Gilbert Achcar defends the recently "UN-authorized" imperialist intervention in
But before examining Achcar's principles and factual claims justifying this new Western military attack on a relatively defenseless small country, I want to point out that his main and reiterated specific illustration of a historical case where imperial intervention would clearly have been warranted—
Achcar clearly swallows the standard narrative on the Rwanda "genocide," in which the imperialist powers just "stood by"—he is explicit later that the Western powers "were not intervening" in the period before and while the Hutus supposedly massacred between 500,000 and a million Tutsis (and "moderate" Hutus). But in fact the Western powers didn't just stand by; they actively intervened throughout, but not to contain the killing: Paul Kagame, the primary actor before, during and after the mass killings, was trained at Ft. Leavenworth; his Rwanda Patriotic Front's 1990 invasion of Rwanda from Uganda was not punished by the Security Council; his subsequent infiltration and subversion of Rwanda was actively supported by the United States, U.K., Belgium, Canada and therefore the UN; his forces shot down the plane carrying Rwanda president Juvenal Habyarimana back to Kigali on April 6, 1994, generally acknowledged to have been the "triggering event" in the mass killings; and Kagame's well-prepared military forces were in action within an hour or two of the shoot-down.
Kagame needed this triggering event and the 100-day military conquest because, with his Tutsi comprising well under 15% of the population and vast numbers of Hutus having been made refugees by Kagame's invasions and ethnic cleansings (and those by Tutsi military forces in neighboring Burundi after the Tutsi assassination of their Hutu leader), he would have been crushed in the free election to be held in 1995 under the terms of the 1993 Arusha Accords. And Kagame did a major part of the killing, extended into a slaughter of several millions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) following his takeover of
When in 1997 investigator Michael Hourigan reported to his employer, the International Criminal Tribunal on
So Achcar misreads history in suggesting that Western intervention was missing in
In making his case for Western intervention, Achcar mentions that there are thousands (1-10,000) possibly already killed in the Gadaffi advances, a rather wide range of possibilities. The 10,000 number he sources to the International Criminal Court, a name he provides perhaps to suggest authenticity. I wonder if he knows that all 14 indictees of the ICC are black Africans, but do not include Kagame or Museveni (
Achcar describes the rebel forces fighting Gadaffi as representing a "popular movement" and "mass insurrection." This is dubious—as Stratfor points out, the base of the insurrection has "consisted of a cluster of tribes and personalities," the heart of which was in the East,, and whose members and leaders "do not all advocate Western-style democracy. Rather, they saw an opportunity to take greater power, and they tried to seize it." Achcar fails to mention that this eastern Libya base area was a principal recruiting ground for Al Qaeda, and that the killings of civilians and prisoners by these rebels has reportedly been large. He does not suggest the possibility of a bloodbath if they were to take over Tripoli and western Libya.
While focusing heavily on the "nature of Gadaffi's regime," Achcar doesn't discuss the nature of the imperial West's regimes, their now systematic power projection by force, and their treatment of civilians in countries they attack. He doesn't ask how their concern for Libyan civilians can be genuine when simultaneously they support the crackdown on Bahraini civilians and the invasion of
A relevant political fact, also, is that it is own-casualties that are sensitive matters at home, not foreign civilian casualties, especially where the mainstream media can be counted on to cooperate in keeping information (and indignation) on those distant civilian casualties at a low key. This means that once the bars are down and the airpower is unleashed in the interest of real objectives, like regime change, distant civilians may die in large numbers without the home public knowing the reality. The public can be managed by official handouts and suppressions, with media cooperation.
Remarkably, Achcar tells us that one legitimate reason for the West's military response in defense of Libyan civilians is public pressure that builds as the public watches TV and demands action ("it is nonsensical, and an instance of very crude 'materialism', to dismiss as irrelevant the weight of public opinion on Western governments," etc.). He never questions the morality of international military action based on a public opinion that is regularly managed by a war-prone elite. This was the case in the
Perhaps most amazing is Achcar's acceptance of the imperial powers as the "good cops" who can properly bring law and order through violence to the citizens needing protection. Is it reasonable to give the power to straighten things out by force to imperialist powers that have been most guilty of using force in violation of both law and moral principles? The
Achcar performs one of the great somersaults in the collapsing left record in simultaneously supporting and opposing Security Council Resolution 1973. He says that it is not well drawn and should be refined:
The resolution leaves too much room for interpretation, and could be used to push forward an imperialist agenda going beyond protection into meddling into
So if it cannot be opposed except for details, the left must support it, but it should work hard to keep military actions within proper bounds:
Once intervention started, the role of anti-imperialist forces should have consisted in monitoring it closely, and condemning all actions hitting at civilians where measures to avoid such killings have not been observed, as well as all actions by the coalition that are devoid of a civilian protection rationale.
This defines a position for what we may call the "imperialism fine-tuning left," that will help show that the left as well as the leaders of imperialism really care for civilians.
What makes this stance exceedingly foolish as well as distinctly non-left is the idea that the "left" would be able to seriously influence policy once a war is embarked upon (and with "left" encouragement). This simultaneous approval and disapproval of the war will further splinter the left and carry it beyond mere marginalization to butt of jokes.
Achcar tells us that this intervention to protect civilians in
---- Endnotes ----
 Gilbert Achcar, "A legitimate and necessary debate from an anti-imperialist perspective," ZNet, March 25, 2011. All further quotes attributed to Achcar derive from this particular essay.
 Randolph Bourne, "The War and the Intellectuals," 1917. (Or see Randolph S. Bourne, War and the Intellectuals: Collected Essays, 1915-1919, Carl Resek, Ed. (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1999), p. 13.)
 See George E. Moose, "Human Rights Abuses in Rwanda," Information Memorandum to The Secretary,
 For more details, see Robin Philpot, Rwanda 1994: Colonialism Dies Hard, E-Text as posted to the Taylor Report Website, 2004; Christian Davenport and Allan C. Stam, "What Really Happened in Rwanda?" Miller-McCune, October 6, 2009; Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, "Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the Propaganda System," Monthly Review 62, No. 1, May, 2010; and Peter Erlinder, "The UN Security Council Ad Hoc
 George Friedman, "Libya, the West and the Narrative of Democracy," Stratfor, March 21, 2011.
 See, e.g., Joseph Felter and Brian Fishman, "Al-Qa'ida's Foreign Fighters in Iraq: A First Look at the Sinjar Records," Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 2007; "Africans Hunted Down in 'Liberated' Libya" (afrol News, 28 February 2011); Peter Dale Scott, "Who Are the Libyan Freedom Fighters and Their Patrons?" The Asia-Pacific Journal:
 See Beau Grosscup, "Cluster Munitions and State Terrorism," Monthly Review 62, No. 11, April, 2011.
 See, e.g., "Fewer See Clear Goal in Libya; Opposition to Arming Rebels,"