Friday, March 30, 2007

Brinkmanship in the Persian Gulf

Seminal Words of Wisdom which can untie this knot.

Let me turn first to the last honest British statesman, well versed in both the Middle East and maritime matters, who is worthy of trust. That is Craig Murray, who is:
  • former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan (until he was cashiered for openly objecting to United Kingdom and U.S. support for torture there)
  • former head of the maritime section of the British Foreign Office
  • has considerable experience negotiating disputes over borders extending into the sea.
On his blog, Ambassador Murray says, Both Sides Must Stop This Mad Confrontation, Now!
There is no agreed maritime boundary between Iraq and Iran in the Persian Gulf. Until the current mad propaganda exercise of the last week, nobody would have found that in the least a controversial statement.
Murray cites the words of Royal Australian Navy Commodore Peter Lockwood. He is the Commander of the Combined Task Force in the Northern Persian Gulf as published in Stars and Stripes magazine, (October 24 2006):
Bumping into the Iranians can’t be helped in the northern Persian Gulf, where the lines between Iraqi and Iranian territorial water are blurred.

No maritime border has been agreed upon by the two countries.
Both sides are gaming this crisis which was, in one form or another, inevitable. The Iranians want to bargain to break out of their American-imposed isolation. Tony Blair doesn't want to let his master (George Bush) down. Therefore, instead of trying to solve the problem of getting Her Majesty's 15 sailors back, Downing Street is gaming for regime change.

Let's look at another quotation. This one is from the formal note from the Iranian government sent to the British embassy, the text of which was later released by the Iranian embassy in London. After asserting that two British vessels had "trespassed", it continues:
Since similar acts had taken place in the past and prior warning had been given against the repetition of such acts, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran protests strongly against this illegal act in violating Iranian territorial waters, emphasizes the respect for the rules and principles of international law concerning the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states, underlines the responsibility of the British Government for the consequences of such violation, and calls for the guarantee to avoid the recurrence of such acts.

It will be appreciated if the esteemed embassy conveys this note to the relevant authorities of its government and informs this ministry of any explanation in this regard.
Regular readers of these pages are sophisticated enough not to need my boldfacing which I have supplied for the benefit of newbies. Yes, the first thing that should stand out is that the British have retained the quaint practice left over from the 20th century: diplomacy. They not only have an embassy in Tehran, they allow Iranians to have an embassy in London.

The second thing that stands out, of course, is that the Iranians do not appear to be asking for an apology, so much as an explanation and a commitment against reoccurrence. The latter, of course, would require Anglo-Iranian military communication and cooperation in the theater of operations; which would, obviously, require further diplomacy.

As I boldfaced earlier in this piece, there is an air of inevitability in this situation: our mislead Anglo-American alliance has foundered in between I-Wreck and I-Ruin. As long as we stagger along in this endless occupation of Iraq, oblivious of the ticking and tocking of the bad-luck clock, we are risking the calamity of yet one more war which war-starter Bush cannot justify or finish before his time is up.

And the longer we stay the course, the more isolated and alone America will find herself. Which brings me to the last quote of the day. Listen to Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah who surprised Washington on Wednesday by telling the Arab League summit in Riyadh:
In beloved Iraq, blood flows between brothers in the shadow of illegitimate foreign occupation and hateful sectarianism, threatening a civil war.
On Thursday, the Saudi government stood by the king’s remarks. Foreign Minister Saud al Faisal told a news conference at the end of the summit:
Did (Iraq) choose to have these forces? Had this been the case, it would have been a different matter. Any military intervention that is not at the request of the country concerned is the definition of occupation.
All of the foregoing forces me back to a conclusion which I have put forward before. The road out of Iraq must first be routed through Washington; the goal of regime change was misdirected and must first be corrected before anything can be accomplished.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Open Thread! (I'm F.O.O.W.)

That's Fresh Out Of Words.

What's up in my pages is all I got. What's left - except to summarize? It's all about the clash between electoral politics and real politics.

In comments below, Readers are invited to discuss whatever is on their minds. But first . . .

