Hundreds, if not thousands, of civilian deaths apart, the Obama administration’s drone attacks are, by all means, extrajudicial killings, which international law squarely condemns because such killings are barbaric and in breach of the principles of natural justice. Yet the Harvard law lecturer in the White House has no qualms about extra judicial killing which he, as commander in chief, orders, monitors and acclaims as a success.
Let the Ukrainian crisis oscillate between war and peace; just rewind time or take a journey backward in the time machine. One may lose count of how many times powerful nations have violated the sovereignty of other nations. In this journey, one will see big-time rogue nations plundering the resources of the third world during the colonial era and justifying colonialism on the basis that the civilised were on the mission to civilise the uncivilised.
In this reverse journey through the time machine, one will also see prior to colonialism the emergence of neo-colonialism that continues to the present day and sustains the empire building process. Unlike colonialism, neo-colonialism achieves its goals in subtle ways and, if the necessity arises, the neo-colonialists – mostly the countries of the West -- even resort to military intervention.
In the post-World War II era when human rights are considered inalienable, state sovereignty is regarded as inviolable and democracy is seen as the cornerstone of civilized political behaviour, both the West and the Soviet Union have resorted to military interventions to pursue their political, economic, military and even socio-cultural and ideological goals.
But in truth, human rights, state sovereignty and democracy are subservient to the national interests of powerful nations, for whom political hypocrisy is an international relations mantra. These powerful nations of the West classify interventions as good and bad. If they intervene in the affairs of another country, it becomes good intervention which is morally and politically correct. But if their political rivals do the same, then it becomes bad intervention, which is condemned as outright obscenity. When Iraq invaded Kuwait, on the grounds that the Gulf state was once a province of Iraq during the Ottoman rule, the invasion was denounced as a violation of Kuwait’s sovereignty. But years later when the West invaded Iraq on the pretext of searching for non-existent weapons of mass destruction, it was hailed as morally correct.
When the Soviet Union intervened in Hungary in 1956, sent troops to Czechoslovakia in 1968 and occupied Afghanistan throughout the 1980s, it was accused of being an oppressor and an expansionist. Decades later, when the West intervened in the Yugoslav crisis, the Kosovo conflict and invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and militarily intervened in Libya, it justified its action on grounds of morality or in terms of the Responsibility-to-Protect (R2P) doctrine.
The hypocrisy of the West knows no bounds and is blatantly evident in the ongoing Ukrainian crisis. How can the West denounce Russia for sending troops into Crimea when the West itself stands accused of illegally invading Iraq, Grenada and Panama and giving warped interpretations to -- or misinterpreting to its advantage -- UN resolutions to invade many other countries? No less a person than Kofi Annan, the United Nations Secretary General at the time the US launched its war on Iraq in 2003, described the Iraq invasion as illegal because it did not have the approval of the United Nations Security Council.
It is outrageous when United States President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry preach international law to Russia when Washington itself shows scant respect for it. Ask Pakistan whether it has any count of the number of times Obama’s drones have violated its sovereignty or whether Washington sought permission before sending US Navy SEALs to raid al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad. Wasn’t Obama violating international law when he launched drone attacks on targets in Yemen and Somalia?
Hundreds, if not thousands, of civilian deaths apart, the Obama administration’s drone attacks are, by all means, extrajudicial killings, which international law squarely condemns because such killings are barbaric and in breach of the principles of natural justice. Yet the Harvard law lecturer in the White House has no qualms about extra judicial killing which he, as commander in chief, orders, monitors and acclaims as a success. The suspects are simply eliminated. Whether they are the real culprits or whether they are innocent is immaterial. If captured, they are denied the due process of the law and kept in detention under inhuman conditions in the Guantanamo Bay gulag.
When the ICRC told the US to observe the Geneva conventions on the treatment of prisoners, the US in a vulgar display of hubris spurned the advice by saying that the detainees were not prisoners of war but unlawful combatants. If Obama shouts “Crimea, Crimea,” the parrot perched on the White House oak tree will scream “Grenada, Grenada, Panama, Panama” and will be gasping for breath after completing the long list of countries – easily more than 50 – where the US has militarily or by other means intervened.
