Humanitarian Intervention and the 'Responsibility To Protect' After September 11

A-M Johannessen, 3 July, 2008


Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the so-called ‘war on terrorism’, questions concerning national security, pre-emptive war, self-defense, threats to international peace and security as well as questions of what legitimizes humanitarian intervention have been in focus. Issues concerning sovereignty and humanitarian intervention are some of the most contested, controversial and difficult issues in international relations.
Humanitarian intervention is defined as “coercive measures by outside military forces to ensure access to civilians or the protection of rights without the consent of local political authorities.” (Weiss, 2005, p.xxxix) The humanitarian intervention debate is now framed in relation to the principle of the ‘responsibility to protect’ developed by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) and published in December 2001. The principle and practice of the international community’s ‘responsibility to protect’ is essential in order to rescue people from slaughter and mass killings when the sovereign state itself is unable or unwilling to do so. However, the international community is divided on the issue of coercive intervention for the purpose of human protection in cases of mass killings and genocide.

This essay is looking at the responses to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which included the emphasize on security, waging a ‘war on terror’ and expanding imperial power, while claiming to act according to humanitarian concerns. Considering this, the essay will ask whether the moral rhetoric and humanitarian rationale used in the invasions of Iraq (2003) and Afghanistan (2001) simply masked geopolitical, strategic and imperialistic motives in the ‘war on terror’ and what the likely consequences of the misuse of the humanitarian agenda are. That is, what likely consequences do this have for the doctrine and practice of humanitarian intervention and the ‘responsibility to protect’ now and in the future?
The essay will be discussing the notion of humanitarian intervention being misused by powerful states to exploit less powerful states.
It will also look at the case of the genocide in Darfur and argue that the people of Darfur, among others, are now the victims of the post- September 11 climate, with its focus on security and strategic interests in the co- called ‘war on terrorism’.
Thorough analyses of the obstacles which prevent the practice of the ‘responsibility to protect’ as well as strategies for how this principle can be translated from theory into practice are strongly needed in order to prevent genocide in the future.

Humanitarian intervention and the ‘war on terrorism’

The terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, and subsequent changes to geopolitics and international relations, seem to have led to a shift in the attitude towards humanitarian intervention.
Beside the UN, it is the United States which is most powerful and capable of carrying out or contributing significantly to a humanitarian intervention in the case of genocide. However, following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the US along with other Western countries, have been increasingly concerned with national security and with fighting a ‘war on terror’. (Acharya, 2007, Kurth, 2005) It can be argued that after 9/11, the US foreign policy has been increasingly militant, and has acted in disregard of global treaties, international law and the UN. (Boggs, 2005, Acharya, 2005) An example of this is the Iraq war, which was claimed to be waged as part of the ‘war on terror’. This case will be discussed later in the essay. The use of the humanitarian imperative in the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as its consequences for the doctrine of humanitarian intervention needs to be examined. There have been claims of a ‘new imperialism’ in US foreign policy warfare following September 11. (Boggs, 2005) The question is whether the ‘war on terror’ and the humanitarian discourse are simply being used as new propaganda masking the real motives for waging war. What possible consequences does waging war motivated by strategic interests and power politics have for populations in urgent need for real humanitarian protection?

The post-cold war era saw an increased focus on the human rights agenda as well as the question of the right to coercive military action for the purpose of protecting civilians at risk within sovereign states and the enforcement of human rights norms by the international society. (Hurrell, 1999, Int. Crisis group, 2004) There were an increased concern for human rights and for the need to intervene in cases of genocide and mass human rights violations. There was also an increase in international activism to promote human rights and to end wars and oppression. (Human Security Report, 2005) After the Cold War, the UN was engaged in an increasing number of peacekeeping operations and peace- building initiatives, thus there was a decrease in number of armed conflicts, civil wars and genocide according to the Human Security Report in 2005. It also reported fewer cased of human rights abuses. This accounts to significant efforts made by the UN and other humanitarian agencies in the name of human rights and justice in the 1990’s.
Humanitarian concerns, including mass violations of human rights was regarded as posing a ‘threat to international peace and security’ and thus justified taking action according to chapter VII of the UN Charter. (Hurrell, 1999, Bellamy, 2005) This lead to Security Council resolutions authorising interventions into counties troubled by civil war, unrest and humanitarian crisis. (Hurrell, 1999, Bellamy, 2005)
The end of the 1990’s saw the establishment of the ICC, trial for Milosevic in the Hague, the Arusha trial for perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide, a tribunal in Sierra Leone and an international criminal court in East Timor. (Robertson, 2002)
However, the 1990’s suffered some big failures regarding humanitarian intervention to end genocide and mass killings, especially in Rwanda (1994), Somalia (1992/95) and Bosnia (1992/95). Consequently, a lot of effort was focused on how to make humanitarian intervention more effective and successful in future cases.
Analysis of so- called humanitarian interventions in the 1990’s, show the dilemmas, inconsistencies and controversies that characterised these operations. (Weiss, 2005, Wheeler, 2000) The interventions often failed to protect parts of the civilian populations from being killed, and sometimes also caused more harm. (Weiss, 2005, Abbott, 2005, Bricmont, 2006) For example, the humanitarian intervention in Somalia in 1992/94 called ‘Operation Restore Hope’ failed to save many lives. Altogether, 168 UN soldiers and military personnel and 136 personnel were killed. (Weiss, 2005) Also, it is estimated that 10 000 Somalis were killed or injured as a direct consequence of the intervention. (Weiss, 2005) In 1994 troops were withdrawn due to the level of violence as well as news footage of dead American troops. (De Waal, 2007) Following the failure of Somalia, the US National Security Council created a Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) in March 1994, which stated that US forces should not be engaged except from reasons of the gravest national interest. (De Waal, 2007) The reluctance to get involved in order to stop the genocide in Rwanda, which happened only a few weeks after the PDD was signed, can be seen in connection to the 1992/94 failure of the intervention in Somalia. (Falk, 1999, De Waal, 2007)
In 1993/95 the UN and NATO forces intervened in Bosnia in order to end the Serbs ethic cleansing of the Bosnian and Croatian Serbs. (Weiss, 2005) It failed in creating a secure environment for the victims of ethnic cleansing. Also, there were many casualties among the UN soldiers. (Weiss, 2005) There were also UN authorised interventions in Haiti in 1994, following unrest and humanitarian crisis. (Weiss, 2005) A military intervention in Kosovo, was undertaken by NATO forces without UN authorisation in 1999, in order to prevent the Serbs from continuing mass killings of Kosovar Albanians. (Weiss, 2005)

It can be questioned whether humanitarian interventions in the past were motivated by other concerns than the protection and rescuing of human lives. There are often other motives than purely humanitarian ones when a government decides to intervene to save people from harm. (HRW, 2004) There are likely to be some overriding strategic motives for military action. For example, in the case of Haiti, it can be argued that the US government wanted to remove Haiti’s president Aristide partly because his policies were not good for right wing business and for US business, as he did not implement neo- liberal economic policies. (Laurent, 2004) It has also been argued that the human rights situation in Haiti worsened following the removal of Aristide from power. (Laurent, 2004)
There is always a dilemma that interventions by military force might fail to end killings and suffering, and might actually cause more harm, which will be discussed later in the essay. Also, it is important to consider that military action only has short- term beneficial effects, and that additional strategies are needed in order to address long- term consequences of the conflict, promote development and social, political and economic change. (Belloni, 2006, Evans, 2004, Robertson, 2002) It is crucial that the dominating motive leading a humanitarian intervention is the protection of vulnerable populations and to halt or evert suffering. (ICISS, 2001, HRW, 2004) Intervention by a broad- based, multilateral force is less likely to act according to the interests of one state or just a few states, and is therefore preferred over unilateral intervention. (Hurrell, 1999)

