March 03, 2008

[Appeal] The Bullies of the World

What do Turkey, Israel and Colombia have in common?

Well for one, these countries (geographically speaking) are absolutely beautiful, and they all contain an incredibly rich civilizational history. I have been to both Israel and Colombia, and I can honestly say that the extremely warm and caring cultures I was welcomed with made my visits to those countries wonderful.

However, these countries also have this in common: They all made news this week for sending their troops across the border into neighbouring countries, with the intention of assassinating members of rebel forces. And they all succeeded:

  • Just last week, Turkish forces entered Northern Iraq in a midnight raid. In the ensuing days they killed over 100 people, whom the government claims were Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) rebels, and they destroyed PKK bases. See one of the explanatory stories here.
  • Just a few days ago, Israel launched yet another incursion into the Palestinian territories, again with the intention of assassinating members of Hamas. In these few days the Israeli forces have killed over 100 people, most of whom are likely innocent civilians. See the news story here.
  • And just yesterday Colombian troops entered Ecuadorian territory and assassinated one of the FARC's rebel leaders, Raul Reyes. See the story here.
This kind of action by states is immoral, it is illegal, and these governments should be held accountable. We, the people of this world, should not accept this type of behaviour from any country. It merely exacerbates conflicts, and most likely serves to increase the support for rebel factions.

Those violent factions within the PKK, Hamas, and the FARC are all fighting for their causes in the wrong way - armed struggle is the way of the past. This century should see people's struggles for social justice taking place in the form of peaceful, (truly) democratic movements which seize state power in the most legitimate way - by garnering support from everyday people and civil society, by demonstration that their cause is the most just. And these causes are just: Kurds should have autonomy for their peoples, Palestinians should have a sovereign state and should be compensated for a half century of death and destruction, and Colombian communists should be able to participate in national politics without restrictions. But armed insurrection, kidnappings, rocket attacks - that kind of armed response is only feeding the cycle of violence.

The three countries above also have something else in common: They are historically amongst the top receivers of American military aid. Between 1980 and 1999, Turkey received $11.5 Billion worth of military equipment from the US, not to mention the more than $6 Billion the country received in grants and direct loans during the same period. In 2007 alone Colombia received $584 million in military and police aid from the United Sates, and in the last five years the county has received $3.45 Billion dollars in military aid (and this does not count the hundreds of millions of dollars in other forms of aid). And Israel... conservative estimates indicate that it received $2.28 Billion in military aid from the US in 2006 alone. And, since 1949 the US had handed over nearly $100 Billion in aid to that country.

Is this a coincidence? No. The US publicly uses measured "diplomatic language" with these countries when they use their American-funded militaries to launch illegal raids into other countries. You'll hear Condi Rice saying something like "We caution Israel to use restraint", "We call on Turkey to complete its mission in a timely manner and withdraw its troops". This kind of diplomatic bullshit is tacitly allowing countries like this to break international law!

The United States, by virtue of arming these countries to the teeth, by virtue of giving them nothing more than a little slap on the wrist for such actions, by virtue of providing a horrible example of a powerful state which shows absolute contempt and disregard for international laws and conventions - by virtue of these facts the United States is complicit. In other words, when Israel sends secret agents into Beirut to kill a member of Hamas, when Turkey bombs entire areas of Northern Iraq, and when the Colombian military displaces hundreds of peasants and make villages "disappear" - the United States should also be held accountable.

Shame on you, you bullies of the world!

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