You know, I just to had to borrow this poster (at least some of it). I just can't help my self. It's irresistible: what I've been saying for a long, long time.

I've also been trying to say what Howard Zinn said very well a few days ago:
When a social movement adopts the compromises of legislators, it has forgotten its role, which is to push and challenge the politicians, not to fall in meekly behind them.

We who protest the war are not politicians. We are citizens. Whatever politicians may do, let them first feel the full force of citizens who speak for what is right, not for what is winnable, in a shamefully timorous Congress.

Timetables for withdrawal are not only morally reprehensible in the case of a brutal occupation (would you give a thug who invaded your house, smashed everything in sight, and terrorized your children a timetable for withdrawal?) but logically nonsensical. If our troops are preventing civil war, helping people, controlling violence, then why withdraw at all? If they are in fact doing the opposite - provoking civil war, hurting people, perpetuating violence - they should withdraw as quickly as ships and planes can carry them home.

It is four years since the United States invaded Iraq with a ferocious bombardment, with “shock and awe.” That is enough time to decide if the presence of our troops is making the lives of the Iraqis better or worse. The evidence is overwhelming . . . .

We are not politicians, but citizens. We have no office to hold on to, only our consciences, which insist on telling the truth. That, history suggests, is the most realistic thing a citizen can do.
Other than this, I have nothing to say today.

For the balance of the day (or eternity) discuss whatever's on your mind on any subject.

For starters - if you are F.O.O.W. - you might go to Mikael’s Impeach Bush Blog and speculate on why I didn't publish the entire poster.

If you have Fresh Words (on any subject) by all means post them up, too!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Constitutional Crisis!

Smoking guns. Blood in the water. Feeding frenzy. An offer we can't refuse. Impeachment on a silver platter--No Strings Attached!
United States Attorneys are the peoples' law enforcement officers,
Not political hacks.
Everything is on the table!

Congressional Democrats:
You’ve got nothing left to keep your powder dry for. This is it. This is the last stand. It’s showtime, folks. Show us what you've got.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Who Has Hurt America More? OBL or GWB?

Doing the simple arithmetic does not give us a pretty picture.

George Bush's illegal, un-provoked, unnecessary, and largely unilateral invasion and unplanned occupation of Iraq (IUULUIUOI for short) has cost our nation more in blood and treasure than Osama bin Laden.

First, contrast the bloodshed by al Qaeda in America with the sacrifices of our troops in Iraq, beginning four years ago today:
OBL: Total Deaths - All 9/11 Attacks: 3,030
OBL: Total Injuries - All 9/11 Attacks: 2,337
GWB: Total US KIA in Iraq): 3,219
GWB: Total U.S. WIA in Iraq (not counting those troops wounded and returned to combat): 10,685

What I failed to consider when I initially posted this position is that it can be argued - as I vehemently have argued - that massive American retaliation against Afghanistan was not only justified by the 9-11 attacks, but mandated. Therefore our costs sustained in Operation Enduring Freedom are costs which are directly attributable to the 9-11 attacks against us.

As you can see, adding 373 U.S. KIA and 633 WIA in Afghanistan to the Osama bin Laden side of the ledger does not materially effect my contention that George Bush has cost America more in blood than has Osama bin Laden. That's especially true when you remember economists predict that several decades of care for the wounded will amount to an unbelievable $2.5 trillion.

On the financial ledger, the Department of Defense has not provided Congress with the individual costs of Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) as opposed to Operation Iraqi Liberation. But the estimated disparity in costs is apparent to us, as a glimpse at the chart to the right reveals.

The financial losses due to the four airliners' attacks on 9-11, estimated up to $ 40 billion, do not begin to make up the difference. Costs of economic recovery are generally accepted as being less than those of Katrina.

Let's add to the ledger, that as a result of Bush's reckless adventure in Iraq, our military is Stretched to Breaking Point. Finally, of penultimate importance to a global war on terror, is an international consensus on its behalf. Al Qaeda's 2001 attacks on New York and Washington gave us an overwhelming groundswell of sympathy throughout the world. By the time Bush mobilized for his unprovoked and unwarranted invasion of Iraq four years ago today, he had squandered that foundation of support. In fact, Bush's war was the first war in history to garner world-wide demonstrations against it on the day before it began.