Although the international community have failed in the commitment to save human lives, like in the case of Rwanda, the issue and the importance of the doctrine of humanitarian intervention received a lot of attention. (Int. Crisis group, 2004, Weiss, 2005) For example, in the Journal of Ethics and International Affairs, issues concerning humanitarian intervention comprised nearly half of the articles by the end of the 1990’s. (Weiss, 2004) However, following September 11 2001 this trend shifted. Articles about humanitarian intervention declined significantly while articles about pre- emptive war and the ‘war on terrorism’ increased. (Weiss, 2004) Similarly, the focus in international relations shifted largely from a humanitarian concern to a focus on fighting the ‘war on terrorism’. (Belloni, 2006, Weiss, 2004)

In Somalia in 1992-94 the UN Security Council decided that the ‘human tragedy’ alone represented a ‘threat to international peace and security’ which warrants the use of military forces. (UN resolution 794) Bellamy (2004, p.70) claims that “By the mid- 1990’s there was widespread recognition of the legitimacy of humanitarian intervention sanctioned by the Security Council.” In 1999 Tony Blair claimed that “sovereignty is not a veil that human rights abuses can hide behind”. (Blair, 1999) Also, in early 2001, Tony Blair spoke about “a ‘moral duty’ to provide international military and humanitarian action in countries anywhere”. (BBC, 2001) In 1999, then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan talked about “two sovereignties”: one of states and one of human beings. (Annan, 1999) In a Nobel Peace Prize speech in 2001 he said that “the sovereignty of states must no longer be used as a shield for gross violations of human rights.” (Annan, 2001) This lead to the call for the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS), which was formed on initiative from the Canadian Government in September 2000, to address these issues. The report called the ‘responsibility to protect’, which the ICISS had been working on throughout 2001 and released in December 2001, is addressing the notion of sovereignty versus intervention and attempting to create moral and legal legitimacy for the norm of intervention. It shifts the focus from a ‘right to humanitarian intervention’ to a ‘responsibility to protect’, thus emphasizing the international community’s moral responsibility to protect citizens all over the world. (ICISS, 2001, Potter, 2006) The principle of the ‘responsibility to protect’, which will be discussed later in the essay, shifts the focus from the rights of sovereign states to fundamental human rights of all peoples and claims that “human rights concerns transcend claims of sovereignty.” (Weiss, 2005, p.21, ICISS, 2001) However, following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, occurring just before the release of the ‘responsibility to protect’ document, changes to international affairs and politics soon became evident.
The terrorist attacks to New York and Washington led the Bush Administration to describe terrorism as “the greatest threat to peace in our time.” (Acharya, 2007) It led the UN Security Council to declare terrorism a ‘threat to international peace and security’. (UN resolution 1368) Consequently, there was an increased focus on national security by the world’s superpower, the US and it’s close allies, against the perceived transnational ‘threat of terrorism’. (Kurth, 2005, HRW, 2004, Acharya, 2007)
Following the September 11 terrorist attacks, the US formed the American National Security Strategy (NSS) in September 2002. The NSS is about US national security and the use of force in dealing with the ‘new threat’, that is, international terrorism. The NSS (2002, p.5) states that “The United States of America is fighting a war against terrorists of global reach. The enemy is not a single political regime or person or religion or ideology. The enemy is terrorism – premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against innocents.” It claims that “forming coalitions of the willing and cooperative security arrangements are key to confronting these emerging transnational threats.” (NSS, 2002, p.11)
The so-called ‘war on terror’ raises the debate of sovereignty, national security and protection of human rights. Sovereignty is being limited due to a national security consideration, rather than a consideration of human rights and human security, which the pre- 9/11 period focused on. (Acharya, 2007, NSS, 2002)
The NSS expresses the unlikeliness of using military force to protect abused populations. It claims that diplomatic and peaceful means will be used to protect human rights. (NSS, 2002) The NSS, also called the Bush doctrine, claims the right to use force against threats to national security. It states that “as a matter of common sense and self-defense, America will act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed.” (NSS, 2002, p.v) Thus, the NSS is about he US’s right to use military force preventively whenever there is a perceived threat to US national security. (NSS, 2002, Acharya, 2007) It is also about the use of force to prevent any challenge to US domination. (NSS, 2002, Chomsky, 2005) It also states that the US will “strengthen alliances to defeat global terrorism and work to prevent attacks against our friends”. (NSS, 2002, p.1) The National Security Strategy is linking the ‘axis of evil’ (Iraq, Iran and North Korea) with the ‘war on terrorism’ and argues that the threat of terrorism justifies pre-emptive self-defense. It argues that the terrorist threat cannot easily be identified and thus represents an ‘imminent threat’, which calls for a broad understanding of self- defense. (NSS, 2002, Bellamy, 2004) This broad understanding of self-defense can be dangerous as it tries to legitimatize war and unilateral intervention which is illegal according to International Law. Farer (2003, p.82) claims that the Bush Doctrine “simply cannot be contained within the UN Charter norms which have served as the framework of international relations for the part half century.” Also, Boggs (2005, p.42) claims that the Bush Doctrine is attempting to override “the UN Charter and international law in pursuit of higher ends justified by the war on terrorism.” Thus, the NSS raises issues of the legitimate use of force as well as the lack of adherence to the UN Charter and international law and to the concept of Westphalian sovereignty. (Chomsky, 2005, Farer, 2003, Boggs, 2005) It raises the issue of the use of ‘axis of evil’ and the ‘war on terror’ being used as excuse for expanding US militarism and world domination. (Boggs, 2005, Chomsky, 2005)
Using the word ‘evil’ and ‘terrorism’ is part of war propaganda. Chomsky claims that Pentagon’s definition of terrorism which is “the resort to coercion or violence against a civilian population in order to achieve political, religious or other ends,” actually makes the US itself fit the definition of a terrorist state. (Chomsky, 2001- Great speeches, radio) He argues that terrorism always means “acts of terrorism that we don’t approve of”. Thus ‘terrorist’ is a name we give ‘the other’, someone we consider an ‘enemy’, who thus is labelled ‘evil’, and therefore someone one should not try to understand, just condemn. Labelling the enemy a ‘terrorist’ is a form of demonization, which denounces all attempts to try to understand the enemy, or even let the perspective of the enemy be heard. For example, Richard Perle talked about decontexualising terror and said that “any attempt to discuss terrorism is an attempt to justify it. It simply needs to be fought and destroyed.” (in Lynch and McGoldrick, 2008) To label someone a terrorist is being used to label ‘enemies’ of the West, similar to the way that ‘communist’ was used to label the enemy in the Cold War era. (Bricmont, 2005) All the propaganda surrounding the use of ‘terrorism’ aims to create fear. Thus it can convince people and populations that fighting a ‘war on terror’ is the right thing to do.

