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Whats Left? Do the Right Thing! Whats That?


Humanitarian,  progressive, and left inclined people and organizations are
engaging in some serious soul searching  about why so many of their
brethren and comrades have fallen by the wayside or worse are now lining
up behind the  United States and others' governments and NATO bombing of
civilians in Yugoslavia. Our friends seem to think that the leopard has
suddenly changed its spots to 'defend humanitarianism.' This issue split
the recent Socialist Scholars Conference in New York, whose co-chairs were
themselves split on this issue. Z-Net has requested its members and others
also to address the reasons for this split elsewhere in the left.

I have myself already posed - if not disposed of - this problem in an
April 5 posting [Znet,Jays,WSN, etc] on NATO violation of international
law and the urgent need to preserve it, however deficient it may be,
as the best  thing we have in the defense of human rights internationally.
Of course, that does not diminish the importance also of relying on 
national state laws where they do and can to defend  human rights. 
I wrote in part 

"It is therefore alarming indeed that today many individuals who are well
meaning but perhaps lack some  sophistication in international law [as
does the present writer as well], let  themselves be led down the garden
path in the name of humanitarianism. [The utter hypocrisy behind the
official claims to that effect are examined in a parallel note on NATO
Hypocrisy]. Even more alarming is that some major human rights
organizations of long international experience now fall in line with those
who suddenly and hypocritically appeal to such law only to further their
own narrow political economic interests. …. More alarming is the position
even of Amnesty International [AI] and Human Rights Watch [HRW] among
other humanitarian organizations, who have long found ample reason to be
critical of the powers that be for violating human rights. Now AI and HRW
suddenly support  these same powers in their own flagrant violation of
human rights in the name protecting them. The situation was already well
put in the days of Richard Nixon regarding Vietnam :We have to destroy it
to save it. An AI release reads "violations of human rights lie at the
heart of the current conflict in Kosovo" Human Rights Watch has also
pressed the cause of military intervention, using their Kosovo Human
Rights Flash to draw attention to Serbian abuses. After a week of
unrelenting missile attacks in Yugoslavia and Kosovo, none of the Human
Rights Watch reports included any tallies of civilian casualties from the
NATO bombings…."

Further to address this important issue I can  literally do no better 
than to quote at length from Diane Johnstone, who deals with the same as
part of a still much longer historical analysis of the situation in 

Politics, Media and the Ideology of Globalization
by Diana Johnstone
The document below is too long to post in its entirety, so here are some
excerpts [thanks to Jan Slakov], and the entire document will be posted
on the Science for Peace website at www.math.yorku.ca/sfp/

Diana Johnstone was the European editor of "In These Times" from 1979 to
1990, and press officer of the Green group in the European Parliament from
1990 to 1996. She is the author of "The Politics of Euromissiles: Europe
in America's World" (London/New York, Versa Schucken, 1984) and is currently
working on a book on the former Yugoslavia. This article is an expanded
version of a talk given on May 25, 1998, at an international conference on
media held in Athens, Greece.

Down with the State

This ideology is the expression in moralistic terms of the dominant
project for reshaping the world since the United States emerged as 
sole superpower after the defeat of communism and collapse of the 
Soviet Union. United States foreign policy for over a century has been
dictated by a single over-riding concern: to open world markets to 
American capital and American enterprise. Today this project is 
triumphant as "economic globalization".

For all its shortcomings, the nation-state is still the political level
most apt to protect citizens' welfare and the environment from the 
destructive expansion of global markets. Dismissing the nation-state 
as an anachronism, or condemning it as a mere expression of 
"nationalist" exclusivism, overlooks and undermines its long-standing
legitimacy as the focal point of democratic development, in which 
citizens can organize to define and defend their interests.

The irony is that many well-intentioned idealists are unwittingly helping
to advance this project by eagerly promoting its moralistic cover a
theoretical global democracy that should replace attempts to strengthen
democracy at the supposedly obsolete nation-state level.   
This has much to do with the privatization of "the left" in the past
twenty years or so. The United States has led the way in this trend. Mass
movements aimed at overall political action have declined, while
single-issue movements have managed to continue. The single-issue
movements in turn engender nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) which,
because of the requirements of fund-raising, need to adapt their causes to
the mood of the times, in other words, to the dominant ideology to the
media. Massive fund-raising is easiest for victims, using appeals to
sentiment rather than to reason. Greenpeace has found that it can raise
money more easily for baby seals than for combatting the development of
nuclear weapons. This fact of life steers NGO activity in certain
directions, away from political analysis toward sentiment. On another
level, the NGOs offer idealistic internationalists a rare opportunity to
intervene all around the world in matters of human rights and human
NGOs and NATO, hand-in-hand

In former Yugoslavia, and especially in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Western NGOs
have found a justifying role for themselves alongside NATO. They gain
funding and prestige from the situation. Local employees of Western NGOs
gain political and financial advantages over other local people, and
"democracy" is not the peoples choice but whatever meets with approval of
outside donors. This breeds arrogance. among the outside benefactors, and
cynicism among local people, who have the choice between opposing the
outsiders or seeking to manipulate them. It is an unhealthy situation, and
some of the most self-critical are aware of the dangers.
Perhaps the most effectively arrogant NGO in regard to former Yugoslavia
is the Vienna office of Human Rights Watch/Helsinki. On September 18,
1997, that organization issued a long statement announcing in advance that
the Serbian elections to be held three days later 'Will be neither free
nor fair." This astonishing intervention was followed by a long list of
measures that Serbia and Yugoslavia must carry- out or else", and that the
international community must take to discipline Serbia and Yugoslavia.

And herein lies a new danger. Just as the "civilizing mission" of bringing
Christianity to the heathen provided a justifying pretext for imperialist
conquest of Asia and Africa in the past, today the protection of "human
rights" may be the cloak for a new type of imperialist military
intervention worldwide.

Certainly, human rights are an essential concern of the left. Moreover,
many individuals committed to worthy causes have turned to NGOs as the
only available alternative to the decline of mass movements - a decline
over which they have no control. Even a small NGO addressing a problem is
no doubt better than nothing at all. The point is that great vigilance is
needed, in this as in all other endeavours, to avoid letting good
intentions be manipulated to serve quite contrary purposes.

In a world now dedicated to brutal economic rivalry, where the rich get
richer and the poor get poorer, human rights abuses can only increase.
>From this vast array of mans inhumanity to man, Western media and
governments are unquestionably more concerned about human rights abuses
that obstruct the penetration of transnational capitalism ...

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