Sunday, February 10, 2008

Two Star columnists shout down an illegal war

Writing about the Manley Report in her column in the Toronto Star, Linda McQuaig quotes a pair of law scholars who outline the illegality of the Afghan war. She also has some insightful comments about the report itself. Excerpt:

[American law professor and frequent CounterPunch contributor Francis] Boyle says that the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were both illegal under international law, in that neither received Security Council approval.

The Manley report implies that the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was endorsed by the Security Council, but Boyle notes that the Security Council resolution cited by Manley in no way authorized military action. Rather, it called for the perpetrators of 9/11 to be brought to justice – suggesting they be dealt with as criminals through extradition and the judicial system, not war.

After invading Afghanistan and toppling the government, Washington won UN authorization for the new government it installed, and for its ongoing intervention through NATO. As a result, the U.S. presence in Afghanistan – like the one in Iraq – now has "a veneer of UN authority," notes Osgoode Hall law professor Michael Mandel.

Manley has long been a proponent of closer relations with the U.S., and he and his panellists met with top U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Yet the Manley report avoids any suggestion that Ottawa's involvement in Afghanistan is about pleasing the Bush administration, which is widely disliked in Canada.

Indeed, the Manley report makes Washington all but disappear, emphasizing the UN and NATO, and Canada's role within NATO.

But NATO is just a military alliance ultimately run by Washington. Indeed, since it came into being in 1950, NATO has always been headed by a U.S. general (currently John Craddock).

In addition to NATO forces in Afghanistan, there are another 13,000 U.S. troops under direct U.S. command. This means that all troops serving in Afghanistan are ultimately under commander-in-chief George W. Bush, whose shadow looms large over the country. ... (link)
We've blogged recently about the illegality of the war, citing Mandel in a couple of contexts where he spells it out. We have also recently seen American legal scholar Ali Khan making the case that NATO is committing genocide in Afghanistan. For more on the illegality of the American invasion of Afghanistan, see the excellent PhD thesis authored by Myra Williamson, "Terrorism, war and international law: the legality of the use of force against Afghanistan in 2001" (here).

The day following McQuaig's piece, her colleague Antonia Zerbisias (whose talents are relegated to the Living section of the paper) weighed in with a bit of bombast:

... I am sure I am not the only Canadian who would like to know why our troops are getting blown up to prop up a regime that has, despite fine words in its new constitution, no regard for women's rights – or the ability of journalists to discuss how the prophet Mohammed regarded women.

That's because, in Afghanistan, even long after the Taliban was toppled from power, if you suggest that women should be equal to men, you might as well book a cell on death row.

That's where Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh is.

Last Oct. 27, the 23-year-old journalist was arrested in the northern province of Balkh on charges of "blasphemy" and "disseminating defamatory comments about Islam."

His crime?

Downloading a document from an Iranian website that deconstructs what the Koran says about marriage – and argues that Muslim fundamentalists who promote the inequality of the sexes misrepresent the teachings of the prophet.

On Jan. 22, in a closed courtroom and without legal representation, Kambakhsh was sentenced to death – although there is speculation that he is a mere proxy for his brother, also a journalist, who has written hard-hitting critiques of the government.

Well, it's one, two, three, what are we fighting for?

Because I'm not so sure any more.

If journalists cannot freely do their jobs or discuss oppression of women without suffering persecution by the state – Afghanistan's upper house approved the death sentence for insulting Islam – then it doesn't matter how many tanks we throw in there. The "mission'' is a failure and our troops are being killed for nothing.

Despite all the la-di-da words about building schools and restoring infrastructure, the truth of the matter is, say international aid organizations, women continue to suffer mightily in Afghanistan. And if women suffer, children suffer. And the violence will never end. ... (link)

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