Both the war in Afghanistan and in Iraq were claimed to be waged as part of the so- called ‘war on terrorism’. The notion of national security was claimed to be a motivating factor for intervening into these countries. (Bush, 2002, Bellamy, 2006, HRW, 2004)
The primary goal of the US war in Afghanistan was to overthrow the Taliban regime and to destroy al Qaeda as part of the so-called ‘war on terror’. However, the Bush Administration also claimed the importance of liberating the Afghan people from the brutal regime of Taliban. (Bush, 2002, HRW, 2004, Weiss, 2005) For example, after the US Military and the NATO forces invaded Afghanistan and overthrew the Taliban regime, Bush talked about the Afghan women and girls being liberated from brutal oppression and finally being free to go to work and school. (Bush, 2002)
Also, the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, was justified as a liberation of the Iraqi people from the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, both before and after the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) as well as the links to al Qaeda were not found. (Bush, 2002, 2003, HRW, 2004, Weiss, 2005) The Bush Administration communicated that they had a responsibility to liberate the people of Iraq from Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship and to establish liberal democracy. In a speech in 2003, president Bush said that and that “America and our allies are called once again to defend the peace against an aggressive tyrant, and we accept this responsibility. ….We will liberate the people of Iraq from a cruel and violent dictator”. (The Washington File, 2003) He also said “We don't believe freedom and liberty are America's gift to the world; we believe they are the Almighty's gift to mankind, ……and for the oppressed people of Iraq, people whose lives we care about, the day of freedom is drawing near." (The Washington File, 2003)
In September 2002, Bush said that “Iraq continues to commit extremely grave violations of human rights, and that the regime's repression is all pervasive.” The humanitarian imperative was also evident when he said that “we turn to the urgent duty of protecting other lives, without illusion and without fear.” (Bush, 2002) In relation to Iraq, Bush claimed in a speech at the White House, that “it is both our responsibility and our privilege to fight freedom's fight.” (Bush, 2002)
Also then UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, spoke of his moral conviction for going to war against Iraq, in a speech in 2003. He claimed that “The moral case against war has a moral answer: it is the moral case for removing Saddam. It is not the reason we act. That must be according to the UN mandate on weapons of mass destruction. But it is the reason, frankly, why if we do have to act, we should do so with a clear conscience”. (Blair, 2003) In a Security Council meeting in March 2003, a representative form the US talked about “meeting the humanitarian needs of the people of Iraq”. (UN, S/PV.4721, 2003) However, it soon became evident that humanitarian concerns were not a motive at all. It is documented that the doctrine of humanitarian intervention was used as an pretext for the Iraq 2003 invasion before and especially after no weapons of mass destruction were found and it could not be proved that there existed any links between the al Qaeda network and Iraq. (Bello, 2006, Weiss, 2004, HRW, 2004) Much evidence suggests that the invasion of Iraq was carried out without concern for the Iraqi people. (HRW, 2004, UNHCR, 2008) Had there been any concern for the humanitarian situation, they would have offered more security and help to the Iraqi population, while overturning the Iraqi government. (HRW, 2004, UNHCR, 2008) They would have put more resources to state building and to ensure the welfare, wellbeing, opportunities and security for the Iraqi people. (HRW, 2004) Instead civilians were “killed when coalition troops – on edge in the face of regular resistance attacks, many perfidious – mistakenly fired on civilians.” (HRW, 2004, p.7) Naturally this provoked the resistant groups to increase further attacks against the coalition forces. (HRW, 2004)
In a humanitarian intervention, the troops are supposed to protect civilians, not endanger them. Thus, humane activities and policing skills are important, something which was lacking among the coalition troops in Iraq, which had primarily been trained to fight and use lethal force. (HRW, 2004, Dexter, 2008) According to Human Rights Watch Report (2004, p.8), the US dropped bombs following suggestions that a resistance leader was “somewhere in the community”, thus killing civilians as a result. Their US military’s use of cluster bombs during the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq showed a lack of humanitarian concern. (HRW, 2004, Belloni, 2006)
Also, the lack of a reconstruction plan for Iraq and a lack of a clear and thorough strategy for social, economic and political changes which could benefit the Iraqi people and the development of the Iraqi state, shows that humanitarian concerns were not in focus. (Belloni, 2006, Bellamy, 2004) There were no plans which outlined how to provide for public support, such as medical support, security, cultural security etc. (Chan, 2005) Also, the US bombed electrical and water stations although aid organizations advised them not to do that, which naturally had dire consequences for the Iraqi people. (Chan 2005) The lack of a humanitarian rationale is further evident in the absence of the rule of law and the use of an appropriate justice system to handle human rights crimes. (HRW, 2004)
The invasion of Iraq did not follow the criteria for a humanitarian intervention.
There was no ‘just cause’ for intervention because Iraq posed no immediate threat. There was no proportionality in the use of military force. It was not done as a ‘last resort’, since other peaceful means including sanctions and diplomacy and actions according to international law had not been exhausted. Also, Hans Blix and the UN weapons inspectors did not give any evidence that weapons of mass destruction (WMD) did exist. (Chan, 2005)

According to the ICISS’s report of 2001; the ‘responsibility to protect’ includes the ‘responsibility to rebuild’, that is, “to provide, particularly after a military intervention, full assistance with recovery, reconstruction and reconciliation.” (ICISS, 2001, p.XI) Peace building and reconstruction are important parts of an intervention. Military force should always be used as a necessary minimum, and only in order to protect people and end violence. A lot of resources should be used on reconstruction and peace building in order to improve the humanitarian situation and prevent further violence. (Macfarlane et al, 2004, Potter, 2006) Had this principle been followed in Iraq, the situation there would have been very different today. But instead, the high level of military force and violence, has fuelled more violence, creating an increasingly insecure and chaotic environment, where the road to peace, stability and democracy seem very long. (HRW, 2004, UNHCR, 2008, Bellamy, 2004) UNHCR has estimated that 4.7 million Iraqis have fled their homes. Of these 2.7 million are internally displaced and 2 million have fled the country. (UNHCR, 2008) According to the UN / Global Trends Report Report (2008), 2 million Iraqi refugees have fled to neighbouring countries, Syria and Jordan, having very small chances of getting asylum and not much hope for the future. The complete humanitarian failure of the Iraq invasion is evident.
Also, in Afghanistan, more than 10 000 civilians have been killed following the NATO invasion and 3 million refugees have fled to Pakistan over the past decade. (UN/Global Trends Report, 2008) The largest groups of refugees in the world include Afghans in Pakistan and Iraqis in Syria and Jordan, which together account for almost halt of the worlds refugees according to the UN / Global Trends Report (2008). The humanitarian failure in Afghanistan is evident, with overwhelming corruption, insecurity, military conflagration and production of drugs. US backed warlords are oppressing the civilian population and the Taliban is gaining new ground. (Chan, 2005, UNHCR, 2008) Both in Afghanistan and in Iraq, the money and resources delegated for reconstruction is merely a fraction of what is being spent on the military. (UNHCR, 2008, Lakoff, 2006, Boggs, 2005) The humanitarian failure is evident.

