Thursday 23 October, 19:30

David Rieff and Rafael Vilasanjuan

Humanitarian Crisis

In the early 1990s, while the West was celebrating the fall of communism and of the Soviet empire, the security apparatus that helped to bring all this about began to collapse too. The resolve that avoided the disaster of a nuclear showdown between the two great power blocs was not sufficient to prevent other kinds of more conventional conflict, in which a great number of lives were placed at risk.

Since then, there have been more and more interventions by Western armies, while the role of the West in issues of world security, from Somalia to Iraq, by way of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chechnya, Sierra Leone, Congo and Afghanistan, has been progressively shaping the discourse of humanitarian intervention, moving from the old doctrine of external intervention to just wars, and ending up with the more sophisticated notion of preemptive war against terror. And all in the name of the greater good.

In brief, we are faced with a new universal moral doctrine that mobilises resources supposedly to improve the universal human condition, in some cases with United Nations intervention, in some under the banner of NATO, and in others with coalitions brought together under United States leadership. But, how much have this proliferation of so-called just wars and this enthusiasm for ethical, democratic and humanitarian values benefited the populations that are exposed to violence and suffering on a huge scale?

The testimony of David Rieff, who has been writing about human catastrophes over all these years, reveals the hypocrisy of the interventions, the manipulation of the international organisms, and the aid trap that, on many occasions, is no more than an excuse to act as a salve for our suffering consciences when faced with the reality of the victims.

David Rieff talks about why people should not forget former Serb President Radovan Karadzic, CNN, 2008.