Tuesday, July 30, 2013

International Law - Jurisdiction Debate: 1996 Saudi Truck Bombing on U.S. Military Barracks

"On June 21, 2001, a federal grand jury in the United States indicted 13 Saudi Arabian nationals and one Lebanese national in connection with the truck bombing that killed 19 members of the American military services and wounded nearly 400 others in an apartment building in Saudi Arabia in 1996.  The building was being used as a barracks for U.S. military service personnel.  The bombing allegedly was pursuant to an organized terrorist agenda designed to drive Americans out of the Persian Gulf region." - Frederic L. Kirgis (American Society of International Law)

The Saudi Government denied U.S requests (or demands) for extradition of the 13 Saudi nationals to U.S. jurisdiction after the U.S. federal grand jury indictment.

How do you view this issue of international jurisdiction?  This is an open conversation on international law.

In the case of the Saudi Arabian Truck Bombing, it appears to me, when I remove all national bias, that the Interior Minister of Saudi Arabia was correct in his assertion that the jurisdiction falls under the legality of Saudi Arabia and not the United States.  Using the World Court (or Permanent Court of International Justice) ruling in S.S. Lotus ruling to support the Saudi position, the World Court decision stated that “Now the first and foremost restriction imposed by international law upon a State is that – failing the existence of a permissive rule to the contrary – it may not exercise its power in any form in the territory of another State. In this sense jurisdiction is certainly territorial; it cannot be exercised by a State outside its territory except by virtue of a permissive rule derived from international custom or from a convention” [1].  It would also seem plausible to support the Saudi position with the Act of State Doctrine as a supplement to the argument based on the Lotus case.  In Underhill v. Hernandez, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Melville Fuller wrote that “Every sovereign state is bound to the respect the independence of every other sovereign state, and the courts of one country will not sit in judgment on the acts of the government of another done within its own territory” [2].   In addition, we can call attention to Supreme Court decision on Banco Nacional de Cuba v. Sabbatino, even though it is corporate-commercial in nature, as the decision ruled that “the judicial branch would not examine the validity of an act of expropriation within its own territory by a foreign government” [3].  The only difference between the Sabbatino ruling and the Saudi position is the difference between states and individuals.  

It is interesting that if one of the suspects would have held American nationality, that the United States would have had an argument for jurisdiction.  Unfortunately, this argument does not hold true in the case of American victims on foreign soil even though the United States attempted to argue jurisdiction based on Universal Jurisdiction which is “generally recognized for such acts as piracy, slave trade, genocide, attacks on civil aircraft and war crimes, but it has not been quite as widely accepted for acts of terrorism”[4].  Based on the military presence and nationality of the victims, The United States could possibly argue concurrent jurisdiction which is defined as “jurisdiction over persons or things having connections with other states where the exercise of such jurisdiction is unreasonable”, but it does not seem unreasonable that Saudi Arabia claim territorial jurisdiction for a murderous act committed in its territory.  How do you think the United States would react if Saudi Arabia wanted to investigate 9-11?  The United States position seems reach for grey areas and doesn’t receive much assistance from the definitions of the three main concepts of jurisdiction as “"Prescriptive jurisdiction" is defined as the application of a state's law to the activities, relations, or status of persons again, whether by the legislative, executive, or judicial branch. "Adjudicative jurisdiction" is the authority to subject persons or things to the process of a state's courts or proceedings, and "enforcement jurisdiction" is the authority to compel compliance or punish noncompliance with the laws of a state” [5].

I hold the opinion that territorial jurisdiction is nine-tenths of the law and I hold the opinion that Saudi Arabia is justified in refusing joint jurisdiction or extradition.

