President Barack Obama's speech at the United Nations yesterday, statements in regard to Iran's alleged nuclear weapons programmes and Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons, pointedly raised the issue of international law and the norms of global behaviour, for its official enemies, while continuing to violate international law itself.
Mr Obama positioned the United States squarely in the rule of law camp by continued reference to the horrific character of chemical warfare and the dangers of nuclear proliferation. And woe betide any power that violates those norms or laws because America's word is backed by a simmering threat of military force.
Hence, Mr Obama calls for a "strong" UN security council resolution that will have lethal military consequences for Syria should its chemical weapons remain intact in a year's time. And he calls upon Iran to take concrete steps to convince the US, Israel, and the west of its peaceful intentions or, rather, to give up its nuclear programmes altogether. In the New York Times recently, warhawk Kenneth Pollack, spelt out the necessity to continue to contain Iran, including via crippling economic sanctions, but retain the threat of lethal force.
Yet, both Israel and the US have in past few years been guilty of deploying white phosphorous in conflicts against Palestinians, in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan. White phosphorous is an incendiary chemical and causes severe burns to the body and buildings. Indeed, it continues to burn until deprived of oxygen. It is against international law to deploy white phosphorous against civilians, something the Us has done in Iraq and previously listed as one of the major crimes of the ousted Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq.
The Hindu newspaper in India revealed recently that the NSA spied on the Indian embassy in Washington, DC, and on the UN office of the Indian mission in New York. Both acts are illegal under international law. The embassy of a nation is sovereign territory; its UN offices are protected by specific legislation to prevent them from being spied upon by the US.
We already know that, under the cover of fighting terrorism, the NSA spied on the Brazilian president's office. President Dilma Rousseff rejected claims that NSA had the right to spy on all and sundry, including the leaders of nations and heads of state, because it was illegal.
Earlier this year, the airplane carrying president of Bolivia, Eva Morales, was forced to land in Vienna after being denied overflight on Italian, Portugese and other territories on the basis that NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, might have been on board. This was a violation of international law that was orchestrated by the United States.
One final note that shoud have caused laughter but was met with silence by the mainstream media yesterday during President Obama's UN general assembly address: he noted that, apart from its chemical weapons, its internal war, the security of the region, and the security of Syria's people - the United States had no interest in Syria. And because of that, the US would wage war, given the opportunity, on that hapless country (and we know how the US can lay waste to countries because of its enormous stocks of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, not to mention its vast arsenal of conventional weapons, drones, etc.. funded by the largest military budget in history).
I wonder how that remark would have gone down had any other leader spoken of the United States that way.
The Rush to Bomb Syria: Undermining International Law and Risking
Once again, the President of the
United States is leading a rush towards war without regard for the United
Nations Charter and the international legal regime intended to control
prohibited weapons and to respond to threats to peace and security. Even before
United Nations inspectors were on the ground in Syria to determine whether a
chemical weapons attack had occurred, the U.S. and its allies began moving ships
into attack position in a manner that, in the context of public statements by
the leaders of the United States, France, and the United Kingdom, constituted an
undeniable military threat to Syria.
Since World War I, use of
chemical weapons has been viewed almost universally as monstrous, and as a
violation of treaty-based and customary standards of international humanitarian
law. If they were used in Syria by any party, that action should be condemned,
and all states should cooperate in identifying the perpetrators and in pursuing
their apprehension and prosecution by all legal means. There is no provision of
international law, however, that allows ad hoc coalitions of countries to
determine for themselves who they believe the guilty parties to be, and to
punish them by acts of war against the territory of a sovereign state. The
United Nations Charter allows unilateral military action only where a country is
under attack or imminent threat of attack. None of the countries proposing the
use of force against Syria can make any claim that Syria has attacked them, or
that they are under imminent threat of attack. International treaties outlawing
chemical weapons and prohibiting their use provide no special exception for such
ad hoc use of military force. To the contrary, the Chemical Weapons Convention,
the most comprehensive instrument concerning chemical weapons, provides for
investigation of alleged violations by specialist bodies constituted by the
Convention and recourse to the United Nations to authorize any use of force.
In this instance, it is especially important that transparent, credible
procedures be followed for investigation of the allegations of chemical weapons
use and a determination of the responsible party or parties, as well as for
actions to prevent further use and to punish those culpable.