An Unjust and Illegal War

There are two related charges leveled against the conquest of Iraq. The first regards the essential moral questions about the war—charges that the war is unjust. The second relates to the legal issues regarding the war. While many denounce such charges, sometimes more vehemently than the moral charges, there is a clear body of evidence pointing to the fact that the war is illegal.

The United Nations charter very specifically prohibits the use of force by member states (Chapter I, Article 2, Section 4). It provides exceptions only in the case of self-defence (Chapter VII, Article 51) and in situations in which the Security Council approves the use of force to promote international peace and security (discussed in the various articles of Chapter VII).

The U.S. was under no threat by Iraq, nor was it authorized by the Security Council to use force to enforce the various U.N. resolutions against Iraq which were part of the justification for the invasion. The U.S. did not have the authority to unilaterally make the decision to enforce the U.N. resolutions.

Those who challenge the authority of the U.N. charter or other forms of “international law,” should familiarize themselves with The Constitution.

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land (Article VI; emphasis added)…”

The U.N. charter was presented to the Senate by the presidential administration and was there ratified, as required by the Constitution (Article 2, Section 2). Until such time as the U.S. officially withdraws from the U.N, the charter agreement is law.

It is sad not only that we have to remind U.S. citizens—and the administration—about the laws according to the Constitution, but that we would have to justify our obligation to follow international law. After all, a person’s integrity is in many ways defined by his ability to follow the conditions of contracts and obligations voluntarily entered in to. If we wish to be considered a principled nation, we should observe and abide by our treaties and international agreements, such as the U.N. charter and its rules against force, or the Geneva Conventions and their rules against torture, simply because we signed them, regardless of whether The Constitution requires us to.

Yes, the U.N. is flawed. Yes, the U.N. is in a great many ways rather impotent. Yes, many participating nations have violated the U.N. charter in the past (including the U.S. in many prior instances). So what? “He did it first!” never worked for me on my mother, and I doubt it did for any of you. If we are going to resort to such puerile rationalizations, our moral state is pathetic indeed.

It is interesting to note that noted neo-con hawk and war supporter, Richard Perle admitted that the war was illegal.

The Iraq war is illegal not only because it violates international law, but domestic law as well. It has been claimed that “Bush went through the same channels as you always do when you start a war,” but this is false. Ron Paul proposed a declaration of war on Iraq in 2002 (one which he insists he planned to vote against) precisely because no legal declaration of war had been made. Nor has one been made since. The legality of a war which has not been legally declared is questionable at best.

What about the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002? Congress made explicit in the authorization that the use of force was conditioned on a number of premises:

  1. Iraq was not complying with various U.N. resolutions.
  2. Iraq still had possession of WMDs in defiance of the U.N. resolution banning that possession.
  3. Iraq was connected with 9/11 or terrorist organizations involved in 9/11 or similar activities.
  4. The administration had exhausted all diplomatic avenues in trying to resolve the issue (contained in section 3 of the resolution).

The U.S, as I’ve already discussed, had no authority to act on the first condition. None of the remaining three conditions were met.

A policeman can go through the proper channels to get a search warrant. But if he falsified the conditions upon which the issuance of the warrant were bases, then the search is now an illegal search.

The administration’s assertion that Iraq was involved in 9/11 and that they were actively pursuing WMDs were fraudulent. They made no more than token efforts to resolve their concerns through diplomatic means.

This war can be no more legal than the policeman’s search conducted with a legal warrant obtained by fraudulence.

Those Democrats who allowed themselves to vote in favor of the authorization and who have not taken the steps to hold the administration accountable should be held accountable by their constituents for abetting crimes. But the fact that Congress allowed themselves to be manipulated into issuing the authorization and then did not have the moral courage to hold the administration to the conditions of the authorization does not make it any less illegal.

I’ve heard it said that what separates a Republic from other forms of government is that a Republic is a government of law. A Republic is not governed by the whim of an individual, of a small group of oligarchs, nor even the tyranny of the majority; all governance is confined to and shaped by established code. Whether or not this is strictly true, I think it fair to say that many of those involved in the American Revolution and the founding of the U.S. were most concerned about so constraining government. As they themselves saw, without the constraint of law government all too easily becomes tyranny.

Perhaps the most important area in which the government must be circumscribed to legally established practices and procedures is in the use of military force. For the sake of the Republic, it is imperative that we recognize offenses to that law for what they are. Abuses are far too costly to our nation to do otherwise—not only in gold, but in blood.

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34 Responses to “An Unjust and Illegal War”

  1. rmwarnick Says:

    Presidential candidates ought to be asked if they know international law in regard to invading other countries. It can be done only (1) in response to an attack or (2) with a specific authorization from the UN Security Council.

    Ordering any invasion that does not meet one of those two conditions is an impeachable offense. Preventive attacks are not allowed. Pre-emptive attacks are not allowed.

  2. WP Says:

    We lack men in our highest offices, Bush and his Neocons, with moral certitude. Given their lack of knowledge or more appropriately wisdom it has become a very deadly combination. Bush and Cheney in my view are nothing more than war criminals. I once heard Richard L Evans say that sooner or later we are all going to arrive at where we are going. They and others will be held accountable for the staggering loss of life in Iraq, more than 600,000 to date. A modern rendering of Dante’s Inferno could have Bush and Saddam as cellmates somewhere in the lower reaches.

    Thanks for the post Derek.

  3. Non-Arab Arab Says:

    One thing that should be understood – as a good friend of mine in the Army with long experience in this always points out to me when I talk about the illegality of the war – is just how hyper concerned the military and the Administration are with the law. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they honestly care about doing right or that the war is legal, neither of those are true. What I am saying is that when Rumsfeld talked about his silly claims of terrorists using “lawfare” to fight truth justice and the American way, he was really saying that his folks were using law as another weapon. Piles of lawyers miles thick bending and twisting the law beyond any recognition of the obvious intent and meaning of the law are key. You go to these guys with these arguments you’ve just made (which are basically sound) and they’ll bury you in paperwork and twisted arguments to show that regulation 3bc89[3e]c47 paragraph 9asdhflsda8o797 proves that no actually they can do whatever they want. And screw you you disloyal osama lover if you disagree, we may have to throw you into a cell in Gitmo if you keep this up…but oh isn’t great how we have freedom of expression in this country? Never underestimate the ability of these guys to twist the law to call evil good.