[1] S.S. Lotus (France v. Turkey), PCIJ Series A, No. 10, at p. 18 (1927), http://www.worldcourts.com/pcij/eng/decisions/1927.09.07_lotus.htm

[2] Gerhard von Glahn & James Larry Taubee, Law Among Nations: An Introduction to Public International Law p. 201(9th ed. 2010)

[3] Gerhard von Glahn & James Larry Taubee, Law Among Nations: An Introduction to Public International Law p. 201(9th ed. 2010)

[4] Frederic L. Kirgis, Indictments Regarding the Bombing of U.S. Quarters in Saudi Arabia, American Society of International Law(July 28, 11:01 am), http://www.asil.org/insigh74.cfm#_ednref3

[5]Kathleen Hixson, Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Under the Third Restatement of Foreign Relations Law of the United States, 12 Fordham International Law Journal, 131 (1988),  http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1207&context=ilj


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Lessons of Imperialism: Points, Versailles, and the Failure of the League of Nations

The causes of World War I were imperialistic in nature and the results of this conflict were not satisfied with Treaty of Versailles.  Many of the imperialistic capitalist state, and private sector, goals were botched by post-World War I international structural errors and many of the achieved goals did not reach the possible maximum levels of capital profitability.  These shortcomings would not be corrected and achieved until after World War II.  

Imperialism and World War I

World War I was started by the imperial motives of Britain, France and pre-October Revolution Russia, forming the Triple Entente, to hinder, and destroy, the economic-industrial growth and growing military power of Germany in Europe.  As with most major international conflicts, the spark that started the regional fighting was centered on smaller state pieces; in the case of World War I those pieces were the states of Serbia and Austria-Hungary.  Allied forces, supported by the geographically isolated United States and the capitalist private sector that influence her interests, quickly implemented a naval blockade around Germany in order to strangulate German supply lines.  Despite the creativeness of the German Schlieffen Plan, a plan for rapidly striking France to the East before quickly realigning German forces to the western frontier against a slower Russian military, World War I should have been a quick win for the Allied states, and the United States should have never been required to physical action.  The unforeseen event that prolonged the conflict and required entry by the United States was the Russian Revolution of 1917 which “began on 24 October, the eve of the meeting of the Second Congress of Soviets, when the forces of the Soviet’s Military-Revolutionary Committee began to occupy key government institutions” and “encountered almost no violent resistance”[1].  With the withdrawal of Russia, who would be troubled by domestic political struggles after the revolution, and the entry of United States military and capital power, the World War I conflict was extended in duration even though Germany’s days were numbered.

Points, Paris, and Treaties

On January 8, 1918, United States President Woodrow Wilson gave his famous Fourteen Points speech where he outlined conditions for possible peace and justified American entry into the conflict based on the empty concern “that the world be made fit and safe to live in; and particularly that it be made safe for every peace­loving nation”[2].  What Wilson probably meant was that “after the United States came into the war her financial assistance was lavish and unstinted, and without this assistance the Allies could never have won the war”[3].  In short, the United States had private sector interests in Europe, and saw greater possible private sector interests in the war-ravished continent of Europe.

 Approximately ten months after the Fourteen Points speech, Germany signed the proposed peace armistice on November 11, 1918 and four years of conflict ended with wet blood still drying in the trenches of the front lines.  Within two months after the cessation of war, the Allied powers, known in history books as the ‘big four’, met at the Paris Peace Conference in Versailles with many other smaller state participants to establish terms for post-war peace.  Even though “Russia had fought as one of the Allies until December 1917, when its new Bolshevik Government withdrew from the war”, the Allied states did not “recognize the new Bolshevik Government and thus did not invite its representatives to the Peace Conference”[4].  With the late war entry of the United States, the United States “was not bound to honor pre-existing agreements between the Allied powers” and President Wilson “strongly opposed many of these arrangements” to include promises made to Italy in the 1915 Treaty of London[5].  The Treaty of Versailles was presented to Germany for signature on June 28, 1919.

Reparation Committee and the League of Nations

Two major creations emerged from the Treaty of Versailles.  The first was the Reparations Committee implemented to oversee Germany’s reparation commitments and abilities, which many political economists felt too harsh, damaging to Europe as a whole, and economically impossible.  The Reparation Commission contained “delegates of the United States, Great Britain, France, and Italy” in all areas concerning German reparation capabilities and decisions with “diplomatic privileges, and its salaries” paid by Germany[6].  German reparations would later be postponed until after World War II through the Lausanne Conference in 1932.

