatieff among them). Seymour casts these thinkers and writers as enablers. "Imperialism is not a distant relic, but a living reality," he writes, "and the moralisation of the means of violence has been the task of liberal and progressive intellectuals since they first competed with clerics for moral authority." The charge is deep. It may be sustainable for some of his targets, in some instances, but the generality of the attack undermines its effectiveness.

One reason is that Seymour never grapples with the reality that the US has used force for a multitude of different reasons over the past five decades, and that some instances are justifiable whereas others are not. In short, not every use of force justifies a charge of murder. You need some basic criteria to distinguish between what is just and unjust, lawful and unlawful, murderous or not. Seymour doesn't identify any. On this account, it seems all force is wrong, so that any liberal support may be treated as liberal justification for murder. That doesn't hold up. Iraq I (1990) wasn't Kosovo, which wasn't Sierra Leone, which wasn't Afghanistan, which wasn't Iraq II (2003). There is no seamless link between these military expeditions. The reality is more complex, and requires engagement with a basic question: when can one state use military force against another?

The answer, in law if not morality, was "settled" by the UN charter in 1945, a document that Seymour ignores. Against the backdrop of the second world war, the then world of nation states - less numerous than today, ostensibly more colonial - came together to replace the status quo that basically allowed them to use force whenever they wanted. Under the new rules, military force was lawful in just two circumstances: self-defence (when an armed attack had occurred or was imminent) or where the security council authorised its use (requiring a resolution adopted by a positive vote with no permanent member voting against). That, at least, was the theory. In practice, the scheme had many opponents, not least the neocons who sat in the upper galleries of the Bush administration, drawing inspiration from another bunch of former progressives - men such as Irving Kristol and Nathan Glazer - from the 1950s who proceeded to travel another path.

The UN drafters sowed the seeds for a third possible justification for war, the heart of Seymour's critique. For the first time in a multilateral treaty, the charter gave legal force to the notion of fundamental human rights for all. But that commitment was to be balanced with an obligation not to interfere in the domestic affairs of another state. Ever since, the $64m issue has been how to balance these competing commitments. Did the drafters of the charter envisage circumstances in which a huge threat to human rights in one country could justify the use of force? An affirmative answer opens the door to humanitarian intervention. Seymour seems to come down on the side of those who believe human rights violations should not justify force, while many of those he aims at - irrespective of whether or why they supported some or all of Iraq I and II, or Kosovo, or Afghanistan (in 2001) - take the opposite view.

So the book becomes a bit of a rant. In charting the intellectual roots of this apparently open-ended appetite for violence, mayhem and murder, important points of detail are missed - what was the justification for the war? - and the transformed framework of rules and principles is bypassed. Iraq I was explicitly authorised by security council resolution, Iraq II was not. Afghanistan was, at least initially, seen to be justified by the unanimous security council resolution 1373, an act of self-defence. Many will not be pleased by such security council actions, but their existence has important consequences and they cannot be ignored.

Humanitarian intervention has been the subject of longstanding attempts at codification. After Kosovo, which was problematic on many grounds, the Canadian government sponsored an effort to develop new principles, known as the Responsibility to Protect. After 2003, that effort ground to a halt, as Iraq made clear the potential for abuse. Over the long term, the real critique of those who supported the latest Iraq war is that they killed off any hope, for now at least, of garnering support to use force where massive violations of fundamental human rights are taking place. It is not sufficient to label the US as "the chief inheritor of the legacy of violent white supremacy". The more obvious conclusion - if such a claim is to be made - is that those who are on the receiving end of what Seymour perceives as US excess have, through the acts of their own governments, or their failure to object, contributed to their own oppression.

The Liberal Defence of Murder glosses over vastly important issues. Was the post-second world war human rights project intended to create new conditions of colonial domination? Has it contributed to circumstances in which there will be more oppression and misery, rather than less? Have the economic rules promoting globalisation engendered war? A scattershot aim at "liberal and progressive intellectuals" doesn't hit home. Force can be justifiable in some circumstances, in domestic law and in international law. The difficult issue is when, and the answer to that turns on the particularities of each case. The generality of Seymour's conclusion, the broad sweep of his argument and the passion of his attack are overstated, dissipating their force. More nuance and context could have made this potentially important book compelling. It is a shame, as buried in these pages and their footnotes is a great deal of damning material on the apologists of recent illegalities.

• Philippe Sands's Torture Team: Uncovering War Crimes in the Land of the Free is published by Allen Lane.

America faces an epic choice ...

... in the coming months, and the results will define the country for a generation. These are perilous times. Over the last three years, much of what the Guardian holds dear has been threatened – democracy, civility, truth.

The country is at a crossroads. Science is in a battle with conjecture and instinct to determine policy in the middle of a pandemic. At the same time, the US is reckoning with centuries of racial injustice – as the White House stokes division along racial lines. At a time like this, an independent news organization that fights for truth and holds power to account is not just optional. It is essential.

Like many news organizations, the Guardian has been significantly impacted by the pandemic. We rely to an ever greater extent on our readers, both for the moral force to continue doing journalism at a time like this and for the financial strength to facilitate that reporting.  We believe every one of us deserves equal access to fact-based news and analysis. We’ve decided to keep Guardian journalism free for all readers, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay. This is made possible thanks to the support we receive from readers across America in all 50 states.


Dennis Perrin.  Savage Mules: The Democrats and Endless War.  Penguin/Random House, 2008.


Steven Poole.  Savage Mules.”  The Guardian (Fri 31 Oct 2008).