  4. Aaron Orgill Says:

    You quoted me directly in this article. I was referring to the channels of Congressional approval, not the immoral, toothless, completely pathetic U.N., which is not just “flawed” and “rather impotent”; try calling a spade a spade and say “completely ineffective and corrupt” and you’ll have it right. Ultimately, Congress were the only ones who could have stopped it, precisely because the U.N. is such a joke, even as it pretends to be a guiding force in the world. Congress chose to support the war, and they almost all have abandoned it because of political expediency. They were not “manipulated,” as if that matters anyway. They had the same information we all had, and if you can’t withstand a little pressure on the war, YOU DON’T DESERVE TO BE IN CONGRESS! I want to see just one Democrat aside from Lieberman own up to their actions.

    You are wrong about three of your four premises. The last one, exhaustion of all diplomatic avenues, was certainly not met, and that was the basis of my opposition to rushing in as we did. However, whether the U.N. gives us authority is irrelevant, because the Bush Administration did what the hell they wanted anyway. WMDs clearly weren’t there, but they were believed to be there based on the available evidence, which even many of our critics believed was legitimate. Most importantly, your #3 criteria is completely bogus. The Saddam Hussein regime itself proudly supported Islamic fighters everywhere, and paid the families of terrorist bombers. Al-Qaeda expressed solidarity with Saddam (which was validated by intelligence agencies in the west). So while there was no connection to 9/11, “similar activities” were shamelessly supported by Saddam Hussein.

    At any rate, I was not in favor of the way things were done, so it’s kind of strange to defend Bush as often as I do on this blog, but you have to get your facts right, or I will call you on it every time. (By the way, Ron Paul has been totally consistent on his position in Iraq, and he suggested the declaration of war just to hold Bush’s feet to the fire and do things properly).

  5. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Good to hear from you, RM. I was kind of hoping I’d get some response from local vets to my last couple martial posts. I’m with you entirely: imposition of an illegal war is certainly a “high crime,” worthy of impeachment. I think several of the presidents of the past decade should probably have been impeached under that charge. Perhaps more presidents would toe the legal line were Congress more often willing to uphold its Constitutional responsibilities.

    Welcome, and thanks for your comment, Non-Arab. Yes, this administration is well prepared for “lawfare,” given its corporate background and support. Besides, the reality is that nobody with the requisite clout has the ethical clarity or intestinal fortitude to confront the administration on the legal grounds. My post was to clarify the true legal status of the war, not predict any successful prosecution (deserved as it may be).

    You want the facts, Aaron? Lets recap.

    Fact: You did not merely refer to the channels of Congressional approval. You made the very strong blanket assertion that the war was legal (going so far as to claim that accusations of illegality “made you sick.”). If that is not what you meant to say, then you should phrase your statements more carefully.

    Fact: By virtue of the Constitution, as I’ve demonstrated, the U.N. Charter is U.S. law. To violate the charter is then illegal. This, first and foremost, makes the invasion of Iraq illegal, plain and simple.

    Part of the problem here is that you seem to be attempting to change what “illegal” means. Whether or not an act is punished or prevented does not make it legal. For example, the fact that 90% of traffic violations are not punished does not make speeding legal. What determines an acts legality is whether restrictions have been arrived at through the proper channels. The U.N. Charter, being signed by a representative of the executive branch and approved by a vote of the Senate, was arrived at through the proper channels. Until such time as we through the proper channels remove ourselves from the U.N, the charter is a legal document of the U.S (and because of the costs involved, the legality of war is of far greater import than the far from inconsequential issue of traffic violations).

    If you claim it is not law because of the U.N’s impotence,or if the U.N. is irrelevant because the administration “did what the hell they wanted anyway,” then you are advocating nothing more than “might makes right.” Is that what you’re suggesting?

    (“completely ineffective and corrupt,” eh? So you bristle at any supposed generalizations or caricatures of the administration, but Right-wing caricatures of the U.N. Are acceptable? Interesting. I’ll agree that the U.N. is flawed, even terribly so. If I have to choose between trusting the administration and the U.N, I take the U.N.)

    Fact: As the administration neither sought nor received a declaration of war, it did not “go through same channels as you always do when you start a war.”

    Fact: There was copious evidence provided by a legion of experts in the various fields, available at the very time the administration was making their claims, which rendered the administration’s arguments suspect at best. Anyone not caught up in the terrorist paranoia or rampant militarism could find the information. The fact that Congress did not uphold their responsibility to question the administration’s claims does not make the administration’s acts any more legal.

    Fact: These opposing experts were vindicated.

    Fact: We’ve since discovered a great deal of evidence that the administration was determined to conquer Iraq and at the very least, manipulated intelligence to rationalize their efforts (ie, Richard Clark, Paul O’Neil, Karen Kwiatkowski, the Downing Street Memo, Joseph Wilson, et al ad nauseum).

    Fact: Al Qaeda never had any connection with Saddam Hussein.

    Those are the facts. Continue to ignore them at your pleasure.

  6. Non-Arab Arab Says:

    In regards to the UN: those who rail against it tend to forget it’s very nature. Yes, it has a bloated bureaucracy with LOTS of serious problems. But, the UN is also a forum. It’s not just an organization, it is a forum, or rather series of forums where the various member states hold the power. The two main forums obviously being the general assembly and the security council. The general assembly is obviously the most representative of the world’s countries (or more accurately the world’s various governments), and for that very reason the great powers managed to effectively neuter it. So claimsby anti-UN demagogues that the UN is un-democratic need to recognize that at least a significant chunk of that blame rests squarely on the shoulders of the great powers, primarily the US and the defunct USSR, but also all the P5 members of the security council. And the security council itself…the most powerful body at the UN and not coincidentally the place where the US has amassed to itself the most power and managed to most effectively exclude dissenting voices. Obviously not all dissenting voices, but if you’re an African or Middle Eastern or Asian or Latin American or whatever country with little international clout, you effectively have to kow-tow to the US, Russia, China, France or Britain to get your voice heard. Mostly the US if you want to get something, or any of the P5 if you want to block something. There is at least the solace of some sense of checks and balances in that structure, but the fact that so much power rests in the hands of so few governments (and in the case of the US – as per the illegal invasion of Iraq – simply ignores those checks and balances anyways) renders much of that dispersion of power meaningless anyhow.

