America’s Sovereign Right To Do
As It Damn Well Pleases
by John Chuckman
April 9, 2003
I read that the U.S. is claiming a "sovereign right" to try Iraqi officials as war criminals. I thought it was a nice touch, including, as it does, an allusion both to Bush's scholarly observations on Nazis and an assertion of rights. Rights are always good, aren't they? Even when they are the rights of conquest?
So, you attack a country for no other reason than an arrogant demand for "regime change," overwhelm its relatively puny armed forces, kill thousands of people, and claim a "sovereign right" to bring its leaders to trial? This threatens to become the model for international affairs in the twenty-first century, the banana-republic concept applied on a world scale.
America has refused to have anything to do with the International Court for War Crimes, but then the Creator never granted international institutions that purity of essence that is America's peculiar birthright. International institutions are corrupt. They are foreign. And they are not inclined to do things in the American way.
America, blubbering endlessly about its rights and the way it sees things, so often displaying impatience over listening to the other 95% of the human race, easily forgets the many incontestable horrors it has bestowed upon the world. General Pinochet's murder of perhaps 15,000 Chileans plus a few Americans who got in his way gets barely a nod of drowsy recognition. The "boyz" chugging down frosty Cokes while napalming Vietnamese villages or the blood-soaked savagery of Cambodia's rice patties are mostly forgotten. Few Americans ever caught, or cared to imagine, the screams of the Shah's victims having their finger nails extracted.
There have been so many of these good works that a full list would resemble a reference book rather than an article. Dealing with them on American television would make evening watching a drag, so they are forgotten, and America lumbers on to its next bellowing claim that something about the world stands in the way of its full enjoyment of rights and privileges.
Of course, none of America's chosen monsters ever saw a trial or tribunal by the United States. A few of them still live in quiet retirement. Why? Because they served American interests faithfully. If Hussein is tried, it will be precisely because he failed to do so. That's certainly an inspiring reason for bombing the hell out of a country.
But America is doing its very best, with precision missiles and gigantic bunker-busting bombs, to be sure Hussein is murdered rather than captured. His trial, even if it does happen to fall to America as a sovereign right, would be exceedingly inconvenient for relations with the Arab world.
The United States asserts another arrogant claim, wrapped in different words, to justify its mistreatment of prisoners from Afghanistan. It ignored the Geneva Conventions, shackled hundreds of them up, flew them, blindfolded and strapped into cargo planes, to new homes in Cuba, which consist of cages far away from everything they know, with no access to lawyers or relatives, a form of slow torture used to extract information. Never mind that information gathered in this way is more likely to tell you what you want to hear than what actually is, and never mind that treating people in this way violates every principle America likes to say it holds sacred.
There is still another such claim, again expressed with altered words, to proclaim its right to determine who will govern Iraq when America's destructive tantrum is over. After all, it has had such success in Afghanistan on which to build. After killing thousands of innocent people there, wrecking the country's infrastructure, and sending tens of thousands fleeing their homes in terror, it set up a government whose key achievement to date is monthly assassinations.
That dire concern over women's rights in Afghanistan, something carefully tailored to the psychological needs of soccer moms who might have had a doubt or two about bombing villages, has faded into the mountain mists. An excellent proxy measure of America's violent achievement in Afghanistan is offered by a Canadian documentary film maker who observed that outside Kabul, virtually 100% of women still wear the burka. The figure in Kabul, the only place policed by foreign troops, is about 70% and that comes with a great deal of abuse.
With a record like that, why wouldn't you feel justified in violently reordering the affairs of the planet? Quick success in Iraq will undoubtedly set Washington's ideologues' glands pumping and mouths watering. There's already talk about blasting Syria. Clearly, Iraq's shell game with weapons of mass destruction was continued on a grander scale, with the elusive weapons shifted to Syria for safekeeping, perhaps shipped in milk trucks by night. Hussein wouldn't use them to protect his life. No, after defeating the United States, he undoubtedly planned to reclaim them for another diabolical plot.
The possibilities must seem endless to Cheney, Condi, Rumsfeld, and Co. And, indeed, regretfully for the rest of the planet, they undoubtedly are.
John Chuckman lives in Canada and is former chief economist for a large Canadian oil company. He writes frequently for Yellow Times.org (www.yellowtimes.org) and other publications.