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The New Obama Doctrine: From Gaza to Goma

The Israeli assault on Gaza continues. The death toll rises over 100, infrastructure is destroyed, and the UN relief agencies are at wit’s end. A desperate tone has entered the dispatches from the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which has operated in occupied Palestine since 1950. On November 19, the agency noted:

“Israeli Air Force (IAF) strikes were supported by the Israeli navy during the night. The ongoing airstrikes have again targeted leaders of militant groups, infrastructure, the security apparatus, but increasingly residential buildings as well. One hit destroyed a four-storey building belonging to the Al Dalou family in a highly-populated area in Gaza city. The families present in the house were buried under the rubble. At least 11 people died in the strike and over 20 were injured – all of them civilians, including women, an infant, and children. This is an extremely worrying development. There has been a significant increase in civilian casualties during the past 24 hours.”

Israeli air strikes not only hit the UNRWA compounds in Gaza, but they killed a Grade 4 female student from the UNRWA Beach Preparatory Girls’ School.

The UN mission in Goma, a major city in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), removed all non-essential staff from the area. The peacekeepers, with a threadbare Congolese army force, remain to defend the city. On its outskirts sit the M23 (March 23) Movement rebels, backed by the Rwandan armed forces. They moved rapidly to get to this crucial city, the capital of North Kivu. There are already 2.4 million internally displaced people in the DRC, with 4.5 million suffering from food insecurity, and a million children under five suffering from severe acute malnutrition. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on November 19, “This new escalation in fighting in and around Goma, and elsewhere in the Kivus, adds to what are already monumental humanitarian needs in the DRC.” The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), warned, “The renewed conflict is putting children and their families at risk, leaving them exposed to physical harm and mental distress.”

Over the weekend, the UN Security Council met for an emergency session, listening to the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous. The Council considered a French resolution on Goma, which condemned “the resumption of attacks by the M23 and demand their immediate cessation.” There was a tepid finger raised toward Rwanda, whose armies have not only armed the M23, but they seem to be directing them. In 2010, the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights published a comprehensive report, DRC: Mapping Human Rights Violations, 1993-2003. which showed the complicity of Rwanda’s government in war crimes, crimes against humanity and even genocide in the Congo. This damning report, solicited by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, was barely given any consideration. It should have been at the center of a UNSC discussion on eastern Congo. But it has not.

Neither Rwanda nor Israel will ever be hauled over the UN coals. The United States will prevent any serious discussion of the military adventures of its allies: Israel and Rwanda. For the former, Israel, there is a formal doctrine (Negroponte Doctrine) that enjoins US ambassadors to the UN to block any criticism of Israel. There is no such formal statement for Rwanda, but there might as well be. Criticism of the M23 movement is allowed, but there will be no allowance to criticise its sponsor, the Rwandan government of Paul Kagame. During the Clinton administration, three heads of government were chosen as the new generation of African Renaissance leaders – Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, Eritrea’s Isaias Afwerki and Rwanda’s Kagame. All three have atrocious records in their own countries, and as far as Kagame and Museveni go, in the Congo. The DRC’s Lambert Mende said that M23 is a “fictitious force,” and that the “real aggressor” is Kagame’s Rwanda. But there is silence on this, as both Israel and Rwanda are immunized from any serious criticism by the UN, and therefore the “international community.”

Dossiers filled with appaling behavior and genocidal language flood the UN missions. Paul Kagame is on record as having called the Congolese, in his native Kinyarwanda, Ibicucu, nobodies or good for nothings (by Colette Braeckman in Les Nouveaux Predateurs, 2003). He speaks cavalierly about their “removal.” Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s son, Gilad, whose his a member of the Kadima Party, wrote an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post (November 18), with genocide on his mind, “Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too.” Such comments should raise the eyebrows of the UN Human Rights Council, whose silence on both Goma and Gaza is as stark as its loud noises during the lead-up to the NATO intervention in Libya. Navi Pillay, who called for the 2010 report on Rwanda’s behavior in the Congo and who tried her best (along with her legal advisor Mona Rishmawi) to implement the Goldstone Report, was allowed to fulminate about Libya and Syria but is subdued on Goma and Gaza. When atrocities are useful for US foreign policy, morality and outrage are muted.

By November 19, the UN Security Council had not acted on Gaza despite the Moroccan draft that has been before them since November 14. Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Vitaly Churkin made it clear to anyone without hearing range when he left the Council that he was frustrated with US obduracy. Palestine’s Permanent Observer Riyad Mansour indicated that absent US resistance there would be a UN resolution, and therefore an official indication to Tel Aviv of its isolation in its pummeling of Gaza. Meanwhile, the UNSC sanctioned the M23, but did not put any pressure on Kagame. That UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called Kagame and DRC’s Joseph Kabila to come to some kind of accomodation, shows that there is open acknowledgment that the M23 acts with Rwandan backing. Yet, no sanctions on Rwanda.

Obama’s second term opens with the worst kind of display of US power – backing two clients who are hell-bent on creating mayhem against their neighbors. Coming to the defense of Israel in Bangkok, Obama made himself the laughing stock of the world. He said, “There is no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders,” forgetting, of course, that US drones rain hellfire on Droneland – from Yemen to Pakistan, in violation of the UN’s own position on such extra-judicial assassinations, and it was Israel that began this particular episode with its own extra-judicial killing of Ahmad Jabari. There is no “reset,” no new liberalism. Drone strikes and other exaggerations of US aerial power, fanatical defense of its allies, and refusal to come to terms with the emergent multipolarity – this is the Obama Doctrine, now at work in Gaza and Goma.

Vijay Prashad is the author of Arab Spring, Libyan Winter (AK) and Uncle Swami (New Press).

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Vijay Prashad’s most recent book is No Free Left: The Futures of Indian Communism (New Delhi: LeftWord Books, 2015).

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