Above All Law?
By Dr Shireen M. Mazari

With the Israelis carrying on with the murder and pillage of Lebanon, as Muslims we must hang our heads in shame. Our self-imposed helplessness and fear stands in stark contrast to other nations whose leaders are traveling to Lebanon while we have yet to see any Muslim leader visit the besieged state. As for the US, it is now clearly aiding and abetting the murder of innocent Lebanese citizens in its grand design -- in which Israel is a central partner -- of reshaping the map of the Middle East. The problem is that so far their scheme of things has been a miserable failure.
Heading a notorious "coalition of the willing" the US invaded Iraq and all it has managed to do so far is to totally destroy the country and create sectarian divisions and hatred, as well as creating extensive new space for al-Qaeda in a place where the latter never had a presence. Israel tried to get the world to accept that the Gaza strip was not only totally under Palestinian control, it was the answer to the viable Palestinian state demanded by the international community through endless UN Resolutions. The farce of this Israeli duplicity was soon exposed with the frequent unprovoked military attacks and targeted killings undertaken by the Israelis in the wake of the Hamas democratic electoral victory. The final culmination of the farce was the policy of collective punishment undertaken by Israel against innocent Palestinian citizens and the Hamas elected leaders. Lest we forget, it was the attack against innocent picnickers in Gaza that led to the capture of an Israeli soldier and the unleashing of the Israeli military machine against the Palestinians.
In Lebanon itself, the US and its many compliant allies had used the Hariri murder to force Syria to withdraw its forces and to usher in a pro-US government in that country. And look what is happening. Lebanon and its citizens are being killed in a most brazen and criminal fashion by the leading terrorist state, Israel, with full complicity of the US. That the US actually has the gall to justify the massacre of Lebanese citizens under the claim of Israel's right to "defend itself" shows only too clearly that international law, including humanitarian and other laws of war are not seen to be relevant for Israel and the US. Even US allies like the UK are finally seeing the horror of what Israel is doing in Lebanon and the UN representatives have actually managed to rise out of their timidity and declare that Israel is at the very least in violation of international humanitarian law with its uncontrolled violence against the Lebanese people. But the US wants Israel to continue its killing of Lebanese and Palestinians till its desire of revenge has been fully sated. So although there will be an eventual ceasefire, it will only come when the Israelis feel they have had their fill of murder and mayhem and a complete abuse of all international norms of behavior.
As the Muslims continue to pay the price for Europe's Nazi guilt, it is the seeming helplessness and pusillanimity of the Muslim World that is most frustrating, adding to the anger of Muslim civil societies. The Arab World's inability to send any leader to show solidarity with the Lebanese or even speak out forcefully is distressing, to say the least. Is it any wonder that Muslims are fair game for abuse and killing by the US and its allies, especially Israel? In contrast, it is admirable to see how Hezbollah and the Palestinians are withstanding the Israelis murderous onslaught. Israel has already used phosphorous bombs in Southern Lebanon and now the US is to provide smart bombs to the Israelis. Clearly Israel feels no need to exercise any constraint whatsoever in its killings and the US is ensuring that this murderous streak of Israel is allowed free rein for as long as it appears viable. And the rest of the international community can only watch as the US uses its veto in the UN Security Council to circumvent international opinion and outrage.
And where is all this leading to? Well, not surprisingly, Israel has now issued a statement that it may accept an international force if it is headed by NATO. This is what many of us had feared ever since NATO came into Afghanistan. NATO, with no Asian or Arab members, is now moving into areas reserved legitimately for collective security action by the UN Security Council and UN blue berets. If NATO takes over this role, for which it has no legal mandate, effectively we will have the US and Europe deciding Asian security issues and perhaps a new political map of the so-called greater Middle East.
Along with NATO, we are drawing closer to a complete redrawing of the map of this conflict-torn region and unless the Arabs wake up to what is happening, they will find themselves divided and subdivided into weaker polities with the US controlling the energy resources and supporting compliant governments.
Closer to home, India also continues to carry on with its efforts to undermine Pakistan -- the only state that is still capable of balancing rather than bandwagoning with it. Even though it cannot act as Israel has done thanks to the nuclear balance in the region, it has declared its intent of using punitive action against Pakistan (similar to Israel's notion of 'collective punishment'?) through Afghanistan (if ever there was an open declaration of intent regarding intervention in Pakistan's internal affairs this was it) and is still clutching at straws to link Pakistan with the Mumbai blasts. First, it was the Lashkar-e-Taiba that was blamed and now it is the Kashmiri Hizbul Mujahideen leader, Syed Salahuddin, that they are demanding be handed over. All this despite the fact that they have no hard evidence of any of these groups and individuals actually being linked in any way to the Mumbai blasts.
Like Israel, India sees little relevance for international norms of inter-state behavior. Like Israel, it continues to violate international human rights and humanitarian law in Occupied Kashmir. Additionally, it is only too apparent that what India is really seeking is abandonment of the peace process since it has no intent of moving towards conflict resolution on any of the prevailing bilateral conflicts with Pakistan. And India knows only too well that it cannot sustain atmospherics endlessly in order to fool the international community that it is actually moving forward on the dialogue process.
While it is dangerous to subscribe to conspiracy theories, it is equally foolhardy not to examine a notion increasingly being given overt expression by US analysts and political elite -- that the massive energy resources in the Muslim World need to be brought under US control and if this requires restructuring the region under more manageable regimes then so be it. First the region was redefined as the "Greater Middle East" -- to include Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan -- and the next step was to expand the chaos and eventually build anew from the ashes as it were. Israel is doing that almost literally for the US and the Iraq situation is certainly seeing a strange anarchic drift. Even the basic tenets of international law of any type do not seem to apply to these unilateralist states that have given state terrorism a completely brazen face.
(The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Courtesy The News)


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