However, from the perspective of the military industry, the Iraq war has been a success. Considering the neo-conservative Bush administration‘s goal stated in the foreign policy as a “need to increase defence spending significantly if we are to carry out our global responsibilities today and modernize our armed forces for the future”, they have indeed succeeded with increasing military spending through the Iraq war. (Bollyn, 2004) From the perspective of private American corporations the Iraq war has been a success, since they have made big profits from the warfare. (Donnelly and Hartung, 2003) Private American companies are providing weapons and thanks to the military, and are in charge of rebuilding and reconstruction work in Iraq. (Donnelly and Hartung, 2003) For Example, the Bechtel Group Inc. made a $680 million contract for reconstruction work in Iraq in 2003. (Donnelly and Hartung, 2003) The military industry including companies providing military supply, such as Raytheon, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, have profited greatly from the war. (Donnelly and Hartung, 2003) In March 2003, as the war in Iraq started, the US Air Force made a $106.6 million contract with Lockheed Martin and ordered military equipment for $378 million from Boeing. Also, the US Department of Defence made a $9.7 billion contract with Boeing. (Donnelly and Hartung, 2003)
The need for defence spending and military expansion is being linked to a policy of sustaining global dominance. The Defence Planning Guidance (DPG) prepared by Cheney’s Pentagon together with the National Security Council and national security advisers in 1992, talks about strategies to “prevent the emergence of a new rival” to US hegemony. (The National Security Archive, 1992, New York Times, 1992) It talks about ensuring the position of the United States as the sole superpower in the post cold- war era, and to discourage other countries “from challenging our political leadership or seeking to overturn the established political and economic order.” (National Security Archive, 1992, New York Times, 1992) An important part of this strategy is its focus on pursuing a ‘military- technological revolution’ in order to increase military power. (National Security Archive, 1992, New York Times, 1992) It also talks about the need to use military force against countries which start to develop nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction, such as for example North Korea, Iraq or Russia. (National Security Archive, 1992, New York Times, 1992)
The Defence Planning Guidance for the Fiscal Years 1994 – 1999, states that “we must account sufficiently for the interests of the advanced industrial nations to discourage them from challenging our leadership or seeking to overturn the established political and economic order.” (New York Times, 1992) It states very clearly that “we will retain the pre-eminent responsibility for addressing those wrongs which threaten not only our interests, but those of our allies or friends or which could seriously unsettle international relations.” (New York Times, 1992) The interests they are willing to fight for are listed as “access to vital raw materials, primary Persian gulf oil; proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, threats to US citizens from terrorism or regional or local conflict and threats to US society from narcotics trafficking.” (New York Times, 1992)
Considering this, it is evident that the humanitarian discourse is being misused for other purposes, including military expansion in the name of the ‘war on terror’ as well as geopolitical and strategic interests such as control over Iraq’s large production of oil. Also in the case of Afghanistan, there were economic and strategic goals to be pursued. There have been claims that a motivating factor for invading Afghanistan was to create an oil pipeline through Afghanistan in order to access oil and gas reserves in the Caspian basin. (Pilger, 2001) The quest for geopolitical control and power has indeed been a motivation factor when the coalition forces invaded Afghanistan and Iraq.

Michael Ignatieff (in Bricmont, 2006 p. 41) talks about how the US is upholding global hegemony by using a large military power to enforce the ideas of a free market, human rights and democracy. It is interesting to consider how the notions of universal human rights and moral responsibilities are being used to justify going to war. Linked to this is the way that the rhetoric of good vs. evil is being used as propaganda. The use of a rhetoric of morality which classifies certain acts, individuals, groups and regimes as ‘evil’, is dangerous as it creates an enemy image, a black/white picture of the world in order to justify the use of massive military power to ‘defeat evil’. (Chan, 2005, Chomsky, 2005, Boggs, 2005) By labelling ‘the other’, that is, the ‘enemy’ as evil, one is implying that oneself is ‘good’ and therefore that ones use of power is ‘good’. (Chan, 2005, Chomsky, 2005, Boggs, 2005) There is a grave lack of concern for complexities, nuances, varieties and insights when placing labels of good/ evil. Blair was making the moral argument that since Saddam is ‘intrinsically’ evil, that was enough to make the war against Iraq just. (Chan, 2005) Also, there seamed to be a belief that somehow ‘evil’ would be replaced by ‘good’ in Iraq, with help of a military intervention. (Chomsky, 2005) However, as seen, the US failed in building democracy in Iraq and to improve the humanitarian situation, thus it failed in its cause to create ‘good’. Therefore, again the rhetoric of humanitarianism has obvious reason to be regarded as hypocrisy. The rhetoric of a ‘moral war’ was soon to be seen as simply masking a war about power. (Chan, 2005) The fight against ‘evil’ can be considered part of a moral rhetoric for neo-imperialism.

Also, Bricmont (2006) talks about how the American system of domination is using moral imperatives and noble aims in the pursuit of national interests and global power. He claims that the US‘s real intentions “such as control of oil or strengthening American hegemony (globally) and Israeli hegemony (locally)” are pretended to be “only collateral effects of a generous enterprise”, that is, of spreading democracy and ‘liberating’ people. (Bricmont, 2006, p.32) He talks about how “liberating peoples from communism” was used as incentive for both the German invasion of Soviet Union in 1941 as well as the US war in Vietnam. (Bricmont, 2006, p. 34) Also, Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia and Poland, claiming the right to do so in order to protect German minorities from the brutality of Czech and Polish people. (Robertson, 2002) Thus, they are using values and ideology to mask other, less nobel intentions, as analysed in the case of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. It can be argued that both the invasion of Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq, which used the humanitarian rationale of ‘liberating people’ from oppression, and establishing democracy, are continuing this trend.
It is also obvious how this comes to be regarded as hypocrisy, and as causing disasters, much the same way as previous justifications of ‘liberating people’ who in reality became victims of the quest for power and might, also did. In the post September 11 world, the decreasing credibility of the concept of humanitarian intervention, is making the situation look grim for the people who are in danger of being killed in genocide and in urgent need for protection and rescues from the international community today or in the future.
The moral justification of being the ‘good’ who is fighting ‘evil’ implies that the ‘good’ is naturally fighting for a ‘just cause’, that is, for a humanitarian cause.
The discourse of humanitarian intervention in relation to the Afghan and Iraq wars is part of the US government’s war propaganda strategy. (Boggs, 2005) Using the doctrine of humanitarian intervention as part of propaganda in order to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq, has been damaging to the future of humanitarian intervention. It has increased cynicism towards any kind of intervention, including humanitarian intervention and the principle of the ‘responsibility to protect’, because of its possible abuse by powerful states, especially the US. (Weiss, 2004, Abbott, 2005, Boggs, 2005, Bellamy, 2004)

As the international community is witnessing and analysing the tragic failures of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, there is likely to be an increased scepticism toward future interventions. Macfarlane et al. (2004) claims that due to the grand failure of the US led Iraq war, it seems to be a general reluctance to embrace a humanitarian intervention strategy, out of fear of appearing to approve of a policy of abuse of the humanitarian principle and of US neo- imperialism.

