US militarism violates international law

Publié le par hort

US militarism violates international law

By Reason Wafawarova
Zimbabwe Herald

THE United States of America fronts the Western alliance that never tires harping at international law whenever they team up against perceived rogue states - a term often used on states whose domestic policies are considered stumbling blocks to the spread of Western controlled capitalism.

It is international law that often comes in handy when governments are labelled despotic regimes, when individual leaders are labelled tyrants or dictators and when international institutions like the United Nations are manipulated to deal with states viewed as threats to the Western foreign policy in general and the US foreign policy in particular.

It is, however, ironic that some of the Western countries have, in stark contrast to their global posturing, dealt very selectively with international law, especially laws covering acts of aggression, genocide, racial discrimination and human rights.

The best example, though not the only one is the United States itself, a country that has openly failed to find an appropriate role for the international legal order in their system of governance; that despite the fact that they always find an appropriate role for the same international law whenever they want to pronounce a judgment on countries they perceive as non-compliant to their so called new world order.

The attitude of the US ruling elite towards international law first manifested itself clearly in 1919 when the US senate resolved not to become a member of the League of Nations, a forerunner of the United Nations.

They also showed a disturbing level scepticism about the United Nations itself in 1945. A more modern example of what intellectual circles now term American "exceptionalism" within the international legal order is its approach to the International Criminal Court.

The United States not only refused to become a party to the Rome Statute, a treaty establishing the ICC but, under George W. Bush's administration, has embarked on an unabated campaign actively opposing the ICC's work.

The Bush administration has arm-twisted about 125 countries to sign its ICC bilateral treaty document, which makes signatories pledge never to hand over any US national to the ICC, a development many international law scholars have interpreted as inherently illegal at international law; especially as it makes the signatories violators of the ICC treaty itself.

Not only has the United States absolved itself from the legal power of the ICC through its much-criticised ICC bilateral treaty document. Just like they have what they call the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act, a sanctions law that empowers the US to interfere in Zimbabwe's dealings with international multilateral lending institutions.

The Americans also have the Hague Invasion Act that authorises the US president to use military force to free US citizens and allies from ICC custody in the Hague.

Naturally, this does not make any good reading for a country that not only postures as the number one democracy in the world but also exports its"democracy model" by bombing target nations into submission.

The question that begs an answer is why this impunity on the part of the US?

US academic, Jeremy Rabkin, outlines what he views as justifiable grounds for US anxieties about international law and institutions in the book "Law without Nations".

Rabkin's criticism of the international legal system stems from a sense that the United States, as a global super power does not benefit much from its membership of the UN. He is of the questionable understanding that America's military superiority allows it to take its own measures for protection, and, in his opinion, international law and its institutions serve only to frustrate the US actions in self-defence.

Rabkin contrasts US muscular independence with what he calls the "Roman Empire's vision of a universal authority" an ideal he sees as rhetorical politicking by some European governments and weaker states.

He actually spins the charge of imperialism, often laid against the US' sabre-rattling foreign policy as the major motivation behind European governments' enthusiasm for institutions such as the ICC. He might not be entirely wrong on this one for some Western countries have clearly shown some inclination towards abusing the ICC for imperialistic ends especially judging from who they tout as prime candidates for the Hague.

However, Rabkin bluntly ignores the fact that the US shuns international law for the same imperialist interests. He seems to think the invasion of Iraq, and Afghanistan, the abuse of inmates at Guantanamo Bay and the extra-rendition powers all have a benign effect on international law.

Rabkin sees international law through the eyes of the US ruling elite; eyes that perceive human rights standards as ideals masquerading as law: to him they are the wild waffle of international assemblies, devised outside all political context and inevitably unenforceable. He criticises international human rights treaties for what he says is their failure to distinguish in principle between the behaviour of "democratic countries" and that of "tyrannies".

By this Rabkin blatantly suggests that a similar breach of human rights law by the US and a country the US sees as a tyranny for example North Korea, is only wrong for the so-called tyranny but justifiable for the US.

His implicit assumption is that only the United States should be able to claim unfettered freedom of international action, and the only justification for this appears to be the US's economic and military might.