It is George W. Bush, who has put the biggest hurt on Americans, in squandering our blood, our economic resources, our military assets, and our international esteem.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Israel is Governed by Holocaust Deniers!

Everyday you learn something new.

Today, I learned that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not alone in denying holocaust facts.

Today, voting 15 to 12, the Israeli Knesset rejected a call by Member Haim Oron of the dovish opposition Meretz Party to discuss the massacre that next month will mark its 80th anniversary.
Between 1915 and 1923, Ottoman Turks killed almost 1.5 million Armenians and deported more than 500,000 others. Oron has been under heavy pressure from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office as well as the Foreign Ministry to withdraw his motion. Oron said:
That pressure is something any MP must face. Turkey has been exerting its pressure everywhere. This is their right. But they can not set the agenda of the Israeli parliament.

It is the duty of the Israeli parliament, as the representative of the Jewish people, to express its opinion on the need to recognize the Armenian genocide.
. . . It is a debt we owe to the Armenian people and one we owe to ourselves. . . . This inquiry is something we owe the Armenians, primarily at a time when we are struggling to preserve the memory of our own people.
Oron stated that before the vote, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni called him twice to ask him to withdraw the proposal from the agenda of the Knesset Education, Culture, and Sports Committee. Members of the Armenian community in Jerusalem attended the Knesset meeting and expressed anger over the decision to suppress debate on the issue.

But I learned something else today, too.

Our own dear leaders are also holocaust deniers. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and US Defense Secretary Robert Gates have sent a letter to senior members of Congress trying to squelch a similar debate. Their letter warned of the damage that Turkish-US ties could suffer if a pending resolution affirming Armenian claims of genocide is passed.

The letter has been sent to Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, House Republican leader John Boehner and Tom Lantos, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pledged to bring before the House next month a congressional resolution formally recognizing as organized genocide the mass killings of Armenians from 1915 to 1923 in Turkey's predecessor state of the Ottoman Empire. Ms. Pelosi strongly supports the resolution, and it now appears likely to be approved.

In the Senate, Republican John Ensign and Democrat Richard Durbin presented a draft resolution that, similar to the one in the House, calling for official recognition of the alleged Armenian genocide. The draft had been signed by 21 senators when it was presented to the Senate on Wednesday. Durbin was quoted as saying by the Armenian media on Thursday:
The Armenian genocide was the 20th century's first genocide, a vicious, organized crime against humanity that included murder, deportation, torture and slave labor. US clarity on this historical fact is of utmost importance and long past due.
Of course, what is at stake is Turkish support of the American occupation of Iraq. It is not a veiled threat that if Congress should pass a resolution supporting Armenian claims of genocide, Turkey would close the use of their Incirlik air base by the US military.

So, what are we to conclude from today's lesson?

Are the realities of holocausts visible through the eyes of beholders, or only through the politically expedient lenses of their governments?

The Ides of March Are Upon Us!

Without boldness and passion, our Republic cannot be saved.

Joe Biden yesterday, on the floor of the Senate!

In the comments following the column I posted on The Road Map Out of Iraq , I wrote of the essential and indispensable role of
appropriate anger and righteous rage needed to depose the anti-American war-starters currently plunging our Republic further into Iraq-Nam.

By now it's clear to all that Bush and Cheney will persist in leading our once-great Republic down the spiraling road leading to the exhaustion and ruin ultimately experienced by 20th century adherents of
preventive war.

Determined and persistent eloquence is required to mobilize a bipartisan 'surge' to 'purge' these war mongers. We need to be smart.

But what good is light in the room, if we do not also bring heat to the table?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Email to a Cousin

Have a Good Life!

Dear Cousin C.:

I am aware of the existence of a deep misunderstanding between us which I am compelled to acknowledge. I have only come to realize its depth in the wake of your visit Sunday. Based upon a couple of conversational gambits which you attempted yesterday, to which I pointedly made no response, I think you are basically clueless of this division.

