- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 13, 2003

On New Year's Eve, I applied Mailer's construct of the factoid to the historical existence of a Palestinian state. I would now like to use the same focus to examine a far more critical chimera, international law.
My view of international law mirrors Gandhi's famous response when asked his opinion of Western civilization: "I think it would be a very good idea." A lawyer by trade, if not by inclination, I know firsthand the best and the worst of bench and bar. And despite literature's all-too-accurate pejurations, it is a far, far better thing to suffer delay, contumely, uncertainty and even occasional injustice than to descend into self help, vigilantism and eventually barbarism. Law is all that stands between us and the Saddams, the Stalins and the Hitlers. But, we must remember, each of these tyrants had what passed for law in their own empires. And so, we must distinguish between law and the appearance of law.
The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (SOED) defines law, among other definitions, as the "body of rules…which a particular State or community recognizes as governing the actions of its subjects or members and which it may enforce by imposing penalties." Similarly, Black's Law Dictionary (BLD) renders law as "That which must be obeyed by citizens subject to sanctions or legal consequences. Law is a solemn expression of the will of the supreme power of the State." I believe that the fallacy, the factoidal nature of international law in general, and its embodiment in the U.N. Security Council, is self-evident in these definitions.
To begin with, to echo the "paranoid" cries of the John Birch era, there is no world government, and hence no "state" or "community" which is the sovereign upon whose will the so-called "law' emanating from the United Nations is predicated. This is no small matter. As U.S. citizens, each of us is entitled to have our governmental decision making based upon the structure described in the Constitution. Nowhere in that magnificent document is provision made for the relegation of authority to foreign governments for matters such as war-making, movement of armed forces, conduct of diplomacy, etc, much less to a hodgepodge assembly of such governments thrown together a little over 50 years ago. As U.S. citizens, we have the constitutional right to have our president and Congress conduct our business in conformity with our best interests, regardless of what an aggregate of other states think in pursuit of their own.
There is no true political process within the United Nations. We, as U.S. citizens, have no vote in the General Assembly or the Security Council. Somehow, we are supposed to think of the United Nations as a "council of nations." But as the map of the world changed in the 1960's, as the engine of imperialism came crashing to a halt, the old colonies rose up in anger and were wooed , first by the Soviets and then by radical Islam. Now, we, the United States, have become the victims of a Three Stooges prank. The real villains, the true colonialists Germany, France, Russia (but with less ability) worn out from years of idiotic warfare on their own soil, fearful of Islamic attack at home and looking at bad economic numbers, whistle like Moe and Larry as they put a lit stick of dynamite in Curly's back pocket. And guess who Curly is.
So, now for a definition of international law: 1. The customary law which determines the rights and regulates the intercourse of independent nations in peace and war. (BLD) 2. A body of rules established by custom or treaty and agreed as binding in the relations between one nation and another. (SOED) It is clear that the Security Council and its resolutions have none of the characteristics that would give rise to the dignity of international law. For one thing, Saddam Hussein has been free to disregard resolution after resolution for 12 years without the imposition of meaningful sanctions or penalties, the underlying requirement for any system to qualify as law in the first place. He's been selling his oil and getting the arms and other supplies he needs to and from nations within the greater community of nations. Next, let's face it, the United States or China will never be deterred by a U.N. resolution. If the Security Council declares that a war with Iraq or an invasion or Taiwan is a violation of international law, what is the result? And then there's North Korea. Why hasn't the Security Council made Kim Jong-il stop his nasty little extortion scheme? Simple: there is no provision in the U.N. charter for enforcement of anything like this.
In short friends, the Birchers were right. The United Nations is a debating society. It was set up to prevent conflagrations between superpowers: The United States, the USSR, Great Britain, France, China and eventually Germany and Japan after World War II. It was never meant to be a world legislature, and certainly not in a world with today's demographics. To think otherwise would be like allowing a referendum of European nations to decide the outcome of World War II on December 7, 1941. Talk about infamy.

Frederick Grab is a former California deputy attorney general.

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