The China Syndrome

Imperial rivals to the US are getting more powerful, and more capable of deterring the unfettered trampling of the globe that US policymakers are bent on.

That this is occurring is most obvious in the case of China. The eviction of US troops from Uzbekistan[1] would not have happened if it wasn’t supported fully by Russia and China. The move followed closely on the heels of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s request that the US develop a timetable for withdrawal from all of Central Asia.[2] In general, says a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, the eviction is certain to “put pressure on other central Asian states to turn away from the west, towards China and Russia, because of their reliance on Uzbekistan’s resources.”[3] China is scoring points against the US in its own neighborhood, but those points have global ramifications.

It isn’t just the tilt of one or two small allies that has Washington policymakers concerned. China’s sway in the region includes security arrangements, like the recent Chinese/Russian war games, which may portend a more aggressive foreign policy from Beijing. According to the Christian Science Monitor,

The week-long maneuvers off the Pacific coast are widely viewed as Moscow lending a mail-gloved hand to China’s efforts to warn the United States away from involvement in any future crisis over Taiwan. But preparations to deal with potential unrest in Central Asia may also figure, some say.

Further suggesting the war games may be part of a larger agenda is the presence of defense ministers from the six-member Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. Some analysts believe Moscow and Beijing hope to transform the SCO, hitherto a Central Asian talking shop, into a NATO-style security alliance to keep order in their increasingly troubled neighborhood.[4]

US policy makers are worried about this development, and they want their allies to also be worried. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made it a point at a Singapore conference of Asian defense ministers in June to “question” China’s military buildup, in a “rhetorical assault” that “underscores a growing concern in the United States over China’s rising military, economic and diplomatic power,” according to Reuters. Some of Rumsfeld’s comments:

China appears to be expanding its missile forces, allowing them to reach targets in many areas of the world, not just the Pacific region, while also expanding its missile capabilities within this region…China also is improving its ability to project power, and developing advanced systems of military technology…Since no nation threatens China, one must wonder: Why this growing investment? Why these continuing large and expanding arms purchases? Why these continuing robust deployments?”[5]

You mean, why is China acting like the United States?

The comments were made just prior to the intended release of the 2005 Pentagon report on Chinese military capacity. The report was held back for over a month because “earlier drafts…concerned National Security Council officials by painting what they saw as an overly antagonistic picture of China.”[6]

I suppose I understand not wanting to appear too antagonistic towards a government which is emulating your own.

The report was finally released on July 19. Here are some quotes, chosen for their ironic relevance to US behavior:[7]

  1. “China has not renounced the use of force… Over the long term, if current trends persist, PLA [People’s Liberation Army] capabilities could pose a credible threat to other modern militaries operating in the region.” Now, which “other modern militaries” operate in the region around China? Hmmm.
  2. “Forces…that could divert China from a peaceful pathway” include “nationalistic fervor bred by expanding economic power and political influence” and “an expanding military-industrial complex that proliferates advanced arms.” Sound familiar?
  3. “[D]ependence on overseas resources and energy supplies, especially oil and natural gas, is playing arole in shaping China’s strategy and policy. Such concerns factor heavily in Beijing’s relations withAngola, Central Asia, Indonesia, the Middle East (including Iran), Russia, Sudan, and Venezuela.”
  4. “Beijing has described its long-term political goals of developing comprehensive national power and of ensuring a favorable strategic configuration of power in peaceful terms…Nevertheless, China’s military modernization remains ambitious… In the future, as China’s military power grows, China’s leaders may be tempted to resort to force or coercion more quickly to press diplomatic advantage, advance security interests, or resolve disputes.”

China’s military budget ($26 billion) is only about 1/18 that of the US. But just because China isn’t capable of building as gigantic an arsenal as the US, or of invading and creating insurgencies in two of the poorest countries on the planet, it has been able to make modest advances against US power in Iran and Central Asia by working with regional leaders for common goals.[8]

In the short term, a new Cold War might be a good thing. The US will be less capable of invading other countries, or of imposing crippling sanctions or doing anything else unilaterally that might have a serious impact. But for those interested in ending empire, supporting the rise of China as an “anti-hegemon” would be fighting fire with fire. The democratic empowerment of most of the planet will be a lot further away with two superpowers than with none. Perhaps in the space opened up by the weakening of US credibility in the Middle East and Central Asia, and while the Bush and later US administrations are distracted by the rise of China, that third “superpower,” the world populace, will be able to sneak off with the prize.

