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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I'm sorry to have to reply, but I think some of these outrageous and deliberate misinterpretations of what I wrote ought to be responded to. On Tue, 1 Feb 2000, M wrote: > Several list members responded to my posting. I found most comments > quite reasonable however I have to take issue with Alan Bates. It is > perhaps useful to begin by quoting Diane Orentlicher, director of the > war crimes research office at the American University in Washington > whose view (responding to an investigation into allegations by chief > prosecutor at the UN war crimes tribunal, into NATO war crimes) > encapsulates much of the Alan Bates position. "The even-handedness we > expect of the chief prosecutor does not mean treating allegations > equally". George Orwell anyone? The Orentlicher quote has been taken completely out of context. It is obvious that allegations have to be treated equally. How seriously you look at an allegation depends both on how much evidence is provided for it and the capacity to investigate and prosecute successfully. Besides, I specifically said that international law was not being applied equally and that that was a problem with it. But that is not a reason to return to the much worse positions of non-intervention and national sovereignty which M has emphasised. > > 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. I think you have completely failed to read what I wrote. In context, greater prominence clearly means people are talking about it more and taking more notice of it. Even ten years ago, hardly anyone mainstream was seriously talking about concepts like international criminal jurisdiction (Pinochet being arrested would have been inconceivable). For the record, civilians are NOT the deliberate subject of allied attacks in Iraq. There is no credible evidence to the contrary. Even if there was, the allies would DENY it. This is the whole point I am making. It is now necessary for states to pay at least "lip service" to international law - I specifically used that term. It isn't my fault if you can't be bothered to read what I have written. If international law didn't matter at all and was not given greater prominence nowadays, the allies would say, "Yes, we bomb civilians when we need to achieve a particular objective." That's what they said during World War 2. The whole point is that they DON'T say that because of international law. The fact that adherence to international law is now universally recognised as a normative ideal shows that it is being given greater prominence. > > AB: Indeed, many of the postings to the list from people with a very > anti-American stance > 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. What has this got to do with what I wrote? Besides, the US and UK are entitled to veto resolutions, many of which are contrary to human rights and very bad resolutions. It isn't contrary to international law to vote against something, is it? The point I was making, once again, was that both US/UK AND PEOPLE ON THIS LIST ALL rely on international law to support their positions. Once upon a time, people would have ignored international law. So if that doesn't prove that international law is being given greater prominence, what does? > > 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. I didn't say that the superpowers created order. I said a SEMBLANCE of order - look it up in the dictionary. The simple FACTS are that during the cold war, smaller states either allied themselves to the West or to the USSR, whichever best suited their political philosophy. These small states relied on their patrons for security against aggressors. NATO kept the peace in its own sphere and defended it against attack, and Warsaw Pact did the same for its sphere. Of course, there were small skirmishes. But international attention was focused on the cold war. Vietnam, Panama and Cuba were examples of COLD WAR conflicts, not localised problems as we have now. The USA wanted to stop the spread of communism and that was the single driving force behind international affairs. These are facts which I am not aware of any serious academic disagreeing with. In fact, we all lived through some of it so we might even be able to recall the situation before the end of the Cold War ourselves. During the Cold War, international law was less important and the UN virtually irrelevant because people relied on the balance of power to keep things in check. All the problems now, including sanctions on Iraq, are consequences of the end of this balance of power (i.e. the USA can do what it likes and ignore the Russians). So how this can be seen as me approving of US foreign policy I fail to see. During the Cold War even non-aligned countries had a vital role in brokering between the superpowers and trading on their neutrality. After the cold war, the international order changed - the break up of Yugoslavia for example: more regional conflicts. This is just simple fact - I can't see what is so controversial about it. > > 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 to > 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. > Rogue states, as I would define it, are states that openly flout international law: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and yes, to an extent, Israel. But that does not mean it is okay for Iraq to threaten Israel with chemical and bilogical weapons. I am so sick of how partisan some people on this list are. Most Israelis are very concerned about human rights. Remember that they recently voted for Barak. There are serious campaign groups in Israel campaigning for peace and for an Israeli withdrawal from occupied land, despite the security risks this would pose because Israel is surrounded by states who are members of the UN and yet continue to refuse to recognise the right of the state of Israel to exist, Their attitude is a breach of the collective security underlying the UN Charter. Jewish people do not deserve to be killed by Iraqi chemical weapons, any more than Iraqi civilians deserve to be killed by dodgy sanctions. I know that some people disagree with this and only hope that someday they can overcome their prejudices and hatreds. I agree with you that Israel is in breach of international law. That is why I condemn them for it. According to your view of the world, I shouldn't be condemning it as a breach of international law since this is contrary to your rules of non-intervention and national sovereignty. If Israel decided to invade Egypt tomorrow, we should do nothing to intervene according to you. After all, according to you, we shouldn't have ejected Iraq from Kuwait when Kuwait was invaded. Thus, the only option left to all the states in the Middle East, without any risk of outside intervention, would be for everyone to fight it out with chemical and biological weapons. No international law enforcement would take place. The law of the jungle would rule and the Middle East would be turned into a bloodbath. That is the logical consequence of complete non-intervention by the West. Of course, it is possible to argue that the West should have intervened to stop Israel occupying Syrian territory - but surely that would