The second creation that was adopted at the Paris Peace Conference was the League of Nations, an attempt at global governance and international democracy.  The League of Nations was built on faulty wiring from the beginning of its existence.  The first problem that weakened the League of Nations was that the United States never ratified the treaty to join the League.  Despite the fact that “American public opinion was overwhelming in favor of ratifying the treaty, including the Covenant of the League of Nations”, U.S. Senate opposition argued that Article 10 “ceded the war powers of the U.S. Government to the League’s Council”[7].  The second, and more problematic, issue in the structure of the League of Nations was the requirement that decisions could only be obtained by unanimous vote.  Unanimous vote, the equivalent of equal veto power, greatly illustrated the ineffectiveness of the League of Nations as an international organization because various state alliances existed within the League of Nations which created an environment as if there were no international body in place at all.

Imperial Lessons

The lessons learned from World War I were many, but there were two very important lessons for imperial capital powers, especially in the private sector.  The first lesson was that the United States and the capitalist private sector realized new levels of profitability during the four-year World War I conflict through inter-allied debt accumulated with compound interest, as well as the profitable accumulation of post-war reconstruction loans. This realization would eventually lead to the post-World War II Bretton Woods creations which would end colonial imperialism and begin globalization.  The second realized lesson was the flaw of equality in any international organization established to maintain international peace and, more important to post-colonial private sector interests, stability.  Conflict and reconstruction were profitable opportunities for the private sector, but instability caused problems for the exportation and exploitation of natural resources from post-colonial states.  The private sector required an international government body controlled by a only handful of the strongest military states in order to pick and choose their profit opportunities whether in the format of stability or conflict.  This adjustment would also be corrected after World War II with the establishment of the United Nations Security Council permanent member veto.          


[1]  Fitzpatrick, Sheila.  2008.  The Russian Revolution, 3rd ed.  New York: Oxford Universtity Press, p. 64.

[2]  Wilson, Woodrow.  Janruary 8, 1918.  Fourteen Points Speech.  Public Domain.  Accessed from the Fordham Univeristy Website on July 21, 2013, http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1918wilson.html

[3]  Keynes, John Maynard.  1920.  The Economic Consequences of the Peace.  Public Domain.  P. 298.

[4]  United States Office of the Historian.  The Paris Peace Conference and the Treaty of Versailles, http://history.state.gov/milestones/1914-1920/ParisPeace

[5]  United States Office of the Historian.  The Paris Peace Conference and the Treaty of Versailles, http://history.state.gov/milestones/1914-1920/ParisPeace

[6]  Keynes, John Maynard.  1920.  The Economic Consequences of the Peace.  Public Domain.  P. 251.

[7]  United States Office of the Historian.  The Paris Peace Conference and the Treaty of Versailles, http://history.state.gov/milestones/1914-1920/ParisPeace



Thursday, July 18, 2013

Palestinian Statehood, The International Criminal Court, and The Rome Statute


Due to the heavy Israeli influence (through powerful Zionist lobbyist organizations) on the United States Congress, which impacts domestic law and foreign policy, to include billions on billions in annual foreign aid packages issued by the United States government to the nation-state of Israel, Palestine has been a continuous field of study for me.  I do not think it does the Palestine-Israel issue “justice” to analyze Palestine’s status of statehood according to so-called international law in the age of capital globalization without first understanding the historical usage of international capital, Zionist and Christian Zionist, in establishing the modern nation-state of Israel as a military hegemon in the Near-Middle East region and ensured an international political coalition to hinder the official international recognition of Palestinian statehood.  In order to offer that background of historical development which I consider imperative to understanding the limited Palestinian position on the international stage, especially concerning statehood and international law, I provide links to previous papers that I have written on the subject in order to establish a historical timeframe on Palestine:

Liberal Policies of the Ottoman Empire Concerning Immigration and Foreign Land Purchasing

The British in Palestine: The Exploitation of the British Empire

Zionist Historical Documents - Herzl "What is a State", Balfour Declaration, Faysal-Weizmann Agreement

Historical British Documents on Palestine: Churchill White Letter, Peel Commission Report, British Policy Letter 1939

Palestine: The Usurped Non-State

Current Legal Status of Palestine under so-called International Law:

On November 29, 2012 the United Nations General Assembly voted to grant Palestine the status of Non-Member State observer status.  The decision to seek Non-Member State observer status through a General Assembly vote which neutralized U.S. veto power came after “a failed bid to achieve full UN membership in 2011” due greatly in part to the threat of a United States United Nations Security Council Veto [1].  The 2012 General Assembly vote on Non-Member Observer State status for Palestine “passed 138 to 9 with 41 abstentions”, with the United States and Israel, of course, voting against the proposal [2].  The vote “upgraded Palestine’s status without prejudice to the acquired rights, privileges and role of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the United Nations as the representative of the Palestinian people” from the previous recognition “as an observer entity in 1974” prior to the UN recognition of the Palestinian declaration of independence in 1988 [3].  