In retrospect, I only now see that a deep and unbridgible chasm opened between us the moment, during your last visit two years ago, when you admitted to having voted for George Bush a second time. For someone of your lifelong experience in government service at the national and international level to have done this, was a stunning blow to me. Of course, millions of American did the same thing. But I do not know them. Sunday, I realized I do not know you.

George Bush is the worst president in American History. Having authored the worst-ever U.S. foreign policy catastrophe by invading and occupying Iraq, Bush has certainly joined the ranks of the contemporary world's greatest unindicted war criminals. In my mind, that makes most of those who voted for him in 2004 willing, if unknowing, accomplices. But you knew. And, it was my mistaken confidence in you that you knew better.

I am certainly not interested in any explanations or excuses from you. And neither do you owe me any apology. The only apology you owe is to the American people.

In fact, the very next communication I would ever wish to receive from you is a copy of your letter-to-the-editor published in your local paper apologizing for your 2004 vote. The very next.

Until then, I will miss you. Have a good life.

Never sent: delivered in person. No fists or tears, just a satisfying handshake and newspapers lowered at surrounding tables.

Friday, March 9, 2007

The Road Map Out of Iraq Leads Through Washington D.C. (in 2 Parts)

Part I: The Wail of Two Cities

(Apologies to Charles Dickens)

Hosting a web log affords one of few privileges and luxuries in return for all the hours of exercise, entertainment and enjoyment sacrificed from the real world. What it does afford me is the opportunity to put myself 'out there', on the record, and to engage in a robust dialogue with others who are concerned about the direction in which our country is being led. In these pages I like to address watershed, pivotal, central issues. My beguiling friend, Wizard, opened one recently.

I dub it the Wail of Two Cities (Baghdad and Washington DC). The following is excerpted from Wizard's March 4th thread (march forth !) and the Wall Street Journal which he quotes:
We are at a fork in the road in Iraq. We can either withdraw our troops in a rapid, yet orderly fashion and leave the outcome of our gross misadventure in Iraq to the Iraqi's . . . or we can stay and strongly support the current, flawed, Iraqi government we established.

. . . . This doesn't mean you can't condemn (or even impeach) President Bush for leading us into this quagmire. And this doesn't mean we can't hold George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld responsible for implementing one of the worst military strategies in American history.

. . . . the battle of Baghdad is now under way. . . . Will we allow our actions to be driven by the changing conditions on the ground in Iraq -- or by the unchanging political and ideological positions long ago staked out in Washington? What ultimately matters more to us: the real fight over there, or the political fight over here?
It's my position that,
  • the Battle of Washington takes precedence over the Battle of Baghdad;
  • the mis-governance of our country has to be corrected before we can contribute to the governance of Iraq's;
  • the occupation of the United States by an alien and un-American political movement has to be lifted before the occupation of Iraq can be brought to any kind of conclusion.
Wizard says my approach is one-dimensional, but he's wrong.

A few days ago, I posted (jus ad bellum) my central objection to this Bush-Cheney apparat: that it harbors one of today's greatest collection of internationally-feared war criminals. Because this column remained unchallenged at the head of this site for five days, I conclude I have made my point.

My next point seems obvious: if war-starters Bush and Cheney are long left unmolested by the American people, (many of whom share complicity in voting them into office), these warmongers will start another war, if only to diffuse the ignominy of their present disaster. For my American country, it's a little like shoplifting, as I told my high school students in my previous life: the worse thing that can happen the first time you try it is that you not get caught; because that means you will do it again and again (nothing succeeds like success) until you are ultimately caught when the stakes have geometrically progressed and compounded. There's nothing worse than a warmonger unless it's a serial warmonger.

