4-Bricmont%202009 - Responsibility to Protect? Bombing for...

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Responsibility to Protect? Bombing for a Juster World? July 29, 2009 By Jean Bricmont [Jean Bricmont teaches physics in Belgium and is a member of the Brussels Tribunal. His new book, Humanitarian Imperialism , is published by Monthly Review Press.] On July 23, a debate concerning the Responsibility to Protect took place in front of the General Asssembly of the United Nations. The responsibility to protect (R2P) is a notion agreed to by world leaders in 2005, that holds States responsible for shielding their own populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and related crimes against humanity, requiring the international community to step in if this obligation is not met. This last point is suspected to be related to the right of humanitarian intervention » and is the source of many debates. The discussion was initiated by General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto (from Nicaragua) and gathered Noam Chomsky, Gareth Evans, a supporter of R2P, former Foreign Minister of Australia and, until recently, president of the International Crisis Group, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, a prominent African writer and defender of human rights, and myself. Here is the text of my speech I would like, in this talk, to challenge the intellectual assumptions underlying the notion and the rhetoric of R2P. In a nutshell, my thesis will be that the main obstacle to the implementation of a genuine R2P are precisely the policies and the attitudes of the countries that are most enthusiastic about this doctrine, namely the Western countries, and in particular the US. During the past decade, the world has looked on helplessly as innocent civilians were murdered by American bombs in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. It has been a helpless bystander of the murderous Israeli onslaught on Lebanon and Gaza. Previously, we have seen millions of people perish under American firepower in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos; and many others have died in American proxy wars in Central America or Southern Africa. In the name of those victims, shall we say: never again! From now on, the world, the international community, will protect you! Our humanitarian response is yes, we want to protect all victims. But how, and with which forces? How are the weak ever to be protected from the strong? The answer to this question must be sought not just in humanitarian or in legal terms, but first of all in political terms. The protection of the weak always depends on limitations of the power of the strong. The rule of law is such a limitation, so long as it is based on the principle of equality of all before the law. Achieving that requires clear-headed pursuit of idealistic principles accompanied by realistic assessment of the existing relationship of forces. Before discussing politically the R2P, let me stress that what is at issue are not its diplomatic or
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4-Bricmont%202009 - Responsibility to Protect? Bombing for...

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