In the midst of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, a much-needed interval in our chequered contemporary history where multilateralism as a diplomatic tool faces extinction, tons of American bombs continued to rain on weaker opponents with impunity.
Olympic Games periodically provide the global community with a restful time during which various forms of sporting activities become glue that holds the world together in harmony.
Individual sportsmen and women, as well as dozens of teams, compete amid a rare spirit of conviviality that often tricks the world into forgetting the flurry of violent activities that has become a part of our everyday lives.
Like during religious festivals or activities of global significance, opposing sites on battlegrounds pause to show respect, including during Olympic Games.
But not the American bombs! The US is the world’s only remaining superpower since the end of the Cold War. The disintegration of the former Soviet Union at the turn of the ’90s, which became a symbol of the US and West’s victory in the Cold War, emboldened NATO and the European Union when a long queue of Eastern European States, big and small, rushed to take up their membership as a form of insulation against perceived potential Russian aggression in the post-Soviet Union era.
But back to the lack of moral judgment that has been displayed by the US in recent weeks: Maitreya Bhakal, an Indian diplomatic writer, noted that since June this year the US has been on a bombing spree choosing its targets carefully like a Godfather. There has been no visible international outcry, no notable condemnation of the US’s so-called “self-defense” strikes against weaker nations and the impunity with which Washington operates leaves much to be desired.
International relations commentator Bhakal, clearly disappointed in the US foreign policy that appears to “kill everything that moves” in enemy home bases, wrote: “A nation-state version of a psychopath, the US refuses to give up its addiction of bombing innocent people. In just over a month, it bombed Syria, Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan – and shows no signs of developing a conscience.”
Conscience – or a pang of it – even in war, is an essential trait of humanity to possess. It ensures that the basic humanitarian needs of vulnerable societies are not deliberately destroyed indiscriminately by powerful regimes hell-bent on punishing weaker foes simply to set an example of how to intimidate possible future enemies.
Bhakal added: “America loves killing anything that moves. Like the nation-state version of the psychopathic serial murderer, it loves bombing weak, poor, defenseless nations that cannot fight back – nations that have done no harm to it and pose no threat to it.”
The tragedy about the US bombings is that they are too often indiscriminate – hitting men, women and children “and anything that moves”. They obliterate communities. The military language that they use is “collateral damage”. It is a subtle way of justifying the perceived inevitability of fatalities – the loss of innocent lives snuffed out amidst the pursuit of individuals or groups of enemies – real or perceived. To annihilate the weak looks like their pastime.
The saddest part, also, is that institutions such as the International Criminal Court (ICC) does too little to speak or act on behalf of the victims. I am well aware that the US is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, but I want to argue that the ICC – “as a court of last resort”, must investigate and pursue anyone suspected of involvement in crimes against humanity.
Indeed, there are justifiable grounds for countries to get involved in military warfare, and there always will be. However, even warring sides do have humane obligation to recognise the boundaries of engagement. To bomb countries “back to the stone age”, as some US military generals previously bragged, is simply at odds with international law that binds all nation-states, including the US and its Western allies.
Bill Clinton, the 42nd president of the US who occupied the White House from 1993-2001, once warned his successor, George W Bush, on the eve of the latter’s invasion of Iraq in 2003. Clinton told Bush: “You can’t kill all your enemies.”
My biggest disappointment among all American presidents in contemporary history remains Barrack Obama, the first African-American occupant of the Oval Office from 2009-2017. He was the 44th president and a history-maker who was widely viewed as a breadth of fresh air. Until, in my book, he led the merciless attack on Libya, supporting local rebels and encouraging them through provision of weapons and ammunition to fight the authority of Muammar Gaddafi in 2010-2011. On October 20 2011, a crazy mob in the form of the Western-backed National Transitional Council captured a long-serving Libyan leader during what became known as the Battle of Sirte.
Gaddafi was found hiding in a culvert and was brutally beaten and sodomised with a bayonet before he was shot at point blank several times. It breaks my heart to this day to remember that of all the US presidents, it had to be the one the developing nations of the South had so much faith in his presidency. Today, 10 years later, Libyans are still at each other’s throats, knowing no peace and their oil riches under the Western control whilst the locals kill each other over who should rule the once prosperous, stable country. Obama’s notorious killer drones in Afghanistan and the Middle East are a matter for discussion on another day.
Salute to Russia and President Vladimir Putin for defending Syria from going the same route as Libya. Had it not been for Moscow’s steadfast support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the US-supported rebels would have ousted the beleaguered regime.
As the world’s only remaining superpower, barring of course the dramatic rise of China, the US would do well to focus on building multilateral institutions such as the UN, WTO, WHO and many others so as to enhance global cohesion.
Washington’s cantankerous foreign policy is a threat to global peace and stability. It is based on “America First” under President Biden, not too different from President Trump’s policy of “Make America Great Again”. Empires rise and fall. History has a long list of examples – from the Roman Empire, British Empire, Greek Empire, Mongol Empire, Ottoman Empire, Spanish and Portuguese Empires, among others.
It is not late yet for President Biden to change American foreign policy course of action and pursue dialogue with adversaries and embrace multilateralism as a potent tool in international relations. Otherwise, be warned, empires come and go.