How Do-Gooders Can Do Bad

“Human rights” organizations have become purveyors of bloody chaos as they advocate Western big-power military attacks on weak countries in the name of “responsibility to protect” one of several purportedly well-intentioned strategies gone awry as Coleen Rowley and Diana Johnstone describe.

By Coleen Rowley and Diana Johnstone

Organizers and participants in the “Creating a Workable World” conference (held this weekend at the University of Minnesota) are undoubtedly sincere. No one wants to live in an unworkable world. The sponsoring World Federalist Movement has historically exercised a strong attraction on progressives, appealing to their generous sentiments and wish for world peace.

However, such a grand, overarching ideal as world federalism or global democracy must be evaluated in light of current circumstances and its track record.

Ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi shortly before he was murdered on Oct. 20, 2011.

Ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi shortly before he was murdered on Oct. 20, 2011.

At the end of World War II, it was widely believed that nationalism was the main cause of the horrors that had just devastated much of the world. It was easy to imagine that abolishing nation states would be a step toward ending wars by removing their cause. This sentiment was particularly strong in Western Europe, forming the ideological foundation of the movement that led to European integration, now embodied in the European Union.

In that same period, there was a historic movement going in the opposite direction: the national liberation movements in various colonized countries of the Third World. The political drive for national liberation from European powers, Britain, France, the Netherlands, contributed to establishing national sovereignty as the foundation of world peace, by outlawing aggression. Newly liberated Third World countries felt protected by the principle of national sovereignty, seeing it as essential to independence and even to survival.

But today, 70 years after the end of World War II, experience has provided lessons in the practice of these two contrary ideals: supranational governance and national sovereignty. Not surprisingly, the official voices of the hegemonic world power and its allies tend to cite internal conflicts, especially in weaker Third World countries, as proof that national sovereignty must be violated in order to defend “human rights” and bring democracy. The danger from “genocide” has even become an official U.S.-NATO pretext for advocating and launching military intervention. With disastrous results.

It’s therefore not surprising that Workable World’s keynote speaker, W. Andy Knight, was a supporter of the infamous regime-change war that virtually destroyed Libya, under the guise, paradoxically, of the U.S. and NATO’s “responsibility to protect.” That is not just a side issue: It signals the dirty business of wars and regime-change intrigues currently underway behind the scholarly façade of “global governance.”

We fear that opposing arguments in favor of national sovereignty will probably not be discussed much during this conference. And yet, the European Union has served as an experimental laboratory testing what happens when a large and growing number (now 28) of sovereign states turns over a major part of their rights to supranational governance.

Unified institutionally, the weaker members find themselves dominated by the powerful. Despite decades of speeches proclaiming that “we are all Europeans,” when it comes to the crunch, people revert radically to their national identity. Germans resent Greeks for being debtors; Greeks resent Germans for keeping them in debt. All the more so in that there is no way out.

Elections are increasingly meaningless within the member states, because major economic decisions are taken essentially in Brussels, by the E.U. institutions. This is causing increasing disillusionment and depoliticization in Europe. Europeans take virtually no interest in the European Parliament. They do not feel represented by it, and indeed they are not. Democracy works best in small circumscriptions: Greek city states, Iceland, villages. The bigger it gets, the less “democratic” it can be.

Half a century ago, the functioning ideal was to bring eternal peace to Europe through unity. Today, that institutional unity is creating new divisions and hostility. To put it simply, experience is in the process of killing the ideal and showing why “worldwide parliamentary democracy” may bring more harm than good, at least in the real world as it exists today and will for some time to come.

Diana Johnstone, a Paris-based commentator, is author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions and Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton. Coleen Rowley is a retired FBI agent and former legal counsel. [This article originally appeared in the Star-Tribune.]

9 comments for “How Do-Gooders Can Do Bad

  1. hebgb
    October 14, 2015 at 19:45

    It’s all about governance. The same can be said of environmentalists pushing their ‘world saving’ views and agendas of governance. National sovereignty is the over-riding factor in any debate about CO2. The only thing worse than do-gooders are ignorant do-gooders.

  2. JWalters
    October 12, 2015 at 21:04

    These big changes require a good systems analysis, because they involve a complex system of interacting parts. Human nature itself being a complex one. Good intentions are essential, but not enough.

  3. Mortimer
    October 12, 2015 at 15:59

    Ms. Rowley, I have great admiration for you as regards to the principled stand you took in regard to ‘possible’ FBI “head turning” leading up to 9/11, 2001.
    You were and are a gallant hero, in my estimation.

    We’re joined on the telephone by Coleen Rowley, who wrote the 13-page letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller, accusing FBI headquarters of hampering the investigation into the alleged 20th hijacker of Sept. 11. Welcome to Democracy Now! Your reaction, especially to the revelations in the testimony yesterday that the FBI was actively pursuing 70 sleeper cells, in the United States, of al Qaeda.