Now, to be sure, my fellow American progressives have other grievances against the Bush-Cheney apparat, especially as pertains to the extra-constitutional misdemeanors of their principle apparatchiki, Karl Rove and Albert Gonzalez and their like. But, please excuse me from detouring into an itemized litany here; the list of grievances grows longer by the week as it has since this government by the party-that-hates-government has been in power. Since 9-11-01 Bush and Cheney have been frittering away the world's empathy and squandering the blood, treasure and trust of the American people. A growing number of my fellow countrymen are now at the point where they are no longer willing to soldier on like the Good Soldier Sweick, giving Bush and Cheney the benefit of the doubt while they 'surge' more resources into their sink-hole known as Iraq. This duo has produced nothing but defeat and devastation to everything they have touched.

Part II: The Get -'Shooter'-First Plan:

What would it take for me to support an indefinite American occupation of Iraq? Obviously - sine qua non - Bush and Cheney's replacement. But by whom?

I have said before in these pages that I am an American patriot first, and American Progressive second, and a Democrat third. For that reason, I don't need Nancy Pelosi in the White House. I would accept the leadership of conservative Republican Chuck Hagel, for the next two years anyways. He's got the gravitas, guts and gumption: he's ready. Listen to what he says in Esquire:
The president says, 'I don't care.' He's not accountable anymore. He's not accountable anymore, which isn't totally true. You can impeach him, and before this is over, you might see calls for his impeachment. I don't know. It depends how this goes.
So Hagel is set to announce his presidential intentions next Monday. His chances of winning a presidential nomination from this Republican party are between slim and none. Unless, that is, he would be running in 2008 as a White House incumbent. How could that happen? That's where the Get-'Shooter'-First scenario comes in:
  1. Cheney resigns or is impeached.
  2. Chuck Hagel is appointed Vice-President.
  3. Bush resigns or is impeached.
  4. Hagel becomes President.
  5. Hagel fires Gonzales and winds down the war.
As I have said, I am an American Patriot who places the welfare of my Country of birth over the Party of my choice. In this spirit of non-partisanship, I offer the Republicans a way out of Iraquagmire without a constitutional crisis of unnecessary complexity and trauma.

Based upon their recent track record, I am confident most Republicans don't have either the brains or the patriotism to consider this offer. But, as the shadows of the Ides of March bear down on us all, I am on the record as being open to a new Republican presidency. As Chuck Hagel says, "If you want a safe job, go sell shoes."

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

What Libby-Gate Was All About

Joe Wilson Murdered
Cheney's Mythology

What I Didn't Find in Africa
New York Times (July 6, 2003)
by Joseph C. Wilson 4th

Did the Bush administration manipulate intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs to justify an invasion of Iraq?

Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.

For 23 years, from 1976 to 1998, I was a career foreign service officer and ambassador. In 1990, as chargé d'affaires in Baghdad, I was the last American diplomat to meet with Saddam Hussein. (I was also a forceful advocate for his removal from Kuwait.) After Iraq, I was President George H. W. Bush's ambassador to Gabon and São Tomé and Príncipe; under President Bill Clinton, I helped direct Africa policy for the National Security Council.

It was my experience in Africa that led me to play a small role in the effort to verify information about Africa's suspected link to Iraq's nonconventional weapons programs. Those news stories about that unnamed former envoy who went to Niger? That's me.

In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report. While I never saw the report, I was told that it referred to a memorandum of agreement that documented the sale of uranium yellowcake — a form of lightly processed ore — by Niger to Iraq in the late 1990's. The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response to the vice president's office.

After consulting with the State Department's African Affairs Bureau (and through it with Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, the United States ambassador to Niger), I agreed to make the trip. The mission I undertook was discreet but by no means secret. While the C.I.A. paid my expenses (my time was offered pro bono), I made it abundantly clear to everyone I met that I was acting on behalf of the United States government.

In late February 2002, I arrived in Niger's capital, Niamey, where I had been a diplomat in the mid-70's and visited as a National Security Council official in the late 90's. The city was much as I remembered it. Seasonal winds had clogged the air with dust and sand. Through the haze, I could see camel caravans crossing the Niger River (over the John F. Kennedy bridge), the setting sun behind them. Most people had wrapped scarves around their faces to protect against the grit, leaving only their eyes visible.