In using humanitarian intervention purposes as a justification for the invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration violated the Westphalian concept of sovereignty. (Kreisler, 2003) There was no legal case for the Iraq war according to international law. (HRW, 2004, Bellamy, 2004, Bricmont, 2006) Although Saddam Hussein had committed mass atrocities in the past, humanitarian intervention was not justified in March 2003 according to the criteria of the UN and ICISS (2001) Also, in the case of the invasion of Iraq, the US Administration did not prove that Iraq represented an imminent terrorist threat to ‘international peace and security’. (Bellamy, 2004) Thus, the National Security Strategy failed to make a strong case for attacking Iraq. (Bellamy, 2004) The Bush doctrine arising from the National Security Strategy has been regarded as such a treat that some have call for a renewal of the non-intervention attitude. (Weiss, 2004, Acharya, 2007) They fear that the Bush doctrine might lead to more interventions justified as pre-emptive war in the ‘war on terrorism’ and that it will lead to a chaotic international environment. (Weiss, 2004) They see a danger in the Bush doctrine, as the US stipulates its own rights to undertake military intervention. (Boggs, 2005)

By using the discourse of humanitarianism to help justify the Iraq invasion, concern that the humanitarian intervention concept is used to override sovereignty has increased. (Farer, 2003, Donini et al, 2004) As some states fear that the humanitarian principle can be used to attack their own country and override their sovereignty, there is likely to be a decreased acceptance for the doctrine of humanitarian intervention. Thus the so- called ‘war on terror’ and it’s misuse of the humanitarian agenda is contributing to an increased skepticism of the doctrine of humanitarian intervention, out of fear of loosing sovereign rights. As a consequence, following the Iraq war, the future of the ‘responsibility to protect’ looks less bright.
Belloni (2006) claims that interventions are likely to be regarded as the great powers taking advantage of weak states for their own self-gain and self- interest. He claims that “the reckless use of humanitarian arguments to justify war in Iraq has deepened scepticism among many Third World observers” and that “the behaviour of the US- led coalition during and after the war that overthrew Saddam Hussein has led to increasingly cynicism about Western professed humanitarian concerns.” (2006, p.341)
Thus, a consensus on a humanitarian intervention in the case of genocide seems increasingly unlikely to be reached. (For example in the UN) This is made clear by the international community’s failure to intervene to protect the population in Darfur from genocide in 2003-2004. This case will be discussed later in the essay.

A lot of effort is concentrated on security measures and on ‘winning’ the ongoing ‘war on terror’. As a consequence, concern for human rights protection and for preventing genocide and mass violations of human rights abuses around the world seem to be diminishing. (Johnson, 2007, Bellamy, 2004, Abbott, 2005) Also, a lot of military and economic resources, especially in the US, are used in the ‘war against terrorism’ in Afghanistan and Iraq, and therefore it is less likely that additional resources will be used for humanitarian purposes in order to save lives in some country unrelated to the ‘war on terrorism’. (Weiss, 2005, Abbott, 2005)
As demonstrated, both the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq were falsely justified in the name of liberating the people there. However, when hundreds of thousands civilians were killed and driven from their homes in the genocide in Darfur, Sudan, in 2003-2004, neither the US nor the UN talked about the ‘responsibility to protect’ these people by intervening. (HRW, 2004) They did not talk about a moral responsibility ore of the ‘liberty’ and the rights of the people of Darfur.
The government in Khartoum, which was responsible for carrying out genocide against its own citizens in Darfur, used the principle of sovereignty as a guard against intervention as it carried out gross abuses of human rights and declined interference from the international community and the UN. (Pace, 2006, Clough, 2005, Weiss, 2004) The discourse around the genocide has focused upon respecting Sudan’s state sovereignty. A United Nations Resolution in June 2004 states that The Security Council is “Reaffirming its commitment to the sovereignty, independence and unity of Sudan”. (UN, SC Resolution 1547, 2004) The case of Darfur has shown a reluctance to act when humanitarian concerns do not coincide with strategic interests of the five permanent member states of the Security Council.

The case of Iraq shows how easily the humanitarian rationale can be misused to justify an intervention driven by self- interests. Following the war in Iraq and the way that humanitarian intervention was used in an effort to make the war more legitimate, there has been increased scepticism about the future of humanitarian intervention. Weiss (2004, p. 149) talks about the sunset of humanitarian intervention. He argues that “the sun may have set on humanitarian intervention” and that Darfur is paying the price.
The concept of humanitarian intervention is being met with increased suspicion and cynicism, as something which masks geopolitical and strategic motives. Also, Bello (2006) expresses this fear, as he criticises the US for using humanitarian intervention as excuse for the Iraq invasion. He claims that “imperialism is such that if you yield in one case, it uses that as a precedent for other future cases.” (Bello, 2006) For example, Geoffrey Robertson QC (2002, p.XV) is expressing this kind of standpoint when he writes, “The successful war on the Taliban, by the US and its allies, cannot be justified as an exercise in self defence but rather as an operation to punish and prevent further crimes against humanity, a ‘just’ war if conducted by reference to the principles of human rights intervention for which NATO’s action in Kosovo has come to stand.” Also Michael Walzer is linking NATO’s operations in Kosovo with the operation in Afghanistan, saying that the invasion of Afghanistan was “a triumph of just war theory”, just as he described in intervention of Kosovo as a ‘just war’. (Waltzer, 2002)
Weeler (2000) claims that whether an intervention has altruistic or selfish motives should not determine the legitimacy of the intervention, since even selfish- motivated interventions can have humanitarian benefits. However, it seems more likely that this kind of policy would lead to increased suffering, as seen in Iraq. The notion that self- interest can legitimise the use of force is dangerous, as it leads to the exploitation of the week by strong states. It violates the concept of national sovereignty, which is important in order to prevent chaos and disrespect for other cultures. These dilemmas have become obvious from the Bush doctrine and the ‘war on terror’, as discussed earlier. The kind of practice Wheeler is referring to is illegal according to international law. According to the ICISS (2001), a humanitarian intervention is only legal and legitimate when it fulfils certain criteria, one of which is right intention. The purpose has to be to halt or end human suffering and to stop mass killings. This standard needs to be upheld in order to promote peace, justice and stability in the international society.

The 'Responsibility to Protect'

In a United Nations Report to the Secretary- General in 1999, Kofi A. Annan made pleas to international community, asking “If humanitarian intervention is, indeed, an unacceptable assault on sovereignty, how should we respond to a Rwanda, to a Srebrenica – to gross and systematic violations of human rights that affect every precept of our common humanity?” (ICISS, 2001, p.VII) Following this challenge, which was regarded as in need for further investigation and clarification, as well as following NATO’s intervention in Kosovo in 1999, and the subsequently controversy of legality versus legitimacy for military action, the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) was created in September 2000, on initiative from the Canadian Government. (ICISS, 2001, Weiss, 2004) In December 2001, the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) released the report called the ‘responsibility to protect’, which addresses the issue of State sovereignty and military intervention for humanitarian purposes. (ICISS, 2001) It states that “State sovereignty implies responsibility, and the primary responsibility for the protection of its people lies with the state itself. Where a population is suffering serious harm, as a result of internal war, insurgency, repression or state failure, and the state in question is unwilling or unable to halt or avert it, the principle of non-intervention yields to the international responsibility to protect.” (ICISS, 2001, p. XI) The ‘responsibility to protect’ is addressing the legal, moral, operational and political aspects concerning sovereignty and intervention and provides the essential framework for military intervention into war zones or in cases of ethnic cleansing. (ICISS, 2001, Weiss, 2004) Central for the principle of the ‘responsibility to protect’ are the responsibilities to prevent, to react and to rebuild. (ICISS, 2001, p.XI)

In 2002, ICISS co- chairs Gareth Evans and Mohamed Sahnoun claimed the importance of the responsibility to protect by stating that “it is only a matter of time before reports emerge again form somewhere of massacres, mass starvation, rape and ethnic cleansing.” (Evans & Sahnoun, 2002, p.100) Following this claim, the world has indeed seen big humanitarian crises, such as the genocide in Darfur and mass killings and violations of human rights in Burma and Zimbabwe.

