18 February, 2007

Steve Lendman: UN peacekeeping paramilitarism

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The world community calls them "Blue Helmets" or "peacekeepers," and the UN defines their mission as "a way to help countries torn by conflict create conditions for sustainable peace" by implementing and monitoring post-conflict peace processes former combatants have agreed to under provisions of the UN Charter. The Charter empowers the Security Council to take collective action to maintain international peace and security that includes authorizing peacekeeping operations provided a host country agrees to have them under Rules of Engagement developed and approved by all parties. At that point, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations enlists member nations to provide force contingents to be deployed once the Security Council gives final approval.

Once in place, Blue Helmets are supposed to help in various ways including monitoring the withdrawal of combatants, building confidence, enforcing power-sharing agreements, providing electoral support, aiding reconstruction, upholding the rule of law, maintaining order, and helping efforts toward economic and social development. Above all, "peacekeeping" missions are supposed to be benevolent interventions. They're sent to conflict areas to restore order, maintain peace and security and provide for the needs of people during a transitional period until a local government takes over on its own.

Far too often, however, things don't turn out that way, and Blue Helmets end up either creating more conflict than its resolution or being counterproductive or ineffective. In the first instance, peacekeepers become paramilitary enforcers for an outside authority. In the second, they do more harm than good because they've done nothing to ameliorate conditions or improve the situation on the ground and end up more a hindrance than a help. This article focuses mostly on the former using Haiti as the primary case study example after reviewing peacekeeping operations briefly in six other countries. In each case, the examples chosen show people on the ground as helpless victims of imperial exploitation (usually US-directed) with UN Blue Helmets used by outside powers for social control and domination, not keeping the peace. more

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