• Our ’smart’ intervention in Libya is already escalating

    It’s an escalation that was essentially predictable, the natural progress of an imprudent war of choice waged entirely at the discretion of the executive branch. This reckless endangerment of American lives mirrors the disregard the Obama administration has shown for the Constitution, Congress and public opinion by the very fact of its Libyan interventions.

    Indeed, now as in 2011, there was no formal declaration of war to authorize our involvement in Libya. As in the fight against ISIS more broadly, the White House claims as cover the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which at this point functions like a blank hall-pass you steal and Xerox endlessly to get free run of the middle school.

    #guerres_sans_fin #Etats-Unis

  • What next for #Venezuela?

    So the Venezuelan political system, with all its flaws, is much more democratic than the conventional wisdom has maintained. Now, what about the future? If the opposition gets a two-thirds majority of seats (112 or more), it would have important powers, such as the ability to remove Supreme Court judges, censure the vice president and call an assembly to propose changes to the constitution.

    However, the opposition has more than 20 political parties and many divisions. It is possible that the government will be able to get some opposition legislators to vote with it in the National Assembly, so that it can continue governing until the next presidential election in 2018.

    If that is the case, from the government’s standpoint, the election will not have changed much. The key issue for its continued political survival will still be the economy. There is triple-digit inflation, widespread shortages of consumer goods, a recession, low oil prices, non-working price controls and a dysfunctional exchange rate system that is at the heart of the country’s economic mess. This is obviously why the government lost the National Assembly. So, as before the election, if the government does not fix this mess, the Chavistas will lose power; if they do fix it, they will probably do OK.

    Opposition leaders will still face the same choice they have faced for the past 16 years: Do they want to participate in the political system, or simply vanquish their enemies, the Chavistas? From 1999 to 2003, they had what opposition leader Teodoro Petkoff called a “strategy of military takeover,” including the 2002 U.S.-backed military coup and the 2002–2003 oil strike. But in the past decade, they have repeatedly gone back and forth between insurrectionary and electoral strategies. In 2013, they lost the presidential elections and refused the accept the results, taking to the streets with violent demonstrations; and last year, a part of the opposition led by Leopoldo López and María Corina Machado also opted for violent street demonstrations aimed at “La Salida” — or “the exit” — of the government.

    The opposition’s victory could give the more moderate elements a leg up on their extremist partners to move the country toward a more normal, less polarized political process. The government now clearly has a new incentive to do the same. That would certainly be the best for the country, which faces serious challenges ahead in fixing the economy.

  • The Israel-Hamas War: Are war crimes being committed?

    Brian Fitzsimmons, Intern
    Foundation for Middle East Peace
    July 22, 2014

    Charges and countercharges have been made that, on the one hand, Israel is committing war crimes through its massive aerial bombardments and use of heavily armed ground troops at great cost to civilians in Gaza, and on the other hand, that Hamas is committing war crimes by firing missiles against Israeli population centers. The following summary provides some guidance on war crimes. See also the footnoted citations of scholarly and legal analyses.
    The Fourth Geneva convention includes three principles of war concerning civilians and previous combatants who are now sick, wounded, or have surrendered, along with several annexes. The main three are:
    1. Principle of Distinction (and Humane Treatment): Armies must distinguish between combatants and non-combatants (i.e. civilians) and are prohibited from attacking non-combatants. As long as non-combatants do not take part in the hostilities, they are legally protected from treatment “of such a character as to cause physical suffering or extermination. This prohibition applies...to murder, torture, corporal punishments, mutilation and medical or scientific experiments,” as well as collective punishment and the use of human shields. All civilians have these protections, regardless of race, gender, religion, ethnicity, etc.
    2. Principle Military Necessity: Armies can only attack “military objectives,” not “civilian objects.” In other words, armies can only attack locations or personnel that give them a definite military advantage. Anything that does not produce this military advantage is considered a “civilian object,” and is protected by the 4th Geneva Convention. Furthermore, armies cannot attack indiscriminately - they must attack a specific military objective with precise equipment/weaponry that damages only the intended target.
    3. Principle of Proportionality: During an attack, the harm to civilians cannot exceed the military benefit of the attack. For example, an army could not blow up an entire apartment complex just to kill one lowly lieutenant. (Clearly, there is some subjectivity - Israel could publicly claim that the advantage of killing that lieutenant exceeded the harm done to civilians in the apartment complex. It’s all based on perspective). Similarly, an army must take all precautions before the attack to ensure minimal civilian casualties. If an attack will disproportionately harm civilians, the army must scrap the operation. If the attack is justifiably proportionate, the army must still warn civilians in the area of the impending attack. Israel does this with text messages, leaflets, and phone calls, but also with small bombs not designed to kill. Once the army controls a military objective, the safety and protection of nearby civilians falls upon it.
    The Fourth Geneva Convention also ensures the protection of:
    Medical, humanitarian, and religious personnel (as long as they don’t partake in hostilities)
    Humanitarian relief operations and locations (i.e. refugee camps, cease fires so NGOs can provide relief to affected civilians)
    The natural environment (for example, an army could not destroy farms or poison rivers to starve a population center. An environmental attack must give a proportional military advantage)
    Infrastructure necessary for the survival of civilians

