In the Shadow of Just Wars: Violence, Politics and Humanitarian Action

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While military intervention in Iraq was being planned, humanitarian organizations were offered US government funds to join the Coalition and operate under the umbrella of Operation Iraqi Freedom . In Kosavo, Timor, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan, NGOs had previously been asked to join in just wars. Indeed many aid agencies cooperated eagerly, subordinating their specific aims to the greater goal of peace, democracy and human rights . Few Afghans or Sierra Leoneans regret the interventions. However, the inconvenient victims of these triumphs, those from the wrong side, are quickly forgotten. These are individuals whom humanitarian organizations have the duty to save, yet in doing so they must remain independent of the warring parties, and refrain from joining in the struggle against evil or any other political agenda. Then there are places where the pretence of providing assistance allows donor governments to disguise their backing of local political powers. Lastly there are those whose sacrifice is politically irrelevant in the wider scope of international relations. In circumstances such as these, what little international aid is available collides head-on with the mutal desire of the adversaries to wage total war that may lead to the extermination of entire populations. In this book, international experts and members of the MSF analyse the way these issues have crystallized over the five years spanning the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st. The authors make the case for a renewed commitment to an old idea: a humanitarianism that defies the politics of sacrifice.