Syria ‘Responsibility to Protect’ as spurious as Iraq’s WMD. Today, 50 years on, MLK’s message of Nonviolence is the only way

28.08.2013 - Silvia Swinden

This post is also available in: French

Syria ‘Responsibility to Protect’ as spurious as Iraq’s WMD. Today, 50 years on, MLK’s message of Nonviolence is the only way
(Image by Image by Alice Kus)

The UK, France and the US, with the support of the Arab League are preparing to attack Syria without a UN mandate. International law “experts” have signalled that intervention could be legally justified without a Security Council resolution under the UN’s ‘responsibility to protect'”.

The 2005 World Summit outcome document describes the new international norm of the “responsibility to protect” (R2P), subsequently approved by UN Security Council resolution 1674:

“139. The international community, through the United Nations, also has the
responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means,
in accordance with Chapters VI and VIII of the Charter, to help to protect
populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against
humanity. In this context, we are prepared to take collective action, in a timely and
decisive manner, through the Security Council, in accordance with the Charter,
including Chapter VII, on a case-by-case basis and in cooperation with relevant
regional organizations as appropriate, should peaceful means be inadequate and
national authorities are manifestly failing to protect their populations from
genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.”

So, it is Iraq 2003 all over again. The use of pseudo legal language based on a wilful misinterpretation and misquote of international agreements and the bogey man of Weapons of Mass Destruction replaced by chemical weapons which may or may not have been used by one side or the other, and pushing the UN team carrying out the inspection to end their work and report before they had time to make a proper assessment.

Apart from the fact that sending missiles purely as “punishment”, that is, without trying to effect regime change or alter the course of the civil war (!?), risks hitting chemical weapons deposits and creating a total disaster, the rhetoric of “the most heinous weapons” from John Kerry seems surreal, given his country’s use of Depleted Uranium in the battlefield with its long term health consequences both for soldiers and the civilian population.

What would Martin Luther King say about Syria today, 50 years after his “I have a dream” speech?

Homage all round for this giant of the civil rights movement, but his methodology seems to be strangely left out of the remembrance. He chose nonviolence because in conflict it moves away from the eternal vicious circle of winners and losers and allows all parties to engage ultimately in reconciliation. So, what “diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means” have been offered by the international community to help end the civil war in Syria?

It is no secret that Qatar and Saudi Arabia (traditional US proxies in the region) are funding the rebels, domestic and foreign mercenaries. They are unofficially joined by al Qaida(ish) groups, always ready to establish new bases in the midst of the confusion. On the other side Russia has sent weapons to Assad’s regime and both Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah have engaged with boots on the ground. Following Iran’s elections it is not clear yet which way it will go, engaged as it is an apparent charm offensive (that few believe genuine) towards the West, condemning Assad for the chemical weapons and making liberal noises towards its people, but threatening retaliation if the missiles start to hit Syria. As it is not a member of the Arab League it has little influence on the other countries of the region.

So, back to Martin Luther King and what Nonviolence can do for Syria

Geneva, the Summit that never was: Following the 2013 G8 meeting a second summit on Syria was proposed by UK, US and Russia to attempt to end the conflict, Iran was not invited but the other players were, news coming and going, and then…nothing, it simply fizzled out. The opposition has in fact called off the long-delayed peace summit in Geneva, following the alleged chemical attack last week.

The populations of the countries involved should press their leaders for Geneva talks to go ahead, with ALL involved.

The Arms Dealers: Another DESi Arms supermarket is coming to London, as it does, every two years. Britain has already managed to lift the European arms embargo to the Syrian rebels, and Russia buys the weapons and gives them to Assad, so we can confidently say that business is great for the death merchants.

Only an effective arms embargo agreed by all parties and directed to all sides can begin to reduce the casualties of this war.

The World Leaders: Many have been inspired by MLK but the complexity of the situation in the Middle East creates a sense of helplessness and apathy. Did he finish his “I have a dream” speech with …”oh, well, unless it is too difficult”?

Today, celebrating his most inspired moment, is the perfect day to launch a Reconciliation initiative for Syria from every peace organisation, every committed nonviolent activist, every household concerned that their taxes will, yet again, pay for the deaths of the innocent in a foreign land.

Categories: International, Middle East, Nonviolence, Peace and Disarmament
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