    Both Israel and Hamas have violated international humanitarian law.
    On the Israeli side, Israel is clearly not taking the necessary precautions to avoid civilian casualties, what with 70-80% of the dead being non-combatants according to the UN.[i] Examples of this violation include the 4 children killed on the beach, strikes against civilian apartment complexes, and the destruction of a disabled center. Furthermore, though Israel is warning Palestinians to evacuate, there are few places to which they can actually flee, and no possibility of leaving Gaza exists due to the Israeli and Egyptian closures. With few shelters, many Palestinians have no choice but to stay in their homes. This leaves them vulnerable to Israeli air strikes and ground attacks. Israel undoubtedly understands this, but continues with the strikes anyway.
    It is also plausible that Israeli strikes violate the principle of proportionality. Israeli bombings have wreaked so much more death and destruction than Hamas’s rockets, and the constant barrage further harms the economy, cutting many Palestinians off from vital necessities and medical care. Though Israeli air strikes do not directly deprive Palestinians of these necessities, their high frequency renders any attempt to access food and medical care potentially fatal. This implies a violation of the “humane treatment” clause. Nevertheless, as mentioned above, proportionality is subjective - Israel could claim that the military advantages gained by these strikes outweigh civilian loss. It is harder to justify an entire ground invasion, however, against the principles of proportionality and military necessity.
    As for Hamas, it is obviously violating the principle of distinction and military necessity by indiscriminately firing upon Israeli population centers. With no guidance, Hamas’s rockets and mortars make no distinction between combatant and non-combatant, nor military objective and civilian object. Hamas does not recognize any of these distinctions - all of Israel, combatant or otherwise, is its target. Furthermore, accusations that Hamas is using Gazan civilians as human shields (in a general sense) may hold water. Purposefully erecting launch pads in civilian areas could be interpreted as violations of humanitarian law. However, Hamas might reply that Gaza is so densely populated, there is no location to fire missiles from that does not house civilians as well. In addition, Hamas might accuse Israel of the same violation, since its Ministry of Defense is in downtown Tel Aviv. The “human shield” argument, therefore, is more debatable.

    [i] http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/22/world/meast/mideast-crisis

    • @biggrizzly L’expression « égalité : la balle au centre » mérite à elle seule un long développement dans lequel je n’ai pas le temps de me lancer aujourd’hui, mais comme base de départ, je voulais rappeler qu’il est impossible de mettre à égalité le Hamas et l’Etat d’Israël (même si les deux sont des crapules), du point de vue des moyens et du point de vue de l’histoire (L’Etat raciste d’Israël n’est pas une créature du Hamas, mais on peut se demander dans quelle mesure le Hamas est une créature qui doit sa force et son renforcement à l’Etat d’Israël. On y reviendra sans doute plus tard, là, vraiment pas le temps.

    • Nous sommes bien d’accord @reka. Cette façon de vouloir systématiquement annuler les crimes de l’un par les crimes de l’autre est stupide ; ce n’est pas la première fois que cette égalité est exprimée de la sorte. « Le tortionnaire n’en est pas un, parce que son supplicié a des torts, lui aussi... »
      Et... oui, le Hamas est une créature issue de la politique raciste, intégriste et opportuniste de l’état d’Israël.

    • Aussi un truc, d’ailleurs, indirectement lié. Je vois ici et là des graphiques qui compare le nombre de morts israéliens et le nombre de morts palestiniens. Je refuse pour l’instant de faire pareil, car je trouve cet exercice dangereux et macabre. Constater qu’il y a dix ou vingt fois plus de morts palestiniens par rapport aux morts israéliens, c’est prendre le risque de banaliser la mort comme un simple indicateur statistique et surtout de la banaliser tout court (du genre regarder, dix pauvres morts israéliennes pour deux cents morts palestiniens) et moi, je pense que un mort c’est déjà très très grave. Enfin, je refuse d’utiliser la mort comme un instrument statistique de comparaison et de justification.

    • J’ai ressenti le même trouble en lisant un décompte expliquant que depuis 2000, en gros, 7000 morts palestiniens, 1000 morts israéliens. Et là du coup, je me suis dit « ben ça alors, ils meurent aussi en quantité les israéliens ». Ce qui finalement réduisait le côté injuste des évènements, puisque « finalement, le déséquilibre n’est pas si flagrant ». Cet instrument, le décompte des morts, ne peut pas être une justification en effet. C’est tout au plus une circonstance aggravante, il me semble.