On the day following the historical UN Vote in November of 2012 “Israel declared plans to expand settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem” [4].  These settlements are largely viewed as a violation of international law by many members of the United Nations General Assembly.  Why does Israel (and thus, the United States) attempt to block and impede Palestinian efforts for Palestinians to achieve non-member state status or actual UN Member State status?  One of the main reasons is “concern in Israel that non-member state status would empower Palestinian officials to seek recourse at the International Criminal Court” and that “Palestinians could use the forum in order to bring action against Israel for what they view as violations of international law regarding their treatment in the West Bank and Gaza, including war crimes and the construction of Jewish settlements” [5].

The Question on Whether Palestine is a State:

I tend to agree that, as far as can be established under naval blockade and “restrictions on the movement of Palestinians within the West Bank”, that Palestine is a state [6].  I agree with Professor Quigley’s points that Palestine declared statehood in 1988 and the United Nations responded to that declaration, that many United Nations General Assembly member states recognize and support Palestinian statehood, that there are no other claimants to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and that “sovereignty devolved upon the Palestinian people when the British Mandate ended, thereby establishing a “continual statehood” for the Palestinians” [7].  Considering the historical developments of the Arab population of Palestine before and after the establishment of the internationally recognized state of Israel, and the international prevention of a recognized Palestinian statehood member status in the United Nations, I question the justice of the inactivity of the International Criminal Court based on a flimsy rejection using article 12 (3) of the Rome Statute:  “If the acceptance of a State which is not a Party to this Statute is required under paragraph 2, that State may, by declaration lodged with the Registrar, accept the exercise of jurisdiction by the Court with respect to the crime in question” [8]. 

Article 5 of the Rome Statute declares that the International Criminal Court has jurisdiction over crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crimes of aggression [9].  Anyone who takes the time, without political, ethnic, or religious bias, to review Israeli actions toward the Palestinian territories and population over the past 15 years, to include the creation of illegal settlements, can clearly see that the Palestinians have reason for requesting international jurisdiction under the International Criminal Court.  The problem for the Palestinians remains to be the lack of protection and constant vulnerability to Israeli military aggression due to the legal terminology of article 12(3) of the Rome Statute which insists on statehood for consideration, while Palestine is denied both recognized statehood and International Criminal Court Jurisdiction due to greater political and economic powers preventing it.

We have already discussed the (always) looming threat of the U.S. United Nations Security Council veto (on behalf of Israel) preventing official recognition of Palestinian statehood, and this is not the only political ‘blockade’ in recent history that has been implement by the United States and Israel.  In 1989, the Palestinian Liberation Organization “applied for membership in the World Health Organization (W.H.O.)” only to be rejected after “the United States informed the W.H.O. that if Palestine were admitted as a member state, the United States would withhold funding.  At the time, the United States contributed one fourth of the W.H.O. budget.” [10].

As for the response by Robert Weston Ash to Professor Quigley’s argument that Palestine should indeed by recognized as a state by the International Criminal Court, I can only say that Ash is obviously pro-Israeli in ideology and used the most trivial ‘he said/she said’ points, along with weak terminology twisting, against Quigley’s strong historical references [11].


Being prevented from internationally recognized statehood by the United States and Israel, and second-hand state actors and NGOs with economic ties to both, what rights or duties do the Palestinian people actually have?  They are internationally isolated and basically ignored by the international community while forced to incur the most economically damaging, humiliating, and oppressive policies instituted by the state of Israel, who is heavily funded by the by the United States.  If there is any chance of true international justice for Palestine, perhaps it is time to reassess the concept that “much of international law can be applied and enforced only by states” that are recognized by full membership in the United Nations [12]. 