contravene your principle of nonintervention? Besides, Israel took that land during the Cold War (see what I said about this earlier!) - different circumstances prevailed then. Also, if you think the West was wrong and did not behave evenhandedly to stop Israel occupying Syrian territory, would you also have supported US intervention to bomb the troops who were preparing to attack Israel and thus started the six day war? I am not being an apologist for Israel. I am simply pointing out that if you hold sacred the nineteenth century rules of international law: non-intervention and national sovereignty - the world would be one hell of a worse place to live in. The fcat that the law is not applied evenhandedly (just as UK law is not applied evenhandedly by the police), that is not a reason to say, "Sod the law. Let's have a war of every man against every man so that human life is nasty, brutish and short." That is the logical consequence of denying a right of interventional in the so-called internal affairs of other states. It would mean that Bosnia would no longer exist today, being swallowed up in a greater Serbia, with Croatia taking a bite too. It would mean ALL of the East Timorese being killed, no intervention being permitted. It would mean that the chaos caused by non-intervention in Rwanda, where over a million people were slaughtered, being repeated everywhere. > 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). If we followed your principle of non-intervention, no UN forces would ever have intervened in East Timor to uphold the election result there recently. The initial invasion of East Timor by Indonesia, if it happened TODAY, would be prevented by the international community, led by the US/UK's regional ally Australia. Why? Because (a) the Cold War has ended and we do not need to give in to Indonesia all the time just because it is anti-communist; and (b) because international law has moved on from the principles of non-intervention and national sovereignty which M is so eager to defend. Things were different in the Cold War. I have made this point repeatedly now!!!! > > 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. The UN Security Council does NOT "only have five members." It has, I think, 15 members. Most members are ELECTED by the other member states in regional blocks. There are five permanent members. The USA/UK/ALL OUR EUROPEAN PARTNERS justified intervention (not invasion) of Serbia/Kosovo on the basis of the asserted principle of humanitarian intervention in international law. Whether or not such a principles has yet been established in international law is a matter of keen academic debate. But that isn't the point I was making. The point was that at one time, intervention would have been justified purely on the grounds of keeping order or stopping communism or whatever. Now even the USA feels that it cannot do things unless it can put some reasonable view of international law forward to support their position. Whether or not they are right either legally or morally is irrelevant for the point I am making. The point is that they feel they have to claim that they are acting in accordance with international law. A few years ago, they wouldn't have had this constraint. So, once again, my point is proved: international law is being given greater prominence! The Security Council is not meaningless. Every country in the world recognises its authority as the UN's body charged with maintaining international peace and security. If any country is making a mockery of the Security Council it is Iraq which has consistently refused to allow weapons inspectors to do their job properly. Of course, Iraq is not alone in its disobedience to SC resolutions. But the USA/UK are not showing disrespect for the Security Council. The problems over Serbia were caused by the RUSSIAN veto (M having criticised the USA and UK for using the veto!) which was happy to condemn NATO for a few accidental damage incidents to civilians in Kosovo and shed a few crocodile tears over them (when actually it was Russia that was cynically trying to increase its influence and use the veto as a bargaining chip and to get votes for corrupt Russian politicians), and yet is now happily and deliberately slaughtering civilians in Chechnya. It is funny that certain people feel so much sympathy for the Serbs simply because they have been in conflict with Uncle Sam, even though many Serbs laugh about Muslims in Iraq and elsewhre dying because they have so much hatred for Muslims nearer to home. > > 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. > M:> 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. This is really outrageous. The whole point which I am arguing here is that we should NOT look the other way in these situations. Where we can, we should INTERVENE. It is M who is prepared to look the other way - that is what the principles of non-intervention and national sovereignty mean. People should be allowed to torture and murder willy nilly and it is no concern of any other country. Iraq can invade Kuwait if it feels like it. Indonesia could invade East Timor again. Neighbours of Sierra Leone can divide it up between themselves and strip it of its diamond wealth. I am really fed up with the way that it is completely impossible to say anything reasonable on this list without being instantly characterised as a supporter of US "neo-colonialism" and the imp of Satan. I did not defend the USA (although in many ways it is a pretty cheap target - and I would rather live in a world where the USA was more powerful than Iraq under Saddam than the other way around). I didn't say a single thing in my e-mail in support of the USA. All I did was make broad observations about the post-Cold War international order and the growing singnificance of international law. Those things are facts accepted by all serious academics. Whether these things are good or bad isn't the point - they point is that that is the background against which the events are happening. The principles of non-intervention and national sovereignty are wedded to the ideas of the sanctity of the nation state. These ideas are defunct in a globalised world as well as being contrary to everything which any internationalist should believe in. Fortunately they are being consigned to the dustbin of history. But new principles to replace them - such as how we REGULATE intervention - are still embryonic - hence the confusion in the international order. So lets stop deliberately misconstruing each others mailings to this list. Lets stop harking back to bad and outdated principles from the past. Lets look forwards and think about how we can contribute to founding an international order based on law, democracy and justice instead. That is what I am advocating. Either we look around us, see the way the water is flowing, and make sure we alter its course to the good of humanity, or we become an irrelevancy, There is no point in trying to swim against the current to try to get back to a point ten miles upstream which we have long since (mercifully) passed. Alan -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email firstname.lastname@example.org Full archive and list instructions are available from the CASI website: http://welcome.to/casi