G8 leaders are hardly in a position to denounce violence
by Stephen Gowans
In much of the press coverage
of Indonesian president Wahid being replaced by vice-president
Megawati (daughter of Indonesia's first president, Sukarno, who
was ousted in a US-backed coup), there are references to the
Indonesian government having violated human rights in the
resource-rich Indonesian provinces of Aceh and Irian Jaya, where
strong separatist movements seek to split the provinces from the
former Dutch colony. Some press reports warn of the prospect of
the army giving Megawati "a free hand to crush the separatist
Conspicuously absent are the
sanctimonious cries of outrage about human rights violations that were
heard over Kosovo. Milosevic, too, had launched a campaign to crush
separatists, separatists it turned out, who were financed, trained and
supported by a U.S. government, intent on ousting the Yugoslav president.
Washington, which has never had a distaste for the use of violence to
achieve political ends, whether by its own bloated armed forces, or
through generously equipped and supported proxy armies, was prepared to
encourage an armed rebellion by the KLA, and did. Milosevic has been
portrayed as a monster for his part in ordering a crackdown on the
separatists, but much of the evidence against him falls apart on
inspection. Not so the violations of the Indonesian government, or
otherwise of countries and movements under the umbrella of the
Instead, America's own violations and
war crimes, and those of its strategic allies, are dutifully mentioned in
the press, but otherwise ignored or justified or excused and sometimes
covered up. Israel, an egregious rogue state that refuses to comply with
innumerable UN resolutions ordering its withdrawal from the occupied
territories, freely commits war crimes against, and seriously abridges the
rights of Palestinians, largely with impunity. Perversely, Palestinians,
the victims, are denounced for resorting to violence to defend themselves.
No condemnations are hurled at the KLA, or earlier, the "contras", for
relying on the barrel of the gun to further their own – and Washington's
-- political aims. Palestinians, it seems, are alone in the world in being
expected to respond peacefully to every provocation. For the most part,
they've responded with stones, and, occasionally, suicide bombs, for which
they're portrayed as violent monsters. The Israeli army, however, can
launch missile attacks against civilian targets, while newspaper
columnists wonder aloud how long Israel will be able to show "restraint."
Meanwhile, Jean Chretien, Prime
Minister of Canada, and one of the participants at the G-8 Summit at
Genoa, denounces violence. "Violence, I reject," says the prime minister.
"I'm a democrat, so violence is a criminal act, and there are laws for
One sentence, three lies. Chretien
doesn't reject violence; he doesn't let law stand in the way of using
violence; and that he's a democrat, is questionable, at best.
Consider: Chretien gave the okay to
Canada flying 10 percent of the sorties against Yugoslavia in the spring
of 1999. You can call it humanitarian intervention, but strip away the
euphemisms and it's violence, pure and simple. Chretien has the blood of
10 percent of the civilian deaths on his hands, between 50 and 200
people. Hundreds more are permanently disabled because of Canadian bombs.
That he, who once "took out" a
protester by grabbing the unfortunate by the neck and hurling him to the
ground, respects laws against violence, is laughable. Canada's
participation in the 1999 Anglo-American muscle flexing against Belgrade,
violated innumerable laws, not least of which was a cornerstone of
international law that prohibits violent attacks against countries which
are not engaged in armed aggression against other countries. Chretien,
and other NATO leaders, said they had to break international law, for a
higher, political, and humanitarian purpose. Genoa's violent protesters
say they broke a few laws, for a higher, political, and humanitarian
purpose, too. The difference was, NATO suffered no casualties, but killed
thousands and injured many more. The Genoa protesters killed no one, but
suffered casualties, including one death.
As to Chretien being a democrat, the
prime minister refused to let Canada's legislative body, the House of
Commons, debate Canada's use of violence against Belgrade. To Chretien's
way of thinking – he, the great anti-violent, democrat -- what violence
Canada unleashes overseas, is not a matter to be decided by the Canadian
people, or even their parliamentary representatives.
Chretien though is no more or less a
hypocrite than other world leaders, including U.K. Prime Minister Tony
Blair, who said the Genoa protests led him to think the world had gone
mad. He echoed Chretien's "violence is anti-democratic" sentiments.
Blair, who says he was elected, and
therefore represents the British people and should be allowed to speak on
their behalf without having to deal with protesters, hardly has a
broadly-based mandate. He was elected by roughly one-quarter of the
eligible electorate in an election that saw most people stay home. As
fewer people turn up at the polls, more take to the street. Blair has
never wondered, openly anyway, whether there's a connection.
As to Blair's credentials as one who
rejects violence for politic ends, Britain's participation in the almost
daily bombing of Iraq, it too illegal under international law, and its
ardent seconding of the air war against Yugoslavia, leaves no room for
doubt. He hardly rejects violence, or respects the law. Not him, not
George W. Bush, and not one of the leaders of the G-8.
Indeed, that the G-8 countries (minus
Russia) can lay claim to being the richest countries in the world, is
largely the result of a centuries-long tradition of resorting to violence
to get their way, and using laws and prohibitions against violence to
straight jacket anyone who fights back.
Little has changed. Not the violence,
not the contempt for democracy, and definitely not the hypocrisy.
Mr. Steve Gowans is a
writer and political activist who lives in Ottawa, Canada.
by courtesy & © 2001
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