    So the problems are not as the anti-UN demagogues insinuate merely the fault of some bloated organization of corrupt international bureaucrats. There are problems along those lines, but as much or more of the problems rest squarely in the hands of the most powerful member of the P5 (the US) and the other P5 members. Two words: mote, beam.

  7. Aaron Orgill Says:

    No, I’m not saying might makes right. You’ve never seen nor heard me defend the way things went down. I just said the U.N. is not in a position to enforce shit, so the Administration “did what the hell they wanted anyway”.

    Yes, completely ineffective and corrupt. What is the U.N. accomplishing? In Darfur, for instance (which I feel would be a much worthier use of our military than the current escapade)? They send letters to the world’s biggest assholes and expect sanctions that usually affect those who are already suffering to “send a message”. I like the idea of a U.N. in principle, and I don’t say we should withdraw, but to me it’s the same principle as illegal immigration: we’ve sent such mixed messages and made it so easy to get here that the law doesn’t matter, and you can hardly blame those who have entered. The U.N. is full of hypocrisy, no one is playing by the rules. Why bother talking about what’s right and wrong when the entire system is set up for failure? The speeding comparison is apt. Everyone does it. I’d imagine you have, too, when traveling to Nevada or even just to the north or south. It’s almost a de facto non-law when it reaches a certain point.

    The channels I’m talking about are a Congressional vote, and you know that. I agree it’s silly that a declaration of war hasn’t been made, but what difference does such a formality really make? It wouldn’t change the circumstances one iota.

    Fact: Saddam paid the families of suicide bombers. If by “similar activities” to 9/11, you mean terrorism, he is indisputably guilty. However, there are a lot of evil dictators in the world, and we can agree that it’s not our place to stomp them all out. You really don’t have a case for impeachment, it was never a reality, so stop with the hand-wringing. Impeachment is for high crimes, and you’d have an impossible task proving that Bush intentionally lied to bring this on.

  8. Non-Arab Arab Says:

    Aaron, terrorism is a tactic, not an ideology. The US and its allies practice and support it in many places around the world and has for decades: assasinations, kidnappings, car bombings – and that’s without even getting into the immoral use of conventional military force. The question is not and never has been who uses terrorism, US hands are just as dirty as anyone else. The question is what are the issues behind the use of these tactics in multiple conflicts around the world. The attempt at uber-reductionism which a so-called “war on terrorism” represents is simply a way to sell people into believing you can bomb whoever you feel like and pretend they all represent one nameless amorphous mass instead of a vast array of complicated issues. That message doesn’t sell well on TV or give quick satisfaction, but it’s the reality a mature leader should be facing instead of hiding from.

    As for the UN, the US’ obstructionism is one of the key reasons for its ineffectiveness. Not the only, but one key one, so I suggest if you want to rail against the UN you should start as an American by being self-critical and examining all the problems the US *causes* at the UN before you go moaning about all the ones other people cause. You want to talk about weak-kneed responses to Darfur? Well how about first talking about US obstructionism in the Rwandan genocide which led to the Congo wars where the US now provides almost no support to end by far the deadliest conflict in Africa or the entire world of the past decade? Or how about another US-created totally unnecessary conflict that has killed more innocent people than the Darfur conflict as a result of deliberate US flouting of the UN: Iraq.

    Pot, meet kettle.

  9. UNnecessary and ineffective Says:

    Does the US engage in obstructionism at the UN — absolutely. But so does everyone else. The UN, as a political/security entity, is nothing more than a forum for obstructionism. That’s it. Lay the blame for its failures on the member countries if you will, but lay it on all of the members, because they all use it for the same purpose — to further their own ends and obstruct the behavior of those that threaten THEIR (not the “world’s”) interests. Let’s just acknowledge the self-interestedness of nations and the ineffectiveness of the UN and deal with the reality. Really, that’s what goes on anyway, right?

    The UN agencies do important humanitarian and cultural work but the UN should stick to that and leave politics and the failed idea of collective security alone. And even if it continues, it certainly shouldn’t have some moral right to dictate US policy. In any event, the UN is just going to become more ineffective as the world becomes more multipolar . . . it’s chance at “glory years” came between then fall of the USSR and the current ascendancy of India and China as world powers. Now we’re back to the days of Security Council stalemates (if we ever left them) . . . remember all those tremendous UN successes during the Cold War? Here we go again

  10. Non-Arab Arab Says:

    I’m with you to an extent. Yes, obstructionism is the frequent name of the game for all the P5 members and yes this has been an ongoing issue for pretty much the life of the institution. That said, (1) there’s no getting around the fact that the world’s nations need to find means of cooperating and like it or not there’s no other forum than the UN for doing so where issues of global import are at stake. Love it or hate it, that’s the forum. (2) There are instances of cooperation, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and say there’s never anything but obstructionism. (3) Don’t disagree that every nation bears its blame for when obstructionism occurs, but strident critics need to look to their own nation’s responsibility first before blaming everyone else.

  11. Aaron Orgill Says:

    UNnecessary, Amen and Amen. Non-Arab Arab, don’t “pot, meet kettle” me. I never said that U.S. hands were clean, just that the entire U.N. is set up for failure, and all the self-righteousness and pretense that the U.N. somehow supercedes any one nation is baloney. Everyone is looking out for Number One only.

    I don’t want to talk about how America contributed to the horrors in Rwanda. What is the point? I’m talking about what is going on now. Rather than playing the blame game, how about we worry about these poor people who are being massacred by the Janjaweed? How sad that we can’t even band together over genocide.

