Category Archives: Western Europe

Europe’s Pro-War Leftists: Selling “Humanitarian Intervention”

“I believe in two principles: never again war and never again Auschwitz.”[1]

These words could be heard at a convention of the Green Party of Germany in May 1999, during the NATO bombing campaign against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in which Germany participated. The speaker was the Green politician Joschka Fischer, Germany’s Foreign Minister at the time. His comment was meant to be a justification for the war against the Serbian people, the same people that already had to suffer under German imperialism in two World Wars.

In the 70s this same Mr. Fischer was a radical leftist activist and in the 80s he became one of the founders of Germany’s Green Party. The premise behind its creation was to give political and parliamentary representation to all the different environmentalist and anti-war groups. At that time, if anyone had spoken about the possibility that this same party would one day play an active role in a war of aggression against Yugoslavia at the end of the millennium, it would have been labeled as absurd. In fact, direct German involvement in any war used to be completely taboo and no one from the Left or from the Right would have even dared to consider such an option; the popular consensus was that after 1945, no war would be started out of Germany ever again.

This political transition in Germany, which has been mirrored across much of Western Europe, is important for understanding how it came to pass that many mainstream “leftists” became modern-day warmongers, sometimes to even greater extremes than their conservative counterparts.

It is their promotion of the self-contradictory concept of “humanitarian interventionism” (as carried out, for example against Yugoslavia in 1999 and Libya in 2011) that has come to make the approach of allegedly “progressive” policy-makers so subversive. Their moral authority is spun as being much more credible than the more blatant ranting of neo-conservative preachers of hate.

In Western Europe, most proponents of militarisation on the mainstream Left are associated with Green or Social Democratic parties. One of the first advocates of militarized “humanitarian intervention” was Daniel Cohn-Bendit, member of the Green Party of France. He was also one of the masterminds behind the abolition of European nation states in favour of a stronger European Union. During the Civil War in the former Yugoslav Republic of Bosnia, Cohn-Bendit demanded that the Serbs had to be bombed, and anyone who didn’t agree with that would carry the same burden of guilt as those who turned a blind eye to the Fascist mass murder in World War Two:

“Shame on us! We, the generation that held our parents’ generation in such contempt because of its political cowardice, now we watch on seemingly helpless, powerless and yet still holier-than-thou as the Bosnian Muslims are ethnically cleansed.”[2]

Indeed, the ploy of drawing parallels with Nazi crimes in order to demonise a rival who stands in the way of Western geostrategic interests was perfected during the Bosnian war. A case in point was the story of the so-called death camps in Bosnia: In August 1992, a British newspaper published a photograph of an emaciated man behind a fence, which was supposed to be proof of the existence of Nazi-style concentration camps run by Serbs. However, as German journalist Thomas Deichmann later found out, the man was standing outside the fence and therefore was not imprisoned behind barbed wire.[3] To be sure, detention camps existed on all sides and there is no doubt that conditions there were often horrific. The point, however, is that Western propagandists tried to whitewash the Croat and Muslim sides, portraying them wholly as victims, while at the same time presenting the Bosnian Serbs as barbarians and Nazis.

Using labels to demonize opponents or even whole populations is not a new concept when it comes to the mudslinging of propaganda wars. A de-politicised understanding of Fascism merely as a form of nationalism makes it possible for postmodern leftists to present wars of aggression as “humanitarian interventions” and therefore as “anti-fascism” in action. The more traditional leftist idea of anti-fascism would view fascism not only as a chauvinist/racist ideology, but would also consider its economic background and the alliance of high finance, the arms industry and political elites.

When the United Nations Security Council proposed Resolution 1973 on the establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya in March 2011, which served as a pretence for attacking the country, Germany abstained from voting, along with Russia, China, India and Brazil. The German conservative-liberal coalition government was heavily criticised by Social Democratic and especially Green circles for not taking a stronger pro-war stance. Former Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer attacked his successor Guido Westerwelle for not having supported the resolution of the warmongers, and added that Germany could now “forget about a constant seat in the U.N. Security Council.”[4]

Therefore it is not surprising that in the current conflict in Syria (which is significantly orchestrated and financed by the West, as were the civil wars in Yugoslavia and Libya), Western Europe’s Green politicians and other liberal leftists are the strongest proponents of a policy of escalation towards the Al Assad government. Claudia Roth, one of the two current German Green Party chairs, recently hosted a TV debate on Syria and shouted down any voice of reason pleading for negotiations with the Al Assad government.[5] One of them was writer and politician Jürgen Todenhöfer, who holds a balanced position on the conflict and recently travelled to Damascus for an interview with Al Assad, in order to let the Western world hear the “other side” as well.[6] The fact that anyone let Al Assad voice his opinion was already too much for Ms. Roth, who expressed her irritation with Mr. Todenhöfer’s trip to Syria in no uncertain terms.

