by Kim Petersen
March 20, 2003
The war has begun. This news blares out from media the world over. This factually inaccurate sentence is perpetually foisted upon us ignoring the fact that the US and its poodle, the UK, have been carrying out illegal air sorties and bombing ever since the Persian Gulf War started in 1991. So what we have is a re-intensification of the war. Even to call such a one-sided unleashing of violence a war is a misnomer. It is so lopsided a war that Pentagon sources are predicting a quick fall like in the “Operation Just Cause” invasion of Panama. (1) At any rate hell has broken loose and the blood of Iraqi people is being spilled again by the western powers. Over one million Iraqi children are now at serious risk according to humanitarian agencies.
First Afghanistan was atavistically bombed. Now President Bush has launched “Shock and Awe” on the devastated Iraqis, who were de facto disarmed with an inspection process ongoing. Mr. Bush has elevated himself to surefire war criminal status. He has shunted aside world and domestic opposition, international law, and arrogantly relegated the US constitution and international institutions, for the moment, to near irrelevancy.
Following Mr. Bush’s ultimatum for Iraq President Hussein and his ruling cabal to go into exile, UN secretary general Kofi Annan ordered the withdrawal of UNMOVIC and IAEA inspectors thus preventing one chance open to avert the war. (2) This would have, of course, seen UN inspectors becoming human shields, a move of dubious morality if the US had still attacked. Mr. Annan did not pursue this option.
US war censorship is in full swing and “untold sorrow” to Iraqis will be standard fare. The UN still has the moral responsibility to uphold its charter “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” There is still the option of the “Uniting for Peace” precedent whereby the UN General Assembly can require an immediate ceasefire and pullout. (3) Clearly the UN Security Council was stalemated and therefore UN General Assembly Resolution 377 provides that since an act of aggression is being carried out the General Assembly can be called into immediate action. So far at this early juncture the world has not witnessed nations courageous enough to come forth and incur the scorn of the superpower behemoth. The UN avoided rubber-stamping approval for the war but it is still standing by ineffectually -- almost paralyzed at the prospect of adducing its irrelevancy.
Mr. Bush even boasts of a 35-member coalition to bolster claims to international legitimacy. The extent to which such nations are in a war coalition is difficult to determine at this stage. The leaders of any combative nations are in an illegal war and as such are libel to prosecution in the fledgling International Criminal Court.
Mr. Bush in his recent ultimatum speech had the derring-do to allude to the post-WWII Nuremberg Law when he stated that: "War crimes will be prosecuted, war criminals will be punished and it will be no defense to say, 'I was just following orders,'" as prosecuted Nazis had pleaded. Although the US has finagled a temporary exemption for its citizens through political hardball, the other coalition members haven’t. Even UN dove Germany must be circumspect about maintaining neutrality in the war.
Germany is treading in hypocritical territory. Chancellor Schröder remained steadfastly opposed to war throughout the UN wrangling but he is looking really pathetic when faced with the actual spectre of a US assault on Iraq. The proposed use by Germany of AWACS in Turkey for routine surveillance flights is strictly defensive argued the chancellor. The presence of some German troops in Kuwait as part of the Afghan “Enduring Freedom” campaign was also questioned. Further fracturing the ruling German coalition members is the use of German airspace and NATO bases by the US. Mr. Schröder of the Social Democratic Party believes the NATO treaty covers this but Green Party members want an explicit UN mandate. The German constitution forbids participation in an offensive war. (4) Germany by succoring a renegade state makes itself an accomplice state to a lawbreaker.
Why isn’t Germany fighting tooth and nail in the UN and whatever other fora to stop this war instead of wondering to what extent it can acquiesce to the warmongers? Why doesn’t it employ every means in its control and pull France, Russia, China, and whoever else together to constitute an effective coalition of opposition? There is still at least one other option left in the UN.