The next morning, I met with Ambassador Owens-Kirkpatrick at the embassy. For reasons that are understandable, the embassy staff has always kept a close eye on Niger's uranium business. I was not surprised, then, when the ambassador told me that she knew about the allegations of uranium sales to Iraq — and that she felt she had already debunked them in her reports to Washington. Nevertheless, she and I agreed that my time would be best spent interviewing people who had been in government when the deal supposedly took place, which was before her arrival.

I spent the next eight days drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people: current government officials, former government officials, people associated with the country's uranium business. It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place.

Given the structure of the consortiums that operated the mines, it would be exceedingly difficult for Niger to transfer uranium to Iraq. Niger's uranium business consists of two mines, Somair and Cominak, which are run by French, Spanish, Japanese, German and Nigerian interests. If the government wanted to remove uranium from a mine, it would have to notify the consortium, which in turn is strictly monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Moreover, because the two mines are closely regulated, quasi-governmental entities, selling uranium would require the approval of the minister of mines, the prime minister and probably the president. In short, there's simply too much oversight over too small an industry for a sale to have transpired.

(As for the actual memorandum, I never saw it. But news accounts have pointed out that the documents had glaring errors — they were signed, for example, by officials who were no longer in government — and were probably forged. And then there's the fact that Niger formally denied the charges.)

Before I left Niger, I briefed the ambassador on my findings, which were consistent with her own. I also shared my conclusions with members of her staff. In early March, I arrived in Washington and promptly provided a detailed briefing to the C.I.A. I later shared my conclusions with the State Department African Affairs Bureau. There was nothing secret or earth-shattering in my report, just as there was nothing secret about my trip.

Though I did not file a written report, there should be at least four documents in United States government archives confirming my mission. The documents should include the ambassador's report of my debriefing in Niamey, a separate report written by the embassy staff, a C.I.A. report summing up my trip, and a specific answer from the agency to the office of the vice president (this may have been delivered orally). While I have not seen any of these reports, I have spent enough time in government to know that this is standard operating procedure.

I thought the Niger matter was settled and went back to my life. (I did take part in the Iraq debate, arguing that a strict containment regime backed by the threat of force was preferable to an invasion.) In September 2002, however, Niger re-emerged. The British government published a "white paper" asserting that Saddam Hussein and his unconventional arms posed an immediate danger. As evidence, the report cited Iraq's attempts to purchase uranium from an African country.

Then, in January, President Bush, citing the British dossier, repeated the charges about Iraqi efforts to buy uranium from Africa.

The next day, I reminded a friend at the State Department of my trip and suggested that if the president had been referring to Niger, then his conclusion was not borne out by the facts as I understood them. He replied that perhaps the president was speaking about one of the other three African countries that produce uranium: Gabon, South Africa or Namibia. At the time, I accepted the explanation. I didn't know that in December, a month before the president's address, the State Department had published a fact sheet that mentioned the Niger case.

Those are the facts surrounding my efforts. The vice president's office asked a serious question. I was asked to help formulate the answer. I did so, and I have every confidence that the answer I provided was circulated to the appropriate officials within our government.

The question now is how that answer was or was not used by our political leadership. If my information was deemed inaccurate, I understand (though I would be very interested to know why). If, however, the information was ignored because it did not fit certain preconceptions about Iraq, then a legitimate argument can be made that we went to war under false pretenses. (It's worth remembering that in his March "Meet the Press" appearance, Mr. Cheney said that Saddam Hussein was "trying once again to produce nuclear weapons.") At a minimum, Congress, which authorized the use of military force at the president's behest, should want to know if the assertions about Iraq were warranted.

I was convinced before the war that the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein required a vigorous and sustained international response to disarm him. Iraq possessed and had used chemical weapons; it had an active biological weapons program and quite possibly a nuclear research program — all of which were in violation of United Nations resolutions. Having encountered Mr. Hussein and his thugs in the run-up to the Persian Gulf war of 1991, I was only too aware of the dangers he posed.

But were these dangers the same ones the administration told us about? We have to find out. America's foreign policy depends on the sanctity of its information. For this reason, questioning the selective use of intelligence to justify the war in Iraq is neither idle sniping nor "revisionist history," as Mr. Bush has suggested. The act of war is the last option of a democracy, taken when there is a grave threat to our national security. More than 200 American soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq already. We have a duty to ensure that their sacrifice came for the right reasons.

