Criminalize war!

By Johan Galtung

Nobody has brought this simple message to the world like the Perdana Global Peace Foundation in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. As the leader, Mahathir Mohammad, Malaysia’s fourth prime minister says:

“Peace for us simply means the absence of war. We must never be deflected from this simple objective”.

So they organize compelling exhibitions and conferences to highlight the atrocities and horrors of war, starting with World War I, often in cooperation with Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta University in Indonesia. A very clear message from the Southeastern part of the world to the Northwestern part: Stop It! All your rules of war add up to its legitimation; wars get ever worse as measured by the percentage of non-combatant, civilian casualties; from about 10 percent in World War I to 90 percent in the Vietnam and other wars at the end of the 20th century. They dare refer to crimes as “unintended consequences”, “collateral damage”.

Take Norway, a “peace nation”, as example; not the USA an Israel with their gods, the idea of being chosen, and exceptionalism. See what Norway does against the spirit of UNSC-United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 to protect civilians, promote cease-fire and mediate a political solution in Libya. And against the UN Charter Article 2 outlawing war.

According to testimony by pilots on the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation “Brennpunkt” (In Focus), 25 percent of the bombing was planned with goals selected in advance. The rest were chosen by the pilots who from 40,000 feet decided which buildings, roads or people they observed were targets: “We were told to fly into an enormous area the size of Southern Norway and search for targets ourselves. We were used to clearance from somebody on the ground, but did not get it”.

But regime change they got, as well to assure that the Libyan Central Bank would be private, not state, and could not defy the designs of private capital for global dominance. Norway obeyed orders, doing its part.

This is criminal activity, like mass murderers gone amok shooting wildly at everything that moves. Who ordered it? The Labor Party prime minister, the foreign minister and the defense minister in a “red-green” (meaning brown) coalition. Who did it? The pilots. According to the Nürnberg Tribunal the latter cannot claim they only followed orders; and according to the Tokyo Tribunal the former cannot claim that they were unaware of what happened. It is the duty of the former to assess the legality of what happens, and of the latter to know what happens.

The sum of the crimes of the Gaddafi regime and the bombing of Libya is not zero; they are two crimes, to be handled separately. The case is now being made at the Human Rights Court in Strasbourg, the International Criminal Court in The Hague (where Norway does not enjoy US protection), and at the Norwegian Constitutional Court. They will encounter incomprehension in Norway: We, the perfect ones? Crimes?

Yet, this is the necessary breakthrough in consciousness. Imagine starting a war between states becoming an international crime in the same way that starting violence within states is an intra-national crime. Would we not apprehend the criminals and arraign them into court?

The Pinochet precedent: globalizing crimes against humanity; a crime committed somewhere is a crime committed everywhere. The criminal can be arrested in any state on the planet in the future, be extradited, or else tried where he is arrested. The Mother of parliaments in London showed the way as it also did for the war in Syria – a solvable crisis.

This would limit their freedom to travel as it already does for some top US and Israeli politicians. Yet beyond that there is another approach: excommunicating such states from the inter-state system, and the UN, breaking or downgrading bilateral diplomatic relations. Trade is not the issue; state legitimacy, unless that state itself takes action indicting the “warlords”, is. The present system gives a US president the right almost singlehandedly to press the nuclear button.

Where does this madness come from? From the 1648 “Peace” of Westphalia asserting the right of states to (declared) war? That does not explain the concentration of the “right” to engage in mass murder on the top of the state pyramid. Thea Abrahamic god kills massively – more in the Torah and the Bible than in the Qur’an; to be a king gratia dei, by the grace of god, bestows the same right of kings to their successors, the presidents and prime ministers. Not strange that we find most belligerence in the Occident. Democracy or not, it does not matter. The “grace of god” was transferred to the people in vox popoli, vox dei, leading to the grotesque idea that democracies have more of a mandate to kill. As if democracies were about killing and not about nonviolent transfer of power and resolution of conflicts. The exact opposite of, and the remedies, to war and killing.

We are moving in this direction. As inter-state war becomes rarer, wars will stand out as exceptional, illegitimate and illegal by the UN Charter. The old laws of nations applied to inter-state wars lose their significance as the world evolves. R2P, “Responsibility to Protect”, kills on other states’ territory; unlike self-defense by defensive military on one’s own. Could ulterior motives be behind the dubious idea of killing people to save people? Have really all other means been used? Not by diplomats trained in promoting the interests of their own countries, but by massive nonviolent invasion from the outside as buffer, protecting some, impeding others? Deep mediation applied to all parties to the conflict, not merely to two of them chosen to fit he abrahamic search for God vs Satan, translated into People vs Hitler and his likes; readily issuing Hitler-certificates?

Not strange if patriarchy and patriotism are yielding to parity and globalism. The Fifth Commandment, Thou shalt not kill, was for the in-group only. But today we are ever more one big in-group. Using states to kill makes the killers outlaws. Criminals. Stop it.

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