The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
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AB: International law is being given ever greater prominence
nowadays as people look for a post-cold war way of regulating world
affairs and controlling rogue states.
M: By "greater prominence" I am not sure whether you mean greater enforcement and respect of international law, or that politicians and the media are just talking more about them. If you are talking about he former, perhaps you are referring to the recent "prominence" given to the bombings of Iraq and Serbia which were in breach of the Geneva convention Act 1957 (amended 1995) of the UK specifically states that "civilians shall not be the the object of attack" (sch 5. art52.1) and also that " civilians shall enjoy protection unless they take a direct part in hostilities" (sch 6. art13.3). If you are talking about the latter a good example of recent 'hot air' is Robin Cooks 'ethical foreign policy' statement which prided itself on the amount of arms it could sell Indonesia.
AB: Indeed, many of the postings to the list from people with a very
rely on international law rather than purely moral objections to sanctions.
M: Very true, not surprising when the US has vetoed more UN resolutions on human rights related issues than any other country. UK has the silver medal for second place I believe. Also the anti-American tag always suggests an irrational hatred of America. I am not anti-American, I am against state terrorism, of which the US is major player, backer, and sponsor around the world.
AB: Since 1945, a semblance of such order was provided by the two superpowers keeping a degree of control over their respective spheres of influence.
M: What do you mean by semblance of order? Vietnam, Panama, Cuba? I cannot quite see how this can be called order. Who were the US "controlling"? It is the US that could not exert control over its mad rampages into foreign territory.
AB: We are now faced with a situation in which there is really only
one superpower. This is not, however, a good reason for saying that
no control should be exercised at all the control rogue states. If
Iraq does possess chemical and biological weapons which it had intentions
use on its neighbours, which includes Israel (yes, even Jewish people have
human rights too, even if not everyone seems to care much about them), it
must be restrained from doing so.
M: Twice you have referred to "rogue states" without naming names. In current standard media jargon "rogue states" refers to countries like Iran, Iraq, Libya. I consider the US a "rogue state". Who will restrain them? It is interesting that you should cite Israel as needing protection from "rogue states". Israel, a country which in 1982 illegally invaded Lebanon (for the second time) massacring 20,000 people, mainly Palestinian and Lebanese civilians, and has remained illegally in Southern Lebanon. Israel which since 1967 has been in illegal occupation of the occupied territories. A country which has one of the worst human rights records in the world, which has subjected the Palestinian people to political extermination, annexation, torture, imprisonment without charge, denial of civil, religious and political rights, destruction of property. In the last 12 years alone a recent Amnesty reported the destruction of 2,650 Palestinian homes, leaving 16,700 homeless. The "rogue state" of Israel is one of the largest recipients of US aid (for a time the biggest) Rather than the very large "if" which surrounds Iraq's nuclear capability, we know that Israel has nuclear weapons. The US of course, is the only country ever to use nuclear weapons in a war crime of massive proportions which killed 175,000 people in total.
AB: This should prompt us to seek greater internationalisation and
democratisation of the world security order. We will always need
the military resources of NATO to preserve international peace. This may
not be ideal, but the UN has no troops of its own and
even if it had, would never be able to organise a credible force (just see
what happened in Bosnia). To an extent this is evidenced in sanctions and US military
action against Iraq being, at least to a degree, made lawful by the passage of Security Council measures. Those who would even go so far as to disagree with the actions by the West to expel Iraq from Kuwait must remember that this was done to uphold international
law. Of course, one can argue that other motives played a part. Nevertheless, it was a
clearly authorised military intervention under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter under the principle of collective security.
M: If the actions of the west to expel Iraq from Kuwait were done to uphold international law, why was the west not ready to uphold international law, it holds so dear, when Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and instead of the few thousand people Iraq killed during its invasion of Kuwait, Indonesia killed some 200,000 (a third of the population)? US motives for the invasion had nothing to do with Kuwait or international law. They wanted to establish a US protectorate, protect US economic interests, and reaffirm its military dominance in the region (and the world).
AB: Even now, the US has to pay at least lip service to a need to
have the support of
international law and/or the authority of the UN Security Council. So its superpower
abilities are being restrained by international democracy, albeit insufficiently and in a very embryonic form.
M: How were its superpower abilities restrained by the authority of the UN when US/west invaded Serbia? What authorization did they have from the UN? I agree we need to have a UN but to say it has any effect on US decision making (aside from window dressing) is wrong. The authority of the security council is meaningless, it only has five members. The authorization of a UN resolution is sought when it can be used as cover (Iraq) and ignored when it will not be possible to gain (Serbia). Finally the US government has said many times that if US interests are at stake it will act with or without UN backing, thereby making a mockery of international law.
AB: At the conference on the holocaust a few days ago,
many Jews, gypsies, gays and Jehovah's Witnesses wondered why the allied
forces did not bomb the railway lines to the death camps. They wished
that this had been done, not only once the war had started, but before
it had started. Others might similarly wonder why, when Hitler began
rearmament contrary to the Versailles treaty, the allies did not take
firm action by bombing his production facilities. I suspect that these
past misjudgments do not look any more justified or morally pure by rightly
noting that they were simply applications of M's principles of
non-intervention and national sovereignty.
Perhaps in the future at a meeting of Kurds, Palestinians, East Timorese they will sit and wonder why the US/west armed to the teeth Turkey, Israel and Indonesia. Others might similarly wonder why while Turkey continues its brutal war against the Kurds (in 1993 -94 alone 3200 Kurds were killed and 3500 villages destroyed), Israel continues to defy international law, and Indonesia's proxy army in East Timor goes on a rampage, after a vote for independence, the west not only does nothing (aside from a mop up operation) but actually backs Turkey, Israel and Indonesia, economically, militarily, and diplomatically. I suspect that these current misjudgments do not look any more justified or morally pure by rightly noting that they were simply applications of Alans principles of looking the other way.