    I don’t condone U.S. tactics. But if you’re putting assassination and kidnapping into the “terrorism” pot, I think you’ve got a serious moral equivalency problem. Equivocating those actions, as reprehensible as they might be, with going into a random wedding or bus to blow up as many strangers as you can merely because they are Jews, is dubious at best.

  12. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Non-Arab, thanks for getting at the cause of many of the problems of the U.N. As much as the conservatives like to scream bloody murder about the U.N, much of the problems there are simply a case of our chickens coming home to roost. The U.S. tactics with in that body have been a huge part of the problem of the impotence of the U.N. Yes, others have certainly played a role, but none with the impact of us, the consistent world superpower throughout the life of the U.N, and we need to focus on our problems rather than that of others. (a post on which is on the agenda). And thanks for reminding us of the hypocrisy of the U.S. in their distinctions on “us” and “them.” Assassination, kidnapping, complicity in the slaughter of civilians, actively participating in the slaughter of civilians: yes, there is absolutely a moral equivalency. We would be incredibly arrogant to believe we are somehow different or better in our crimes than they are in theirs.

    No, Aaron, you have not explicitly promoted a law of the jungle approach to law. But by dismissing the legal hold which the U.N. charter has via our Constitution, you are implicitly supporting that approach. If you would more logically consider the implications of your arguments, you might arrive at a more rational line of reasoning and we might have more productive conversation.

    For example, the fact that the U.N. does not have the ability to enforce its rules and that this administration “did what the hell they wanted anyway,” has absolutely no bearing on the legality of their actions. Please, lets put aside such superfluous nonsense.

    Why talk about the U.N. when it isn’t perfect? Because, like it or not, the provisions of the Charter are currently U.S. law. I don’t know how that could not matter, especially when issues of war are so consequential.

    So you’re saying “everybody does it” is a legitimate defense? What does your mother say about that? Just because most people break the speed limit, or run red lights, or whatever, doesn’t change the fact that the speed limit is the law.

    Yes, I do know you are under the erroneous perception that the congressional authorization somehow legitimizes an undeclared war. The Constitutionally sanctioned method of declaring war is hardly “silly,” trivial, or a mere formality: it is the method by which the Constitution attempts to ensure that major military action has been properly discussed, challenged, and justified before being undertaken. None of that important process has occurred under the sorts of pseudo-authorizations which have been commonly used over the past several decades.

    You are right about one thing. Yes, Hussein did pay the families of suicide bombers who died attacking Israel. Note that the authorization specifically makes the connection with Al Qaeda (a falsehood) and that “Iraq continues to aid and harbor other international terrorist organizations, including organizations that threaten the lives and safety of United States citizens.” As I believe the only terrorist organizations Hussein supported were those attacking Israel, this claim is a slight stretch. And no, Hussein never committed any actions similar to 9/11–attacks on U.S. civilians. Nevertheless, for the sake of argument, I’ll concede that you are right, the third condition was met.

    One of four does not make the invasion legal.

    Rwanda is indeed a valid thing to talk about. Maybe if we think about why our nation itself prevented any effective response to Rwanda, we could prevent that course of action in the future. Sadly, too many people are unwilling to engage in that kind of introspection, preferring to dismiss it as a “blame game,” and never learn from the past.

    (And please, don’t fall victim of the same ignorance most people do. The suicide bombers are not killing people just because they are Jews. That is an ignorant lie perpetuated to de-legitimize the authentic grievances which the Palestinians have. Muslims have lived in peace with Jews for centuries longer than Christians have managed that feat. They–a small subset of the Palestinian Muslim population–are killing civilians of a nation which took their land and established a government without the consent of the indigenous people in which the indigenous Muslims are second class citizens. It has nothing to do with the ethnicity or religion of the citizens of that nation. The suicide bombing is still a heinous crime, but don’t twist it into some genocide that it is not).

    “UNnecessary”, I can’t believe I have to keep reminding religious, ethical people that “Others are doing it!” is not an ethical justification. Whether or not other nations are engaging in obstructionist behavior (and a case can certainly be made that the U.S. is one of the worst culprits) in no way justifies it in us, a nation which claims to be a nation of laws and of moral conviction. And while the U.N. has no right to dictate U.S. policy, its charter certainly does have claim on our policy. Y’all keep dismissing its hold on our decisions without offering one shred of legal justification for dismissing it.

  13. Aaron Orgill Says:

    Derek, your ideology is blinding you on this issue, and I’m not backing down. Would the world be much better if the U.N. actually had the greater good at heart, and all honored their word? Absolutely. But it’s ludicrous to expect America to do it when no one is. You and many liberals have the problem of going out of your way to excuse (or at least explain) the actions of other nations, and not giving the U.S. a break, ever. We need to be reflective, but it’s almost a knee-jerk reaction with you. Any problem in the world is our fault. The law says what it says. If I’m going 80, I’m breaking the law. Now, answer me this: have you never broken the speed limit? I have no problem saying yes I have, and I’ll do it again, because I don’t consider it immoral, just a law that is randomly, if ever, enforced. But I can also admit that to do so is breaking the law. Now, so what?

    Read what I said. I never said Saddam had attacked the U.S., only called into question what you meant by “similar activities”. I’m sorry, you are bat-guano insane if you see moral equivalency. Suicide bombing has everything to do with ethnicity. If they were doing it over legitimate grievances, they wouldn’t pick random targets. The perpetuation of such intense hatred always comes down to “we were wronged, blah blah blah,” and soon you delude yourself into thinking “if that’s the type of people they are, they must all be like that,” then to “I should do something to avenge my people” to “the only good Jew is a dead Jew”. Period.

    Congressional authorization was the biggest hurdle Bush had, and nearly every elected representative in the country laid down and made it easy for him. And that is why I don’t care about the formality, and yes, it is a formality, of declaring war. Was the war entered into improperly? Well, duh. Once Congress folded, Bush hasn’t had much difficulty in doing exactly what he wanted, has he? You can call me a cold pragmatist, but practicality is a very relevant lesson for you to learn. I know you left-wingers consider yourselves the only idealists, but you would be well-served to learn to stop talking about how things should have gone down 4 1/2 years later and deal with the reality that only Congress stood in Bush’s way, and they gave him a layup.