International law, whether in the United Nations or the International Criminal Court, has an owner, and that owner is capital.  It clearly states as much on the International Criminal Court website in the admission that while “the Court’s expenses are funded primarily by States Parties, it also receives voluntary contributions from governments, international organisations, individuals, corporations and other entities” [13].  Wouldn’t it be very interesting to see a breakdown of that funding amounts and funding entities?  International organizations?  Corporations?  Individuals?  And other entities?


[1]  Robert McMahon,  “Palestinian Statehood at the UN, Council of Foreign Relations,” Council on Foreign Relations, November 30, 2012, http://www.cfr.org/palestine/palestinian-statehood-un/p25954

[2]  Robert McMahon,  “Palestinian Statehood at the UN, Council of Foreign Relations,” Council on Foreign Relations, November 30, 2012, http://www.cfr.org/palestine/palestinian-statehood-un/p25954

[3]  United Nation General Assembly, “General Assembly Votes Overwhelmingly to Accord Palestine ’Non-Member Observer State’ Status in United Nations,  http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2012/ga11317.doc.htm

[4]  NPR staff, “Now What? The State of Palestinian Statehood,” NPR, December 1, 2012, http://www.npr.org/2012/12/01/166313016/the-state-of-palestinian-statehood

[5]  Robert McMahon,  “Palestinian Statehood at the UN, Council of Foreign Relations,” Council on Foreign Relations, November 30, 2012, http://www.cfr.org/palestine/palestinian-statehood-un/p25954

[6]  Robert McMahon,  “Palestinian Statehood at the UN, Council of Foreign Relations,” Council on Foreign Relations, November 30, 2012, http://www.cfr.org/palestine/palestinian-statehood-un/p25954

[7]  John Quigley, The Palestinian Declaration to the International Criminal Court: The Statehood Issue, http://lawrecord.com/files/35_Rutgers_L_Rec_1.pdf

[8] Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Article 12(3), http://www.icc-cpi.int/nr/rdonlyres/add16852-aee9-4757-abe7-9cdc7cf02886/283503/romestatuteng1.pdf

[9] Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Article 12(3), http://www.icc-cpi.int/nr/rdonlyres/add16852-aee9-4757-abe7-9cdc7cf02886/283503/romestatuteng1.pdf

[10]  John Quigley, The Palestinian Declaration to the International Criminal Court: The Statehood Issue, p. 3, http://lawrecord.com/files/35_Rutgers_L_Rec_1.pdf

[11]  Robert Weston Ash, Is Palestine a “State”?  A Response to Professor John Quigley’s Article, “The Palestine Declaration to the International Criminal Court: The Statehood Issue, http://lawrecord.com/files/36_Rutgers_L_Rec_186.pdf

[12] Gerhard von Glahn and James Larry Taublee, Law Among Nations: an Introduction to Public International Law 9 (2010), p. 104.

[13] International Criminal Court Website, About the Court, http://www.icc-cpi.int/en_menus/icc/about%20the%20court/Pages/about%20the%20court.aspx

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Was the Zimmermann Telegram a Fraud? Fourteen Points, Treaty of Versailles, and German Reparations

Was the Zimmerman Telegram a Fraud?

The posed question of the Zimmermann Telegram being a fraud is one that I had not previously considered, but is actually a plausible conclusion. We have seen false accusations and false flags multiple times in recent history that have generated war support from the American people and have justified, in many cases unilaterally by the United States, military actions (along with economic sanctions that can lead to military actions). The verification that Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction is probably one of the most popular cases. [1]. What makes the possibility of the Zimmermann Telegram being a false flag even stronger is that President Wilson had already secured a second presidential term based on keeping the United States out of the European War.

According to history, the Zimmermann Telegram, supposedly intercepted and decoded in 1917 by the British, was a coded message issued by German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann to the German Minister in Mexico offering U.S. territory in return for Mexican support to the German cause. Looking at the text of the telegram, it seems to blatantly instigate two areas of American interests that would stimulate Congressional justification for American entry into the conflict, and more importantly stir up pro-war domestic support among the American people. The telegram opens by declaring that Germans “intend to begin on the first of February unrestricted submarine warfare” which would have blatantly violated the commitment of the Sussex Pledge that Germany had made to the United States in 1916 [2]. According to the telegram, Germany also offered Mexico “generous financial support and an understanding on our part that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona”, territories that Mexico had lost to the U.S. during the Mexican War between 1844 and 1854[3].

