March 2011, Week 5


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Tue, 29 Mar 2011 18:42:38 -0400
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Reader Reaction and Responses
March 29, 2011

1) Re: Avnery's "In the Face of Genocide, 'Non-
   Intervention' Is a Dirty Word" From David
2) Intervention in Libya From Darrell
3) Re: An Open Letter to the Left on Libya - Juan Cole
   From Alan Levine, Mel Rothenberg & Laurel
4) Re: Phyllis Bennis: Attack on Libya May
   Unleash a Long War
   From Cyril Robinson


Re: Avnery's "In the Face of Genocide, 'Non-
Intervention' Is a Dirty Word"

Uri Avnery forthrightly speaks his mind and has earned
our respect as a courageous supporter of Palestinian
human rights.  However,  he has not learned anything
from the record of the very intervention he cites as
precedent for the current bombing of Libya, the US/NATO
so-called humanitarian intervention of 1999, the
illegal attack on Yugoslavia, coming after its
rejection of the neo-liberal, "NATO is the hegemon"
terms of Rambouilet (see
where you will find "Furthermore, NATO would have free
and unrestricted military access to the country [under
the terms of this Agreement]").  Apparently, for Avnery
it is acceptable to write off 400 Yugoslavian children
and other innocents killed by NATO missiles and cluster
bombs as collateral damage as a price to be paid for
this aggression which used wildly exaggerated claims of
imminent genocide of Kosovo Albanians in a low-level
civil war that was close to a negotiated settlement
according to the OSCE personnel on the ground. And lest
we forget, Bill Clinton paved the way for Bush's
doctrine of preemptive war, which now paves the way for
Clinton's presumed former bed mate, acting as the voice
of U.S. foreign policy (poetic injustice?). Selective
"humanitarian" intervention is the new cover for state
terrorist aggression, bound to create more misery and
open up the reentry of a client state of the imperial
powers in Libya, now that the uprisings in the Mid East
threaten to smash their dominance once and for all.
Selective, but really consistent with the aims of US
imperialism, hence no thought of intervening to prevent
US client states such as Bahrain and Yemen murder their
own people.  And of course we are supposed to forget
that Mideast Oil somehow is relevant to the aims of
US/NATO? I urge readers to watch the interview of Marco
Gasic, a Balkan expert.  It is illuminating on several
aspects of this humano-terrorist attack by the
U.S./NATO using the fig leaf of the UN  (
Gasic stated that the attacking
powers refused to allow independent observers on the
ground to monitor a ceasefire offered by the Libyan
government, and then of course claimed that the latter
broke it legitimizing the bomb and missile attack that
followed, presumably using depleted uranium like the
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Unfortunately, the
proposal by Chavez to mediate the civil war in Libya
was not pursued. The Imperial powers who dominate the
Security Council had their way. We should support the
non-violent intervention of progressive countries in
the global South, such as Venezuela and Cuba (note that
Fidel warned the world about the imperial designs while
respecting the anti-Ghaddafi opposition)  to resolve
this conflict.

David Schwartzman Washington DC


Subject: Intervention in Libya

I agree with you and appreciate your non-dogmatic
approach to conflict resolution in general and your
analysis of the Libyan situation in particular.

Having said that, I will add an observation regarding
our process for decision-making and "position
formulation."  Most of our human action is negotiated
action, certainly the major actions involving or
impacting large portions of the global human
populations and natural environment, as certainly they
should be [thus, a near-universal desire for the Libyan
people to be self-governing without the repressions of
an autocrat]. The commitment to negotiate differences
likewise applies to our debates on the Left. We have
different perspectives, vocational roles, and social
responsibilities. Thankfully, I do not have the full
responsibility for running the world and can rely on
the wisdom and energy of my allies and enemies to help
sort it all out.

In order to negotiate the engaged parties must have a
semblance of parity and absence of brute power or the
effective threat of retribution. For "the will of the
people" to be negotiated the gross imbalance of
dominating violence must be restrained...quickly. The
role of national and international governments in human
affairs is to ensure an environment in which these
negotiations may take place, not to dominate the
negotiation. Likewise, while it is imperative that we
debate the virtues and principles guiding those
governments, we have elected them to act decisively.