    I didn’t say that Rwanda wasn’t valid to talk about, nor that the U.S. didn’t share some blame in that. There were no clean hands in that mess. It is precisely because I’m not interested in the blame game that I don’t see any point in rehashing what the U.S. did. But if that’s what we’re going to do, there is a good deal of evidence that France supported the Hutus, and it was the good old U.N. that refused to send additional support before and during the genocide, despite specific warnings and requests from UNAMIR. Then in May, after half a million deaths, they conceded that “acts of genocide may have been committed”. Gee, you think? And that’s the kind of brilliance we see all the time from the U.N. Slow-moving, even when it’s way past time to act. Doubtless, even if Saddam had been actively building WMDs, the U.N. wouldn’t have authorized a war. And that’s why I and anyone who has a shred of sense don’t recognize them as a body that has to approve of our foreign policy. You can argue all you want, and by the book you’ll be right, but you have to recognize that the laws of man only have the power that men give them.

  14. Non-Arab Arab Says:

    Good grief. Geez, too long in the tooth to get into everything here, but a couple points:

    -Yes, the French are in the case of Rwanda deeply DEEPLY to blame. That said, the US was just as complicit in blocking a beefed up UNAMIR before, during, and after the genocide as the French. “In cahoots” would probably be an appropriate term. The French in their own spheres of influence around the world have shown just as much or more capacity for evil as the US, so I’m not going to give them a free pass either. Just as importantly, Rwanda is NOT the past. The Congo wars they set off are ongoing to this day (and are far more deadly than the war in Darfur) and worsening again right now in North Kivu.

    -I’m sorry, are you saying that because a bunch of Americans believe that they are on a righteous cause that therefore the murder of 1 MILLION dead Iraqis is somehow less evil than 1000 dead Israelis? Every human life is of equal worth, but it sure sounds like you are saying that as long as the murderers proclaim they have good intentions that its ok to kill a million but not ok to kill 1000. I for one think both are reprehensible, but that it’s blindingly obvious that 1 million murdered is worse than 1000 murdered no matter what the justifications of the killers were. You seem to disagree and I find that not only logically inexplicable, but morally reprehensible.

    -You continue to misunderstand what the UN is. You speak of it as some external nebulous organization with power to move on its own and as such discardable. Repeat: the UN is a FORUM. It is the product of its members. If it is failing, then its members are failing. Abandoning it won’t fix anything, it will simply remove the only forum that exists for the nations of the world to try to reach an organized consensus wherever possible. There may be regrettably few instances where such consensus has been reached, but rest assured that removing the forum will make those instances even fewer. The nation states of the world have no chance of creating new norms (call them laws, call them rules, call them agreements, charters, whatever) to improve collective human welfare if they choose to abandon the only forum they have for getting together. Staying in that forum and talking may guarantee nothing, but it does force nations to face each other, and it does provide opportunities that exist nowhere else to create improvements over time. If the biggest richest kid in class stomps off huffing and puffing that the little kids won’t give them his lunch money because they don’t appreciate how wonderful he is, you can rest assured that won’t help anyone and it probably will lead to bigger fights down the road.

  15. jennifer Says:

    I appreciate all your thoughts on this issue – – but the legality seems really a matter of semantics, right? I think that we all are capable of seeing right and wrong above and beyond what the laws permit and forbid. The war was wrong in so many ways that its relative legality seems a moot point. My opinion and I’m sticking to it! 😉

    (Sorry guys, I’ve always been guilty of finding the gestalt patterns over the details. sometimes it serves me well, but sometimes it works against me)

  16. Derek Staffanson Says:

    No, Aaron, it is not my ideology, but my ethics which are blinding me. I’m simply foolish enough to believe that the criminal actions of someone else in no way justifies criminal behavior on my part. But I guess that’s just me.

    On second thought, you’re right. Ethics are part of my ideology, so yes, they are blinding me to political expediency. How terrible of me.

    Yes, I have broken the speed limit. I used to do so frequently. I’ve over the past three or so years made a concerted effort to be obedient to all speed limits (not always successfully), partly because I’ve been convicted (in the religious sense, not the judicial 😉 ) with the belief that if we are to be moral people and live up to our religion, we must also obey the law.

    Of course, obedience is that much more crucial when it comes to the destruction of hundreds of thousands, even millions, of human lives in war.

    Period, eh? Yes, most people come to that knee-jerk conclusion when they only catch the soundbites and news blurbs from the primary news outlets. But not if you bother looking into the details of the modern history of Israel, Palestine, and the Middle-East. It might surprise you to discover that there are still to this day communities of Jews living among the Palestinians without problem–Jews unaffiliated with and even opposed to the state of Israel. The Palestinians extremists are committing atrocious and despicable crimes in perverted attempts to redress legitimate grievances–not out of racism or genocidal hatred.

    Yes, call me crazy, but I do see a moral equivalency between the deliberate taking of human life, especially innocent life, whether it is done by “us” or “them.” How silly of me to believe all human life–particularly innocent human life is valuable to our Lord. I should have learned by now that when we take innocent lives, He doesn’t care so much–after all, we only murder, assassinate, slaughter, and aid our pet dictators in doing the same for a good reason.

    It amazes me that you can deflect this administration’s culpability simply because Congress betrayed their Constitutional–not to mention moral–responsibilities (for which I have repeatedly condemned them). I guess you don’t believe Truman about where the buck stops, even when it was the administration who presented the lies in the first place.

    Maybe those with sense don’t see the relevance of the U.N. on U.S. policy. But those who believe in law do.

    Jennifer, I can see your point. But I do believe it is important to raise this distinction, particularly when so many on the Right blindly refuse to acknowledge, and even are offended by, the fact that there is a valid case for the illegality of the war. I see it as something like an intervention: an alcoholic may realize that they drink too much and that it isn’t good for them, but they need to be confronted by the fact that they suffer an addiction. Only then can progress be made.