As mentioned earlier in the essay, the ICISS (2001) changes the perspective from the right to intervene to a focus on the victims; people suffering violence and human rights abuses. Thus, the ‘responsibility to protect’ populations, that is, peoples rights to be protected firstly by their government and secondly by the international community in cases when their government fails to do so, is emphasized. (ICISS, 201, Weiss, 2004) This means that the ‘responsibility to protect’ the lives and welfare of citizens lies with the sovereign state. (ICISS, 2001) However, in cases when the state in unable or unwilling to fulfill its responsibility to protect its citizens or in cases where the state itself is committing human rights violations or genocide against its citizens, the responsibility shifts to the international community. (ICISS, 2001)
The ‘responsibility to protect’ was endorsed by the United Nations. The principle of the ‘responsibility to protect’ appeared in the High Level Panel (HLP) report in 2004 and in ‘In Larger Freedom’ (Annan, 2005), report from the UN Secretary General in 2005. It was discussed at the 2005 World Summit Outcome of the United Nations and was adopted by the High Panel Plenary Meeting of the 60th Session of the General Assembly. (A/RES/60/1 24 oct, 2005 p30)

The ICISS outlined the ‘just cause threshold’, which needs to be present in order to justify military intervention for the purpose of human protection. It includes ‘large scale loss of life’ or ‘large scale ethnic cleansing’. (ICISS, 2001, p.XII)
The debate of whether or not to intervene is linked to the concept of ‘just war’. (ICISS, 2001, Weiss, 2005) As in the ‘just war’ tradition, the ICISS outlined four precautionary principles. (ICISS, 2001) The first is right intention, implying that the main motivation should be to halt or avert human suffering. (ICISS, 2001) The second is last resort, implying that military action is only justified when all other measures for peaceful resolution have been explored and have failed. (ICISS, 2001) The third; proportional means, implies that only a necessary minimum of military means should be used. (ICISS, 2001) The forth is reasonable prospects, which refers to the reasonable chance of success in preventing human suffering. (ICISS, 2001)
It needs to be emphasised that military force should only be used to protect human lives. HRW (2004) claims that “because of the substantial risks inherent in the use of military force, humanitarian intervention should be exceptional- reserved for the most dire circumstances.”
Military intervention can be difficult and risks increasing the conflict and cause unnecessary harm and bloodshed. (HRW, 2004, Regan, 2002) Thus, it is crucial to follow the ‘just war’ principle of proportional means and reasonable prospects for success in averting human suffering and not causing increased suffering. (ICISS, 2001) Only imminent genocide or mass slaughter justifies humanitarian military intervention. (ICISS, 2001, HRW, 2004) In the case of smaller scale human rights violations, the international community should use sanctions and diplomacy in the quest to fulfil the responsibility to prevent further abuses or a humanitarian crisis. (HRW, 2004) This points to the notion that in the case of Darfur, military force to end the genocide would be justified, whereas it was not justified in the case of Iraq, where peaceful and diplomatic means could have been used in order to deal with Saddam Hussein and to charge him according to International Law.
Then British Prime Minister Blair and US President Bush tried to justify the invasion of Iraq in terms of the principle of the ‘responsibility to protect’. (Acharya, 2007) However this case did not fulfil the ICISS’s criteria for ‘just cause’ and ‘last resort’. There was no large-scale humanitarian crisis in Iraq in 2003, and other means of dealing with the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein had not been exhausted. (Macfarlane et al, 2004, HRW, 2004) The criteria of ‘right authority’ from the UN Security Council was lacking. (HRW, 2004) Also, as seen, it was not executed with proportional means, but by excessive military means.

Ken Roth (2004), leader of Human Rights Watch, stresses the importance of using means to intervene which are themselves in accordance with international human rights and humanitarian law. There is a danger that the use of military force by a foreign intervention can cause abuses and increased suffering in the quest for preventing other abuses. Thus, it is important to ensure that the intervention will improve the humanitarian crisis and not itself cause a worsening of the humanitarian situation, as happened in the case of the US led war against Iraq. Another example of this is the tragedy and suffering inflicted on many people as a result of NATO’s bombing of Kosvo. In some instances it caused death and suffering on the very people that the intervention was supposed to save. (Robertson, 2002) Thus, it is important to assess the criteria for when military means are justified as part of a humanitarian operation. It is crucial to discuss the conditions for a humanitarian intervention and to emphasise the importance of acting in accordance to the ‘responsibility to protect’.
The question of when military intervention is justified is important to consider. When is it right to use force and to kill some in order to save others and to try to stop genocide or ‘crimes against humanity’? The case of the NATO intervention to stop ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Kosovo in 1999, raised these issues. As noted earlier, the ICISS report of the ‘responsibility to protect’ outlines a ‘just cause threshold’. It says that the use of force for the purpose of human protection is only legitimate when there is a “large scale loss of life, actual or apprehended”, or in cases of “large scale ‘ethnic cleansing’, actual or apprehended” (ICISS, 2001, p. XII) However, how large is a ‘large scale loss of life’ or ‘ethnic cleansing’ and who decides what a ‘large scale’ is? Also, it can be hard to determine whether a ‘large scale loss of life’ or ‘ethnic cleansing’ is going to take place. How many need to die before action is taken?
The ‘just cause threshold’ is contestable and thus inaction or delayed action is a considerable risk. This dilemma is clearly demonstrated in the case of Darfur, where the international community has not been willing to intervene despite 300.000 people killed.
It seems that the ‘responsibility to protect’ has failed in being acted upon, as attention is being directed at the ‘new security challenges’ and the ‘war on terror’. (Macfarlane et al, 2004, Acharya, 2007) Thus, humanitarian efforts, like saving the people of Darfur from genocide, seam to be considered less important.

