Humanitarian intervention: the
by Dmitry Kosyrev, RIA Novosti
http://en.rian.ru/, August 11,
Sending armed forces into the territory
of a sovereign state without the UN's authorization, so-called
"humanitarian intervention," is an American invention.
Its date of birth is thought to be 1999,
Yugoslavia. But that is not quite so. What happened in 1999 was
the launching of the term, an attempt to make it part of international
But in reality much of the experience
of such military actions dates further back. Among the numerous
wars and military actions undertaken by the U.S. after the adoption
of the UN Charter, one should pay attention to the operations
in Grenada and Panama, and look at the attempted intervention
in Somalia. The experience acquired then came in handy in Yugoslavia
Grenada, 1983. The order to launch a preemptive
military operation against the Caribbean island state of Grenada
was given by U.S. President Ronald Reagan, although formally the
decision to use military force was taken by the Organization of
Eastern Caribbean States. The pretext for the military operation
was "the taking of American students as hostages." Later
it turned out that Grenada authorities had simply decided to provide
the students with guards because shortly before armed clashes
had broken out in Grenada and the leader of the local Marxists
who had just come to power had been murdered by his associates,
creating tensions in the country.
Reagan declared that a Cuban-Soviet invasion
of Grenada was imminent and that weapons were being stockpiled
there that would be used by international terrorists. As it turned
out, the arms dumps in Grenada were filled with old Soviet weapons
and no new consignments had arrived. Next the U.S. declared that
there were 1,200 Cuban commandos on the island. Later it turned
out that there were no more than 200 Cubans, a third of whom were
After the capture of the island by American
troops, many civilian casualties at the hands of the American
troops were recorded.
Panama, 1989. The decision on the armed
invasion and the overthrow of the Panamanian government was taken
by George Bush Sr. The declared reason was the involvement of
Panama and its head, General Manuel Antonio Noriega, in drug-trafficking
(above all, supplies to the U.S.) and the fact that in the 1980s
the city of Panama had become a money-laundering center.
The American invasion of Panama was marked
by two features. The first was an atypical scale of American military
atrocities. Reports spoke not only about casualties due to air
raids, but of U.S. soldiers opening up machine-gun fire on street
crowds and of American vehicles crushing and firing on cars with
people. As a result of this action, a whole quarter in Panama,
partly consisting of wooden buildings dating back to the 1900s,
was gutted by fire. For a week thereafter the Americans left the
city at the mercy of the criminals they had released from jails.
Almost all the supermarkets, warehouses and businesses were looted.
The country suffered damage to the tune of $2 billion.
It was in Panama that a group of hand-picked
journalists and cameramen was first created and briefed and sent
to similarly hand-picked places just before the military action
was launched. Most of these media people were at American war
bases. The American command did not allow undesirables into the
combat zone. The technology of briefings, press conferences, meetings
with prominent politicians, businessmen and other local VIPs was
worked out. Correspondents of foreign newspapers and TV companies
who did not belong to the news team were caught and attempts were
made to murder some of them. All the radio and TV stations were
instantly captured and then used to disseminate American propaganda.
The same scenario has been acted out repeatedly,
notably in Yugoslavia in 1999 and in Iraq in 2003, except that
news coverage was organized well in advance and was much more
Somalia, 1993. That operation, unlike
the previous ones, had UN sanction, and can be described as a
humanitarian intervention. The soldiers of the U.S. and some other
countries were in Somalia as peace-keepers to secure the delivery
of the humanitarian care.
The pretext for that operation was the
murder of four U.S. military police by the militants of the Somali
rebel General Aidid in 1992-1993. Washington sent a Delta Force
unit to Somalia to arrest or liquidate Aidid. In the meantime
an American helicopter was shot down, three Americans died, and
the crowd mutilated their bodies and dragged them through the
Finally, on October 3-4 Aidid's headquarters
in a city neighborhood was raided with disastrous results. Eighteen
Americans died in Mogadishu and it was decided to withdraw the
American contingent from the country. It was one of the darkest
pages in American military history.
NATO's air war against Yugoslavia in March-April
1991 was launched under the pretext of the need to prevent a humanitarian
disaster, namely, the plight of refugees and also ethnic cleansing
in Kosovo (NATO spoke exclusively about the plight of Albanians
ignoring similar problems of the Serbian population).
It was in 1999 that the thesis on the
right of the alliance to launch humanitarian interventions all
over the world without UN security sanctions was introduced in
the NATO strategy. The U.S. National Security Strategy circa 2002
stipulates the right to launch preemptive strikes as part of the
fight against international terror. In 2005 the strategy was enlarged
by the provision that victory in the war against terror can only
be achieved if there is a change of regime in some countries.
Examples cited included Iran, Syria, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and
The talk at the U.S. Congress at the time
was about "the UN not helping peoples but governments,"
about "the problems usually arising in the countries where
the governments are in conflict with their own people." Hence,
effective humanitarian assistance presupposes the breach of state
The best known and the largest military
action taken without UN sanctions was, of course, the war waged
by the U.S. and Britain against Saddam Hussein's regime in March-April
A special category among such interventions
is an intervention that does not involve land forces but relies
primarily on air raids. In all these cases the UN did not authorize
the actions. They include the bombings of North Vietnam in the
1960s and Cambodia in the 1970s (let it be recalled that U.S.
troops did not engage in any other military actions in North Vietnam),
Ronald Reagan's decision to bomb Libyan cities in 1983 and many
The opinions expressed in this article
are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA
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