Hell hath no fury like a warmonger scorned.

Friday, March 2, 2007

International Law and Iraq

First Principles: Thoughts on jus ad bellum

In a previous column, I posed the question as to whether Bush's continuing and increasingly unstable occupation of Iraq is legal in a Constitutional sense, based upon the terms of the Joint Resolution of Congress of October 12 2002. Here's another, more important question:

Was Bush's invasion of Iraq legal under international law?

There are two aspects of international law dealing with the law of force: jus ad bellum, or the rules relating to the use of force, and jus in bello, or the rules regulating the conduct of hostilities. The latter, jus in bello, pertains to the custody of prisoners-of-war (POW's), collateral destruction, etc.

My purpose to address jus ad bellum as it applies to Bush's un-provoked, unnecessary, largely unilateral invasion and unplanned occupation of Iraq (UULUIUOI). This goes to the heart of my primary complaint against George W. Bush.

A Condensed Historical Review of jus ad bellum:

The Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 (a.k.a. the Pact of Paris), was signed by the United States of America in 1929 and ultimately by 62 nations. Its language
condemns recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it, as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.
With American ratification, of course, Kellog-Briand became part of U.S. federal law. It’s a treaty and, by remaining in effect it becomes, according to Article VI of our Constitution, American law:
... all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.
Readers will recall that the Nuremberg Charter was established to provide a standard for the trial and punishment of the major war criminals of the European Axis. Under Section II, Article 6, the Charter delineated three areas of war crimes under the jurisdiction of the Nuremberg Tribunal. It is generally considered instructive that the first of these, dealing with jus ad bellum, was the most important:
(a) Crimes Against Peace: namely, planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances, or participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the foregoing;

(b) War Crimes:[ill treatment of civilians or prisoners of war, plunder, wanton and capricious destruction and devastation] not justified by military necessity;

(c) Crimes Against Humanity: [genocide]
Under the UN Charter (June 26, 1945), there are only two circumstances in which the use of force is permissible:
  1. Article 51: in collective or individual self-defense against an actual or imminent armed attack;
  2. Article 42: and when the Security Council has directed or authorized use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security.
In the case of the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq: Neither of those circumstances existed. Absent one of them, Bush's use of force against Iraq was unlawful.

The Security Council had warned Iraq in Resolution 1441
there would be "consequences" if Saddam did not comply with its demands. But it should have been up to the Council to determine what those consequences would be. The fact that the U.S. and U.K. pursued (but ultimately abandoned) a second Security Council resolution authorizing force, implies Anglo-American recognition of their need for it.

A memo of a two-hour meeting between Bush and Blair at the White House on January 31 2003 - almost two months before the invasion - reveals that Bush made it clear the US intended to invade whether or not there was a second UN resolution. Bush cynically told Blair that the diplomatic strategy at the U.N. had to be arranged around the military planning.

Thus, it was Bush and Blair who reintroduced the world to the habitual practice that so typified the first half of the 20th century: the unilateral use of force. Italy's conquest against Ethiopia, Germany's seizure of Anschluss, the Sudetenland and Poland, the Japanese invasion of Manchuria and ultimate attack on Pearl Harbor (not to mention Saddam Hussein's impulsive attacks on Iran and Kuwait), were but the most egregious examples. Surely, not since the hey-day of the fascist regimes of the previous century, has a government of any major power so openly embraced war as an instrument of state policy as the Bush administration.

Germany and Italy walked out of the League of Nations because they would not accept the subordination of their foreign policy objectives to any binding system of international law. George Bush walked all over the face of the United Nations. The significance of his action was not lost upon the Wall Street Journal,
cheerleading three days before Bush's invasion:
When the current lesson is digested, no President of the United States will ever again look for legitimacy to the likes of the UN or the League.
George Bush has turned FDR on his head: 20 March 2003 is a new 'date which will live in infamy'.