Overthrowing Uzbekistan?

We may be seeing the seeds of another “revolution” in a post-Soviet state, courtesy of the US State Department.

In what the Boston Globe calls walking the “diplomatic tightrope,” US officials have agreed to consider asylum requests for refugees from Uzbekistan fleeing after the violent crackdown in Andijan in May. Uzbekistan has been an important ally of the US because it allows the use of one of the first US airbases in Central Asia, and because the US renders its terrorist “suspects” to the country’s torturers for interrogation and detention (New York Times). If it decides to validate asylum cases, Washington would be openly working against the govermnent of president Islam Karimov, not to mention publicly admitting that the crackdown contained human rights violations and political persecution.

While the State Department’s human rights reports have been relatively truthful on the atrocious record of Karimov, the US government in general was rather kind to the despot awarding him military aid and apologist rhetoric for his services. Until recently, the State Department’s Background Notes on Uzbekistan called the country “a strong supporter of US military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq and of the global war against terror….[The US] values Uzbekistan as a stable, moderate force in a turbulent region.” (Reference to the earlier version of the notes can be found in Asia Times.) Now, the notes (updated July) assert:

U.S.-Uzbek relations have flourished in recent years but have become strained over the Uzbek’s actions in Andijan in 2005…The tumultuous events in Andijan in 2005 and the subsequent U.S. condemnation of President Karimov’s actions render the future relationship between the nations uncertain. In June 2005, Karimov refused U.S. demands for a formal investigation of the Andijan massacre, exacerbating the divide between the two nations. To maintain strong relations, the United States urges greater reform in Uzbekistan to promote long-term stability and prosperity. Registration of independent political parties and human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs) would be an important step.

The State Department calling US-Uzbek relations “strained” is more than just an attempt to assuage human rights and congressional critics of Bush’s cozy relationship with Karimov. The revised State Department language reflects a new reality. Karimov has recently said he might “evict” the US from its base at Karshi-Khanabad (ISN Security Watch), and has been showing unusual closeness with regional powers Russia and China (see earlier post). Russia is most openly offering its unconditional support to the Karimov regime, saying that outsiders should avoid “any one-sided assessment [of the Andijan events] which has only political considerations” (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty). Russian president Vladimir Putin furthermore agreed with Karimov that the Andijan uprisings were staged from “specially prepared bases in Afghanistan.” Karimov asserted that the demonstrations were “prepared in headquarters and centers where there are people who have carried out operations like this before on the territory of both CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] and other states.” In other words, the US fomented the demonstrations, like it did in the Ukraine (the Guardian) and Kyrgyzstan (Wikinews).

There is more than just alarmist talk in these accusations. It may not be the case that the US fomented the demonstrations in Andijan, but the State Department has made it clear that “long term stability and prosperity” can only be maintained in the country if “Registration of independent political parties and human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs)” takes place. It’s not obvious if this is a threat, or just an assessment, but it looks like a little of both. According to the Washington Post,

The administration hopes to reach out to Karimov by month’s end to stress the importance of the U.S.-Uzbek strategic partnership — which has blossomed since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — while urging the authoritarian government to make a stark political choice so it does not meet the fate of the three other former Soviet republics [Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia], U.S. officials say.

“We hope one last push will get Karimov to see that repression leads to instability and the only way out is to embrace freedom. Otherwise, he’s on a descending spiral,” said a senior U.S. official involved with Central Asian policy who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive diplomacy.

This echoes an analysis in Jane’s Intelligence Review (RFE/RL) that “Uzbekistan is now spiraling irretrievably towards violent regime change.”

It is quite possible that the US government is seriously considering supporting the anti-government movement in Uzbekistan, or has done so already, and is using this as a bargaining chip with Karimov. Washington is certainly warning Karimov that unless he does as he is told, the US will do nothing to stop an inevitable regime change.

