Iraq / Syria – Humanitarian War?

“There never has been a war yet which, if the facts had been put calmly before the ordinary folk, could not have been prevented … The common man, I think, is the great protection against war.”

Ernest Bevin

The aggressors in most wars claim that they are doing so on ‘humanitarian grounds’ from Hitler invasions of Czechoslovakia to Japans invasion of Manchuria and countless attempts by the British and other imperialist nations to bring ‘civilization and democracy’.

It is easy to understand why such wording is used to justify war. Many people feel the urge to do something when they hear about some of the atrocities that are occurring in the world. However, even if this was the true reason for the intervention (which it never is) it is often not as easy as sending over some troops of bombing a couple of pickup trucks.

One thing to remember is that we are constantly manipulated. Many atrocities are ignored by the media (sometimes because our government are actively supporting them) but suddenly a focus of media attention due to governments propaganda. Note that by propaganda I am not implying that what they say is factually incorrect – the best propaganda is not. However, we must ask ourselves why this issue is becoming prominent now and why pick this one from the hundreds of others.

Some of the problems that we are told we must ‘act on’ have been going on for years. For example the unrest in northern Iraq (see my previous post) was largely ignored by the media. Others are simply continually ignored. In Africa millions have died in the Democratic Republic of Congo1 with little media or political interest.

In the news today – well down the list and easy to miss if you do not look for it – is further details of what is happening in Libya2. The country whose people we were told to care so deeply about when the US and UK regimes wanted to topple Gaddafi are still suffering from the ‘humanitarian’ intervention.

Often these interventions make a bad situation worse as also happened during the war on Serbia3.

These wars often do work – Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein were toppled. However, they never met and were never meant to meet the ‘humanitarian’ aim of helping the people.

Hitting infrastructure in areas of  Iraq and Syria where there is a ISIS presence also affects the people in those areas. Not just through reprisals but loss of food and energy supplies. In wars it is often not the ‘collateral damage’ from bombs that kill innocent people. It is the ‘collateral damage’ from the lost of medical care, food and energy supplies and other infrastructure that kill innocent people.

My final point (for today anyway) is that what is the objective other than killing a few Jihadists. Who will take their place, how will the area be organised? If the aim is to put the control of the northern Sunni areas back into the hands of the regime in Baghdad whose treatment of them lead to the uprising in the first place, to leave the Sunni population open to further sectarian violence and retribution then you are going to have to drop a lot of bombs. If on the other hand you want the local population to reject ISIS (as they have done before) then bombing them is not going to help.

Again the long term humanitarian needs of the people we are told we are ‘saving’ have not been thought through – because they are not the real reason them bombs are falling.


1 Mortality in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rescue International, International Rescue Committee, 2007 (http://www.rescue.org/sites/default/files/resource-file/2006-7_congoMortalitySurvey.pdf)

2 Libyan soldiers killed in Benghazi bombings and clashes, BBC, 3 October 2014 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-29464748)

3 A Review of NATO’s War over Kosovo, Noam Chomsky, 2001 (http://www.chomsky.info/articles/200005–.htm)

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