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Selling War as Smart Power

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Shortly after becoming executive director of AI-USA in January 2012, Suzanne Nossel moderated a panel at Wellesley College, during which she goaded fellow panelist Madeleine Albright to favor even more U.S. intervention:

"Now as the head of Amnesty International-USA, one point of great frustration and consternation for human rights organizations and civil society organizations over the last eight or nine months has been the failure of the UN Security Council to address, in any way, the deaths of now five thousand civilians in Syria at the hands of President Assad and his military.

"Last spring the Security Council managed to forge a majority for forceful action in Libya and it was initially very controversial, [causing] many misgivings among key Security Council members. But Gaddafi fell, there's been a transition there and I think one would have thought those misgivings would have died down. And yet we've seen just a continued impasse over Syria and a real, almost return to cold war days and paralysis in the Security Council.

"How do you explain that and what do you think is the missing ingredient to break that logjam and get the Security Council to live up to its responsibilities on Syria?"

Even the savvy Madeleine Albright seemed genuinely taken aback by the Amnesty director's push for a US-NATO Libya-like intervention in Syria. Albright and the other speaker responded skeptically as to what could be achieved through bombing or military force. What shouldn't have been surprising, however, was Nossel's minimalizing the thousands of NATO bombing sorties on Libya by calling them a "forceful action," and her urging a potential UN Security Council authorization to do the same to Syria, referring to this as "living up to its responsibilities."

She was already on record, in her prior think tank capacity, lamenting that failure in Iraq might mean Americans would lose their "willingness to use military force [writer's emphasis] -- Iraq as a failed state is likely to herald an era of deep reservations among the U.S. public regarding the use of force -- a kind of post-Vietnam, post-Mogadishu hangover."

Little Skepticism

Sadly, Amnesty is far from being the only human rights or peace and justice organization being misled in varying degrees by the U.S. State Department's newly minted "Responsibility to Protect (R2P)" doctrine -- otherwise known as "humanitarian intervention" -- and its newly created "Atrocity Prevention Board," chaired by Samantha Power, one of the main architects of U.S.-NATO's bombing of Libya.

Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights, the Peace Alliance, Citizens for Global SolutionsThink Progress, and AVAAZ are just some of the groups that seem to have swallowed that particular Kool-Aid.

This is not entirely new, as neo-con war hawks years ago co-opted the various big "liberal" think tanks: Brookings; the U.S. Institute of Peace, the Carnegie Endowment for Peace; etc. NATO war hawks also hijacked the Nobel Peace Prize decades ago.8

Jean Bricmont noted in his book, Humanitarian Imperialism: Using Human Rights to Sell War: "Since the end of the Cold War, the idea of human rights has been made into a justification for intervention by the world's leading economic and military powers -- above all, the United States -- in countries that are vulnerable to their attacks. The criteria for such intervention have become more arbitrary and self-serving, and their form more destructive, from Yugoslavia to Afghanistan to Iraq.

"Until the U.S. invasion of Iraq, [a] large part of the left was often complicit in this ideology of intervention--discovering new "Hitlers' as the need arose, and denouncing antiwar arguments as appeasement on the model of Munich in 1938." 9

In connection with his "groundbreaking critique of the troubling symbiosis between Washington and the human rights movement": Ideal Illusions: How the U.S. Government Co-opted Human Rights author James Peck stated: "The war in Libya today, and calls for intervening in Syria tomorrow, epitomize a tragic development in the human rights and humanitarian ethos: War and various other kinds of overt and covert intervention are being re-legitimized through Washington's human rights rhetoric.

"Libya tells us everything we should not be seeking to do in Syria and why humanitarian war is a monstrous illusion. The widespread support in the human rights community for all kinds of interference from "democratization,' to "nation-building' to promoting the "rule of law' now risks blending into rationales for war itself.

"This is suggestive of nothing so much as a profound failure of the human rights community to expose how and why the U.S. government has fashioned human rights for over four decades into a potent ideological weapon for purposes having little to do with the rights of others -- and everything to do with furthering Washington's strategic objectives and global reach."

Veering (or Steering) to War

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www.coleenrowley.com

Retired FBI Agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel.

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The USA has lost all moral authority. It has commi... by Ted Rosa on Friday, Aug 31, 2012 at 2:46:37 PM
Obama is also a war criminal, and has escalated th... by Deborah Dills on Friday, Aug 31, 2012 at 7:19:11 PM
Here are two more articles, one by Diana Johnstone... by Coleen Rowley on Friday, Aug 31, 2012 at 5:26:18 PM
The article is great but  the picture?!!!! It... by Mark Sashine on Saturday, Sep 1, 2012 at 6:23:17 AM
I was not responsible for the image.  A bette... by Coleen Rowley on Saturday, Sep 1, 2012 at 8:44:46 AM
But the one which is on the start, whoever  p... by Mark Sashine on Saturday, Sep 1, 2012 at 10:02:36 AM
At 42.8% of the world's total military spending, I... by Dave Kilby on Saturday, Sep 1, 2012 at 10:45:29 AM