It would seem that American (private sector) economic interests were already deeply intertwined with the British, and thus the French. As long as the triple entente states were in good shape during the conflict, the U.S. was able to silently support (and private sector profit) from the sidelines of the European war. The Russian Revolution of 1917 changed the balance of the war in favor of Germany and the Wilson administration required domestic public support to justify the war and in order to enter the war, especially after Wilson’s reelection campaign to stay out of the conflict. The American media was utilized and the “American press published news of the telegram on March 1. On April 6, 1917, the United States Congress formally declared war on Germany and its allies” [4].

I do not believe it is a far reach to consider the possibility that the Zimmermann Telegram was a fraud in order to generate pro-war support among the American people in order to obtain Congressional approval.


[1] Diamond, J., J. Keen, & Associated Press Staff, “CIA’s final report: No WMD found in Iraq,” USA Today, October 7, 2004, http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2004-10-06-wmd_x.htm?POE=NEWISVA

[2] Zimmermann, Arthur, Zimmermann Telegram, 1917, Public Domain, http://www.archives.gov/global-pages/larger-image.html?i=/education/lessons/zimmermann/images/decoded-message-l.jpg&c=/education/lessons/zimmermann/images/decoded-message.caption.html

[3] Zimmermann, Arthur, Zimmermann Telegram, 1917, Public Domain, http://www.archives.gov/global-pages/larger-image.html?i=/education/lessons/zimmermann/images/decoded-message-l.jpg&c=/education/lessons/zimmermann/images/decoded-message.caption.html

[4] National Archives, “Teaching With Documents: The Zimmermann Telegram,” http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/zimmermann/

Additional Resources:

U.S.-Mexican War, PBS History Series, Interactive Media Timeline Map, http://www.pbs.org/kera/usmexicanwar/timeline_flash.html

Fourteen Points, Treaty of Versailles, German Reparations

Studying the armistice at the end of World War I, one major element that has come to my attention is the sharp contrast between how Germany, as the alleged aggressor of this war, has been portrayed in U.S. schools and history books compared to the economic reality of the situation. It is generally understood by international relations students that the balance of European power, and the rise of Germany as an industrial power, leading into World War I, including the formation of the triple entente between Britain, France and Russia with the blockade on Germany, was the cause of conflict. The U.S. joined the side of the triple entente towards the end of the conflict based on accusations of German submarine warfare and the Zimmerman Telegram, but imperialism really needs no excuse when it comes down to action.

President Wilson’s Fourteen Points Speech towards the conclusion of the conflict on January 8, 1918 was mere verbal rhetoric that candy coated imperial designs in my opinion, especially considering the fact that Wilson had won a presidential re-election based on keeping the U.S. neutral and out of the European war and the U.S. was never able to muster enough domestic popular or Congressional support to join the League of Nations.

I have almost completed a book entitled ‘The Economic Consequences of the Peace’ by John Maynard Keynes that clarifies the massive punishment that was inflicted on Germany after the war. Besides outrageous economic reparations monitored by a Reparations Committee made up of Allied state member representatives, reparations which Germany would not be able to uphold under a devaluated currency and considering that she was stripped of the bulk of her mercantile marine vessels, stripped of her foreign colonies, and most damaging, lost control of the coalfields and iron ore of the Ruhr, Upper Silesia, and the Saar which made Germany the first industrial power and an economic threat to the surrounding imperial European states. On top of the economic damage caused to Germany by accepting the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was required to demilitarize and acknowledge the War Guilt clause. The stage after the first conflict was set for a nationalistic movement.
Keynes, John Maynard. 1920. The Economic Consequences of the Peace. Public Domain. Accessed on July 8, 2013 from http://www.gutenberg.org/files/15776/15776-h/15776-h.htm

Wilson, Woodrow. 1918. Fourteen Points Address. Public Domain. Accessed on July 8, 2013 from http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/wilson14.asp

Thursday, July 11, 2013

What is International Law? Is International Law Real? Is it Just?

