- - Friday, October 14, 2016

United States Teaches International Law is What You Do to Your Enemies but Withhold from Yourself and Friends

In the manner of a papal encyclical, Secretary of State John Kerry stood at the State Department podium on October 7, 2016 and pontificated for an international war crimes investigation by the International Criminal Court of atrocities allegedly perpetrated by Presidents Bashar al-Assad of Syria and Vladimir Putin of Russia in Syria. Mr. Kerry preached:

“Russia and the [Syrian] regime owe the world more than an explanation about why they keep hitting hospitals, and medical facilities, and children and women. These are acts that beg for an appropriate investigation of war crimes, and those who commit these would and should be held accountable for these actions. This is a targeted strategy to terrorize civilians.”

The Secretary was espousing the longstanding United States doctrine that international law is what you do to your enemies but withhold from yourself and friends.

He omitted the following context which made his summons for a war crimes investigation ring hollow.

The United States refused to join the International Criminal Court to block prosecution of our officials for war crimes.

The United States refused to ratify the Law of the Sea Convention (and then shamelessly berated China, a signatory, for disobeying provisions that we refused to accept for ourselves).

The United States flouted the ruling of the International Court of Justice in Republic of Nicaragua v. United States (1986).

The Court found that the United States violated customary international law and Nicaragua’s sovereignty by ”training, arming, equipping, financing and supplying the contra forces.” It found the United States guilty of direct attacks on Nicaraguan oil installations, ports and shipping in 1983 and 1984. It concluded that the United States broke international law by authorizing over-flights of Nicaraguan territory and by mining Nicaraguan ports and harbors in 1984. The Court also ruled that the United States trade embargo against Nicaragua, decreed in May 1985, violated a 1956 bilateral treaty of friendship. The Court condemned the United States for allowing distribution of a Central Intelligence Agency manual on guerrilla warfare techniques to the contras for encouraging ”acts contrary to the general principles of humanitarian law.” And we ignored everything the ICJ decided.

A 1993 Belgium law, as amended in 1999, endowed Belgium courts with jurisdiction over crimes against humanity, genocide or war crimes occurring anywhere in the world. Complaints were filed against former President George H.W. Bush, former Secretary of Defense and Vice President Dick Cheney, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell, and U.S. General Tommy Franks. Then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld swiftly journeyed to Brussels threatening to remove NATO headquarters from the city if Belgium tarried in repealikng the law. Belgium saluted. The complaints were dismissed. NATO remained in Brussels. And international law was orphaned.

The United States has refused to pursue good faith negotiations for nuclear disarmament as stipulated by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The United States has failed to investigate credible allegations of torture unearthed by the Senate Intelligence Committee or otherwise, including waterboarding, as required by the Convention Against Torture.

What we did during our secret, gratuitous war against Laos from 1964-1973, in violation of the United Nations Charter prohibition on war except in self-defense, makes what Presidents Assad and Putin are doing in Aleppo a tea party in comparison.

We dropped over 2 million tons of ordnance in 580,000 bombing missions, the equivalent of one planeload every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day, for 9 years. At least 270 million cluster bomblets were released; approximately 80 million failed to detonate.

Data from a survey completed in 2009 indicate that UXO (unexploded ordnance), including cluster bombs, have killed or maimed as many as 50,000 civilians in Laos since 1964 (and 20,000 since 1973, after the war ended). Over the past two years, there have been over one hundred new casualties annually. Over the past four decades, less than 1% of the bomblets that failed to detonate have been cleared. All 17 provinces in Laos, and 41 of 46 of the poorest districts in Laos, remain endangered by UXO contamination.

The United States is a co-belligerent with Saudi Arabia in its war against Yemen’s Houthi-Ali Saleh forces. Among other things, we supply Saudi Arabia with munitions and intelligence. Saudi Arabia keeps hitting hospitals, medical facilities, funerals, and women and children aping Assad and Putin in Syria. But Secretary Kerry has refrained from calling for war crimes investigations of Saudi Arabia or the United States.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has promised to practice torture and to assassinate civilians in fighting ISIS if he is elected.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has promised to play prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner to kill ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi if she is elected.

The United States teaches the world by example. If we wish other nations to follow international law, we must do likewise. If we do not, we will reap what we sow. Aleppo is proof.

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