The False Doctrine Of Humanitarian Intervention Comes To Nicaragua
Humanitarian Intervention Has Divided The Global Justice Movement Bringing Suffering To Millions
I am really angry that passage of the NICA Act in its even worse form, the Nicaragua Human Rights and Anticorruption Act of 2018 (S. 3233), appears to be a fait accompli – and by unanimous consent at that!
If this Act has not passed by the time you receive these NicaNotes, please call your Senators using these talking points. If you are leaving a message, don’t forget to include your name and zip code.
What have we come to as a solidarity movement that we can’t even stop Senators Patrick Leahy and Dick Durbin from co-sponsoring regime change bills like the NICA Act and S. 3233? Unanimous consent for heaven’s sake! One single Senator could object and then they would at least have to vote on the bill which would almost surely push it off until the lame duck session after the vote. Hopefully primary sponsor of S. 3233, Ted Cruz, will be on his own way to the dust bin of history following the Nov. 6 vote and we can at least delay the bill to a quiet death.
But that kind of “inside the beltway” political calculation isn’t really the point. What makes me angry are the number of people who I used to consider comrades, who have contributed to this sad state of affairs.
My political consciousness began during the Vietnam War era. I can only personally speak of the time from then until now. During the Vietnam War, the anti-war movement was comprised of a majority who wanted the US to stop killing and to get out of Vietnam. There was also a minority that wanted the Viet Cong to win. During the Central America wars of the 1980s, the anti-war movement was composed of a majority which was against the US killing and wanted it to leave its hands off Nicaragua in particular. There was a minority that supported the Sandinista Revolution and wanted it to thrive.
In both cases – Vietnam and Nicaragua – both factions opposed US intervention. That was our common denominator. That was what we agreed on and it enabled us to ignore the things we disagreed on. Some of us called it US intervention; some of us called it US imperialism, but whatever we called it, we agreed that there was no positive role that the US could play in the internal affairs of either country.
Then came 1999 and the Bill Clinton administration’s dismemberment of Yugoslavia under the banner of “Humanitarian Intervention,” supposed righteous military attack to prevent human rights violations by the government of another country. The succeeding George W. Bush administration turned it into a Doctrine and made humanitarian intervention official policy of the United States government. Obama further embedded it, and Trump, although by nature an isolationist, has been pressured by his foreign policy apparatus to continue to toe the line. It is such a handy Doctrine. Few of us will fight for oil, but apparently majorities will support a bloated Pentagon budget and voluntary wars in multiple countries in the belief that we are protecting some mistreated population from abuse.
Somewhere between 1999 and today, large sectors of the peace and solidarity movements have bought in to the concept of humanitarian intervention so that the anti-war movement became divided and confused on US interventions in the Middle East and Africa and now Latin America, including Venezuela and Nicaragua.
I can understand that there are solidarity activists who don’t support the government of President Daniel Ortega. Some people have been consistent in that regard for going on 40 years. But it is a very big – and illegitimate – step from not supporting Daniel Ortega to not opposing US intervention. Some even go farther and call for passage of the NICA Act, sanctions, early elections. These are mortal sins. You cannot fail to oppose US intervention in the sovereign affairs of Nicaragua and continue to call yourself Left or progressive.
You cannot be both anti-imperialist and pro-intervention at the same time. It is simply disingenuous to say, “Of course I oppose US intervention, but…” There is no “but.” You have committed the unpardonable sin. The Nicaraguan people will have the final say on what kind of country, what kind of government, they want. Our job is to work to expose and oppose US intervention that constrains their ability to decide without outside influence.
Chuck Kaufman is National Co-Coordinator of the Alliance for Global Justice.
NicaNotes is a blog for Nicaragua activists and those interested in Nicaragua, published by the Nicaragua Network, a project of the Alliance for Global Justice. It provides news and analysis from the context of Nicaragua Network’s long history of struggle in solidarity with the Sandinista Revolution.