Regional Powers Challenge US in Central Asia

Just before G8 leaders met in Scotland to make themselves feel good about relieving African debt, and engage in handwringing on terrorism, two of the G8 countries (Russia and China) were busy snubbing another (the United States).

At the latest meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (Russia, China, Kyrgysztan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan), the growing US military presence in Central Asia has been seriously called into question. As quoted in an Associated Press article, a declaration of the five presidents reads:

We support and will support the international coalition, which is carrying out an antiterror campaign in Afghanistan, and we have taken note of the progress made in the effort to stabilize the situation. As the active military phase in the antiterror operation in Afghanistan is nearing completion, the SCO would like the coalition’s members to decide on the deadline for the use of the temporary infrastructure and for their military contingents’ presence in those countries.

According to the AP, “A Kremlin foreign policy adviser, Sergei Prikhodko, said the group had not demanded an immediate withdrawal. But he added it was ‘important for the SCO members to know when the [US] troops will go home.’ ”

Indian officials who were present at the meeting told The Hindu newspaper that the push to get US troops out came mainly from Russia, but was backed enthusiastically by China and Uzbekistan.

Apparently Uzbekistan’s leader is less than happy with US lukewarm support for his suppression of the Andijan uprising in June, which killed up to 750 civilians. He also agrees with Russia that Washington is trying to destabilize his and other former Soviet governments. Three days after the SCO declaration, Uzbekistan complained that the US was not living up to its commitments in the country, asking the US to consider withdrawing from military bases in the country. The Uzbek government also suggested the US might start paying overdue takeoff and landing fees for the use of its airfields.

For the first time the SCO meeting included representatives of other regional powers India, Pakistan, and Iran as observers. If a true power bloc develops between these nations, it could even squeeze the US out of the region, or at least sharply constrain its activities.

Further Reading

The Pipeline is Open

The New Energy Wars have begun in earnest. The US-backed pipeline that brings oil from Azerbaijan westward has started pumping. Washington’s main goals are stated as US “energy independence” from the Middle East and political “independence” of the Caspian countries, which separated from the USSR in the early 1990’s. Both of those claims are either bogus, or distract from the real point.

So what’s the real point to these pipelines? First of all, of course, it’s to get the oil and gas under Western control, as opposed to control by regional powers (let alone the countries where the resources are located). It’s not so much the need to reduce US energy dependence on the Middle East in the sense of who uses the resources, but rather who profits by them, can set the price, and can use the spigot to control the operation of the rest of the world’s industrial, military, and social infrastructure. An article in the Middle East Journal from Spring 1995 suggests a reason why a Caspian energy “hub would be attractive to the West.” (I found this about 4 years ago in the library researching the trans-Afghanistan pipeline, so unfortunately I don’t have a link.) The article, entitled “Russia, the West, and the Caspian Energy Hub,” by Robert V. Barylsky, states that the West is frightened by “a hypothetical Russian-led alliance of energy exporters, a super-OPEC…that would wield extraordinary power over energy markets. ” The point here is “power over energy markets” not just access to energy for our own use. US/West European control over the Caspian resources would dilute the ability of this potential “Russian-led alliance” from having a degree of control over energy markets.

Secondly, economic aid to and military alliances with the oil and gas producing countries allow the US to foster dependence on Washington, while positioning its forces strategically throughout the Caucasus and Central Asia. For example, plans for a “Caspian Guard” in the backyard of rivals Russia, China, and Iran. According to the Armenian News Network,

experts in Azerbaijan estimate the cooperation between Baku and Washington against the background of intense relations between the USA and Iran…The USA is interested is airbases, from which it would be good to strike targets in Iran.

The ongoing US posture review makes it clear that one of the major goals in the re-invention of the US basing strategy is a “flexible” deployment in as many strategically interesting countries as possible, especially potential rival powers. Indeed, regarding the Caspian deployment, that’s how Russia and Iran see things:

In late April Russia evidently proposed the creation of a new defense formation, specifically a rapid-reaction force in the Caspian. Iran welcomed the proposal (IRNA, May 3; RIA-Novosti, May 4). Although not much is known about this proposed force, it appears to be intended not just to repulse terrorist threats but also to oppose a foreign, i.e. Western, military presence in the Caspian…Azerbaijan appears to be at the center of this issue.