At the same time, the first Western head of state to openly raise the possibility of attacking Syria was France’s newly elected “socialist” president François Hollande. In his statement he let the world know that he would “not rule out international military intervention in Syria”.[7]

Hollande’s election to the presidency expressed many people’s hope that Nicolas Sarkozy’s five years of reactionary, neoliberal and corrupt leadership would be replaced by a more humane way of governing. Unfortunately, when it comes to foreign policy, Hollande seems to carry on his predecessor’s neo-colonial agenda.[8]

In the cases of both Libya and Syria, Bernard-Henri Lévy, a French “nouveau” philosopher, professional self-promoter and frequent object of media mockery, called upon his government to intervene and prevent the “killing of innocent civilians”. [9] Of course his open call for war was sold as humanitarian grassroots activism. In an open letter to the French president, published (among others) by Huffington Post, Lévy used the massacre in Hula as a justification for intervention.[10] The fact that evidence indicates that the victims of this terrible crime were supporters of Al Assad’s government who were killed by insurgents[11] doesn’t matter to the black-and-white world of these virtuous philanthropic activists.

From “Auschwitz” in Bosnia and Kosovo to a “Syrian dictator” slaughtering women and children, the strategy of overcoming people’s resistance towards wars of aggression by appealing to their guilty conscience – the “don’t turn a blind eye” tactic – stays the same. And no one plays this game better than today’s “progressive” false samaritans.

Bearing all this in mind, we return to the example of Germany. To date, the country’s government has actively participated in spreading anti-Syrian propaganda, but has not expressed a pro-intervention enthusiasm comparable to the “progressive” pro-war disinformation campaign. Although not many positive things could be said about Chancellor Merkel’s neoliberal, U.S.-friendly government, Germany’s present administration at least does not seem to be inclined to risk a military adventure to the same extent as the Green/Social Democratic opposition, and continues to speak in favour of a “diplomatic solution”.[12] And while the current government’s track record proves they are far from innocent in matters of interventionism[13], things could get even worse during elections in 2013 if Germany’s government again forms a Social Democratic/Green coalition, as was the case from 1998 to 2005. After all, they managed to pull off a historic achievement by making war presentable again to the German public for the first time since 1945.

[8] During his presidency, Sarkozy was responsible for militarised intervention both in Cote d’Ivoire and Libya.

[13] All this, however, despite the fact that the German army and Federal Intelligence Service is providing military aid to the insurgents in Syria. See:http://www.wsws.org/articles/2012/aug2012/syri-a21.shtml.

Published on:

Global Research, September 21, 2012

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Interview: “Stop Imperialism” with host Eric Draitser

Eric sits down with Benjamin Schett to discuss the growing debate over Switzerland’s neutrality and possible entry into the European Union. Benjamin explains the historical and contemporary value of Swiss neutrality as well as the Left’s ignorance on the subject. Benjamin and Eric also examine the current and future economic situation in Europe and the rise of SYRIZA. Additionally, Benjamin explains the propaganda and disinformation regarding the smashing of Yugoslavia and the parallels between that project and what we see being done to Syria.

Benjamin Schett is an independent journalist and researcher based in Switzerland. He is a frequent contributor to GlobalResearch.ca and other sites. Visit his blog at benjaminschett.wordpress.com

To listen to the interview, visit the Stop Imperialism website:
[Length 01:06:23m]

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The Death of Swiss Neutrality? Foreign Policy in the Service of Imperialism

Switzerland, a country traditionally reputed as a model for democracy and order, is nonetheless politically rife with contradictions. On one side many tend to praise the country’s high living standards, its system of direct democracy and its remarkable range of high quality products popular around the world. On the other hand the practice of bank secrecy has made Switzerland a popular destination for money launderers of all kinds throughout the decades.

Although offshore safe havens such as the British Channel Islands, the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and others nowadays enjoy notably higher popularity for large-scale financial criminal activities, Switzerland remains the primary destination in many people’s minds when it comes to dictators, speculators or mafia bosses hiding their dirty money from the not quite long enough arm of the law.