As Hilary Charlesworth (2001) says in the book "No Country is an Island", Rabkin "does not consider the implications of his argument for other powerful countries such as China or India, or for less powerful maverick states such as Burma or Zimbabwe."

The point here is that the US should be reminded that muscular independence built on the philosophy that might is right is a source of conflict with those states that place prime value on sovereign independence. Countries that cannot compromise their identity and beliefs in order to allow the US a free rein across the globe, yes countries like Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Iran, Cuba, Russia, China and many others.

Not only does US muscular independence cause international conflict; it is a threat to international order, a threat to global peace and above all it grossly undermines the force behind international law.

The US has ensured that the World Trade Organisation's structure does not formally allow the direct imposition of international standards within the US and for that people like Rabkin endorse the WTO as tolerable. If the WTO were to impose new international rules on the US without the latter's blessing it would instantly lose all its legitimacy in Rabkin's eyes. The same goes for the World Bank and the IMF, organisations the US and its allies tacitly believe are western political tools through which they can coerce some form of behavioural patterns out of other states.

The US cannot stand solitus legibus, that is above the law and then at the same time be in the habit of pointing out at others as offenders under the same laws it does not even recognise. When the US and its allies banned Communist parties in their countries as a threat to the national interest the right to belief, conscience and affiliation was rendered useless while the same right is upheld when the US is sponsoring rebels to topple governments it does not like.

If the rebellious movement is decisively dealt with by the country in question then the US and its allies can always rely on Rupert Murdoch's media houses to demonise the "offending" government the way the West knows best, be it biased reporting, doctored documentaries, outright lies, omission or just deliberate misinformation.

Once weaker countries see themselves under siege from these US-led forces, they naturally harden their positions and go on the defensive. This is why Zimbabwe is on the defensive, Iran is on the defensive, Venezuela is actually trying an offensive and of course Iraq and Afghanistan are on the defensive.

The characteristic selective citation of breaches of international law by US sponsored civic organisations does not make it any better for the international law regime. It is grossly undermining the progress made since 1945 as more and more people begin to see the US hand in everything that is called human rights, democracy or rule of law.

That hand is too dirty to touch any aspect of law and if international human rights defenders, as they often call themselves, want a semblance of honour and respect in what they do, then they must play away from where America is masterminding its imperialist political games.

Rather, they should be seen taking the ball to the US courtyard; that in a decisive manner and not just writing symbolic critiques about Saddam Hussein's murder or Guantanamo Bay.

They must stay the course the way they want to stay the course in weaker countries. It is clear that there are more human rights violations in the US than anywhere else on this planet and that must be reflected in all human rights work and the reports.

Surely someone is not waiting for the US to bomb The Hague in a bid to free, say, George W. Bush or Donald Rumsfeild, two clear prime candidates for that Hague if ever there was such a thing as international justice. The US  has legislated its intention to do so should they find it necessary and all we hear are reports about "tyrants", "despots", "dictators" and "rogue" leaders in Cuba, Burma, North Korea, Zimbabwe and even holy Iran.

If our international human rights institutions are too weak to survive America's muscular independence and its sabre-rattling foreign policy then they might as well fold up to allow for a new dispensation where international law can be applied without fear or favour.

-Reason Wafawarova is a Zimbabwean living in Sydney, Australia and can be contacted on 
Turkey threatens repercussions for U.S.

