Argument: US humanitarian interventions have proven to be atrocities
The United States proclaimed themselves to be the guardians of humanitarian intervention in the 90's even though they conducted no humanitarian interventions, but they did commit many awful atrocities. The first US intervention of the 90's was in Iraq. This was supposedly in response to the invasion of Kuwait but since there were still diplomatic routes open to ending the occupation this is a ridiculous assertion. Also, the US didn't care about territorial integrity when they invaded Panama in 1989, with very similar circumstances and death toll to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. The intervention had numerous violations of human rights and international law, such as the use of depleted uranium shells and the bombing of civilian targets such as houses and water treatment facilities. The bombing was responsible for the deaths of about 200,000 people. But the US continued to intervene in Iraq and maintained sanctions under the pretense of forcing Saddam out of power. But these sanctions caused suffering on an enormous scale. Food and medicine was blocked and children starved to death and died from curable diseases and there was no clean up of depleted uranium which resulted in unparalleled cancer and leukemia epidemics. The sanctions were responsible for the deaths of about 1.5 million people by 1998, most of them children, according to US judge Ramsey Clark. They were also described as genocidal by Dennis Halliday, the UN humanitarian co-ordinator in Iraq who resigned in protest of the sanctions. And the sanctions strengthened Saddam's power since Iraqis were too starving and desperate to think about politics. And it was obvious that the US didn't want the overthrow of Saddam since they gave him arms and safe passage through their lines to crush the uprising in 1991, after the bombing, that had collapsed his rule across southern Iraq. Throughout the 1990's the US had constant terrorist attacks on Iraq as well. Hardly humanitarian intervention.
The next 2 US interventions were in Somalia. The first intervention was done after George Bush I had withheld aid from Somalia, then in a famine, for 2 months so he could gain election support by saying he was dedicated to helping the starving people of Somalia. This intervention only made things worse. The second intervention was adopted under the pretext of stopping the famine and this it succeeded, mainly because the famine had already ended. And during this intervention was responsible for 6 to 10 thousand Somali casualties, mainly women and children, according to the US command.
The next US intervention was in Bosnia, which came after 3 years of genocide had already destroyed the country, to which the US had done nothing. By the time of the intervention the atrocities were greatly receding and diplomatic routes were open, where they hadn't been before, but the US had to flex the muscles of Nato and bomb civilians.
The next US intervention was the bombing of the al-Shifra pharmaceutical pant in Sudan which provided almost 90 percent of the pharmaceuticals to Sudan. The excuse for this was that it was being used to harbour terrorists but it was quietly admitted later that it wasn't. This bombing had a death toll at least in the tens of thousands (possibly in the hundreds of thousands) and it destroyed the majority of Sudan's medicines and it's capacity to make new medicines and since it was under sanctions it could not afford to import any. And this is in a poor country with aids problems and regular tuberculosis and malaria outbreaks, where most people were far too poor to afford to have any medicine imported, even if that was allowed. This terrorist attack was vastly worse than the 9-11 terrorist attacks on America.
The final US intervention in the 1990s wad the bombing of Serbia to "protect" Kosovo. This bombing, as well as killing innocent serb civilians, greatly increased Serbian atrocities against Kosovar Albanians, as predicted by NATO Commander General Wesley Clark and US Secretary Of State, Madeline Albright.
How could the 1990's the decade of humanitarian intervention when it's chief protagonist was busy slaughtering millions of people for it's own self-interest?
Even though the US declared itself the leader of humanitarian intervention it still supported the worst atrocities of the 1990's. The worst atrocity of the time was Indonesia's genocide against East Timor. Indonesia had killed almost a quarter of East Timor's population but the Indonesian government and military still got training, weapons and support from the US and Britain. And there were no calls to intervene in defense of the Timorese. In fact, an intervention wouldn't have even been needed. When Clinton, under huge domestic pressure, told the Indonesians in 1999 that he could no longer give them weapons and training the genocide stopped almost immediately. But the US had supported it for 24 years before even though it would have been that easy to stop it. Another huge atrocity was the Turkish attack on the Kurds. During the late 90's Turkey killed many thousands of Kurds and created over 3 million refugees. But Turkey was a large recipient of US military aid the whole time. The situation was similar in Colombia, also a huge recipient of US military aid, where at least 7,000 unarmed peasants were killed in the 1990's and 300,000 new refugees were created every year. And during the first half of the 1990's the US supported the worst mass murderers since the Nazis - the Khmer Rouge. The US and Britain had been training Khmer Rouge fighters and supplying them with weapons and landmines in order to bleed the Vietnamese who had kicked the Khmer Rouge out of Cambodia. This had been going on since 1979 and the civil war it incited killed untold numbers of Cambodians and almost installed the Khmer Rouge back in power. That is something akin to almost restoring the Nazis back to power after 1945. This carried on until the mid 90's when Vietnam integrated itself into the world economy as America wanted and when the US and Britain stopped supplying the Khmer Rouge, their entire campaign to regain power fell apart. With their support for vicious atrocities, including quite possibly the 2 worst mass murderers since Hitler and Stalin - Pol Pot and General Suharto - how could anyone take seriously the concept that the US was dedicated to humanitarian intervention to protect human rights in the 1990's.
Footnotes: 1) On the sanctions against Iraq see
- The Great War For Civilization - Robert Fisk
- Iraq Under Siege - Anthony Arnove
- The Impact Of Sanctions On Iraq - Ramsey Clark
- and "Paying the Price: Killing The Children Of Iraq" (documentary) by John Pilger. This comes as part of the Documentaries That Changed The World box set.
2) For an analysis on US interventions and atrocities in the 1990's see Rogue States by Noam Chomsky.
3) My own work on the US' (and other powers') relationship with the Khmer Rouge see Khmer Rouge And Cold War Geopolitics This is an essay and it gives footnotes to books where you can find more information.