Posts tagged ‘Security Council’

05/30/2011

Bosnia War Crime Trials Must Proceed

The Bosnian War (1992-95), a conflict that has never been easy to explain, is finally moving towards closure, with the arrest in Serbia of Bosnian-Serb military leader Ratko Mladic.

When the former Yugoslavia dissolved into six countries, namely: Slovenia, Macedonia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, and Serbia, some provinces did so in peace, but Bosnia had troubles, because their religions and ethnicities were a Balkanized mix of Bosnian-Muslim, Catholic-Croat, and Orthodox-Serb.

When the Bosnian-Muslims and Bosnian-Croats united to form a Federation, the Bosnian-Serbs set up their own Republika Srpska (RS). This triggered a Civil War (1992-95), during which the Bosnian-Serbs, forcefully removed Bosnian-Croats and Muslims from their homes, in what became known as an ethnic cleansing.

The UN failed to act militarily, because the issue was seen by China and Russia as an internal Yugoslavian affair. The Security Council did however set up the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia to prosecute war crimes (1993).

After the Bosnian-Serbs attacked Sarajevo (1994), and under the lead of Ratko Mladic, slaughtered 8,000 defenseless Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica (1995), President Bill Clinton and other NATO country leaders finally used air power to stop the Serbs.

The Dayton Peace Accords (1995) recognized both the Bosnian Muslim-Croat Federation, and the Bosnian-Serb Republic (RS). The Federation now occupies 51% of Bosnia, while the RS Republic controls the other 49%, each with their own laws.

Since the war ended 16 years ago, the remaining task has been to bring justice to the victims, or their families, by prosecuting and convicting those who committed war crimes. Those commanders who ordered or allowed torture or murder, are individually responsible for breaching the rights of prisoners and civilians, under the Hague and Geneva Conventions.

Although it took 16 years to capture Mladic, there is no Statute of Limitations as to murder. After his extradition to the Netherlands, the judge must give him a few months to prepare for trial, but after that, the court must proceed promptly, as justice delayed is justice denied, and thus far, there has been no justice as to Mladic.

05/24/2011

Arab-Israeli 1967 War In Review

The 1967 Arab-Israeli War started as Israel launched a surprise attack against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. Israel swept through the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula, and on to the Suez Canal, where they broke a blockade by Egypt, in the Gulf of Aqaba, and at the Port of Elath. Following the war, Israel occupied the Sinai (Egypt), the Golan Heights (Syria), East Jerusalem, and the West Bank (Jordan). Up to 250,000 Palestinians became refugees.

Israel was censured by the UN Assembly (99-0, 20 abstentions). The UN Security Council found the taking of land by force illegal, and ordered a “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict” (Res. 242, 1967). The U.S. also asked Israel to withdraw, and barred the use of U.S. economic aid in the occupied areas. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded by Yasir Arafat to resist Israel.

Israel ignored the UN, the U.S., the PLO, and international law, and started re-settling Jewish families in Arab Jerusalem, known as the Old City. The UN warned against changing the legal status of Jerusalem by conquest (Res. 252, 1968). They reminded Israel it is illegal under international law to expropriate land, or forcibly remove civilians (Res. 298, 1971). In a 14-0 vote, the Security Council directed Israel to return occupied East Jerusalem (1971).

Israel instead defiantly proceeded with 44 new settlements in the occupied territories, all started since 1967. 15 were in the Golan Heights, 15 in the West Bank, and 14 in Sinai and Gaza (1972).

Things changed in 1972 following a bombing raid, when the U.S. vetoed a Security Council Resolution censuring Israel. Since then, the U.S. vetoed another 40 odd resolutions critical of Israel. This explains why the Arabs and Muslims dislike U.S. foreign policy.

The Arabs tried to take back the occupied territories in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, but failed, mainly because Israel had superior firepower, supplied by the U.S. The UN nevertheless continued to demand an Israeli withdrawal (Res. 344, 1973).

In 1978, Israeli Prime Minister Begin proved a withdrawal to the 1967 borders could be accomplished. During the Egyptian-Israeli peace process, Egyptian leader Sadat insisted on an Israel withdraw from the occupied Sinai. After Prime Minister Begin, Sadat, and President Carter, signed the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty (1979), Israeli soldiers and civilians withdrew, and peace has existed along the Sinai border ever since.

But the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Golan Heights, and Jerusalem, remained occupied. The UN criticized settlements in the occupied areas, saying they violated the rights of civilians, under the Geneva Convention (Res. 446, 452, 1979, Res. 465, 1980).

When Israeli law was imposed upon Syrians in the occupied Golan Heights, the UN declared the act null and void, citing the Geneva Convention (Res 497, 1981).

