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Friday, September 11, 2009

World War Two: The Just War

To initiate a war of not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.

Robert H. Jackson, Chief US Prosecutor at the Nuremberg Tribunal.

As we mark the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of World War Two, we should ponder very carefully Robert Jackson's words.

I hate war, but I am not a pacifist. I would defend World War Two, and the military action taken against the Third Reich and its allies for the very same reasons that I opposed the Iraq war and the NATO attack on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Hitler had to be stopped not because he was a dictator, but because of the way he arrogantly over-rode the sovereignty of other European countries and his contempt for international law. But in 1999 it was the NATO powers who were the illegal aggressors against Yugoslavia, and in 2003 it was the US-led coalition which attacked Iraq.

Attacking and invading other countries is wrong. Period. In international affairs the true heirs of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis are the neocons who share the little man's arrogant disregard for national sovereignty and his utter contempt for international law. And in the same way that the Nazis were brought to book at Nuremburg for committing the 'supreme international crime', of launching a war of aggression, let's hope that one day the neocon warmongers- (who at this very moment are doing all they can to propagandise for yet more aggression- this time against Iran), are also held to account for their crimes.


Eastern Europe Watch said...

"In international affairs the true heirs of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis are the neocons who share the little man's arrogant disregard for national sovereignty and his utter contempt for international law".

The problem with WW2 comparisons is that neoconservatives and liberal interventionists use them to justify invading places like Kosovo & Iraq.

The usual shrill moralistic chorus about "another Hitler" ( Saddam, Milosevic,Taliban "Islamofascists" etc etc ) which underpins the idea of a seamless narrative of Anglo-Saxon benificence.

The argument for humanitarian intervention since 1999 comes down to a rationalisation for using military power to remove abusers of human rights, something enshrined in the UN Declaration in 1945.

Not only did 'we win the war' but 'we invented human rights'. And so 'we' have the right to impose human rights on nations for the good of the people who live there.

The tension here is between the idea of the right to protect people from genocide and the idea that invadinf other nations is the supreme crime.

Liberal interventionists deny there could ever be any contradiction between the two, so long as the USA and other rights respecting nations invade.

If other 'non-human rights respecting nations' of the UN Security Council object, then they are not fulfilling the 'duty to protect'. Hence there is no need for UN Security Council sanction.

The real rub is that the word 'genocide' can be interpreted by liberal interventionists like Kingston University's Brian Brivati to mean any ethnic group we favour that is threatened by another that is not.

In the context of Serb killings of Kosovans it seemed to some in 1999 as though Serbs were committing genocide and it was a total lie for two reasons.

Firstly, Holbrooke armed and trained the KLA who then went on to attack Serb police stations.A lot of the cash for the KLA came from migrants but the effort was aided by the USA.

The idea was to ramp up a conflict that the US believed was going to go on for a long time to the point where "humanitarian action" could be seen as a necessary imperative.

Secondly, the conflict between Albanian Kosovans and Serbs was an ethnic conflict where both sides were as responsible for violence as the other in 1998-1999.

Eastern Europe Watch said...

Part 2

There was no 'genocide' but the term used in Yugoslavia called 'ethnic cleansing' on both sides. The USA effectively aided a criminal mafia terror group to seize power.

That stopped Serb paramilitary brutality but did nothing to prevent the mass killings of Serbs and Roma civilians. Nothing was done to protect them.

So the USA did not initiate a war of aggression that was 'the supreme crime' even if it committed war crimes by effectively sponsoring the KLA who killed and murdered.

The Second World War saw the creation to two significant documents which have contradictory aspects that can be exploited by devious lawyers ( eg Blair )

The UN Charter established as one of its aims, “promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction”

The Nuremberg Charter unequivocally raised the issue of individual accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

If the demon to be defeated is 'another Hitler' , then it is easy for Blair and other liberal interventionists to justify a war to end terror and the prospect of 'another world war'.

It was Iraq that finally gave witness to the way the idea of human rights could be perverted by the powerful who could remould reality to fit the prescriptions of a creed.

Blair is not Hitler and did not commit 'the supreme crime' but is a war criminal in Iraq for the way he contorted the case for war and lied to the public willingly and knowingly ( unless insanity absolves him ).

International Law should also look at the way US officials like Holbrooke aided ethnic cleansers like the KLA. One reason they tend to get let off is because, unlike the Serbs, they were on our side.

