22-Oct-2014: R2P or the Responsibility to Protect was invented by the most powerful countries to demonstrate their humanitarianism, but in reality to provide themselves with yet one more weapon in its endeavor to dominate the world.
Is it not reasonable to think that R2P would have been invoked to rally world support against the spreading Ebola virus in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone? After all, even the head of the World Bank has criticized the failure of the rich Western countries to respond adequately to the epidemic. But given the gravity of this failure, this “mea culpa” ends up being a sort of cover up. Was the head of the World Bank, the IMF and like-minded institutions with a global reach willing to remember the role they played, through Structural Adjustment Programs, in further weakening all African health infrastructures, rendering them completely inadequate to a serious epidemic? Dr. Paul Farmer, a personal friend of the head of the World Bank has described these infrastructures as “medieval”.
Given that recent history and the one that preceded it, would it be an exaggeration to describe the Structural Adjustment Program a crime against humanity? However, again, given the history of the relationship between the Western countries and Africa, the former are likely to be outraged at being called perpetrators of such a crime for their failure to respond adequately to the spreading epidemic. For the Western countries, R2P is supposed to be used against perpetrators of crimes against humanity. By definition, given their own self-serving, utilitarian narratives, these most powerful nations are not prepared to look at themselves as actively involved in perpetrating such a crime.
The way the Ebola epidemic is being dealt with by the most powerful countries of the world can only be understood if one approaches it through the mindset that emerged from the history of conquest, slavery, colonization and apartheid. The Western countries enriched themselves through these historical processes that were rooted in systemic injustices.
For these injustices, no tribunal was ever set up. One of the consequences has been an ongoing impunity with regard to what occurred in Africa. Yet, the same Western countries have been quick to set up an International Criminal Court to make sure that crimes against humanity are punished. The question is: who decides on whether or not a given behavior, a given historical process, should be investigated for creating an environment conducive to a crime against humanity?
How the most powerful countries have responded to the Ebola epidemic is not unlike the manner in which they have responded to the evidence of climate change. The concentration of power, wealth into the hands of a tiny segment of humanity has led to the growth of an understanding of justice, truth, solidarity that is completely contrary to the maintenance of humanity.
The norm inscribed in the three pillars that constitute the foundation of the R2P automatically enjoins us to pose tough moral questions for those who have assumed the responsibility to execute that decision. President Sirleaf’s passionate letter to the world carried on BBC last Sunday, October 19, 2014, reminded the global community that ebola ‘respects no borders’. And the ‘bitterly disappointed’ Kofi Annan, another darling of neo-liberalism with impeccable credentials, was enraged to go further—‘if the crisis had hit some other region it probably would have been handled very differently’. This difference, shaped by centuries of history, teaches that one part of humanity is expendable while the other is not.
The one billion basket fund launched by the UN to reduce the rate of transmission has failed to attract donor support outside the $20 million pledge and the $100,000 donated by Columbia. But the cost of two F-22 Raptor stealth jets—going at $412 million a piece— gulping a whopping $67 billion to develop could eradicate ebola and malaria combined in one go. From 8 August to 24 September the US spent nearly one billion dollars bombing ISIS in Iraq.
Jacques Depelchin, Berkeley, California
Ibrahim Abdullah, Freetown, Sierra Leone