Friday, March 21, 2008

Professor Mandel on our illegal war

Once again, Michael Mandel of Osgoode Hall law school describes the legal aspect of Canada's war in Afghanistan - that is, the fact that the war is illegal. Mandel (pictured) is the author of How America Gets Away With Murder: Illegal Wars, Collateral Damage and Crimes Against Humanity (2004). It is noteworthy that, as far as I can tell, he is the only person to have stated this bald fact in Canada's major media - with the exception of David Orchard who co-authored an Op-Ed with Mandel (see my earlier blog entry here).

We're in it with Bush
It's time to rid ourselves of the fiction that the war in Afghanistan has nothing to do with the 'U.S.-led war in Iraq'

The whole campaign to keep Canadian troops fighting in Afghanistan has been desperate to distance our mission from "the U.S.-led war in Iraq." Consider the report of the Manley panel on Canada's Future Role in Afghanistan:

"... Neither do we accept any parallel between the Afghanistan mission and the U.S.-led war in Iraq. To confuse the two is to overlook the authority of the UN, the collective decisions of NATO, and the legitimacy of the Afghan government that has sought Canada's engagement."

As its main example of UN authority, the report says this:

"The day after 9/11, the UN Security Council formally recognized the right of individual and collective self-defence and called on all member states to co-operate in Afghanistan 'to bring to justice the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of these terrorist attacks.'"

But the reason that the word "Afghanistan" doesn't make it inside the quotation marks is because you won't find it in any of the Security Council Resolutions said to authorize America's attack of October 2001.

You might think it strange to authorize a war against a member state of the United Nations without even mentioning its name. You might think it stranger still to authorize the use of military force without mentioning anything resembling military force even once among all the measures that the Security Council called on member states to deploy to deal with terrorism. The resolutions do not even say that a state may use "all necessary means," to use the well-know euphamism.

In fact, the only means mentioned in the Security Council Resolutions of bringing anyone "to justice" is to "ensure that ... such terrorist acts are established as serious criminal offences in domestic laws and regulations." In other words, fight terror through law, not war.

The war on Afghanistan was George W. Bush's war, not the UN's. It had no more UN authority than the war on Iraq. Both are marked by the same original sin, Nuremberg's "supreme international crime" of aggressive war. That the Security Council later succumbed in both cases, and authorized the subsequent use of force to defend (both) the American-installed governments doesn't diminish that fact, just the way it doesn't bring back the innocent dead.

But the similarities don't end there. The reason why Afghanistan isn't mentioned in the September 2001 Resolutions is that, within one day of those attacks, the neo-cons who had taken over the White House decided to use 9/11 as a pretext to carry out their pre-existing plans for war against Iraq. They wanted to unfurl an open-ended banner of "self-defense" to justify using their military might against the many and varied pockets of resistance to American "foreign policy" wherever they might be found throughout the wide world.

Authorization for an attack on Afghanistan alone would have cramped their plans. That the self-defence claim was bogus was immediately understood in the White House, according to eye-witness Richard A. Clarke, President Bush's special assistant for combating terrorism (Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror).

But when informed of this by none other than Donald Rumsfeld, the president famously replied, "I don't care what the international lawyers say, we are going to kick some ass." ...

To cap it all off, right from the beginning, the famously "UN-authorized" ISAF put itself firmly under the command of OEF: "In respect of the relationship between the International Security Assistance Force and forces operating in the Afghanistan theatre under Operation Enduring Freedom, and for reasons of effectiveness, the United States Central Command will have authority over the International Security Assistance Force" (Letter from the U.K. government to the Security Council, Dec. 19, 2001).

ISAF does not answer directly to OEF but must defer to it. ... In fact, on its website, NATO makes a point of reminding everyone that "ISAF is not a UN force, but is a coalition of the willing." ... (link)
For a classic example of what happens when you speak such simple truths, see this blog post at an unofficial Canadian military blog which references Mandel's piece. The author, a frequent booster for the war, simply scoffs at Mandel rather than addressing his argument. We'll take his silence as a tacit admission that he is knowingly cheer-leading for an illegal war which is helping undermine international order and the rule of law.

1 comment:

Sal said...

Thank you so much for this info.I am so glad to see that Canada had woken up to realize that the war in Afghanistan is immoral and wrong.I live in the US(a atve of Afghanistan)and am frustrated by the strong support of continuing the war in Afg.not only among the population,but among our so called intelectuals.Keep up the struggle Canada.I am working on a blog myself to shed light on the situation in Afg.

If you can give me any advice it would be much appreciated.