Which is why the trial of Serbian war criminals can never be seen to be 'fair' because they did not a lot more than KLA thugs like Ceku and Thaci did other than being part of a state the USA opposed.

Anonymous said...

"Firstly, Holbrooke armed and trained the KLA who then went on to attack Serb police stations.A lot of the cash for the KLA came from migrants but the effort was aided by the USA."

Yes Karl, and the KLA also had a nice little lucrative sideline. Keeping the Serb police busy also kept the Balkan corridoor - the main land route from Afghanistan to Europe - open for drug smugglers. This provided a significant boost to their funding. The CIA knew all about it; so much for the 'war on drugs'.

The constant invocation of Hitler, Stalin, Mao etc. is what the philosopher Alain Badiou calls the symbolism of Absolute Evil, in what is by now Western mythology the ultimate and irrefutable justification for military action or other forms of intevention by the US 'deep state' and its security services. What we wish to destroy without pricking our collective conscience and delegitmising the corporate state must be depicted as the Devil incarnate.

As usual we are being manipulated by a classic Manichean symbolic game. It's as old as the hills, well recorded by Thucydides as the Athenians whipped up public opinion in the build-up to the Pelopennesian war. That the majority still fall for it says a lot about the 'enlightenment' and liberals' attempt to educate the public.

- questionnaire

neil craig said...

One of the efects of the destruction of Yugoslavia is the retroactive light it sheds on WW" & the Cold war.

Clearly what ever the justifications given, at least for many western leaders WW2 was simply about the balance of power rather than a crusade against Nazism or western countries couldm't have engaged in a crusade un support of these same now (ex-)Nazis in Yugoslavia.

Equally clearly Stalin's view that he couldn't give an inch to the western powers for peace or rely on intenational law & that they were intent on the destruction not only of the USSR but also its peoples is proven by their abuse of every conciliatory move & ultimate genocide in Yugoslavia.

(I might make a 3rd point about how many "leftists" would, like the obscene Nazi whore Clare Short, Susan Sontag, various German "eadicals" & the entire Bliar cabinet, put their shoulders to promoting genocide.)

EEW it is not the case that "both sides were as responsible". It is a matter of fact that the first KLA atrocity was the murder of a group of Serbian refugees (from Croatia) purely because of their race. This is certainly genocide & was certainly known as such by NATO, BBC etc since the KLA advertised it heavily. On the other side, while there was certainly counter terrorist policing & probably some innocent bystanders there was, equally certainly, no deliberate genocide. The Yugoslav arny was orders of nagnitude more militarily efective than the KLA & could have engaged in the genocide or ethnic cleansing of Albanians had they wished. When NATO went to war they knew, for a fact, that the KLA were engaged in genocide, that the Yugoslavs weren't & that NATO, BBC, Short etc were deliberately involved in participatingb in genocide.

DBC Reed said...

The problem with WW2 as the just war is that there was an awful lot of funny business.The propaganda about the Uk standing alone against the Nazi onslaught is (a)a bit dubious and (b) used by us to label people as the "New Hitlers" with unwarranted authority when it suits us.(a)After 10th May 1941 when Hitler hit London with a shattering air -raid and Hess simultaneously flew over with a deal,Hitler regarded us as defeated and got on with slaughtering the Russians in huge numbers.Churchill did not exactly rush to the Russians' assistance : Roosevelt was talking about a second front across the Channel in 1942;Churchill watched while the Russians were pulverised for another two years.As soon as the war was ended he started the Cold War.Supposing Hitler had ,as was expected, defeated the Russians?
(b)Nasser was the reincarnation of Hitler as far as Eden was concerned,although Suez when we stood with the Israelis against Egypt was not as bad as it was painted by the Americans,who had been messing about with its secret service in Egypt.
I think it would be a lot better if the Uk stopped resting on its WW2 laurels and started fessing up to some of the dodgy stuff it was involved in.Our sanctimonious attitude must get up the nose of all and sundry.It would help if we were on a moral level with the other European countries who cut morally dubious deals.

Midfielder said...

Interesting blog, Neil with interesting comments.

I came to it trying to learn more about the arguments for and against WW2 as a Just War this war seems to be used as the prime example one.

However, the more I read, it seems that the motivations and agendas of all the powers was as much to do with a continuation of the Great Game as much as a direct reaction / confrontation with Hitler's fascism, despite that in practical terms, the Nazis were 20 miles away from us prior to the Battle of Britain.

Do you have any further references on WW2 as a Just war?

Midfielder said...

Interesting blog with interesting comments, Neil.