As an antidote to US election fever, this sourly funny little bomb of a book kicks over the ashes of past Democratic warmongering and corruption. Perrin directs particular scorn at American "liberal bloggers", and wonders why they "tolerate being kicked in the face time and time again" by candidates who jettison their ideals once in office. A polemical (you might say Chomskyan) history of Democratic presidential action in the 20th century follows. Wilson made it "a federal crime to oppose the [first world] war openly, or denounce the state itself"; Roosevelt sent Japanese-Americans to camps; Truman dropped the nuke; JFK "was a war criminal of the first order" and LBJ a "blood-caked jackass"; Carter was "America's most under-rated imperialist"; and Clinton "truly shone" as "killer and status-quo enforcer". Subtlety is not among the virtues of this book, with its battery of epithets such as "murderer" and "killer", and crude swipes at peripheral figures, such as a reference to "liberal imperialist writers like Samantha Power". Still, Perrin is a pummellingly energetic phrasemaker, and his evocation of the immanent odour of smugness at the liberal-bloggers' convention YearlyKos is deliciously horrible.



Masters of the Universe?  NATO’s Balkan Crusade.

Edited by Tariq Ali.

Distinguished dissidents oppose NATO’s war in the Balkans.

 Publisher’s description:

NATO’s war on Yugoslavia in the spring of 1999 was unleashed in the name of democracy and human rights. This view was challenged by the world’s three largest countries, India, China and Russia, who saw the bombing of Serbia and Kosovo as a naked attempt to assert US dominance in an unstable world.

In the West, media networks were joined by substantial sectors of left/liberal opinion in supporting the war. Nonetheless, a wide variety of figures emerged to challenge the prevailing consensus. Their work, gathered here for the first time, forms a collection of key statements and anti-war writings from some of democracy's most eloquent dissidents—Noam Chomsky, Harold Pinter, Edward Said and many others—who provide carefully researched examinations of the real motives for the US action, dissections and critiques of the ideology of ‘humanitarian warfare’, and chartings of the unnecessary tragedy of a region laid to waste in the pursuance of Great Power politics.

This reader presents some of the most important texts on NATO’s Balkan crusade and forms a major intervention in the debate on global geo-political strategy after the Cold War.

 With contributions by Gilbert Achcar, Giovanni Arrighi, Robin Blackburn, Alex Callinicos, David Chandler, Noam Chomsky, Michel Chossudovsky, Régis Debray, John Gittings, Peter Gowan, Diana Johnstone, Gazi Kaplan, Oskar Lafontaine, Dieter S. Lutz, Harold Pinter, Robert Redeker, Edward W. Said, Ellen Meiksins Wood, Susan L. Woodward, and Yevgeny Yevtushenko


Humanitarian intervention - Wikipedia › wiki › Humanitarian_intervention

Humanitarian intervention has been defined as a state's use of military force against another ... The most well-known standard for humanitarian intervention after World War II has been genocide. According to, the 1948 Convention on the ...

History · ‎Legal grounds · ‎Current approaches to ... · ‎Examples of military ...

Humanitarian War Is an Oxymoron, so Why Do We Keep ... › humanitarian-war-oxymoron-keep

Humanitarian War: Military Intervention and Human Rights - jstor › stable

The following is an edited text of the first John Vincent Memorial by Adam Roberts at Keele University on 26 February 1993. 'Humanitarian war' is an oxymoron ...

by A Roberts - ‎1993 - ‎Cited by 404 - ‎Related articles

The Humanitarian War Myth - Global Policy Forum › component › content › article

Oct 1, 2006 - Civilians suffer in all wars, but the suffering of Iraqi civilians in this war is particularly unfortunate because one of the main justifications for the war ...

Humanitarian Wars? | Hurst Publishers › book › humanitarian-wars

Humanitarian Wars? Lies and Brainwashing. Rony Brauman. and. Régis Meyran. The former president of MSF offers a trenchant critique ...

Military Intervention, Humanitarian | Internet Encyclopedia of ... › hum-mili

Jump to Justifying Conduct in War (jus in bello) and Justice after War ... - Humanitarian interventions resemble wars, are even sometimes referred to ...

Humanitarian–Military Intervention: An Oxymoron or a ... › knowledge_detail › huma...

As expert in international law Peter Vedel Kessing stated: “Humanitarian intervention is an international war and an international armed conflict. The particular ...

War in Iraq: Not a Humanitarian Intervention | Human Rights ... › news › 2004/01/25 › war-iraq-not-hum...

Jan 25, 2004 - The result is that at a time of renewed interest in humanitarian intervention, the Iraq war and the effort to justify it even in part in humanitarian ...

NATO's 'Humanitarian War' over Kosovo › doi › pdf

was sometimes colloquially called a 'humanitarian war'. Whatever the nomenclature, Operation Allied Force marked a high point in the increasing emphasis on ...

by A Roberts - ‎1999 - ‎Cited by 464 - ‎Related articles


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Searches related to humanitarian war

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Bricmont, Humanitarian Imperialism  (a major work of scholarship, recognizing all the intricacies, closely reasoned and supported, but always clear)

Chomsky, New Excuse for Imperialism (this essay is long, and the complexity of the history is reflected in his syntax and language, but he’s worth your time if you have it, if not go on to the next)

Glazebrook, Negative Consequences of Libyan Liberation

LaForge, Syria and US Atrocities

Chomsky, Their Atrocities, Not USA

Peck, US Appropriated Human Rights



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