The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
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I got the following email from a member of the list asking about some comments in my last news report. With her permission I'm circulating the question and my reply: Hi Peter Ive just got a couple of questions regarding a couple of articles you have posted this week. I hope you dont mind my ignorance and naivity in posing them, as my knowledge of sanction details is rather recent and still in its early days. I hope you can shed more light on these: 1- * Powell expands list of facilities in Iraq that may be bombed Would I be terribly mistaken in believing that the US is unlawfully bombing these sites against international laws that should protect Iraqs sovereignty? The no fly zones are not lawful and imposed by the Us and the UK. Surely these countries regardless of whether they are in the Security Council can and should be made accountable internationally for such breaches. 2- Learning to live with a nuclear Iraq [This, I think, is probably the most interesting article of the week. It comes from the Israeli journal, Ive attended a day at the CASI conference here in Cambridge which included a speaker who is apparently well informed about the nuclear situation in IRaq. Neither his talk nor a documentary recently screened by the BBC here have managed to convince me that there are serious capabilies left for the manufacture and use of such weapons. How believable are the German reports regarding this and do you have any primary sources that I can read on this matter? Thanks for your help with some information regarding the two topics. Im sorry if they appear a bit too obvious to you or naive, but as I said Im new to this and Im still trying to find out more about the situation. Many thanks, mm Cambridge , UK. IN REPLY: Dear mm Thanks for the email. I don¹t at all mind trying to answer the points you make. I think that¹s what our discussion group is for, forcing us to think out the perhaps rather half baked thoughts we all have going through our minds ... With regard to your first point about the no fly zones being illegal, I had made the point in my introductory remarks about the Chinese that nothing any permanent member of the Security Council does can be illegal¹. It is true that Boutros Ghali has said that these no fly zones were illegal, ie they were not sanctioned by a UN Security Council resolution. But Kofi Annan has said that only the UN Security Council itself has the right to pronounce authoritatively on its own resolutions and since each of the permanent members can veto any interpretation they don¹t like, any interpretation that any of the five members choose to make remains valid, even if they contradict each other. Let me try to say how I see this general business of international law¹. A court of law only really counts if its authority is respected and it has the power to enforce its decisions. The body which should be at the centre of international law is the World Court at the Hague. It is effective when two countries turn to it voluntarily for arbitration, agreeing in advance to accept its findings. It does not have the means to enforce its rulings against a country which does not accept them. The outstanding example of this was its ruling that the United States acted illegally in mining the ports of Nicaragua in the early 1980s a truly and deeply outrageous act which everyone now seems to have forgotten. The US treated the World Court¹s ruling with contempt (Congress in reaction voted to increase its subsidies to the anti-government guerrillas, not to say terrorists¹, in Nicaragua). Though that contempt may have been less deep than it appeared. They may even have been a little shaken. I am persuaded that one of the reasons for setting up the International War Crimes Tribunal on ex-Yugoslavia in the Hague was a desire to undermine the authority of the World Court by replacing it in the public imagination with a kangaroo court that is under US control. The only international force that can intervene to impose international law¹ on a country which does not wish to observe it is the UN. The UN can only act on the instructions of the UN Security Council (at least that is the case now that the US has a fair degree of control over the UN Council. At the time of the Korean war the UN General Assembly was given a degree of authority but since the US lost control over it its authority has been taken away. One wonders why it bothers to meet). On the UN Security Council, as mentioned before, the five permanent members the US, China, Russia, France and Britain (in order of their importance and of the respect they command internationally) each exercise a veto. So the UN Security Council can never pass a resolution that is displeasing to one of those members. Consequently all five of them are above the law¹. Even if the World Court found against one of them nothing could be done about it. The system is particularly iniquitous when we remember that these are the five biggest arms producers, and therefore war profiteers, in the world. The system does have the advantage that it is difficult for the US to use the UN mechanism to its own advantage. The catastrophe which hit Iraq was a consequence of the exceptional weakness of Russia at the time. However, the case of Serbia has shown that the US does not need the fig leaf of international law¹ to act. Although, after Nicaragua, Grenada and Panama (without going back to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia) that hardly needed any proof. The Serbs, incidentally, tried to bring the US before the