Another key concept many associate with Switzerland is its strict policy of political neutrality. Indeed Switzerland is the second oldest neutral country in the world; it has not fought a foreign war since its neutrality was established by the Treaty of Paris in 1815.

 Though Switzerland’s ambivalent position during World War II was justifiably criticised by many, the state’s neutral stance has generally been appreciated all over Europe and the rest of the world. Even British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who was certainly no fan of neutrals, said:

”Of all the neutrals, Switzerland has the greatest right to distinction. . . What does it matter whether she has been able to give us the commercial advantages we desire or has given too many to the Germans. . .? She has been a democratic state, standing for freedom in self-defence. . . and largely on our side.”[1]

Swiss neutrality makes the country a good meeting ground for negotiations between conflicting global parties. Even the United States, who do not maintain official diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran, rely on Swiss support in order to have a diplomatic channel:

“In the absence of diplomatic or consular relations of the United States of America with the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Swiss government, acting through its Embassy in Tehran, serves as the Protecting Power of the USA in Iran since 21 May 1980. The Swiss Embassy’s Foreign Interests Section provides consular services to U.S. citizens living in or travelling to Iran.”[2]

As a diplomatic contact point between the U.S. and Iran, it is logical that Switzerland would have no valid reason for refusing to meet with Iranian officials. But even a short encounter between the former Swiss federal president Hans Rudolf Merz and the Iranian president Mahmood Ahmadinejad at the United Nations Durban II anti-racism conference in Geneva 2009 was going too far, according to officials from Israel, America’s closest Middle East ally:

“Netanyahu’s office later said that he and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman decided to recall Ambassador Ilan Elgar from Berne ‘for consultations and in protest at the conference in Geneva.’”[3]

Further testing Switzerland’s neutrality, U.S. and Israeli officials criticised Switzerland for not taking part in the oil embargo against Iran in July 2012.[4]

Relationship with the European Union

Although it does not belong to the European Union, Switzerland collaborates closely with its member states and the majority of Swiss exports are reserved for the EU market. Nevertheless, according to Jean-Claude Juncker[5], Prime Minister of Luxembourg and one of the key architects of EU integration, Switzerland’s independence remains “a geostrategic absurdity” because its position is an anomaly among other European states[6].

Indeed, there is no doubt that Swiss neutrality could not effectively continue if the country was to join the European Union, as EU member states are currently being forced to give up more and more of their fiscal sovereignty.

However, in Switzerland itself, where all major political parties have guaranteed representation in government, many forces are trying to push the country in a direction that would be more in line with the geostrategic roadmap of Brussels’ key players. In particular, Switzerland’s mainstream leftist party would like to see its country join the EU sooner rather than later. The fact that dominating EU-member states have participated in numerous U.S.-led military aggressions (e.g. Yugoslavia in 1999, Afghanistan in 2001 and Libya just this past year) apparently does not seem to faze the pro-EU stance of many Swiss leftists.

In June 2012, the Social Democratic Party’s faction of the Swiss General Assembly confirmed once again that they do not see a future in bilateral cooperation with the EU, specifying that joining the EU would be the “better institutional way.”[7]

Swiss Social Democrats also support Swiss participation in NATO programs such as the Partnership for Peace, Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and NATO Parliamentary Assembly.[8]

Ironically, Switzerland’s mainstream “leftists” are the most unscrupulous proponents of militarism and imperialism, operating through the rhetoric of shamelessly demagogic “humanitarian” and “internationalist” phrases. For example, when the so called “Republic of Kosovo” declared unilateral independence in February 2008, “neutral” Switzerland was among the first countries to recognise the U.S./NATO protectorate disguised as a state. This happened mostly thanks to the efforts made by the former Federal Councillor for Foreign Affairs, Micheline Calmy Rey (a Social Democrat), who had already lobbied for recognition of Kosovo for months.