My role as a United Methodist pastor and steering
committee member of the Resource Center for Nonviolence
is not to dominate the ethical or political discourse
but to maintain a disciplined, active, and principled
dialog with combatants, victims, resistors, and
governmental agents to persist in pursuing alternatives
to violence while risking the consequences of my
remaining nonviolent even in the midst of conflict,
just as the men and women in uniform accept
consequences for their vocational decisions. Jesus,
Gandhi, Martin all made their vocational decisions for
nonviolence as alternative to imperial domination. I
see it as a valid contribution to our on-going humanity
as we are and as we are becoming. That affirmation in
no way sits in judgment on any other well-intended
vocational choice or life-strategy. No guarantees, but
infinite possibilities.

As a species we human beings are in it for the long
haul. Clearly, we will not survive unless we fashion
alternatives to our hard-wired violence because the
"only enemy is us." And those of us who restrain the
violent domination of others of us have the burden of
not succumbing to that same hard-wired predation we
seek to restrain in others. We are all in it together
without the luxury of dividing the thinkers from the


Re: An Open Letter to the Left on Libya, Juan Cole

He's wrong about intl law.  And he doesn't really deal
with the likelihood that this is not going to be a
quick in and out operation.

Alan Levine

Reply to Juan Cole's 'Open Letter to the Left' on Libya

By Mel Rothenberg

Juan Cole's defense of western military intervention in
Libya is eloquent and articulate but ultimately a
liberal defense of imperialist rule throughout the
world. His argument in its essence states that if you
can make an a priori case that a state is going to
employ significant violence against  against a section
of its population, even when they are engaged in an
armed uprising, that the US has the right to intervene
with its overwhelming military force, liquidate the
existing state, and replace it with one more to its
liking. Thus the US and its allies are in fact, and
justifiably so,  not only the military but also the
moral and humanitarian guardians of humanity.  This is
the essential moral justification of liberal

In making his argument Cole distorts clear facts. The
notion that the protesters were initially citizens
spontaneously and peacefully demanding rights and were
shocked into rebellion by Qaddafi's brutal response is
sheer nonsense. Of course the protest organizers
mobilized large sectors of the population fed up with
the corrupt and dictatorial regime, but the leadership
of the protests represented forces who have for many
years opposed Quaddafi's rule and joined by defectors
from the government,  had rebellion in mind from the
beginning. They quickly seized control of Eastern Libya
and its major city Benghazi , running Quadaffi's weak
security forces in that traditionally anti-Qaddafi
region out.  Quaddafi in turn gathered his core
security and military apparatus and moved to crush the
insurrection, first in his base in Tripoli, and then
moving eastward to destroy  the rebel forces in
Benghazi.  This is what regimes facing armed
insurrections do.  Qaddafi accompanied his campaign
with blood curdling threats to strangle the opposition
in their beds,  characteristic of his thuggish style of
rule, and gave the rebels sympathy and the imperialists
cover to intervene, but it is a general rule that
regimes putting down rebellions are rarely gentle with
the rebels. The recent crushing of the Tamil Tiger
rebellion by the Sri Lankan regime ended with a bloody
massacre of ten of thousands on Tamil civilians, yet
this occurred with hardly a peep from our humanitarian

I do not question the sincerity of Cole's personal
"humanitarianism".  Yet the decision of western
imperialism to intervene militarily in Libya used
humanitarian concerns only as a cover. The true motives
are cold, calculating, and geo-political.  The decision
to replace Mubarak in Egypt, a long time imperialist
ally and favorite  was deemed necessary to pacify mass
Egyptian sentiment but was painful to US core
supporters in the region, particularly Saudi Arabia and
Israel. They smelled weakness and sellout. Ridding the
region of Qadaffi, who had made peace with imperialism
and western oil interests, but was still regarded as
troublesome with his occasional anti-imperialist
rhetoric and bombast, would balance the exit of
Mubarak, and reassure our core allies we had not gone
soft.   Further, at the early stage of the Libyan
uprising it appeared that Qadaffi could be pushed out
by threats, and the administration made the public
declaration that he must go. When he decided to fight
back, Obama's word was on the line, and when Qadaffi's
army pushed toward Benghazi, and threatened to
extinguish the rebellion, the US decided it had to act
to militarily to save the insurrection.  The rest was
maneuver and spin, as Obama already bogged down in two
unpopular wars, and facing a tough re-election campaign
in 2012,  organized a very clever diplomatic cover in
the UN, with NATO, the Arab League so as not to be
overly exposed. One has to admire the slickness and
smoothness of the operation, as well as being disgusted
with the hypocrisy of the appeal to humanitarian

