The Perils of Humanitarian Wars

Published on, by VIJAY PRASHAD, Sept 20, 2016.

in Perilous Interventions, Hardeep Singh Puri, an astute observer of the limits of the ‘responsibility to protect’ doctrine, explores the failure of the UNSC on several accounts, especially its decision to intervene in Libya militarily … //

… The doctrine of humanitarian intervention – R2P – asserts that state sovereignty cannot be a shield to commit crimes against humanity inside the borders of a country. The international community has a say if a government is committing such crimes (including genocide). The UNSC studies the evidence of such crimes and provides the government of the country with a mechanism to either stop the atrocities or forces the government to do so. The most extreme measure is for the UN, under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, to use armed force to prevent the genocide or crimes against humanity. The key here, as Puri writes in the final chapter of his book, is that the UNSC must determine if there is an “imminent threat of mass atrocities”. How should the UNSC make this determination? It will rely upon various sources – including the media, the UN’s own officers on the ground and intelligence materials provided by governments – to make a comprehensive assessment of what is happening on the ground.

With Libya, there was no such body of information. UN envoy Abdel Elah al-Khatib and Rashid Khalikov of the UN’s Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs visited Libya in March 2011, but returned with inconclusive evidence. By March 14, UN Under-Secretary General Lynn Pascoe said the situation in Libya was deteriorating rapidly. The assessment seemed to be based on media reports more than on UN personnel on the ground. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon spoke of ‘press reports’ when asked how he determined near genocide conditions. Saudi and Qatari media outlets exaggerated the numbers because that was their drum-beat to war. Al-Arabiyya was in the lead. Later, when human rights groups studied the situation, they found that the numbers of dead and the character of the deaths indicated less a genocide situation and more a civil war. This was not properly communicated to the UNSC.

Puri shows that the Western diplomats pilloried anyone who raised skepticism about the situation in Libya. If one raised objections, he writes, they “were simplistically categorized as being on the wrong side of the human rights divide in their own countries”. The Western bloc – particularly France – took cover behind the Arab League, which was eager to overthrow Gaddafi for political and personal reasons. But what they did not consider, as the Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong emphasised at the time, was that the African Union was not happy with armed action. When ambassadors of the South warned that referral of the Libyan leadership to the International Criminal Court (ICC) would narrow the door to diplomacy, they were not heard. After all, if there were no opening for negotiation then why would an adversarial leader stop their brutality. The ICC referral seemed an obvious mechanism to increase the chance of crimes against humanity not lessen them. Naysayers were set aside.

One of the failures of the R2P process in the case of Libya is that the government in question should be allowed to answer the charges brought against it. In the UNSC chamber, the members of the council sit at horseshoe table. At both ends of the horseshoe, seats are left vacant for members who have disputes to come and talk to the UNSC. In the case of Libya, the ambassador, Abdel Rahman Shalgham, had defected from the side of the Libyan government. This meant that there was no Libyan delegation to the UN. At no point, as I found when I reported this story, was there concern in the UN Secretariat that the Libyans could not respond to the accusations made against them. The UNSC, in a sense, had conducted diplomatic regime change by not insisting upon Libyan representation from the government at the table. When the Russians did not allow Shalgham to retain his seat (he had after all defected from his post), no Libyan was available to answer the questions. This meant that Libya was a bystander as the UNSC met … //

… (full text).

(book: Perilous Interventions: the Security Council and the Politics of Chaos, by Hardeep Singh Puri (Author), ed. Aug 22, 2016, on


Actual ambiance in the US: Leave those kids alone, cop trolled live on Facebook for stopping black children (VIDEO), 2.18 min, on RT, Sept 22, 2016;

Alarmierende Statistik: Jeder vierte Bremer gilt als arm, auf Spiegel Online, 22. Sept 2016: die Armutsrisikoquote liegt auf dem höchsten Stand seit der Wiedervereinigung. Am stärksten betroffen: Bremen und Berlin;

Beyond Marxism, on ZNet, by Michael Albert, Sept 21, 2016;

Zum Tode von Klaus Harpprecht, ein deutscher Freiheitsdenker, auf Spiegel Online, von Nils Minkmar, 21. Sept 2016: in der deutschen Geschichte sah er mehr als nur Bismarck, Hitler und die DDR. Deswegen schrieb und sprach der weltläufige politische Denker Klaus Harpprecht für ein Millionenpublikum – und arbeitete für Willy Brandt;

The Bodies of Prisoners Are Commodities: CounterSpin interview with Noelle Hanrahan on prison strike, on, by Janine Jackson, Sept 20, 2016:  thousands of prisoners in some 24 states engaged in a work strike September 9, protesting their forced labor for no or little pay, along with a number of other dangerous and unhealthy conditions and practices that confront the more than 2 million people incarcerated in the United States;

Prof. Michael Hartmann; Warum werden durch die Globalisierung die Reichen immer reicher? 28.52 min, von MrMarxismo;

… and this:

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