World Court at the Hague (the real one) on a charge of genocide¹. They thought they could do this because the US had actually signed an international convention outlawing genocide. In the event, however, only a day or so before President Milosevic capitulated, the Court ruled that it could not hear the case. It appears that when the US ratified the convention on genocide they only did so on condition that a codicil was added specifying that they, the US , could never be prosecuted under it. The world took this little revelation, as it has so many others like it, manfully on the chin. My conclusion from all this is that those countries which do not have the benefit of exemption from international law¹ (ie all the countries in the world other than the Permanent Five) should refuse any longer to tolerate or co-operate with the system. They should simply refuse to treat the security Council and its decisions with respect. For example they should systematically and publicly refuse to obey its commands on the subject of sanctions. The best thing would be for everyone simply on a much bigger scale than is happening at the present time to ignore the sanctions that have been put in place against Iraq. And they should rally round the World Court (the real one) and the UN Secretary General (whether he likes it or not) as potential alternative centres of world authority. The slogan should simply be equality under the law¹, which is a very American slogan. The curious thing is that the US (and the rest of us), in sitting above the law, is behaving in a way which could only be justified in a monarchical order, though the monarchical order only makes sense in a religious context in which authority comes from above¹. So the US in international affairs adopts a political philosophy which is the exact reverse of that which it proclaims in its domestic affairs, and it really shouldn¹t be impossible to bring that point forcibly home to the American public. With regard to your other point about the German Secret service, the BND, and Iraq¹s nuclear capabilities. I, of course, have no idea how close or how far away Iraq is from having a nuclear bomb. I have every reason to distrust the BND. It seems to me that the German government feels within an ace of casting off the military tutelage it has been living under since the end of the 1939 war. The prize of once again having an independent military existence in the world is within their grasp, and there has even being talk of Germany becoming a permanent member of the Security Council and thus hoisting itself above the law (the main grounds for this proposal appear to be that they combine the two virtues of being rich and white). They are, under the circumstances, anxious to show themselves devoted and zealous servants of the New World Order. Under Kohl they were doing this while still maintaining some semblance of dignity. But under Schroeder and Fischer all restraint has been thrown to the winds. The US want something said in public - the German Secret Service will fall over themselves to say it (what business is Iraq¹s military capacity of theirs anyway, we might wonder). However, Iraq is a country surrounded by deadly and very heavily armed enemies. If (as we all know now. It was more difficult to establish it at the time) Iraq started the Iran/Iraq war, the Iranian revolution still posed a very real threat to Iraq. And for most of the war the Iranians were heavily present on Iraqi territory. We may hope that Bashir Assad is an improvement on his father but Syria¹s support for Iran and cutting off of the Iraq/Syrian pipelines was still a very shocking (and still largely unexplained) breach of Arab solidarity. Turkey is currently invading Iraqi territory on a regular basis. Israel, in what would have been a flagrant breach of international law if there was such a thing, bombed Iraq in the eighties, while Iraq was defending the whole area against the fundamentalist Shia hordes. When Iraq was in a state of exhaustion and economic collapse after the war, Kuwait decided to profit from the situation by delivering an economic coup de grace to the Iraqi economy. The country is all the more vulnerable because of the internal divisions we all know so well. These may have been very badly handled by the Ba¹ath rulers, but no-one else, not least the British when they were in charge, has done much better. So, much more than the US and Britain, who are not threatened by anyone and don¹t need much in the way of a defensive capacity, the Iraqi government, whoever is in charge, needs to be heavily armed. And after all they have been through they surely must feel the need for some sort of convincing deterrent. After all, we think we need a nuclear deterrent don¹t we? Can Mr Blair think of a single argument for our deterrent which wouldn¹t apply a hundred times more to Iraq? We have killed something in the order of a million people on the pretext of preventing Saddam¹ from getting a bomb. Our idea is that if Saddam¹ had a bomb, a catastrophe would ensue as if the systematic murder by starvation and disease of a million people was not catastrophe enough. What I admired, and still admire, about the Ha¹aretz article was its willingness to live with the possibility that Saddam¹ might have a bomb. I prefer that attitude to our usual plaint that sanctions aren¹t working and Saddam isn¹t anywhere near getting a bomb¹. Which seems to me to contain a certain element of contradiction ... Best wishes Peter -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email email@example.com Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website: http://www.casi.org.uk