It is difficult for me to view international law without also identifying the consolidation of imperial power, which shifted into economic globalization through centuries of colonial imperialism, two so-called World Wars, and the final victory for private sector capitalism after the Cold War.

The basis for so-called international law can be found in “treaties and conventions” among large groups of states, especially in cases when a majority of global states agree on the issue at hand [1]. I purposely utilized the phrase large groups to distinguish between larger treaties, such as the one that created the United Nations, and bilateral treaties, usually solidified for economic trade motives, which only bind the two states signing the agreement. When it is a small number of states signing a treaty or convention between multiple states, the agreement can “only apply to those states that have signed and ratified” the treaty or convention, it not does not automatically “create a new rule of general international law” [2]. Unfortunately for supporters of law and equality, if the signatories of these treaties and conventions are economic or military giants of the private sector global market, or the consolidated alliance formed from the ashes of both World Wars, with the World Trade Organization and the Bretton Woods financial creations backing them, smaller states usually have no choice except to adhere to so-called international law or be economically isolated. In the same manner, “states that specifically refuse to acquiesce in the new rule”, or submit on bended knee, “by refusing to ratify the treaty or adhere to it are” often sanctioned, economically isolated on the global stage, or is often stricken by a sudden regime change courtesy of a foreign military intervention and occupation (such as Iraq).

History clearly shows us that capital runs the globe, and that the United States does not have to adhere or comply with these rules established as so-called international law. The United States pulled out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty in 2001 and never ratified the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty, which was signed into international acceptance in September of 1996 [4]. There are a handful of these examples concerning the United States with no international challenge or consequences. Other examples include: 1) The Mine Ban Treaty of 1997, which places the U.S. as the only unsigned NATO member to that treaty. 2) The Convention on the Rights of the Child, unsigned only by the U.S. and Somalia. 3) The Convention on discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), an unsigned convention leaving the U.S. alongside other unsigned states such as Iran (who the U.S. has the nerve to push sanctions against on the international stage) and Sudan [5]. It is obvious that the U.S., nor its allies, have to obey international treaties or conventions when it boils down to it.

While economic and military powers such as the United States and the members of the UN Security Council (with their international vetoes) are not required to follow international treaties and conventions, smaller states also receive favoritism. How many times has the United States issued a veto to block international condemnation in the United Nations criticizing Israeli aggression? While the U.S. refused the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty and withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty, as a military and capital power on the global stage, they are unchallenged in pushing harsher sanctions on Iran (the same sanctions which led to an unchallenged unilateral military regime removal on Iraq by the U.S. and a 10 year occupation) based on unfounded accusations (not proof) of nuclear weapons development. At the same time, Israel, who has been heavily funded and protected by the U.S. since the 1960s, is internationally known to have nuclear weapons, but has never signed the international non-proliferation treaty and refuted calls in 2010 to sign the treaty [6].

In closing, international law is identical to domestic law in the United States as both are controlled by capital. The system looks to work because it is a wide structure of many different international issues that the most powerful states adhere to because most of the issues are not threatening to international capital accumulation or the current military balance of power (or should I use the word hegemon) on the international stage.

[1] Gerhard von Glahn and James Larry Taublee, Law Among Nations: an Introduction to Public International Law 9 (2010), p. 45.

[2] Gerhard von Glahn and James Larry Taublee, Law Among Nations: an Introduction to Public International Law 9 (2010), p. 46.

[3] Gerhard von Glahn and James Larry Taublee, Law Among Nations: an Introduction to Public International Law 9 (2010), p. 46.

[4] Paul Kurtz and Matt Cravatta, America’s Shame: Neglected Treaties, Council for Secular Humanism (Accessed July 11, 2013 at 16:25), http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=library&page=kurtz_28_3

[5] Paul Kurtz and Matt Cravatta, America’s Shame: Neglected Treaties, Council for Secular Humanism (Accessed July 11, 2013 at 16:25), http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=library&page=kurtz_28_3

[6] Joseph Nasr, Israel rejects Call to join anti-nuclear treaty, Reuters, May 29, 2010 (Accessed on July 11, 2013 at 17:20), http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/05/29/us-israel-nuclear-treaty-idUSTRE64S1ZN20100529