In 1985, Arafat said the PLO would accept the Jewish state’s right to exist, if Israel would withdraw to the 1967 borders. The UN again called for a withdrawal, but Israel refused (Res. 592, 1986).

The UN deplored the killing of Palestinians in Jerusalem, and other occupied areas, in violation of the Geneva Convention (Res. 605, 1987). They also ordered Israel to stop deporting Palestinians (Res. 636, 641, ’89; Res. 694, ’91; Res. 726, 799, ‘92).

Another break came in 1994, when Israeli Prime Minister Rabin proved peace was possible, as he and President Clinton reached a agreement with Jordan (1994). After Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli extremist (1995), Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud Party came to power, and the peace process stalled, as Netanyahu lifted a ban on new settlements (1996).

Israel later built a Wall in and around occupied Jerusalem, which the International Court of Justice said was a de facto annexation, in violation civilian rights, under the Geneva Conventions. (2004).

When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, it appeared that more progress was being made, but peace didn’t really have a chance, since Israel closed off all land, sea, or air access to the Gaza Strip, and denied Palestinians of a right to exist with their own leaders.

When President Obama suggested a withdrawal to the 1967 border in the West Bank, Netanyahu rudely lectured him, saying the 1967 line is indefensible. The truth is the current border is indefensible, as it has led to nothing but conflict for 44 years. Netanyahu’s fear-based approach will never work. Once the Palestinians no longer have a reason to be angry about an illegal occupation, only then may Israel enjoy peace and security. Since Netanyahu is unwilling to use the 1967 line, it’s time for a new Israeli leader, preferably one who listens more, and lectures less.

05/04/2011

NATO: Has It Become A Modern UN?

The BBC reported Norwegian fighter planes made strikes against the Libyan capital of Tripoli, as part of a NATO mission. It was refreshing for an American, tired of the U.S. superpower burden, to see a small state like Norway play such a central role. While all member states should be involved in NATO operations, a more basic question now is: Just what is the NATO mission?

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) started out with 12 European and North American states (1949). [i] Soon, Greece and Turkey joined (1952), and Germany hopped on board (1955).  30 years later, Spain enlisted (1982). After the Soviet Union dissolved, Poland, Hungary, the Czechs joined (1999), followed by 7 East European states (2004), [ii] and 2 in the Balkans (2009). [iii]

NATO’s purpose in 1949 was strictly as a defensive treaty group. They agreed that an armed attack against one European or North American member would be considered an attack upon all. In their first 40 years, NATO concerned itself with threats by Russia, but when the Soviet Union dissolved (1991), NATO changed.

As the former Yugoslavia broke up, NATO became proactive, and intervened in Bosnia and Kosovo (a Serb Province), even though no NATO state had been attacked. They downed Bosnian-Serb planes that violated Bosnian no-fly zones (1994), bombed the Bosnian-Serb Army (1995), and acted as a Bosnian peacekeeper, after the Dayton Accord (1996-04). Despite the lack of UN approval, NATO flew missions against Serbia, to protect Kosovo (1999). While NATO’s conduct in the former Yugoslavia was no longer defensive, at least it was still on the European continent.

NATO then expanded their mission once more, as they went global. They entered South Asia, in an Afghan operation (2003); they undertook a training mission in the Mideast, in Iraq (2004); they started policing international waters off East Africa, to ward off Somali pirates (2009); and now, they are enforcing an embargo and no-fly zone in North Africa, against Libya (2011).

With this history of intervention in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Mideast, and clear authority to enter North America, is there any part of the world off limits to NATO? Could they conduct a mission in South America, Australia or Antarctica?

Has NATO effectively become the enforcement arm of the UN? If so, has the UN Security Council become irrelevant? With a NATO membership that consists of only 28 of the world’s 193 independent states, what legitimacy does it have to act around the globe at will? Do the other 165 nations approve of NATO’s unlimited reach? At some point, the world is going to have to reconcile the growth of NATO, at the expense of the UN.


[i] U.S., Canada, Iceland, Britain, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Italy and Portugal

[ii] Estonia, Latvia, Lith., Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria

[iii] Albania, and Croatia

04/13/2011

Gaza and Israel: What’s It All About?

The news again reported that Israeli aircraft and tanks pounded the Gaza Strip in response to a Palestinian rocket attack on an Israeli bus. Although we have heard this kind of news for the past 63 years, many still have no idea why the Israelis and Palestinians have been fighting each other for so long.

The Gaza Strip and Israel both occupy an area in the Mideast that was previously known as Palestine. It was ruled for 400 years by the Turkish Ottoman Empire (1518-1918). In WWI, as the Turks were about to surrender, former British Prime Minister Balfour issued the Balfour Declaration, in which he promised to give the Jewish people a national homeland in Palestine, even though the overwhelming majority of people living there were Arabs (1917).

