Tuesday, October 7, 2014

U.S. breaking the law? Who cares?

                  By Reginald Johnson

                 Aided by a compliant media, President Obama and top administration officials keep successfully peddling the lie that while other countries violate international law, the United States never does.

       This fact was again on display during the recent “60 Minutes” interview with Obama.

    In a question and answer session at the White House conducted by Steve Kroft, Obama talked about the U.S. campaign to roll back the the terror group ISIS and later about American relations with Russia and the U.S. economy.

    In the last month, U.S. warplanes have been bombing targets in both Iraq and Syria, with the avowed aim of destroying ISIS, which Obama and other officials maintain is a “grave threat” both to Iraq and the greater Middle East. ISIS stands for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
    Kroft asked a number of questions --- including why the U.S. is seemingly getting involved in another war in the region after years of following a policy of withdrawal, and also how it was that the U.S. was caught off guard by the sudden rise of ISIS, which has taken over whole areas of both Iraq and Syria.

   At no point, however, did Kroft ask the president whether the bombing of Syria, a sovereign country, was legal. He should have asked, because clearly the air strikes are not legal under international law. Syria has not attacked the U.S. and America has not secured either Syria’s permission or the United Nations Security Council permission for the strikes.

  An attack on a nation’s homeland or Security Council authorization are the only legal bases for a nation taking military action against another state.

    Clearly, under UN law and the Nuremberg Principles, the American attack qualifies as “aggression” against Syria.  Checking Dictionary.com, we see the very first definition of the word aggression is this: “The action of a state in violating by force the rights of another state, particularly its territorial rights.”

    While the subject of aggression and the legality of one nation attacking another didn’t come up during the discussion on Syria, it was a different story when the interview turned to Russia and the situation in Ukraine.

    After some diplomatic comments about his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Obama accused the Russians of  “aggression” in Ukraine.

   “Russian aggression violated the sovereignty and terroritorial integrity of a smaller weaker country and violates international norms,” Obama said, in an apparent reference to Russia’s incursion into and takeover of Crimea in the spring, following a coup in Ukraine led by anti-Russian forces.

    There is some validity to the claim that Russia broke international law with respect to Crimea. While the people of Crimea voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to rejoin the Russian Federation following the change in government in Kiev, it is also a fact that Russian security forces, not in uniform, had entered Ukraine prior to the vote and basically taken over the area. This was not authorized by the UN, or in any way agreed to by Ukraine. So it was not legal.

 But if the Crimean action by the Russians was illegal, then certainly our attack on Syrian terrority was illegal.

  It should also be noted that the Russian grab of Crimea was done without bloodshed, which hasn’t been the case with American attacks on Syria. Already, U.S. bombing has caused civilian deaths, according to a human rights group.

  The clear hypocrisy of Obama’s claim about aggression, however, didn’t prompt a question from Kroft. No, he just let Obama’s claims slide, without challenging the president over the double standard.

  The “60 Minutes” interviewer also failed to question the president on whether the Syria attacks are legal under domestic law.

    According to Constitutional provisions and the War Powers Act, Obama needed to get approval from Congress before sending U.S. military forces into action in another country. This never happened.

  Both the violations of international law (the treaties of which are ratified by the U.S. and are part of our law) and of the Constitution with respect to Syria, should form the basis for an impeachment proceeding against Obama. He has failed to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” as stated in his oath of office.

  Unfortunately, while some members of Congress are grumbling over the president’s failure to get congressional approval for the Syria attacks, it is unlikely that a large number of lawmakers would ever move towards impeachment over this policy.

  Too many Democrats are playing politics and turning a blind eye to Obama’s failings, while Republicans always want to look “tough” on issues of war --- whether laws are being broken or not --- and support the Syria attacks.

  So the air strikes will go on and civilian deaths will pile up just like they did in the illegal Libyan intervention three years ago. And there’s always the danger that the Syrian intervention could touch off a wider war.

 But does anyone care in Congress or in the mainstream media? Apparently not.



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