Saturday, July 16, 2005

MY 15-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER, who is traveling in Europe with People to People, e-mailed me today from Geneva, Switzerland -- one of the four countries her student ambassador group is visiting. Here is the first paragraph of what she wrote:

Hi! I'm now enjoying Switzerland. We're in Geneva now. Today we visited the United Nations, and I found out something really interesting. I was talking to the tour guide about how the Iraq war is illegal because it didn't have UN authorization, and she said that it was a blatant violation of international law, but that the US wouldn't be punished for it, because that kind of punishment is doled out by the Security Council, and the US has veto power on the Security Council, so they can veto any resolution that would punish them. Ironic, huh?

Outrageous and appalling, more like. I already knew the U.S. could veto any resolution on the Security Council, although my daughter did not; but I wonder how many ordinary Americans know it. It's certainly not something that's been discussed at all in the mainstream media. There was some coverage of the dispute between the U.N. and some European countries on one side and the U.S. on the other side as to whether the first (and only) resolution -- Resolution 1441 -- authorized the invasion, or whether a second resolution was needed. But once Iraq was invaded, all that discussion (in the press) ended. There was no follow-up in the corporate media about the twin facts that (1) the invasion was a glaring violation of international law; and (2) the U.S. would get away with it because of its veto power on the Security Council.

In fact, even though the U.N. never passed or even attempted to pass a resolution to punish the U.S. for illegally invading Iraq, the U.S. got away with it anyway; because, in spite of all the heat Bush and his cronies have taken for the failure to find any weapons of mass destruction; for the fixing of the intelligence around the policy, as exposed in the Downing Street minutes; and for the disastrous two years-and-counting aftermath of the invasion, almost no attention has been paid -- still -- to the fact that Pres. Bush thumbed his nose at international law to "force" another country to respect international law.

Even Richard Perle -- a key member of the Defense Policy Board, which advises Donald Rumsfeld on defense issues, a hawk par excellence, and a leading voice for overthrowing Saddam Hussein -- said after the invasion that it violated international law. But, he added, the invasion was justified anyway.

In a startling break with the official White House and Downing Street lines, Mr Perle told an audience in London: "I think in this case international law stood in the way of doing the right thing."

President George Bush has consistently argued that the war was legal either because of existing UN security council resolutions on Iraq - also the British government's publicly stated view - or as an act of self-defence permitted by international law.

But Mr Perle[...]said that "international law ... would have required us to leave Saddam Hussein alone", and this would have been morally unacceptable.

Obviously I have no sympathy with Perle's conclusion that an illegal war is a moral war; but even he did not argue that the war was legal.

For a thorough and highly readable explication of why the invasion of Iraq violated both international and U.S. law, go here.

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