For an excellent piece on the political, economic, human rights, and environmental issues surrounding the Azerbaijan pipeline, see “Another East-West Faultline,” by K. Gajendrah Singh.

For more on the new US “Empire of Bases” see “Bases, Bases, Everywhere,” by Tom Englehardt.

Stewardship for us, Non-Proliferation for them

A recent Asia Times commentary by Bhaskar Dasgupta rightly claims that the Nuclear Nonproliferation treaty is a “crock” that “has proven to be spectacularly ineffective in the past decade.” What he doesn’t say is that the treaty was largely meaningless from the beginning since it never called for the nuclear-armed powers to destroy their arsenals, only for other countries not to get nuclear weapons. In other words, the word “nonproliferation” only applies to our adversaries. The NPT is just another example of the big nuclear-armed powers, mainly the US, setting the terms by which newly-nuclear or non-nuclear countries should behave. (It’s also a good excuse for a non-nuclear country to get nuclear weapons.)

George W. Bush has been complaining that the Nuclear Nonproliferation treaty hasn’t been doing its job, not of course because the US still has a huge arsenal, but because Iran and North Korea have declared their willingness to pursue their own nukes. The Bush administration doesn’t want the treaty to be rewritten, though, because “They fear doing so would take the focus away from Iran and North Korea,” who they want to be able to use the treaty against, like they did with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. If they called for a rewrite, says the New York Times, it would “play into the hands of nations that complain the existing treaty favors nations that already have large nuclear arsenals, and that have moved too slowly to fill their commitments to shrinking those arsenals to zero.” Washington wants the treaty to allow them to ostracise uncooperative non-nuclear and almost-nuclear powers before they become nuclear rivals, and hopes the world will keep quiet about the fact that the US “has moved too slowly” to cut back its own stockpile (NYT, May 1, 2005).

In other words, if Bush tried to rewrite the treaty, US hypocrisy might be seen for what it is. But the Times won’t say this. Neither will it say what former UN weapons inspector in Iraq, Richard Butler said: “their [US] weapons of mass destruction are just as much a problem as are those of Iraq.” Nor will it remind us that the Bush administration refused to be part of a weapons inspection regime probably a lot less stringent than that forced on Saddam Hussein’s government, the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), which would have banned production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons. In withdrawing from the FMCT, the State department claimed that the inspections regime it called for “would have been so extensive that it could compromise key signatories’ core national security interests and so costly that many countries will be hesitant to accept it.”

But we don’t really need weapons inspectors to prove that the US is not serious about nonproliferation. First of all, the Department of Energy is doing everything it can to ensure that existing US weapons of mass destruction are up to date and kept in peak working order. In president Bush’s description of his 2006 budget request for the DOE, it is declared that “The Nation’s nuclear deterrent remains a critical component of our defense strategy.” The “stockpile stewardship program” under the aspices of DOE “ensures the operational readiness of the Nation’s nuclear weapons.”

But more importantly, the DOE is always on the ready to produce new weapons. The Department runs the National Nuclear Security Administration, which has among its goals to “promote international nuclear safety and nonproliferation.” If we had any doubts that “nonproliferation” is really only ever applied to others, not us, we find that “The NNSA …maintains and enhances the … performance of the United States nuclear weapons stockpile, including the ability to design, produce, and test” nuclear weapons. The NNSA Strategic Plan for “stockpile stewardship,” will develop “the capability to produce all nuclear components in a weapon” to be ready “to respond rapidly to the Department of Defense requirements to counter a broad spectrum of emerging threats.” In other words, the NNSA will be able to assemble new nukes at the drop of a dime. Thus, “The Nation will maintain a deterrent posture second to none.”

Let’s face it. The United States and other nuclear superpowers are not going to draw down their nuclear arsenals just because they agreed to. The way I see it, there are only three conditions which might lead to the world’s powers dismantling their nuclear stockpiles entirely.

  1. The world becomes a place where the use or threat of force no longer makes sense or is no longer possible.
  2. World War III occurs.
  3. The people of nuclear-armed nations multilaterally force their governments to stop making nukes.

