Yanukovich and Kabbah 320


My old boss Mark Lyall Grant, UK Ambassador to the United Nations, is a deeply unpleasant man.  But he was quite right to dismiss Russia’s legal pretext for invading Ukraine on the basis of an invitation letter from ex-President Yanukovich.

The problem is Mark Lyall Grant is the last person in world to have moral authority to do this, as he was directly involved in drafting an invitation letter from ex-President Kabbah of Sierra Leone inviting Britain to invade Sierra Leone, which Britain then did.  Mark Lyall Grant said at the UN yesterday about Yanukovich that:  “We are talking about a former leader who abandoned his office, his capital and his country, whose corrupt governance brought his country to the brink of economic ruin”.  Exactly the same things could have been said about Kabbah, whose government had been massively corrupt – and was again when restored, and who issued his invitation to invade from a five star hotel in London after living in exile in Guinea.

The unspeakable horrors of the Sierra Leonean civil war have led to a lazy mainstream media accepting Sierra Leone as the “good” invasion.  But the civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone were not a spontaneous outbreak of human evil, they were caused by the massive corruption of ruling coastal elites in both Sierra Leone and neighbouring Liberia, compared to the appalling poverty and lack of basic services and education for those in the hinterland.  It is one of the ironies of history that the elites were the descendants of slaves returned with the very best of intentions by the US and UK, educated and given much charitable provision, who controlled the state and then set to exploiting the hinterland tribes ruthlessly from the “hut wars” of the 1880’s on.  The eruption of massive scale diamond mining from the 1960’s on escalated levels of corruption, warlordism and violence and almost continual military rule.  Laudable attempts to foster democracy did nothing to lessen corruption.  The dreadful atrocities of the RUF and Kamajors were a result of the tribal eruption that ensued.

What the British invasion did was simply to put the old corrupt elite safely back in place, and make the minerals secure for western interests.  Even more valuable than the diamonds is Sierra Leone’s rutile mine, the world’s single most profitable mine.  Following the British invasion guess who suddenly became a director of that mine? Valerie Amos, who was one of the ministers who authorized the invasion, and is now at the UN in charge of pushing for war in Syria.

I always opposed the doctrine of “liberal intervention” and still do.  But those who invented “the right to protect” were stupid enough to believe that they would forever be the only military power strong enough to seize assets in other countries.  For the historian, the “right to protect” and “liberal intervention” are precisely the same as excuses given for imperial grabs throughout the millennia.

Invading another territory is wrong when the British do it, and it is wrong when the Russians do it.  It is quite simply untrue that ethnic Russians were under threat in the Ukraine.  International law always recognizes and deals with the government actually in power in the country.  If ousted leaders are accepted as having in the right to call in freeing invasion to restore them, the world would be in a state of perpetual war.

Plainly Russian actions are illegal.  They do have an agreed right to station forces in Crimea.  It is impossible to tell at the moment if the agreed numbers have been exceeded, but the Russian production of Yanukovich’s letter would certainly appear to indicate that.  But Russian actions in blocking roads and blockading Ukrainian military bases on Ukrainian soil are plainly illegal.

Russia is behaving as what it is, an imperialist thug.  The British and the United States indeed lack any moral authority to make such a statement.  But I do not suffer from that handicap, and nor do you.

 

 

PS The story of my Sierra Leone involvement is in my book The Catholic Orangemen of Togo.  This is available for free download in a number of places around the web, including here.

 

 


320 thoughts on “Yanukovich and Kabbah

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  • old mark

    Craig- excellent post, shedding light on an episode in the late 90s I’d almost forgetten.

    Angrysoba- Thanks for mentioning Orwell. What relevance do you think his dismissal of Celtic nationalism has vis a vis the current expression of Ukrainian nationalism ?

    ‘Welsh, Irish and Scottish nationalism have points of difference but are alike in their anti-English orientation’

    and

    ‘One symptom of it is the delusion that Eire, Scotland or even Wales could preserve its independence unaided and owes nothing to British protection’

    Sounds very much as if your hero (and mine) was a ‘sphere of influence’ man.