  17. WP Says:

    Aaron you bring up one of my favorite characters from a wonderful movie you are likely too young to remember. Your mention of bat guano brought it to mind. There is a Colonel Bat Guano in this movie along with Colonel Jack D. Ripper. These two nut cases, who are found in “Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Love the Bomb”, all have a collective IQ equal to Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz and the rest of the war criminals who brought us this illegal war in Iraq.

    The perspective of history will judge the calamity our real life president and his administration will have brought upon America and the peoples of the Middle East. The Israelis for 50 years, in their little patch of desert, have been fighting and killing Arabs with US weapons and are they safer and more secure today? Absolutely not. What Bush has done will insure the swamp will always be filled with rats ever eager to die because of their hatred of us.

    Ridley Scott’s “Kingdom of Heaven” would help you connect the dots and offer you some additional historical perspective between East and West, Muslim and Christian. I swear there were a group of Neocons who wanted to wage war against the great Salahdin and the consequences thereof.

    Get a couple DVD’s Aaron.

  18. Non-Arab Arab Says:

    Oy! Learn yes, but for pete’s sake not from “Kingdom of Heaven”! Read As’ad Abu Khalil’s take on the movie, I wholeheartedly agree with him:

    http://angryarab.blogspot.com/2005/05/kingdom-of-heaven-and-of-plunder.html

    And I would add, I was incessantly annoyed at the completely unrealistic setting. Sorry, but the Moroccan landscapes used and the bizarre renderings of Jerusalem in the movie look nothing at all like Palestine’s geography. The only credit I will give on the over-Moroccishness (is that a word?) is that I love Zellige and other Maghrebi ornamentation so that at least was pleasant on the eyes even if totally unrealistic.

  19. Non-Arab Arab Says:

    Oy! Learn yes, but for pete’s sake not from “Kingdom of Heaven”! Read As’ad Abu Khalil’s take on the movie, I wholeheartedly agree with him:

    http://angryarab.blogspot.com/2005/05/kingdom-of-heaven-and-of-plunder.html

    And I would add, I was incessantly annoyed at the completely unrealistic setting. Sorry, but the Moroccan landscapes used and the bizarre renderings of Jerusalem in the movie look nothing at all like Palestine’s geography. The only credit I will give on the over-Moroccishness (is that a word?) is that I love Zellige and other Maghrebi ornamentation so that at least was pleasant on the eyes even if totally unrealistic.

  20. Aaron Orgill Says:

    Okay, WP, if you’re going to get personal, it’s on. You say I remind you of two characters from Dr. Strangelove who have an IQ equal to a bunch of “war criminals”. Then you tell me to rent Kingdom of Heaven for a history lesson? You, sir, have the IQ of a bag of hammers if you’re taking history lessons from Hollywood. In Kingdom of Heaven, Ridley Scott had a great number of historical errors, including the creation of some Jew-Muslim alliance which never existed. So in response to your recommendation that I get a couple of DVD’s, I recommend that you read a couple of books.

    Derek, we’re getting nowhere, and you are twisting my words as you so often do. I haven’t deflected responsibility for anything. Where have you seen me say Bush is a great president, or that he isn’t responsible for this? You get mad at me every time I point out the way the world works. I don’t think it irrelevant to say the world ought to be this way or that way, but in the end, if you’re really trying to effect change, you have to get past some of the shoulds and oughts and do it the way the system is set up, through the imperfect, often corrupt ways of men. The buck should stop with Bush, but since he was so desperate to find a reason to go knock off Saddam, and the only thing that stood in his way from taking action was Congress, that wasn’t going to happen. They turned their heads and now most of them are calling it Bush’s war, and that’s what I have a problem with, people who are acting like they were betrayed and would gladly change their vote now if they could, despite the lack of preparation for what was coming and the fact that they had as much information as anyone.

    I admire your concerted effort to obey traffic laws even with the lack of enforcement. I really do. I see your point about following the laws, but it’s kind of a catch-22. We’ll be in big trouble the day the U.N. dictates American policy (although I concede we’re in pretty big trouble right now on a variety of things with Americans in charge). But the lofty ideals of what the U.N. should be, and whatever good is accomplished through it, and a slough of other things make it both difficult and wrong to forfeit our membership.

    I am never going to agree with you on the suicide bombings. Unless you are confronting the people who stole your land from your family, blowing yourself up at the wedding of people you’ve never met, no matter how much you or your ancestors have been wronged by them or their ancestors is racist, genocidal hatred, and in fact that’s how racism and genocide begins. How you can define it as anything else is beyond me.

  21. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Aaron, Congress was betrayed. They were betrayed by their own cowardice, laziness and by the lies of the Bush administration. You are deflecting this administration’s responsibility by ignoring, even being offended by, all the logical, rational evidence that this administration pursued an illegal war; by claiming that somehow since he was desperate, he is off the hook for acting illegally. I’m twisting nothing; I’m holding you accountable for your words and where those words lead. I’m sorry that bothers you.

    I don’t get mad at you for pointing out “the way the world works;” I get disappointed that you are so willing to cynically accept worldly ways and the natural man in the political sphere, despite being a disciple of Him who called for us to be perfect.

    BTW, WP didn’t say you reminded him of the two characters from Dr. Strangelove. He said you reminded him about the two characters. You brought up references which called to mind the characters and movie. Why is it you are so much more interested in what you think people are saying over what people are saying?

    WP, thanks for reminding me of one of the best (and most currently politically relevant) satires ever! Yes, Dr. Strangelove is a masterpiece. Though to be fair to Aaron, he isn’t some Bush devotee; he simply seems to have bought the conventional wisdom that morality may be a great thing in ones private life, but isn’t really all that relevant in politics or international relations. Unfortunately, it is that cynical, even machiavellian realpolitik which has gotten us further and further into the mud over the past century. I prefer to believe that morality should be applied to all aspects of life. I think we might be surprised at the result.