If Coles humanitarian sentiment cannot be challenged
his choice of language in describing the events
certainly can be. To describe the military intervention
as a limited UN operation if false on two obvious
counts. The fact that many on the security council
abstained from the vote, testify not to any genuine
international outpouring of sympathy for the rebels or
an international taking responsibility for a tough
situation, but cynical calculation on the part of the
abstainers who are free to dissociate themselves from
the unsavory aspects while remaining aloof. Let the US
and its allies do the dirty work, and when it turns
sour they will pay the price. It is not UN soldiers
which are involved but the US and its Nato allies who
are providing the force and are  in command of the
operation. There is no time limits to the operation and
it will be only concluded when Qaddafi is removed from
power. That the declared mission of the operation is to
protect civilians from Quadaffi's forces, in the middle
of a civil war, is bizarre. What about the civilians
who support Qadaffi? Are there not any?.  Who will
protect them from the wrath of the rebels?.  As the
Quadaffi forces retreat, the air strikes are being used
as an airforce promoting rebel advance, focusing their
raids on destroying  troop columns and equipment. When
Qadaffi's forces stand and fight, and this will happen
in cities and towns, the NATO airforce will concentrate
on killing as many of them as possible. There will be
many civilian casualties and massive destruction as the
bombs don't distinguish civilians from troops.
Reports indicate that already many towns and  homes
have been destroyed in this unrellenting bombardment.

It is revealing that Cole's interventionist instincts
go back to the suppression of the Prague rebellion  in
1968 by Soviet forces.  He thinks the only reason not
to have supported sending US marines into
Czechoslovakia, was the danger of igniting of WW3. He
welcome the change in environment which now allows such
intervention.  His instinctive, almost chemical,
reaction is that the key to supporting a popular
uprising is to bring in the armed might of imperialism.
He has no other proposals. This is a sad, bankrupt
position for someone who considers himself an anti-

The issue of mass repression and violence against their
people by dictatorial and oppressive regimes is a
serious one. More serious to me is the issue of
violence and mass slaughter of foreign populations by
imperialist powers whose own citizens are protected by
traditions and rights.  The slaughter of Vietnamese or
Iraqi's by the US,  in the course of military invasion
and occupation, and the slaughter by the their allies
around the world in the permanent struggle to repress
just resistance and rebellion never some how rises to
the level of war crime or atrocity that the much
smaller efforts of the pariah states such as Libya
engage in.   When Juan Cole advocates armed
intervention against the US invasion of Iraq, then I
will be prepared to take his arguments for intervention
in Libya seriously.

Mel Rothenberg


Juan Cole's letter makes sense. I also support the
opposition forces, that rag-tagged enthusiastic and
brave bunch thirsting for freedom. I note that photos
of Qaddafi supporters show they are well dressed and
well healed by comparison.

I was amazed at CNN's reaction to President Obama's
speech. One commentator was estimating the cost of fuel
for each bomber sent. I don't recall anyone doing that
when President Bush illegally started a war against
Iraq. I think the U.S. has done the right thing in
Libya - by intervening with UN agreement to protect
civilians, by passing the wand to NATO, by agreeing not
to have ground forces in the hope that the Libyan
people can rid themselves of their dictator, by
freezing Qaddafi's wealth which obviously was stolen
from his people. I agree with Cole that you can't solve
every problem and the peoples of the Middle East and
North Africa will mostly solve their own issues. But
they are on the move and with intervention that trend
to democracy can continue. If force by the dictator had
kept him in power it would have influenced the other
dictators. Egypt remains the classic example of a
revolution done well and relatively peacefully. As one
commentator noted, when people sit on tanks and push
roses into their snouts, they no longer are killing
machines. Hopefully the other nations in the region
will have that non-violent option. But it could not be
done in Libya with Qaddafi installed and refusing to

Laurel MacDowell


Re: Phyllis Bennis: Attack on Libya May Unleash a Long

These are all good questions but the writer does not
ask and answer the question if we set back, did
nothing, slaughter continued or resumed after we
withdrew. The Libyan leader,.whatever you think of him,
is very crafty and a survivor> I think any one
criticizing the present policy must suggest a better
policy, and state what would happen if that new policy
is carried out.

Cyril Robinson, Carbondale, IL


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