The doctrine of humanitarian intervention and the principle of the ‘responsibility to protect’ are also facing other dilemmas. There is a danger that the principle of the ‘responsibility to protect’ can lead to an increase in violence and conflict, as victims of human rights abuses are anticipating help and support. (Belloni, 2006) Their quest for international attention and support can lead them to confront oppressors and to instigate direct violence, hoping to draw sympathy for their cause. (Belloni, 2006) Also, Coady (2005) says that prospects for a humanitarian intervention can encourage groups to take up arms and escalate violence in a hope for outside support. It has been claimed that this happened to some extent in Bosnia and Kosovo, as local leaders escalated the conflict in order to attract international attention. (Belloni, 2006) However, as the situation is today, the people who anticipate protection are more likely to be met with indifference and inaction. Especially in areas which lack geopolitical, strategic and economic importance, prospects for humanitarian actions according to the ‘responsibility to protect’ is less likely. Thus, Western moral rhetoric of a humanitarian agenda, which does not lead to any action, is only creating false hope among endangered populations waiting for rescue. (Coady, 2005) Also in Darfur, it has been argued that the ‘responsibility to protect‘ raised hopes among the rebels who increased the violence, while waiting for the international community to come and bring change and improvement to their lives. (Waal, 2007, Power, 2004, Belloni, 2006)

As analysed earlier, the doctrine of humanitarian intervention and the principle of ‘responsibility to protect’ raises issues concerning ‘just war’, human rights, national sovereignty as well as the international legal system.
Advocates of sovereign independence and non-intervention on one hand, and advocates for universal human rights and humanitarian intervention on the other, have been competing over legal, political and moral arguments for their points of view. (Belloni, 2006, HRW 2004) They express competing perspectives of sovereignty and intervention and of how to balance the rights of States and the rights of individuals. The idea of non-intervention is connected to the principle of state sovereignty, which denies other states interference in one states internal affairs. (Clough, 2005, Potter, 2006)

It is important that national sovereignty includes responsibilities as well as powers, as argued for by Kofi A. Annnan (2002) and by ICISS’s report of the ‘responsibility to protect’. (ICISS, 2001) Among these is the responsibility to protect citizens from genocide. Everyone has the right to protection from genocide and human rights abuses in light of their human value and equality. (ICISS, 2001, Annan, 2002, Potter, 2006)
It is important to recognise the risk that political leadership can lead to the abuse of state power. Therefore, there needs to be a focus on the rights of individuals in addition to the rights of sovereign states. (Robertson, 2002) The ‘responsibility to protect’ is important in order to prevent governments from acting with impunity towards their own citizens. It is also important to have an international legal system, including the ICC, which can uphold principles of the human rights of citizens and which can investigate human rights situations such as in Burma, Tibet, Zimbabwe and Chechnya in order to determine the legitimacy of the situation and punish perpetrators of ‘crimes against humanity’ or mass human rights violations. (Robertson, 2002) When large parts of the population is endangered by a state which has failed its responsibilities, it is the international community which needs to take responsibility. (ICISS, 2001) By insisting on respecting a state’s sovereignty, when according to the principle of ‘sovereignty as responsibility’ towards the citizens, this sovereignty has been abused, as in the case of Darfur, the international community is once again allowing genocide and mass human suffering to continue on. However, as pointed out by the sceptics to humanitarian intervention and the principle of the ‘responsibility to protect’, the humanitarian principle can be used to legitimatise the exploitation by strong, often Western states over week or failing states. (Belloni, 2006, Boggs, 2005, Coady, 2005) Governments in many countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America claim that sovereignty and the non-interference norm protect them from exploitations by powerful nations seeking economic and political gains. (Clough, 2005) Belloni (2006, p.341) claims that in non-Western countries there is a sentiment that “ the ‘responsibility to protect’ can be exploited as a cover for the strong to coerce the weak, that is, for the USA to impose its will on recalcitrant enemies.”
Macfarlane et al. (2004) claim that opponents of humanitarian intervention and the principle of the ‘responsibility to protect’ express a concern that the humanitarian doctrine leads to the world being divided into ‘civilised’ and ‘uncivilised’ countries which encourages semi-colonial practices. They express the concern that the ‘responsibility to protect’ can be used in the quest for American hegemony. (Macfarlane et al., 2004) Thus, universal humanitarian values can be used as a pretext for selfish motivations, economic and political benefits or even for neo-imperialistic motives, as seen in relation to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. ( Bello, 2006, Bricmont, 2006) An advocate for this view is Jean Bricmont (2006), who warns against a trend he calls ‘humanitarian imperialism’. It implies that Western powerful states, and especially the US, are using ‘human rights to sell war’. He looks at the Western world’s history of exploitation and egoistic policies, and thus he condemns humanitarian intervention today. However, looking at the Western world’s past exploitation of third world countries, should rather enforce the notion of a ‘responsibility to protect’. As many countries in the Western world, have been exploiting third world countries for centuries, and have gained much power and wealth through the exploitation and oppression of other countries and peoples, it can be argued that they have placed themselves in great debt towards these countries. Thus, this makes a strong case for a ‘responsibility to protect’ the people in these countries and a responsibility to prevent humanitarian disasters from occurring. For example, there was a considerable Western involvement in creating the situation which lead to the genocide in Rwanda, since the Belgian colonial rule used the ‘divide and rule’ technique, putting Hutus and Tutsis up against each other and creating hostilities between them. (Bricmont, 2006, Boggs, 2005) This makes a strong argument for why a Western humanitarian intervention indeed was responsible and should have done everything to save the people in Rwanda, considering that their own colonial policies were partly to blame for the disaster.
Bricmont (2006) is arguing for non-intervention by claiming that Western imperialism has already done enough damage. However, this seams to be a very cynical worldview. From a global justice perspective, the Western world needs to face the responsibilities for its colonial actions and polices, even decades later.
Exploitation of third world countries still goes on today. However, because of the United Nations, International Humanitarian Law and peacekeeping operations as well as the focus on universal human rights, the situation has changed considerably. Also, due to our interconnected world, and global communications networks, it is increasingly hard to look with indifference, when humanitarian catastrophes unfold. Because of global trade and close relationships, we are increasingly dependent upon each other and responsible for each other. The living conditions in the West needs to be seen in a wider perspective, in relation to third world countries and to what goes on there.


Although the genocide in Darfur started in 2003-2004, more than two years after the ICISS ‘Responsibility to protect’ was signed, the international community; the UN and powerful states which had advocated strongly for the ‘never again’ of more Rwanda’s and for the ‘responsibility to protect’ failed to override the sovereignty of the Khartoum government in favour of theses principles which were established to protect citizens in all countries from the kind of genocide and human rights abuses committed in Darfur. (HRW, 2004, Clough, 2005, Weiss, 2005)
Thus, implementing the rights of people over the rights of states has proved difficult. In the case of the genocide in Darfur, the Khartoum government was guilty of organizing, recruiting and supplying the rebels and the Janjaweed militia with equipment, arms and financial means to carry out massive human rights violations in an environment of impunity. (HRW, 2004, Udombana, 2005, Clough, 2005) When rebel groups in Darfur, consisting of the Sudan Liberation Movement/ Army (SLA/M) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), became violent in February 2003, the government responded with the “deployment of militia troops, including the air force, and the arming and supporting of the Janjaweed militias.” (Belloni, 2006, p. 328) The government gave the Janjaweed militia “a free hand to kill, terrorize and displace the civilian population of Darfur.” (Belloni, 2006, p. 328) By August 2004, the Janjaweed militia had, together with the Sudanese Air Force and Army, killed 50.000 Darfuris and destroyed 400 vilages. (Power, 2004) However, it was not held responsible for the humanitarian crisis by the international community. Rather, the UN was conducting peace talks between the government of Sudan and the SPLA/M in an effort to end civil war in Sudan, leaving out discussions of the situation in Darfur. (Udombana, 2005, Clough, 2005) If Darfur had been included in the peace settlement, it might have prevented more violence from breaking out. (Belloni, 2006) The UN and the US were reluctant to criticise the Khartoum government for the situation in Darfur, for fear that they might prevent peace talks and the North- South peace initiative. (Clough, 2005, HRW, 2005) Thus, they were dealing with a government responsible for committing genocide against its own citizens.
It soon became obvious that the Khartoum government had failed to protect its citizens from being killed or driven from their homes by ethnic militia groups. HRW (2005) reports that at least 300 000 Darfuris have died as a consequence of the genocide and that two million people have been internally displaced inside Darfur. Thus, the government failed to act according to the principle of the sovereign state’s ‘responsibility to protect’ its citizens, therefore leaving the ‘responsibility to protect’ to the international community. However, as seen earlier, the UN emphasised Sudan’s sovereignty. A United Nations Resolution in June 2004 states that The Security Council is “Reaffirming its commitment to the sovereignty, independence and unity of Sudan”. (UN, SC Resolution 1547, 2004) Although both the US, UK and Germany acknowledged that systematic war crimes and crimes against humanity were taking place in Darfur they did not question the sovereign rights of Sudan nor propose a humanitarian intervention to end the genocide. (Bellamy, 2005, Clough, 2005) Also, Pakistan, Russia and China were most eager to emphasize Sudan’s sovereignty and claim that the suffering in Darfur was not enough to provoke humanitarian intervention. (Bellamy, 2005)
In 2005, a UN- sponsored International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur said that “the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed are responsible for serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law”, …which “may amount to crimes against humanity”. (UN Report, 2005)