  22. Aaron Orgill Says:

    Okay, last word. Stop it! For goodness’ sake, who’s interested in turning others’ words into what you WANT them to mean now? I’m on record for almost six months of participating in this blog that Bush is in no way off the hook. Where in the HELL are you getting that? I’m accepting that there are system failures, and sometimes we put men in office who have really bad ideas, and there are supposed to be checks and balances to put a stop to bad decisions. And furthermore I am able to accept that there have actually been some good developments recently, hold out hope for the eventual outcome rather than taking for granted that it’s “all in vain,” and feel that Congress holds an equal share in this since they were the only ones in Bush’s way. You’re right, the betrayal was primarily them betraying themselves. And even if we take for granted that this was pushed on them and lies were told, if we can’t expect them to hold it up to the highest scrutiny, WHAT USE ARE THEY? And then you say I’ve bought that morality is irrelevant in politics. I never said such a thing! I simply said that a dose of practicality is wise when dealing with a bunch of very imperfect, often immoral, people. Please offer a suggestion on, for instance, the U.N. situation we talked about. You seem to be saying that because the law is written a certain way, we should be their subjects, and only have policies that they approve of, or get out. Well, given that option, I’d say get out, but I don’t want to do that either, and everyone still loses. So what exactly would you suggest? Show me how we can fully maintain our honor, by the book, verbatim, and still have room to govern ourselves. Could it be as simple as rewording things? I don’t know, I’m not an expert on such things, and see a lot of other pressing matters demanding our attention, and which bother me a lot more than the wording of a document.

    WP, I apologize for being harsh. I clearly overreacted and didn’t take the time to see where the connection was. I stand by my comments about using Kingdom of Heaven, or nearly any movie, for history lessons.

  23. WP Says:

    Gentlemen, there are some enjoyable historical parallels between our present ruler in the White House and the characters from the somewhat historical movie ‘Kingdom of Heaven’. For example, Guy of Lusignan, was the French Knight who, through marriage, became King of Jerusalem and managed to allow his immense ego to blind him to the realities of geopolitik, consequently his army was cut off, without water, in the desert, and destroyed by Salahdin. Calmer heads warned him not to do this. He also, we should point out, became king because of family connection. Young ‘W’ would not be president but for his papa Bush 41. Calmer heads warned us not to go to Baghdad and we ignored this because we were so easily duped. Our treasury and our young men and women are being used up in the desert. The Iranians love it among others. There is no solution for us as there was for the infidels in Jerusalem but march to the sea, board our ships and sail back home. The movie brought a smile or two to my face.

    Allahu Akhbar.

  24. WP Says:

    Aaron, here are a few more cliches you may want to consider using less you become repetitious at some point:

    Couldn’t find his way out of a paper bag
    Doesn’t have both oars in the water
    Dumb as a post
    Dumb as a stump
    Dumber than a box of rocks
    A Few bricks shy
    A Few fries short of a happy meal,
    A Few sandwiches short of a picnic
    A Half a bubble off
    His/Her elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top floor
    Just fell off the turnip truck
    The Lights are on but there’s nobody home
    Not playing with a full deck
    Not the brightest bulb (in the box / on the tree / in the chandelier)
    Not the brightest crayon in the box
    Not the sharpest crayon in the box
    Not the sharpest knife in the cabinet
    Not the sharpest pencil in the box
    One taco short of a combination plate
    Sharp as a marble
    Thick as a brick
    Thick as a ditch
    The Wheel is turning but the hamster is dead

    I am kind of partial to this last one, what do you think?

  25. Aaron Orgill Says:

    Thanks. I’ll keep them in my arsenal. I apologize for being a jerk.

  26. WP Says:

    They are a bit humorous, all of them, unless you are on the receiving end I guess. Two other movies I have enjoyed that we have put up on the big screen in our house have been “Who Killed the Electric Car?” and “Why We Fight”. Recommend both.

  27. Joe Watts Says:

    ‘Do unto others as you would have others do unto you ‘ is the measuring stick of morals and ethics that has stood the test of time. That standard applies to each individual, and to collective individuals, and to governments. It is not the law, but it is the Father of Law.

    When we invaded Iraq we violated this most basic standard of decency and civility. If the measuring distance of the Golden Rule is a yard stick we violated all 36 inches of it.

    Iraq had done nothing to us, had never threatened us, had no capability of invading us, and it didn’t take an army of intelligence to know any of those truths—-and yet, out of anger, fear, and paranoia, and other base instincts, we sought retribution against innocent bystanders. We deliberately manufactured all kinds of lies and excuses to hide or justify our actions because the truth would leave us naked and exposed to the world.

    To condone in any way our invasion, or to cheer as we did our ‘shock and awe’ bombardment that murdered thousands of totally innocent Iraqis, tore families to bits, left armless, legless children as orphans, is a complete and total abrogation of morality. We are scumbags. The lowest of all. No matter what others have done, we have now done it ourselves.

    America has lost its way. We are grand only in delusion. Our only true interest in Iraq is its oil and for a base to commandeer the entire area for our own gluttonous and evil purposes and to protect our first born—Israel.

    It is not just Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld who are guilty of high crimes. It is every person in America who supported this evil war. Every senator who voted for this war and opened the door for Bush to exhibit his true ‘wild west’ ‘cowboy’ nature is damned. Forgiveness, sure, there is always forgiveness, which is part of the Golden Rule, but this certainly requires a public ceremony of contrite apologies in sack cloth and ashes and no one is holding his breath for that to happen. Some have apologized. Others have pleaded ignorance, but all are without excuse, and none have apologized in a truly significant, meaningful way. Repentance and forgiveness can come forth only through humility—-and there is none of that on the scene anywhere. We are dominated by arrogance. It is our international trademark.

    Those who support this American tragedy need to examine their hearts—-condoning or excusing this butchery, or arguing the legalities for the purpose of justification is just about the same as pulling the trigger.

    And the great moralists of our time who have remained mute are not clean in this matter. Church leaders who speak eloquently about the general evils of war and yet have never found a specific war they haven’t supported are as naked as the rest of us. Where were they? Where are they now? They are still mute on actual war. They are too busy marginalizing gays.

    “If you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.”

    Let’s quit the excuses and start the repentance process.