(1) is 99.99999% unlikely, and (2) is unthinkable (but more likely). So we are left with (3).

Anti-Nuclear Demonstration.  Photo by New York Times.

Bhaskar Dasgupta comments, “Gone are the days that massive rallies would take place about the removal of nuclear weapons…now, people are more driven by what a few terrorists could do, rather than what a whole structure that owns and manages nuclear weapons can do.” I think Dasgupta is saying that since 9/11, when the US was attacked by terrorists, US citizens that used to worry about the danger to the world posed by our own government’s WMD’s have stopped doing so and are now worried about the next al Qaeda suicide bomb . If this is indeed his meaning, I would have to say that, like the NPT, this is a crock. There are plenty of US citizens who are angry that their government possesses weapons of mass destruction, like the 40,000 protestors who marched in New York on May 1. Of course, that number will have to increase before we see UN weapons inspectors in the US, but the days of “massive rallies” are surely not “gone.”


For further reading:

Why the West Loves Vladmir Putin

A political analysis of Russia’s recent involvement in Chechnya and the reaction of West, written on 27th March 2000

“there are terrorists who kidnap innocent people by the hundreds and keep them in cellars, torture and execute them… Bandits of this kind — are they any better than Nazi criminals?”

—- Vladimir Putin, President of Russia

“Russian forces went on a killing spree in the Aldi district of Grozny, shooting at least sixty-two and possibly many more civilians who were waiting in the street and their yards for soldiers to check their documents. These were entirely preventable deaths, not unavoidable casualties of war. They were acts of murder, plain and simple…And most disturbing of all, there is no evidence that the killing spree has stopped.”

—- Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights Watch Emergencies Researcher

Russia’s presidential elections are over. With most of the vote counted, Vladimir Putin has so far accumulated more than the 50% needed to clinch the Presidency of Russia. Many Western leaders are treating this news with relief. A News Analysis piece in today’s New York Times by correspondent Michael R. Gordon is entitled, “Washington Bites its Nails as Russian Votes are Tallied.” Writing from Russia, Gordon explains why he thinks “The Clinton Administration has a lot riding on a Putin victory.” For one thing, “Mr. Putin and his top aides have talked about overhauling the tax code, protecting the rights of shareholders, phasing out subsidies to money-losing enterprises and tackling politically dicey issues such as establishing the right to own land.” Such talk of economic reforms has so impressed US officials that “Clinton administration officials are already discusing” ways to reward Putin’s efforts to help out foreign investors. Suggestions include, “expanding assistance by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, rescheduling Russian debt and having the United States Export-Import Bank step up its efforts to encourage investment in Russia.”

Unfortunately, things are not entirely rosy for US policy makers, because, “There is also Chechnya.” Putin’s war is making it difficult for administration officials to wholeheartedly embrace him in public. What of Chechnya? In Gordon’s words, “The brutal war has been temporarily pushed out of the news by the Russian election, but it is still raging.”

Extensive investigations by Human Rights Watch continue to reveal a pattern of brutal terror in Chechnya, including war crimes, carried out by the Russian forces. Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights Watch Emergencies Researcher, made it clear that the targets of Russia’s Chechnya campaign were not simply the rebels. In March 1 testimony before the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Bouckaert called attention to the Russian forces, who “indiscriminately and disproportionately bombed and shelled civilian objects, causing heavy civilian casualties,” in violation of the Geneva Convention which limits attacks to combatants. “The bombing campaign has turned many parts of Chechnya to a wasteland: even the most experienced war reporters I have spoken to told me they have never seen anything in their careers like the destruction of the capital Grozny.” Human Rights watch has documented at least three large-scale massacres by Russian forces in Chechen villages. And there is a tremendous refugee crisis. More than 200,000 Chechens have fled the fighting into neighboring Ingushetia, which has a population of only 300,000.