If Washington needs to be a preacher of international law, it must first learn to respect and observe international law. Otherwise, it will be like one robber telling another robber that robbing is a crime and immoral. The preacher-robber gives such advice with an ulterior motive so that he can rob what the other robber has planned to rob. Similarly, the West thinks that it violates international law for a greater cause – and mind you, it is the West which defines what a greater cause is -- and argues that in modern international law such violations are even encouraged. The greater cause is often related to the so-called war on terrorism, a euphemism for the West’s agenda to dominate the rest of the world, militarily, politically and financially.
The West’s hypocrisy is also evident when it recognises the illegitimate government of President Oleksandr Turchynov in Ukraine, but cries foul when Ukraine’s autonomous Crimea region appoints a pro-Russian new Prime Minister through a similar unconstitutional process.
Hypocrisy is part of political realism. If the end justifies the means, there is no question of morality. In international relations, the end often relates to the national interest-driven goals or the goals of global capitalists.
In the case of Ukraine, the Western countries’ national interest driven goal appears to be the weakening of Russia, the world’s second largest nuclear power. Ukraine is just the first major step towards it. Russia is not unaware of the West’s plans. It has dealt a crushing blow to the West’s attempt to infiltrate Central Asia. But it did so with the help of China. Strangely, in the Ukrainian crisis, China has expressed only cautious support to Russia. Probably Beijing is caught between its huge investments in Ukraine and its strategic friendship with Moscow.
A Reuter report on Tuesday said Chinese President Xi Jinping told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that Beijing supported a political settlement to the Ukraine crisis in coordination with other parties.
Describing the situation in Ukraine as “highly complicated and sensitive”, with regional and global implications, Xi said during a telephone call late on Tuesday that “the situation in Ukraine, which seems to be accidental, has the elements of the inevitable”.
Russia in a statement said that Putin and Xi expressed hope that “the steps taken by the Russian leadership will allow for the reduction of ... tension and provide for the security of Russian-speaking citizens living in Crimea and the eastern regions of Ukraine”.
While hectic diplomatic efforts aimed at de-escalating the situation are taking place in key capitals of the world, Russia appears to be willing to give diplomacy a chance. With the situation in Ukraine being compared to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis which brought the world dangerously close to an all-out nuclear war, a solution through diplomacy is the only answer. The Cuban missile crisis was solved when US President John F. Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev secretly worked out a formula for a face-saving exit for both sides. In terms of this deal, the US agreed to withdraw its missiles from bases in Turkey in exchange for the Soviets withdrawing their missiles from Cuba.
The Ukrainian crisis would not have deteriorated to a perilous situation where a nuclear war is a possibility, if the west had not granted recognition to the new government in Kiev. If only the West had condemned the coup and called on the putschists to restore the legitimate government of Viktor Yanukovych, such a move would have won Russia’s confidence. A subsequent election within three months could have sorted out the issue of whether the Ukrainians wanted a pro-West government or a pro-Russian government.
While hectic diplomatic efforts aimed at de-escalating the situation are taking place in key capitals of the world, Russia appears to be willing to give diplomacy a chance. With the situation in Ukraine being compared to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis which brought the world dangerously close to an all-out nuclear war, a solution through diplomacy is the only answer.
Instead of bolstering the illegitimate regime in Kiev with billion dollar aid packages, the West should work out a deal with Russia to set up a neutral government and take confidence-building measures to restore the status quo ante and avoid taking the world to a nuclear confrontation.
At present, Moscow is apprehensive of the West’s intrusion into Russia’s western backyard and its fears are legitimate too, given the West’s greed for power and desire to dominate the world. Moscow feels that if the Ukrainian crisis is not solved in its favour, the day is not far away for a Ukrainian-type putsch in Russia. Yesterday’s vote in the Crimean parliament in favour of holding a referendum within ten days to decide whether the region should join Russia or Ukraine shows that Moscow is not going to take things lying down.