  28. Illegal War? . . . please Says:

    IMHO there is no such thing as an illegal war. The phrase “Illegal War” is one of the oddest that I’ve ever heard. War is what happens when laws fail. The act of war is extralegal and is governed by the morality, rather than the laws, of nations. Has a war in America ever been found unconstitutional, even the Vietnam War? No, and there’s good reason for it. It would expose the complete incompetence of the courts in these matters. No court will ever tell a nation at war to bring the troops home because going there in the first place is illegal . . . that is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. War is a political, not a legal, matter. IMHO a country’s surrender of its right to go to war is ineffective because it violates the principles of sovereignty that underly the whole nation state system. This is especially true when the body to which the right is delegated is completely ineffective in protecting their interests. That’s my opinion on the US and the UN. Note that this doesn’t mean that I think the war was wise or moral, it just means the whole illegal war argument is ridiculous. It’s an argument made by people who long for a global governmental system that just isn’t a reality and never will be until the coming of Christ.

  29. Aaron Orgill Says:

    “Illegal War?… Please” puts it very well. It is not realistic to have a global government system. And Joe Watts, you are a drama queen. Too bad, because you were doing pretty well for much of the first three paragraphs, then totally derailed. You go ahead and believe we are the lowest of the low scumbags, and grand only in delusion. Thousands of totally innocent Iraqis murdered, families torn to bits, armless and legless orphan children, are all the legacy of Saddam Hussein. Now if you’ll look back on about six months of postings here, you can see that I was not in favor of rushing in there like we did with no plan, hell-bent on seeking revenge for 9/11 from those who weren’t involved in it. But it’s this extreme bullshit rhetoric that sinks liberalism. People need a little tact when facing hard facts. But on top of that, you’re making some flat-out stupid comments. “Our only true interest in Iraq is its oil.” Oh, really? Then why do the Iraqi people have more control of it than ever before, with no signs of us having profited from it?

    Here’s the truth. We are where we are. We can still leave Iraq better than we found it. If you’ve studied Vietnam at all, you are aware that our abandonment made things a thousand times worse for the people there, who were ritualistically slaughtered while the left cheered and congratulated themselves about what a difference they’d made and how Vietnam was finally going to experience peace.

  30. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Yes, “Illegal War…”, it would be a terrible thing for us to restrict our nation’s capacity to engage in capricious wars.

    Those who’ve studied the Vietnam War, Aaron, realize that things would probably not have gotten so bad in Vietnam (or Cambodia) had we not engaged in that immoral and illegal war. The problem is, few in the U.S. seem willing to learn from the past.

    About the oil; Its interesting to see that the legislation which our administration is most concerned with the Iraqi government passing is that which would give oil companies associated with the U.S. monopolies to extract that oil. Hmmm…

  31. Aaron Orgill Says:

    I’m not arguing that point. I’m just saying we made it way worse by leaving, and that’s a lesson to remember. Yet I had the jaw-dropping, almost out-of-body type experience when I went to the Salt Lake Farmers’ Market last year and argued with Bob Brister from your beloved Green Party and his INSANE campaign manager who flat-out denied that tens of thousands were butchered and sent to “re-education camps” comparable to those found in Nazi Germany after we left Vietnam. She preferred to believe that Southeast Asia went on to be a rose garden, and that the protests she was involved in were to thank. I’m sorry, but that kind of delusion is every bit as stupid as pre-emptive war. Likewise, today it seems we see the same thing, with activists who think Iraq was a wonderful place before and will prosper only when we’re gone.

    You really haven’t deflated anything “Illegal War” said. He wasn’t arguing the merits of it, he simply restated what I already said earlier in the post, that there is no way that he or I or anyone with a shred of sanity is willing to give the blowhards at the U.N. veto power. You have no real response to that, but prefer to keep on arguing the same thing over and over.

    “We’re in an immoral war,” Derek blusters. “Yes, we know,” says almost everybody else. Now I ask you, do you care to be part of a solution, or do you just want to lament it for another four years?

  32. Rep. Donnelson Takes on Illegal Immigration « A Liberal Mormon Says:

    […] that if we are going to get tough on crime, we should concern ourselves first with those whose illegal activities have been more destructive to our nation than those of families sneaking into the […]

  33. An illegal war????? Says:

    OK, it’s time for those who claim that a war can be illegal to familiarize themselves with the Constitution. A treaty–even one that is negotiated and signed by the President and ratified by the Congress can NEVER really bind the United States. Congress can always change the domestic law, and, under the last in time rule, the subsequent law controls. To hold otherwise would be to say that one President and one Congress can essentially amend the Constitution without the consent of the states–the prevent a future Congress from doing something simply because they had negotiated a treaty before. That is obviously not the law.

    Additionally, the idea that Congress can give conditional consent to a war is ridiculous. Under this theory, I suppose they could also authorize the spending of money based on certain unknown conditions, and, when those conditions turned out not to have occurred claimed they never authorized expenditure of the money in the first place, and therefore that the executive acted unconstitutionally by using it. Sound ridiculous? I agree. Congress gave consent for the US to invade Iraq. They even called the statute they passed the authorization for military force against Iraq. They have funded the invasion and occupation OVER AND OVER AND OVER again. A treaty (even the UN membership agreement) cannot make anything the US does by law here illegal, because a treaty is not of the same stature as a constitution (unless there are those here who are really willing to argue that we amended our constitution when we signed the UN treaty).

    The Iraq War may be dumb, misguided, even the worst foreign policy blunder of all time, but it is not illegal.

  34. Derek Staffanson Says:

    I quoted how the Constitution itself very specifically and in no uncertain terms states that legally ratified treaties are U.S. law. You have claimed very nebulously that treaty cannot bind the U.S. Who needs to familiarize themselves with the Constitution?

    Your reasoning against conditional consent is unconvincing. The fact is that the consent to invade (which itself was unlawful, as Ron Paul points out, because there was no law declared) was based on certain premises–premises which the administration falsified. If a police makes searches a house based on premises which they falsified, the search is illegal. Why the administration is not held to the same standard I fail to see.

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