Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Slaughter Of The Libyans: Criminal Negligence Causing Death.

There is a thing that knows no east and no west, an ancient moral principle to be found in the English common law, in Sha'ria, in Judaism and Christianity and in the most elementary of tribal codes. It pays attention to the crime of conscious disregard for human suffering. At the moment I'm thinking of the UN, the US and the UK in the matter of the slaughter of the Libyans.

You see a woman being savagely beaten in the street, you have the means to stop it and you do nothing, and the woman's blood is on your hands just as surely as if it were you who administered the beating. It is foundational to civilization itself. It is not particularly complicated, although its application in international law is, to put it delicately, a bit underdeveloped at the moment. No matter.

I would have thought that the moral culpability of such criminal negligence as we are now witnessing in the matter of Libya is compounded by the retreat into self-flattering proclamations of how shocked and appalled one is and resort to pharasaic handwringing, codicil-study and sanctimony in place of action - I find it so upsetting, I must issue a press release! -but then I'm not a lawyer. I am however dimly aware that liberty allows for defence, harsh restraint and punishment outside the law, should the law itself avail no remedy. We can put that last bit aside for the moment, although just for the moment, because it will come up, sooner or later (and the sooner the better).

People remember these kinds of events. What is happening today will be remembered. For the moment I'm thinking about the UN, the US and the UK only because there are no ambiguities involved with respect to capacity, means, prior culpability, foreknowledge, and democratic duty to act in the matter of coming to the aid of the Libyan people. The list of the guilty is obviously and properly longer. Canada should be on it, probably.

The UN is on the list only because the people of the world tend to place their trust in the UN (I know, we are all so foolish) to control the savage behaviour of its member states. The US and the UK stand out only because of their unambiguous guilt in providing the Gaddafis with the weapons and the blood-for-oil receipts necessary to carry out the slaughters being visited upon the Libyan people, right now.

It is difficult to find much comfort to be taken at the moment, but there is some cold comfort to be found, and not just in the "Arab world." A decrepit and disgraceful paradigm is crashing down all around us. "The revolts are helping remake much of the vocabulary and thought patterns through which Western commentators and policy makers relate to that world. They have exposed the hypocrisy underlying much discussion of democracy in the West," writes the brilliant author, journalist and democrat Kenan Malik. "For decades the talk from Western politicians has been about the importance of democracy. Now that Arab people want democracy – and want it now – many in West are telling them to take it slowly, that it may take years, even generations, to create the conditions and institutions of ‘deep democracy’."

Of course it is true that it takes years, even generations, for democracy to flourish. All the more reason to get on with it, to fight back against the forces that counsel putting it off to some later time.

The paradigm that is collapsing is the current that those of us committed to the cause of Afghan democracy have been swimming against since 2006, so I should confess to a sensation of some tiny and cold vindication. You could say that there is comfort to be had in the knowledge that everything we have been saying is being confirmed in spades. The paradigm that has required that we all be deaf to the voices of the vast majority of Afghans is also what has made almost everyone deaf to the voices of young Egyptians, Iranians, Tunisians, and Bahrainis. That is the paradigm that is collapsing. While everyone was tricked out in their kaffiyehs shouting "We are all Hezbollah now," the true Arab revolutionaries were organizing, slowly and methodically, and it looks very much like a new world is being born. So there's that.

It is also Mansour Osanloo's birthday today. Mansour is celebrating his 51st birthday, alone, in a Khomeinist dungeon in Tehran's Evin Prison. He has been in jail for four years now, for the crime of being the elected president of Tehran's independent bus drivers' union. It may be cold comfort to him, but he must know that he hasn't been completely forgotten.

So happy birthday, Mansour. One day, freedom will come.


Blogger vildechaye said...

What amazes me is how surprised the mainstream media (cbc, CTV, newspapers, CNN and the other U.S. networks, etc.) are about the violence in Libya. To me, it shows how clueless they've been for decades. Gadhafi has been a brutal, cruel and psychotic despot ever since he took over Libya way back when, and the evidence has always been there, just as it's been there for Syria and Iran (together, they form the three middle-eastern Muslim non-U.S. backed dictatorships). Human Rights NGOs like HRW and Amnesty, and, of course, huge swaths of the "anti-Imperialist" Left have consistently ignored these three, focusing their attention on the much lower-hanging fruit in Israel and, to a lesser extent, the softer dictatorships in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco etc. What Gadhafi is doing to his own people now (apparently he's already killed way more in a week than Israel did in Gaza) should be a wake up call, but I somehow doubt it. After all, Assad Sr. killed between 10,000 to 40,000 of his own citizens to quell a Muslim Brotherhood uprising in Hama, Syria in 1982 over a 3-week span, and nobody listed above gave a damn.

Terry you're doing amazing work. Thanks.

5:32 PM  
Blogger Roland Dodds said...

Well said Terry. If the international community means a damn thing, it will take action to guarantee the revolution does not die at the hands of Gaddafi's goons.

8:06 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home