In May 2012, the Federal Councillor for Foreign Affairs, Didier Burkhalter, attended the NATO conference in Chicago and promised closer collaboration between NATO and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) when Switzerland takes over OSCE presidency in 2014.[9] Furthermore he argued in favour of Swiss participation in NATO’s so called “Cyber Defence” program.[10]

The latest disturbing news on Switzerland’s role in the international community concerns the conflict in Syria, when it was revealed that Syrian anti-government insurgents have Swiss weapons in their arsenal, as the Swiss Sonntags-Zeitung[11] reported:

“The records, photographs, were made on Thursday in the Syrian village of Marea (Aleppo) and show hand grenades of the type shown OHG92 and SM 6-03-1, which were produced by the [Swiss] government-owned arms manufacturer Ruag.”[12]

Allegedly the weapons had been originally sold to the United Arab Emirates, who reportedly delivered them to Syrian insurgents. Other reports indicate the possibility that the arms had been used previously by anti-Gaddafi fighters from Libya, who got them from Qatar, which would mean that one of the most aggressive Gulf regimes received Swiss arms.[13]

In December 2011, a temporary ban on sending arms to Qatar was implemented by Switzerland, but was lifted quickly thereafter.[14] On the other hand, Swiss export of weapons to Syria has been banned since 1998. It is revealing that when it comes to arming pro-Western regimes, Switzerland exercises much less constraint.

As reported recently, about 40 senior representatives of various Syrian opposition groups have been meeting “quietly in Germany under the tutelage of the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) to plan for how to set up a post-Assad Syrian government.”[15]

Furthermore the project “has been funded by the State Department, but also has received funding from the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs.” [16] According to the Swiss daily Tages-Anzeiger, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed its participation and the donation of approximately 50 000 euros for covering “logistic costs”.[17]

The main problem concerning the decision-making process of Swiss foreign policy is that in no other field of Swiss politics can so many decisions be made without asking for the people’s approval in a referendum. This practice runs completely counter to Switzerland’s system of direct democracy, where referendums normally are meant to be a component of the country’s political culture. Therefore it is easy for factions who follow a transatlantic agenda to hijack Switzerland’s foreign policy and undermine the country’s centuries-old sovereignty.

However, defending a nation state’s democratic and social institutions against global imperialist rule would be a progressive act and has nothing to do with outmoded notions of “nationalism”, as Western mainstream leftists would have us believe. It would, rather, be the first step in the struggle for freedom from supranational corporate interests.

It is no surprise, then, that pro-EU pundits like Juncker label Switzerland’s reticence to jump aboard the EU bandwagon (and abandon its neutrality) as “absurd”. Apparently, his definition of the ideal “democratic process” – as dictated by Brussels and applied broadly – is much less questionable:

“We decide on something, leave it lying around and wait and see what happens. If no one kicks up a fuss, because most people don’t understand what has been decided, we continue step by step until there is no turning back.”[18]

Notes

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/1997/02/02/opinion/l-churchill-s-switzerland-460141.html.

[2] http://www.eda.admin.ch/eda/en/home/reps/asia/virn/fosteh.html.

[3] http://www.haaretz.com/news/israel-recalls-swiss-envoy-over-ahmadinejad-presence-at-summit-1.274420.

[4] http://www.jpost.com/IranianThreat/News/Article.aspx?id=274099.

[5] Jean-Claude Juncker is President of the Eurogroup (a meeting of the finance ministers of the eurozone)

[6] http://uk.reuters.com/article/2010/12/15/eu-switzerland-idUKLDE6BE0VT20101215.

[7] http://www.nzz.ch/aktuell/schweiz/die-sp-waelzt-das-europadossier-1.17258476.

[8] http://www.sp-ps.ch/…/SIPOL_B_Stellungnahme_SP.pdf.

[9] http://www.currentconcerns.ch/index.php?id=1813.

[10] It goes without saying that U.S./NATO’s cyber activities have more to do with attack than defence. See for example RT on U.S.-Cyberwar against Iran: http://www.rt.com/news/iran-us-israel-cyberwar-virus-weapon-770.

[11] http://www.sonntagszeitung.ch/fokus/artikel-detailseite/?newsid=223610.

[12] http://www.syrianews.cc/syria-syrian-terrorists-weapons-switzerland.

[13] http://www.sonntagszeitung.ch/fokus/artikel-detailseite/?newsid=223610.

[14] http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/politics/War_materiel_exports_return_to_the_spotlight_.html?cid=32277794.

[15] http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/07/20/inside_the_secret_effort_to_plan_for_a_post_assad_syria 

[16] Ibid.

[17] http://www.tagesanzeiger.ch/ausland/naher-osten-und-afrika/Schweiz-finanzierte-Syriens-Opposition/story/25230130.

[18] http://www.economist.com/node/1325309.

Published on:

Global Research, August 8, 2012

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