Turkey, which is a key supply route to U.S. troops in Iraq, recalled its ambassador to Washington on Thursday and warned of serious repercussions if Congress labels the killing of Armenians by Turks a century ago as genocide.
Ordered after a House committee endorsed the genocide measure, the summons of the ambassador for consultations was a further sign of the deteriorating relations between two longtime allies and the potential for new turmoil in an already troubled region. Egeman Bagis, an aide to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, told Turkish media that Turkey — a conduit for many of the supplies shipped to American bases in both Iraq and Afghanistan — might have to "cut logistical support to the U.S."
Analysts also have speculated the resolution could make Turkey more inclined to send troops into northern Iraq to hunt Turkish Kurd rebels, a move opposed by the U.S. because it would disrupt one of the few relatively stable and peaceful Iraqi areas. "There are steps that we will take," Turkey's prime minister told reporters, but without elaboration. It also wasn't clear if he meant his government would act immediately or wait to see what happens to the resolution in Congress. He declined to answer questions about whether Turkey might shut down Incirlik air base in southern Turkey, a major cargo hub for U.S. and allied military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Turkey's Mediterranean port of Iskenderun is also used to ferry goods to American troops. "You don't talk about such things, you just do them," Erdogan said.
The measure before Congress is just a nonbinding resolution without the force of law, but the debate has incensed Turkey's government. The relationship between the two NATO allies, whose troops fought together in the Korean War in 1950-53, have stumbled in the past. They hit a low in 2003, when Turkey's parliament refused to allow U.S. forces use their country as a staging ground for the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. But while the threat of repercussions against the U.S. is appealing for many Turks, the country's leaders know such a move could hurt Turkey's standing as a reliable ally of the West and its ambitions to be a mediator on the international stage.The Turks did suspend military ties with France last year after parliament's lower house approved a bill that would have made it a crime to deny the mass killings of Armenians in Turkey amounted to genocide. But Turkey has much more to lose from cutting ties to the U.S.
The United States is one of its major business partners, with $11 billion in trade last year, and the U.S. defense industry provides much of the Turkish military's equipment.Turkey's ambassador in Washington, Nabi Sensoy, was ordered home for discussions with the Turkish leadership about what is happening in Congress, Foreign Minister spokesman Levent Bilman said. He said Sensoy would go back after seven to 10 days."We are not withdrawing our ambassador. We have asked him to come to Turkey for some consultations," Bilman said. "The ambassador was given instructions to return and will come at his earliest convenience." The Bush administration, which is lobbying strongly in hopes of persuading Congress to reject the resolution, stressed the need for good relations with Turkey."We look forward to his quick return and will continue to work to maintain strong U.S.-Turkish relations," said Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council. "We remain opposed to House Resolution 106 because of the grave harm it could bring to the national security of the United States."
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the measure is damaging relations at a time when U.S. forces in Iraq rely heavily on Turkish permission to use their airspace for cargo flights.About 70 percent of U.S. air cargo headed for Iraq goes through Turkey as does about one-third of the fuel used by the U.S. military there. U.S. bases also get water and other supplies carried in overland by Turkish truckers who cross into Iraq's northern Kurdish region. In addition, C-17 cargo planes fly military supplies to U.S. soldiers in remote areas of Iraq from Incirlik, avoiding the use of Iraqi roads vulnerable to bomb attacks. U.S. officials say the arrangement helps reduce American casualties. U.S.-Turkish ties already had been strained by Turkey's complaint the U.S. hasn't done enough to stop Turkish Kurd rebels from using bases in northern Iraq to stage attacks in southeastern Turkey, a predominantly Kurdish region where tens of thousands have died in fighting since 1984. Turkish warplanes and helicopter gunships attacked suspected positions of Kurdish rebels on the border this week and Turkey's parliament was expected to vote next week on a proposal to allow the military to pursue a large-scale offensive in northern Iraq.
The U.S. ambassador to Turkey, Ross Wilson, was invited to the Foreign Ministry, where officials conveyed their "unease" over the resolution in Congress and asked the Bush administration do all in its power to stop passage by the full House, a Foreign Ministry official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make press statements. Historians estimate up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I. Turkey denies the deaths constituted genocide, saying the killings didn't come from a coordinated campaign but rather during unrest accompanying the Ottoman Empire's collapse. The House Foreign Affairs Committee passed the resolution Wednesday despite intense lobbying by Turkish officials and the opposition from President Bush. The vote was a triumph for well-organized Armenian-American interest groups that have lobbied Congress for decades to pass a resolution.
The administration will now try to pressure Democratic leaders in Congress not to schedule a vote, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated they were committed to going forward. "Why do it now? Because there's never a good time and all of us in the Democratic leadership have supported" it, she said. Turkish officials said the House had no business to get involved in writing history. "It is not possible to accept such an accusation of a crime which was never committed by the Turkish nation," Turkey's government said after the committee adopted the measure.

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