The war is illegal. It does not have UN sanction. It is not self-defense as permitted under Article 51 of the UN Charter. The International Commission of Jurists in Geneva, an esteemed body comprised of 60 eminent jurists from around the world, has opined that an attack on Iraq without UN imprimatur would be “illegal and constitute a war of aggression.” The jurists went on to elaborate that there was no legal basis for such aggression. (5)
So all the attacking leaders are knowingly partaking in an illegal war of aggression. As such they may be tried under international law and removed from high offices. Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark has drafted impeachment articles and a case against Mr. Bush. (6) Lawyers against the War and partners had already written to Mr. Bush, British Prime Minister Blair, and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien warning that an attack without a proper UN mandate would be the "supreme international crime" according to Nuremberg Law. The Lawyers against the War statement read:
Our governments are planning to commit nothing short of mass murder. They are planning to kill Iraqi civilians without any lawful justification or excuse. That’s a crime in England and in Canada and under international law. No one is above the law, not even Prime Ministers. If they do this terrible thing, we are going to see to it that they are personally brought to justice. We are going to prosecute them for each and every crime they commit. (7)
Canada has ruled out participation in a war unauthorized by the UN. (8)
The UN still has some trump cards to play against the card shark Mr. Bush. To shirk its duty now will inflict greater damage upon the credibility of the institution than aspersions from the beaks of chickenhawks. It is time for the UN to take up the challenge put to it by Mr. Bush:
The conduct of the Iraqi regime is a threat to the authority of the United Nations, and a threat to peace. Iraq has answered a decade of UN demands with a decade of defiance. The entire world now faces a test, and the United Nations a difficult and defining moment. Are Security Council resolutions to be honored and enforced, or cast aside without consequence? Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant? (9)
To begin, one can substitute the word Iraqi and Iraq with US client states, Turkey and 28 years of defiance; Morocco and 28 years of defiance; Israel and 36 years of defiance. Sweeping and meaningful enforcement would do a lot to establish credibility for the UN and the rule of law. Acting with utmost haste to prevent a calamity for the Iraqi people and the UN by stopping the seeming US juggernaut from diminishing both human life in Iraq and international lawmaking.
It is time to take a page from Mr. Bush. There is no time for patience now. "It's a moment of truth for the United Nations. The United Nations gets to decide shortly whether or not it is going to be relevant in terms of keeping the peace, whether or not its words mean anything." (10) The war must be stopped now. At the very least it must be made as uncomfortable as possible for the warmongers. Allowing naked aggression to go unopposed leaves the way clear for the next target in the War on Terrorism.
If the US is not radically opposed now then the world must prepare itself for the next phase in Mr. Bush’s unending War on Terror. The succeeding wars will be more difficult. Surely the US enemies know now that disarmament will be their undoing; Iraq was “fundamentally disarmed” of weapons of mass destruction; spied upon by the disarmament inspectors; (11) subjected to overflights that might very well have revealed other military secrets, and it was further disarming and yet still it was attacked. The obvious lesson is that the better armed the enemies of the US are, the better the deterrent factor, especially if they possess weapons of mass destruction.
The anti-war movement did organize early on. Now the anti-war activists must revert to the stop the war posture. The UN must become relevant. Human beings are being killed in Iraq.
Kim Petersen is an English teacher living in China. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
(1) Poul Høi, “USA tror på hurtig sejr,” Berlinskje Tidende, 19 March 2003: http://www.berlingske.dk/udland/artikel:aid=306250/
(2) Jan Oberg and Hans von Sponeck, “Did Kofi Annan Miss an Opportunity to Stop the War?” Dissident Voice, March 19, 2003: http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Articles2/Oberg-vonSponeck_Iraq-Annan.htm
(3) Jeremy Brecher, “What Can The World Do If The US Attacks Iraq?” ZNet, 5 March 2003: http://www.zmag.org/content/print_article.cfm?itemID=3183§ionID=51
(4) Von Gerrit Wiesmann, “Opposition verzichtet auf Awacs-Klage in Karlsruhe,” Financial Times Deutschland, 20 March 2003: http://ftd.de/pw/de/1047819383436.html?nv=hpm
(5) Marie-Claude Decamps and Claire Tréan, “Des juristes en droit international dénoncent l'illégalité de la guerre: Washington se base sur les résolutions pour invoquer la légitime defense,” Le Monde, 19 March 2003: http://www.lemonde.fr/article/0,5987,3462--313435-,00.html
(6) Vote to Impeach website: http://www.votetoimpeach.org/
(7) Press Release, “Chrétien could face investigation for War Crimes,” Lawyers Against the War, 23 January 2003: http://www.lawyersagainstthewar.org/press.html
(8) CBC Online Staff, “Chrétien restates opposition to Iraq war,” CBC News, 18 March 2003: http://www.cbc.ca/stories/2003/03/18/chretieniraq030318
(9) Quoted in Col. Dan Smith (Ret.), “Irrelevance and Credibility:
The Bush Administration, the United Nations, and NATO,” 14 February 2003: http://www.presentdanger.org/commentary/2003/0302irrelevance_body.html
(11) David Edwards, “Iraq And Arms Inspectors: The big Lie (Part one),” Media Lens, 28 October 2002. As seen on the ZNet website: http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2552