  • Ed

    Thank you for this post. I have no view on the accuracy of the Yanukovich letter, but I had been wondering about the correctness of terming this a Russian “invasion”, as I understand that existing treaty commitments still apply, and so a certain number of Russian troops were permitted in Ukraine.

    I’m sure some of what they are doing is outside the terms of what is permitted under the treaty, but I have no doubt that Britain would do exactly the same were there a similar insurrection, in somewhere like Cyprus. Basically as much as I wouldn’t trust Putin an iota, it’s extremely hard to take Western leaders remotely seriously on this matter.

  • Anthony Blunt, Capacity Builder Extraordinaire

    Salone, sigh. Once the UK government installed their crooks, the UN did some very competent work in civil-society reconstruction. Arguably, it was too late. The US government is now corrupting civil society to play Spy Versus Spy.

    Genuine R2p might do Ukraine some good. R2P or the responsibility to protect (‘right to protect,’ a great jibe) is actually a perfectly reasonable synthesis of humanitarian law. Here’s the real thing: http://www.unrol.org/doc.aspx?d=2982

    R2P has gotten a bad name because the US government fixates on pillar III, intervention, to the exclusion of capacity-building and suasion. In their mania to justify armed intervention and forcible overthrow the US government engages in human rights distortion, in one more US breach of the non-interference principle. They see human rights not as a shield for humans but as a weapon for states.

    R2P can be pretty worthwhile. It has even developed the USA a bit. The International Baccalaureate is a brilliantly successful application of capacity-building to the insular US regime. UNESCO’s discreet arms-length involvement in Occupy is another.

  • Joe

    George Orwell is no yardstick and wasn’t immune to Western propaganda. He’s quoted above by someone as if it’s relevant to the current situation:

    “The Russians, unlike the British, are not blamed for defending themselves by warlike means, and indeed all pacifist propaganda of this type avoids mention of Russia or China.”

    Give me one example since the break up of the Soviet Union when the British or American governments defended themselves militarily against an actual threat.

  • Ангрысоба

    Give me one example since the break up of the Soviet Union when the British or American governments defended themselves militarily against an actual threat.

    Falklands.

  • Ben

    Yes, the false flag of liberal interventionism doesn’t wave when there is little economic/strategic value.

    Darfur? It’s been said there is no war against homelessness because there isn’t any money in it.

  • Kempe

    “Give me one example since the break up of the Soviet Union when the British or American governments defended themselves militarily against an actual threat. ”

    Northern Ireland as well but even the act of preparing defence brings criticism from the anti-west pacifists which is not directed at other nations no matter how many aircraft, tanks, ships and submarines they build.

    If you want a clear example compare and contrast CND’s position on Iran’s civilian nuclear programme with it’s implacable opposition to that of the UK.

    http://www.cnduk.org/information/briefings/global-abolition-briefings/item/482-cnd-briefing-iran

    http://www.cnduk.org/campaigns/nuclear-power

  • Phil

    Ангрысоба 4 Mar, 2014 – 3:22 pm
    “Falklands.”

    I spat tea with laughter. Brilliant.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    The BBC reports President rasPutin as saying that Russian intervention in Ukraine was a “humanitarian mission”.

    Funny!

    But look, let’s be clear about something. rasPutin can savour his mini-“triumphs” and the useful fools can cheer from the sidelines as much as they like, but post-Soviet Russia is as much a failure as was its Soviet predecessor. Economically (despite the wealth of its raw materials), socially, in democratic/rule of law/civil liberties terms, and even in human terms (it’s population is steadily decreasing with a low birthrate and increasing mortality rates). It may lash out from time to time, flex its muscles occasionally, posture on the world stage, but as a country it is like a broken-down old pug – going down…and out.

  • Phil

    Ben, 82 was hell in London what wiv the Clash releasing a disappointing 5th album.

  • John Goss

    “Habbabkuk, stop creeping to Craig will you? It’s embarrassing. You’ll be bringing him an apple next.”

    Quote of the day. Thanks. Mind you I don’t want it to sound like I’m creeping! He was last seen running home to mum with tears in his eyes and satchel swinging from his shoulder.

