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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Western Media hypocrisy regarding the Russian annexation of Crimea

NATO and the USA in particular is progressively getting more aggressive toward Russia. Before this weeks G20 summit, NATO sources told us they had alleged proof that Russia has invaded. That this "proof" is on very shaky grounds, and that NATO has refused to give any concrete evidence for it (besides photos that might be in Ukrainian territory depicting what might be Russian tanks) is no surprise. Media reports this as truth, just as it widely reported that Iraq probably has weapons of mass destruction. It is seeking to militarily target Russia by building up military bases in Eastern Europe. A bill passed in May this year entitled the " Russian Aggression Prevention Act of 2014" gives the following guidelines:
[The bill provides provides] major non-NATO ally status for Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova (during the period in which each of such countries meets specified criteria) for purposes of the transfer or possible transfer of defense articles or defense services. 
Directs the President to increase: (1) U.S. Armed Forces interactions with the armed forces of Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia; and (2) U.S and NATO security assistance to such states.
The reason for this is the "Russian Federation's illegal annexation of Crimea". And as probably everyone knows, Russia did not exactly follow the standards proscribed by international law when it came to this territorial breach over Ukraine's legal borders. Even if they could possibly claim the land as historically theirs, they did not seek international approval of this.

But there is a striking hypocrisy regarding this issue, in the context of global issues surrounding international law in general. The Telegraph, which has almost unanimously reported negatively about the Russian annexation, recently wrote an article on the US bombings in Syria and Iraq. Very convincingly, it proves that the US bombings, just like the NATO bombings in Serbia in 1999, are illegal. But, shockingly, it arrives at the conclusion that it is justified:

Not for the first time, the United States has acted illegally in using force in response to overriding humanitarian necessity. It did so in March 1999, when along with its Nato allies it launched an extended bombing campaign to stop atrocities by Serbian forces against civilians in Kosovo. In this case also, the United States could not claim it was acting in self-defence. Nor was military action authorised by the UN Security Council. Whilst there was just cause, humanitarian necessity is not recognised in international law as constituting a legal ground for use of force. Thus, among the Nato allies, only Belgian claimed a legal right to use force for humanitarian reasons. 
State opinion was divided following Nato's war in 1999. Many states, especially western, recognised the legitimacy of Nato's actions even if few recognised the legality. Russia and China attempted to pass a UN Security Council condemning the Nato bombing as illegal. A year later, in April 2000, the G77 group of 133 non-industrialised states issued a statement rejecting the “so-called right of humanitarian intervention.” Not much has changed since 1999. Indeed, if anything, attempts by the Bush administration to claim a right of preventive self-defence and fallout over the dubious legality of the 2003 Iraq War, have hardened most states’ views against accepting the legality of humanitarian wars. 
There is an added strategic imperative, in that Isil military advances threaten the viability of the Iraqi state, in which the United States has much invested, and threaten the stability of the wider region. This is underlined by the involvement of five Arab states – Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – in the strikes against Isil in Syria' .
The upshot is that US strikes against ISIL in Syria are probably illegal but widely recognised as legitimate. We are likely to see a rerun of what happened in 1999. Some states may seek to reaffirm the illegality of using force for humanitarian ends or to otherwise interfere in the internal affairs of states. However, most states will welcome this necessary action and simply stay silent on the question of legality.
The effects of "illegal but justified" humanitarianism in Kosovo.
Thus, the Western media is completely comfortable in backing the US bombings, because of their alleged humanitarian purpose. The international community is expected to simply accept the US own definition of what kind of intervention is humanitarian or not, without any legal backing and definition of due process. The US is supposed to be respected as a sort of Batman of Global Politics, taking the law into their own hands when international legal institutions fail to effectively fight evil crimes. It is of course based on the United States own definition of what is right and wrong - again, sort of like Batmans approach to "cleaning the streets of Gotham from the scum". Now, while Western media accepts all this, it is very suspicious that they do not accept Russia doing the same. The annexation of Crimea was, according to the Russians, a response to the threat of fascism in Ukraine. Was Putin taking on the role of the Protection of the Russian Gotham somehow just a product of Putins subjective definitions of fascism and ethnic persecution?
Crimean Independence Referrendum

The fact it that Russia has a higher claim to meddle in the politics of Crimea than the US ever had to go anywhere near the Middle East. Crimea always belonged to Russia - it was arbitrarily given away to the Ukraine SSR in 1954. Although the official language of Crimea up until the annexation was Ukrainian, only one tenth of Crimean are actually Ukrainian-speaking. Crimea never historically or socially identified with Ukraine. When Crimea voted on independence from Ukraine in 1991, 94.30% voted Yes. In the Ukrainian independence referendum of the same year, Crimea was the region to most strongly oppose Ukrainians independence, with also the lowest voter turnout of all the regions. All these things indicate that regardless of the validity of the Crimean election to join Russia according to international standards, the results probably do accurately represent the self-determination of the Crimean people. And the absence of any major reporting on popular resistance in Crimea is telling.

Syrian citizens checking a damaged house that they say was targeted by the coalition airstrikes
Effects of US airstrikes, Syria
For the Syrians, their experiences of the US humanitarian intervention aren't as positive. Civilian death tolls have risen in with the US bombings, and the effects are devastating. An article published on Common Dreams gives us the description of one Syrian 20 year old students story:

“There are no words to describe the bombing. It was a scene I wouldn’t wish my worst enemy to face. I was on the balcony with my little sister and we could hear the sound of planes and I was joking with her and said: ‘Comb your hair and smile, you are being filmed.’
 “Later the bombing started and we all ran to the living room, everyone screaming and running in different directions. We didn’t know what to do. Our neighbour went to the hospital and asked if they needed blood and they said no because they haven’t got any injuries. Most people who left their homes live near Isis headquarters. We won’t leave our home. There is no point. We believe in destiny.”
Later on they quote Abu Ibrahim, a Raqqa resident opposed to Isis:
"Islamic State want these air strikes," he says, "because they know if it's just air strikes without forces on the ground, they will not fall down, and a lot of fighters will join them to fight the Americans."
While the Russian annexation might be illegal, we also know that the US invasion of Syria is illegal, but these violations of international law are not judged objectively and fairly. In both cases there are clear economic ulterior motives behind the incursions - Russian control over natural gas-supply and US control over Middle-Eastern oil and internal economy of Syria. But the fact remains that the severity of the Russian annexation is vastly overstated, while the human effects, sheer amount of violence and possible negative effects of the US bombings are vastly under-reported. The Western media can talk all it wants about "Putinist propaganda" - the fact is that throughout the Western reports on both Russia and Syria, the claims to objectivity are on the shakiest grounds yet. 


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