After Turkey surrendered, the League of Nations gave Britain a mandate to govern Palestine (1920). The English in turn gave the Jews of Europe permission to settle among the Arabs of Palestine. As the percentage of Jews in Palestine rose from 11% in 1922 to 29% in 1939, opposition from the Arab Muslims grew.

After WWII, upon the disclosure of the atrocities against the Jews in Europe, momentum developed for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. The UN partitioned the British mandate in Palestine into two areas, one Jewish, and one Arab (1947). The Palestinians however rejected it, and a civil war began (1947-48).

As the British were about to leave Palestine, Israel declared independence, and triggered the 1st Arab-Israeli War (1948-49). The Arab countries around Palestine tried to stop the creation of Israel, but failed. Israel seized land that had been assigned to the Arabs and made refugees out of 700,000 Palestinians. Following the 1949 Armistice, the UN recognized Israel as a nation-state, but many Arabs refused to acknowledge the new country. After another Arab-Israeli War (1967), Israel built settlements in Gaza and the West Bank, in violation of several UN Resolutions.

Progress was made later as self-rule was granted in Gaza (1993) and Israel transferred some control to the Palestinian National Authority (1994). Although Israel later re-entered Gaza during an Intifada (1999-00), they withdrew again when Mahmud Abbas was elected Palestinian Authority president (2005).

Israel however continued to confine the Palestinians of Gaza by maintaining strict controls over their maritime, air, and land borders. One major complaint today is that the 1.5 million Palestinians of Gaza are effectively prisoners in their own land. The border controls have made their economy desperate at times, which explains why the Palestinians continue to lash out at Israel.

Another complaint is the refusal of Israel to let the Palestinians choose their own leaders, without consequence. When elections were held in 2006, Hamas won, but Israel refused to accept the outcome, even though the process was free, fair and democratic.

Over the last 40 years, the UN Security Council has not acted to correct the situation, because the Israeli lobby controls the U.S. Congress, through campaign contributions supplied by special interest groups. The U.S. vetoed 42 UN Resolutions critical of Israel since 1972, and there is little hope the U.S.-Israeli arrangement will change any time soon. Even the 911 attacks, which were the direct result of the unconditional U.S. support for Israel, did not wake up the American public.

So the violence in the Middle East continues. Disproportionate air and ground attacks are made in response to occasional rocket fire from Gaza, and nothing ever changes. Hopefully, someday, the people in the Mideast themselves will see that the tactics of the past have not worked, and that they need a new approach.

03/30/2011

Iraq War Is Not Same As Libyan Revolt

Some have asked why the left protested against George W. Bush when he invaded and occupied Iraq, but they have not criticized President Obama for using air power, as part of an international coalition, to protect the Libyan people. The answer is the situations are entirely different.

In Iraq, the people were not revolting against Saddam Hussein when President George W. Bush invaded. In Libya, the opposite was true. A popular revolt was in progress, as President Barack Obama joined an international coalition to provide air support.

In Iraq, Bush lied to the American people to get the U.S. involved. Obama, on the other hand, did not make any false or fabricated claims to promote the Libyan mission. Bush used fear tactics in a State of the Union address to scare uninformed Americans into believing Iraq had nuclear weapons and that they were going to be used against the U.S. Bush made his comments while his own CIA was telling him: “Iraq does not have a nuclear weapon or sufficient material to make one.”

While the Iraq War had no approval from the UN, the mission in Libya has received Security Council authorization. Bush tried but could not obtain UN approval for his proposed Iraqi invasion. He sent Sec. of State Colin Powell to convince a skeptical UN that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that were an imminent threat to the U.S. The Bush people warned of a mushroom cloud, but the UN didn’t buy it. Bush invaded Iraq anyway, and violated the UN Charter, which requires states to refrain from the unilateral use of force. Of course, as it turned out, Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction.

In the Iraq War, Bush sent over 100,000 soldiers and Marines to occupy a foreign country. In Libya, Obama made it clear he will not put any boots on the ground. The military occupation of Iraq triggered a bloody guerilla war against U.S. forces. Although most American troops were finally withdrawn, after years of fighting, the U.S. is still paying the price for Bush’s invasion, as there continue to be 50,000 troops on the ground in Iraq.

To sum it up, there was no rebellion in Iraq, but there was one in Libya. Bush lied to get into Iraq, Obama made no false claims. Libya has UN authorization; Bush’s War in Iraq had none. Bush sent ground troops to occupy a foreign country, Obama has not.