International Law, Iraq, War Crimes

Roland and I started this debate on the phone – I’ll continue it here. Let’s get the uncontroversial stuff out of the way first.

It is uncontroversial that the UN Charter:

  • Was ratified by the United States in 1945
  • Is the foundation of modern international law
  • Is a treaty
  • In accordance with the US Constitution, is therefore “the supreme law of the land”

As a matter of course, therefore, violating the UN Charter is not only a violation of international law, but our own.

Now, let’s move to the legality of the 2003 Iraq war. You asked something like “…so you’re one of those ‘George Bush is a war criminal people?'” This was more or less a loaded question considering the fact that there is no US president in recent history who is remembered as a “war criminal”, regardless of acts consistent with war crimes. Reagan comes to mind, with his mining of Nicaraguan ports and support, arming  and training of the Contras – all war crimes. Kennedy’s Bay of Pigs(attempt to overthrow the Castro regime in Cuba), war crime.

Whatever justification you might dream up for these acts (and please don’t attempt moral ones. The planning, execution and results of these acts would render any moral justification asinine), it’s likely that under the Nuremberg Principles, both – and probably most presidents in the last 50 years or so – would be hanged for them. Fortunately for the US, any charge brought to the UN security council can be vetoed effortlessly (and has been in both cases I mentioned), and any conviction by the World Court can be safely ignored. What are they going to do, attack us? Sanction us? Please.

At any rate, international law authorizes the use of force under two conditions: self-defense, and under express authorization from the UN Security Council. The United States had neither in the case of Iraq invasion, so prima facie it was a violation of international law, and a war crime. Indeed, under the Nuremberg principles, it is the “supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

Even if, by some unintended loophole, previous resolutions against Iraq somehow justified an invasion (which the Bush administration claimed) the notion would be so controversial (and in fact, was so controversial) that a clarifying resolution would be necessary if any shred of moral, legal, or intellectual integrity was to be upheld. Such a resolution was not sought, of course, because it would have failed miserably.

Is George W Bush a war criminal? No. War criminals only exist in defeated countries and are named by the victors (see Nuremberg and the Asian trials after WWII, where people were hanged for far less than GWB’s acts). Was the invasion of Iraq a war crime?  I don’t see what there is to discuss. Considering the predictable outcome of death, destruction and misery consequent to any war, failure to achieve proof and justification “above reproach” before waging one is gross criminality at best.

What is the value of defending the state and power, or imputing the state with moral virtue? I don’t trust power and I don’t trust the state, and I don’t believe many of our founding fathers did, either. George W, his administration, and Congress didn’t care if we wanted to invade Iraq, and they didn’t care that we wanted to end the war. Neither my dissent nor your (apparent) support has any relevance to them beyond election day. That is a problem in itself. Maybe the biggest problem.

Still, I am getting serious “just war” vibes from you on this issue, and I want to remind you of the preamble of the Charter of the United Nations, written by people who had seen the human race, despite all our achievements, proceed toward the  precipice of extinction at our own hands:

“WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind”

… and try to figure out how United States foreign policy since WWII fulfills the hope of our forebears. Sure, no “world wars” since then – though we came close thanks to Kennedy and the USSR – but mutatis mutandis for the “scourge of war”, which has been ever-present since we were born, and since our parents were born, courtesy of our government, for which we’re responsible.

Update: I just received your indictment of Hugo Chavez – and find it irrelevant. :p Shall we compare him to his predecessors who were apparently more acceptable to US political and financial interests? I’ll get into that next, I guess.

Published in: on March 10, 2010 at 9:59 am  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. “WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind”

    Reeeeeeal nice. :) If only.

    • Your Savarna logo rocks. ^_^

      • Why thank you, I penned it myself. ;)

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