    Talking of the apple family (well not quite) inventor of the electric light-bulb, if you believe the unbelievable Russians, was Yablochkov. The light-bulb he invented is named after him and called Yablochkov’s Candle (Свеча Яблочкова). Talking of candles Thomas Jefferson said: “He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.”

    This blog is a source of light as is “The Catholic Orangemen of Togo”.

    Where’s my apple? Or should I be giving one?

  • Putin quakes beneath your towering rage

    When Habbakuk is infuriated he pesters other commenters less. Close but no cigar with the simple-minded demographic determinism. No mention of the overriding factor: Russia is getting even bigger as the globe warms and the north thaws out. In a few decades most of the world’s productive land will be there. But they can always use more proles! Maybe Putin will let you drive a taxi there some day, if you petition him most humbly.

  • Herbie

    Kempe

    Northern Ireland was an actual threat to Britain?

    The IRA was an actual threat to Britain?

    That’s even worse than the Falklands effort.

    Anyway, I think you’ll find that the Brits were managing both teams in that one, with an additional team on the sidelines should the game get too boring.

    That’s normally how it works.

  • Herbie

    “EU scales down punitive plans against Russia”

    ““As for the unfortunate association agreement between Ukraine and the EU, whose fate triggered the current crisis, again the EU said nothing new, as nothing was said about the timeframe for the renewal of this discussion and the signing of the agreements,” Chizhov added.

    “As far as I understand, the dominating point of view is that the EU wants to sign it with a more legitimate government than the current one,” he added.”

    http://en.itar-tass.com/world/721924

  • Ben

    Herbie: Where will debt relief come in? The article doesn’t mention IMF’s insistence on austerity.

    I think that’s the big fly in the ointment.

  • old mark

    Give me one example since the break up of the Soviet Union when the British or American governments defended themselves militarily against an actual threat.

    Falklands

    Angry- a joke surely, given that the USSR was a going concern in 1982 ?

  • Kempe

    “Northern Ireland was an actual threat to Britain?”

    Last time I looked NI was still a part of Britain so the terrorist activity there did represent a threat to it’s inhabitants, as it did to a lesser extent on the mainland.

    Of course if you believe it was all some sort of extended “false flag” operation that won’t make a lot of sense and there really is no hope for you.

  • Phil

    I can’t see what the arguing’s all about. I know I am a fathead idiot but the situation seems to be clear:

    NATO have been fanning flames of discontent. The Russians are sending in troops under the lie of a fascist coup. And it is a popular uprising by ordinary Ukrainians. All of these things are true.

    Now can’t we all simply agree that every government is evil?

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    “Russia is getting even bigger as the globe warms and the north thaws out. In a few decades most of the world’s productive land will be there.”
    ________________

    Interesting thought – a bigger land….with a smaller population. I wonder which will arrive first.

    Re my previous post, I should of course have said that THIS kind of Russia is going down…and out. A better one may emerge, God willing.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    Phil

    “NATO have been fanning flames of discontent. The Russians are sending in troops under the lie of a fascist coup. And it is a popular uprising by ordinary Ukrainians. All of these things are true.”
    ________________

    I liked your post (consider this to be an apple).

    But is there not a slight incongruity between your 1st and 3rd postulates? If there is no popular discontent, NATO could fan away all it likes but without result. Conversely, if there is popular discontent, then NATO’s alleged rôle would be unnecessary and in any event nugatory?

  • Herbie

    Kempe

    NI as “some sort of extended “false flag” operation”

    That was the second half.

    The first half was much more interesting, and particularly so in terms of the issues we’ve been discussing over these past few threads.

    Ben

    The Russians seem to be saying that Western sanctions against Russia don’t amount to squit.

    But yes, austerity and shock therapy is the IMF’s game certainly.

  • Herbie

    “Conversely, if there is popular discontent, then NATO’s alleged rôle would be unnecessary and in any event nugatory?”

    Midwifing, I think they call it.

  • Herbie

    “Now can’t we all simply agree that every government is evil?”

    Yes, Phil, and that’s why it’s better for the peeps when they’re squaring up to one another shadow boxing.

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