Folha de São Paulo (Brazil), October 12, 2011
There has been a lot of hand-wringing and moralizing about the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) blocking a resolution in the UN against the government of Syria last week. China and Russia used a rare double veto as permanent members of the Security Council, and the other three abstained.
“During this season of change, the people of the Middle East can now see clearly which nations have chosen to ignore their calls for democracy and instead prop up desperate, cruel dictators,” said Susan Rice, representing Washington at the UN. Much of the international media has followed Washington’s transparently dishonest and Orwellian narrative.
The BRICS countries had good reason to fear that this resolution could be a step toward military intervention. It was just seven months ago that the UN passed a resolution authorizing NATO intervention in Libya, under the pretext that it was to protect civilians there. It was a huge lie. The NATO powers went on to carry out more than 5,000 air strikes to overthrow the Gaddafi regime. The reasons of course had much more to do with oil and empire than human rights violations, which were no problem for Washington when it was transporting prisoners to Gaddafi’s Libya in recent years to be tortured there.
Last week’s UN resolution hinted at sanctions, and we all know how sanctions – which are usually ineffective in actually promoting human rights – can lead to war, as happened in Iraq. More than a million people died as a result of the Iraq war. For the U.S. government and its supporters to bray about human rights after that mass slaughter that it set in motion, its massive human rights violations in Afghanistan and drone killings in Pakistan, or its denial of the rights of Palestinians — well it is a wonder that anyone in the world would take them seriously.
Washington and its European allies have shown little interest in negotiated solutions or in saving lives in this region. Their policy is completely opportunistic: They were fine with keeping Gaddafi in power and Bashar al-Assad in Syria, or Mubarak in Egypt and Ben Ali in Tunisia, until it looked like there might be more to gain from switching sides. If they were really interested in saving lives in Syria, they could try to help negotiate credible guarantees to protect the Alawite and Christian minorities under any new regime. The dictatorship’s support appears to come largely from fears – not entirely paranoid fears either, given the experiences of Iraq and even Libya – that when it falls they could be victims of violence. But the NATO powers have done nothing to help in this regard.
The Arab Spring has demonstrated the power of non-violent resistance to bring about democratic change, most successfully so far in Egypt and Tunisia. Other struggles, as in Syria, have met with more violent repression and they deserve the world’s solidarity and support. But the BRICS countries are right to fear that U.S./NATO intervention can make things even worse, and to keep the UN from once again being used as an instrument of these imperial powers.