In yet another screed to advocate for an Imperial USA to commit to a "duty to protect" civilians across the world, Michael Ingatieff launches an OpEd in the New York Times
A friend, perhaps unaware of Ingatieff's long advocacy for US imperialism around the world, recommended this OpEd to me as a justification for the US' preparation for strikes against Syria.
This diary is my response to my friend, an answer to that column, an answer to the apparent unawareness of Ingatieff's history, and to the very concept that the USA must intervene in every nation where civilians are at risk.
To be clear, international law and international decision-making must be respected. The USA should stop acting unilaterally and seek to reinforce coalitions, diplomacy, international pressure, sanctions targeted against leadership not civilians, and avoid a default to warfare.
No one will step forward, or need to, if the USA always acts first and negotiates later.
Is there nothing that war cannot solve?
Ignatieff complains about the public being deceived into war being one of the reasons our citizens are reluctant to intervene elsewhere. Perhaps he should have been more honest and disclosed that he was a loud cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq. Perhaps he should admit that he is an advocate for torture, but only "torture lite" as if that makes it OK. Perhaps he should confess his writings on how the rule of law and civil rights must be set aside in order to combat terrorists.
In 2004, he published The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in an Age of Terror, a philosophical work analyzing human rights in the post-9/11 world. Ignatieff argued that there may be circumstances where indefinite detention or coercive interrogations may need to be used on terror suspects to combat terrorism. Democratic institutions would need to evolve to protect human rights, finding a way to keep these necessary evils from offending democracy as much as the evils they are meant to prevent.What could go wrong with that? Perhaps the very first issue might be: "Who defines who is a terrorist and who isn't?" An environmental protester? Iraqi war veterans protesting the looting of our national treasury by Wall Street? Check with the DHS and see who they've defined as terrorists lately.
His definition of torture, according to his 2004 Op-ed in The New York Times, does not include "forms of sleep deprivation that do not result in lasting harm to mental or physical health, together with disinformation and disorientation (like keeping prisoners in hoods)."
Should we invade Egypt? What about Libya? Just because we stopped bombing doesn't mean the killing has stopped. What about Rwanda - 2 million dead? What about the Congo - 5 miillion dead? What about the Sudan - 2 million dead? What about Somalia - 1.5 million dead? What of the Chinese forced relocation of Tibetans and intentional destruction of their culture?
Is it even possible that the USA can end the suffering of civilians everywhere? And, again, who defines which are "civilians," which are "rebels," and which are "terrorists" or even "the right civilians" in a conflict?
Has anyone noticed the decades' long international human rights abuses committed by Israelis against the Palestinians, in violation of numerous UN resolutions? Let's invade Israel! We have a "duty to protect" human rights!
What of Mexico? 100,000 dead, nearly all civilians. Shouldn't the USA intervene in Mexico with a "duty to protect" these civilians right next door?
This Canadian author has never found a place where he wouldn't love for the USA to send our troops to die. He's been an enabler of Bush administration policies for years. He advocates for "Imperial rule" (his words) to "protect civilians" but avoids the complicated issue of how to decide who to protect when you cannot protect everyone.
Do invasions automatically equal human rights and protection? Don't tell that to the perhaps 1 million Iraqis who are dead, most of whom were civilian men, women and children directly killed by the USA or by our utter failure to maintain order in a nation we invaded and thus were responsible for. Iraq has yet to recover anything like their former standard of living after a decade. Yes, that was protection all right, Ignatieff.
In the meantime, perhaps leaders from other nations should stop being so willing to demand that the USA invade anywhere and everywhere.
Or a better idea: Stop using "War!" as a default.
Civilians always, always suffer disproportionately in war. Invasions kill people -- men, women, and children -- even when we target only military installations. Even our supposedly very accurate drones have killed hundreds of women and children throughout numerous countries in the middle east. Our "surgical strike" cruise missiles have a 15% failure rate - failure to hit the intended target. One thousand pounds of high explosives landing "off target" creates "collateral damage."
Another phrase for the Pentagon-speak is "civilian casualties." Ignatieff argues we must invade to protect civilians. Is killing civilians to protect them the 21st century version of "destroy the village to save it?"
Let's discard Michael Ignatieff and his "reasoning" every bit as much as we have discarded Bush's wars of aggression and preemptive wars.
Stop using "War!" as a default.