    COLEEN ROWLEY: Well, let me preface anything I say. I have been instructed not to talk to the media, and that’s actually surprising since the letter that I wrote initially supposedly got whistleblower protection. But I think the FBI now is in a very precarious position because of the fact that there’s threats to split the FBI up. Therefore, the hierarchy is very sensitive to saying anything or even to allowing people to talk. So, today I’m speaking only in my personal capacity, and I’m trying to speak only from what I have said before, which is on the 13-page letter and in which in theory has whistleblower protection. But, obviously, if you read or anyone rereads that letter, which is now kind of ancient history, you will see a remarkable denial on the part of the mid-level management people at headquarters that any al Qaeda operative could exist — be existing here in the United States. Of course, the comments that were made which I’m aware of do not display that there was any urgency on the part of these people to react to news that was being generated from the field offices.

    AMY GOODMAN: Now, yesterday, Dr. Condoleezza Rice said that all of the field offices knew about the potential threats. What did you understand at the time, Coleen Rowley?

    COLEEN ROWLEY: Well, you know, historically the FBI has been investigating al Qaeda for a long time. Obviously, the first 1993 World Trade Center attacks brought that into focus. So, al Qaeda certainly was considered a threat, but what I’m talking about is any special urgency, especially during the summer of 2001 which would have made people, especially the mid-level management people, more aware of information, little pieces of information that were generated to them. And again, if you read —- reread the letter and the fact that the Phoenix Memo and the information that came in from our office and other offices simply was not acted on -—

  4. October 11, 2015 at 00:14

    Western Amnesty International Once Again Refuses to Oppose War

    In which David Swanson asks the Western-based human rights organization but gets no real response:

    “Will Amnesty International recognize the UN Charter and the Kellogg Briand Pact and oppose war and militarism and military spending? Admirable as it is to go after many of the symptoms of militarism, your avoidance of addressing the central problem seems bizarre. The idea that you can more credibly offer opinions on the legality of constituent elements of a crime if you avoid acknowledging the criminality of the whole seems wrong. Your acceptance of drone murders as possibly legal if they are part of wars immorally and, again, bizarrely avoids the blatant illegality of the wars themselves.”

    • October 11, 2015 at 09:30

      excellent article … it goes a long way to highlight “amnesty international” as the “good cop” in the “good cop, bad cop” routine.
      it is a system which has been well built, by very talented people. it fools everyone, and it fooled me for most of my adult life.
      it is these organizations which keep sheeple from waking up. I have not found any objective report which would suggest that Bashar al-Assad is any worse than the gulf sheiks, and emirs, or the zionist regime in tel-aviv. all that one may find are condemnations, which seem to be strictly a personal opinion of the author, or interviewee.
      if Alawites, Shi’ites, secular Sunni and Christians wish to survive the wahabists, they have to use an iron fist. the only way to bring peace in the middle east … is to stop supporting the only obstacles to peace. stop supporting wahabists and zionists.

  5. October 10, 2015 at 23:58

    violence can be physical, denial of group membership, or even implied threats … the washingtonian regime has used implied threats of physical violence, denial of group membership(economic sanctions which deny countries access to international trade), and very real violence to coerce communities, or nation states into accepting specific conditions which would not have been chosen except through fear/terror.
    that to me … is THE definition of “Terrorism.”
    using violence to coerce a community or nation into accepting specific conditions which it would not have chosen except through fear/terror.
    the washingtonian regime is in fact the greatest propagator of terror humanity has ever experienced.

  6. Hillary
    October 10, 2015 at 18:27

    “Workable World’s keynote speaker, W. Andy Knight, was a supporter of the infamous regime-change war that virtually destroyed Libya, under the guise, paradoxically, of the U.S. and NATO’s “responsibility to protect.”

    Infamous regime changes seems to be a neocon idea & has caused the mayhem we have today.

  7. Mustsign topost
    October 10, 2015 at 16:13

    “The ambitions of the rich have destroyed more nations than the ambitions of the poor” – Aristotle
    The use of NGOs for ‘color’ revolution is documented but that harm pales in comparison with your everyday indoctrination a la ‘Faux’ News of things that are only in the interest of a select few

  8. Joe Tedesky
    October 10, 2015 at 13:04

    A quarter million German’s are out in force protesting the TTIP trade agreement. I would say, this supports Diana Johnstone’s article, pretty well. As an American, I wonder that if the U.S. was to put half as much of it’s financial resources into it’s internal problems, what a wonderful world this would be. All of these wars just for the sake of American corporate hegemony, is part of what is eroding this American society.

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