Clough (2005, p.10) claims that early warning signs and the ‘responsibility to prevent’ as part of the overall principle of ‘responsibility to protect’ are often ignored, and thus an escalation of human suffering takes place. He claims that what is needed in order to prevent the escalation of a conflict into genocide are “early warning, a preventive action toolbox and political will.” (Clough, 2005, p. 10) In the case of political will, after analysing the situation in Darfur, it seems that the UN, and states which have the economic and military power to intervene in order to prevent or to end genocide, are reluctant to do so unless their own national interests are at stake.
The right to veto by any of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council is also an obstacle to the implementation of the ‘responsibility to protect’ and to any action proposed by the UN Security Council in order to prevent genocide and ‘crimes against humanity’. (Pace, 2006) In the case of Darfur, China’s interests and trade with Sudan, prevented the UN Security Council from agreeing on resolutions to put sanctions against the Khartoum government. (Reeves, 2004) China has been blocking the Security Council’s resolution to take strong action against the Government in Sudan and to intervene in order to stop the genocide. (Reeves, 2004) This is related to China’s investments in Sudan, as it controls more than 40% of the oil operations in southern Sudan. (Reeves, 2004, Sudan Issue Brief, 2007) It is also an arms supplier to the Sudanese government. (Clough, 2005, Sudan Issue Brief, 2007) Both China and Russia, powerful states and permanent member of the UN Security Council, were indirectly helping the Sudan government to carry out genocide against its citizens, by supplying the Sudanese government with arms which again were given to the Janjaweed militia group to enable them to carry out mass killings in Darfur. (Sudan Issue Brief, 2007, HRW, 2004)
Moral issues as well as issues of national interests are at stake in the struggle to protect human life and to end massive human suffering.

Furthermore, after 9/11 it seems less likely that the US, which is the state most likely to lead this kind of humanitarian intervention, is willing to engage in any intervention which is not part of the ‘war against terrorism’ and which does not pose a security threat to the world’s superpower.
The government in Khartoum has been cooperating with the US in the so- called ‘war on terrorism’, thus making it even less likely that the US would take action to end genocide in Darfur. The CIA, has cooperated with the Sudanese Head of Intelligence and Security Services, Salah Abdallah Gosh, with counter- terrorist policies (Belloni, 2006, Shane, 2005) Gosh, who was even invited to the US by the CIA, is complicit in the genocide in Darfur. (Belloni, 2006, Shane, 2005)
Goldenberg (2005) says that Sudan, which provided a safe heaven for Osama bin Laden and international terrorists in the 1990’s, as well as having committed human rights abuses for decades, has become an ally in the Bush administrations ‘war on terror’”. She also claims that “only months after the US accused Khartoum of carrying out genocide in Darfur, Sudan has become a crucial intelligence asset to the CIA.” (Goldenberg, 2005) The US and Sudan Government are cooperating in the fight against terrorism, to ensure that there are no terrorist training camps in Sudan and in search for Al Qaeda suspects. (Belloni, 2006, Goldenberg, 2005, Bellamy, 2004) Thus, US strategic interests in the ‘war on terrorism’ have determined their relationship with the Khartoum Government. At the same time they have been unwilling to act to protect the people of Darfur and have been downplaying the fact that the Kartoum Government is responsible for genocide in Darfur and has failed its responsibility to protect the citizens. (Belloni, 2006, Johnson, 2007) This shows the importance that the ‘war on terror’ has on the US agenda, on behalf of concerns of human rights violations and massive killings.
The ‘war on terror’ has lead to close cooperation between American and British officials and Pakistani leaders, Afghan warlords and with officials in the Sudan government despite their records of human rights abuses. (Macfarlane et al, 2004) This seems to signify tolerance for human rights abuses in the so- called ‘war on terror’, in contradiction to the principles and values of the ‘responsibility to protect’.


The US has been acting according to geopolitical concerns while claiming to be acting in the name of winning the ‘war on terror’, liberating people and promoting democracy. Although the Bush administration at the time of the Iraq invasion claimed that it was a humanitarian intervention in order to save the Iraqi people from the dictatorship of Saddam, it very quickly became evident that any humanitarian motivation was only made in an attempt to justify the invasion and that humanitarianism as such was not part of the war at all. Thus, this shows that the doctrine of humanitarian intervention can easily be misused for other gains. The hypocritical use of humanitarian purposes as justification for the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, has created distrust and damaged the practice of humanitarian intervention. It has increased skepticism towards the use of military force for the purpose of humanitarian intervention, claiming that it is easily abused by the powerful taking advantage of the less powerful.
It is important to distinguish clearly between US imperialistic wars, such as in Afghanistan and Iraq and humanitarian intervention. A blurring of these two concepts, as attempted by the US in its propaganda for the Iraq invasion is dangerous and can make it more difficult for endangered populations in the future to receive armed humanitarian protection and for any intervention to be seen as legitimate in its attempt to save human lives in the future.
The ‘responsibility to protect’ focuses on people in need of support, as opposed to the Bush doctrine and pre-emptive war, which focus on the rights of the intervener. However, considering the moral rhetoric often used by the West when waging war, there is a danger that the ‘responsibility to protect’ will be misused as a justification for US imperialist intervention in the future.
The principle of the international community’s ‘responsibility to protect’ people of all countries against genocide has not been successfully translated into practice. The situation in Darfur makes it obvious that the international community is not willing to override sovereignty and self interests in order to intervene in the case of genocide and serious human rights violations. Especially in areas which lack geopolitical, strategic and economic importance, the prospects for a humanitarian intervention to prevent or end a disaster, seems quite unlikely. The case of the genocide in Darfur has made clear who the real victims of the policy of inaction and failure to act according to the ‘responsibility to protect’ are, and calls for more attention to a framework for humanitarian intervention in cases of genocide and mass killings.


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