Bouckaert concluded his testimony by urging the US to call for a suspension of World Bank and International Monetary Fund loan payments pending to Russia. He proposed that “the creation of a Commission of Inquiry should be a prominent item for discussion at the U.N. Human Rights Commission meeting, and the U.S. must insist on a discussion of the Chechen conflict at the U.N. Security Council, because the conflict in Chechnya has major implications for international peace and security.” (See the Human Rights Watch web site for more information;

The Senate was shocked by Boukaert’s testimony. Jesse Helms said, “I am ashamed of our government and its comments made in defense of Russia.” But the US has done practically nothing to stop the assault. To some, criticism of Putin’s campaign in Chechnya is considered “skepticism” (“Some Skeptics See Iron Hand in Putin’s Glove”, NYT, 2 Mar 2000).

The US State Department seems to share this point of view. “Instead of using its relationship with Russia to bring an end to the abuses in Chechnya, the Clinton administration has focused on cementing its relationship with acting President Putin, the prime architect of the abusive campaign in Chechnya,” Bouckaert lamented. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited Russia for a conference on the Middle East in early February, and was “encouraged” by her long talk with Putin (“A 3-Hour Talk With Putin Leaves Albright Encouraged”, NYT, 3 Feb 2000). She may have warned Putin, but not of loan suspensions or the formation of a Commission of Inquiry. “We did not mince words, either of us, on Chechnya…I said to him…that he’s riding a tiger.” These are not words of anger, excoriating a war criminal. Rather, Albright was warning Putin, for his own sake, to be careful of the political consequences of his war. She also appeared frustrated that the US was powerless to stop the war, “I do not think we are any closer to a political solution in Chechnya.” Today’s New York Times news analysis of the Russian vote reiterates this seeming frustration: “The West has denounced the indiscriminate attacks against civilians [in Chechnya] but has been careful not to link the issue with the question of assistance from the monetary fund or other policy objectives.”

This is strange, since last year Albright did make strong statements regarding foreign aid to Russia after allegations in August that over $4.2 billion had been laundered out of Russia by organized crime. “We have made clear that we will not support further multilateral assistance to Russia unless fully adequate safeguards are in place. President Yeltsin’s Government needs at last to make fighting corruption a priority.” (“Albright Warns the Russians to Battle Corruption, Or Else”, NYT, 17 Sep 1999). Why is the US suddenly careful about making “Or Else” statements to Russia when it comes to the army’s conduct in Chechnya?

Albright’s stance mirrors that of major business interests in the West, which says that so long as Russia’s climate for foreign investment is “transparent” and stable, other issues, such as human rights, are of negligible importance. In a speech to the US-Russia Business Council in April 1998, Michael Camdessus, then Managing Director of the IMF, enunciated the importance of investors. He stressed the need for economic growth in Russia to “gain strength without financial disruption caused by loss of investor confidence,” which requires “firm resolution, commitment, and implementation on the government side, which has not always been there in the past.”

The Clinton administration considers Vladimir Putin “a man we can do business with.” Perhaps it believes that Putin has the “firm resolution” and “commitment” necessary to enact policies which will restore “investor confidence.” “Mr. Putin has regularly argued that foreign investment is essential to economic growth…Western business interests praise his recognition…of the importance of free trade and open markets” (NYT, 22 Mar 2000). His 1997 dissertation from the Mining Institute of St Petersburg was entitled, “Strategic Planning of the Renewal of the Minerals – Raw Materials Base of the Region in Conditions of the Formation of Market Relations.” The title may be obscure, but those who have read the thesis, such as Professor Mikhail Mednikov of St. Petersburg Technical University, one of Putin’s examiners, recognize that “It’s a paper written by a market-oriented person.” (Incidentally, the Mining Institute refuses to allow reporters to view the manuscript, therefore few people outside Putin’s examining committee have read it.) Putin has many times shown himself to be on the side of foreign investors, and not just in words. He worked for six years as deputy to Anatoly Sobchak, the Mayor of Moscow, where his job was to attract foreign investment to the port city of St. Petersburg. By 1993, Putin managed to create 6,000 joint ventures with foreign companies, half of Russia’s total at the time.

In an interview with Ted Koppel which aired last Friday night, Putin made clear his continued support for investors. He proclaimed the first priorities of his goverment, if elected. “First, we will focus on guaranteeing the full rights of owners and investors. The right of ownership must become a priority in Russia. We will strive to make the position of the state crystal clear in its legislation. We will need to make the state strong enough to guarantee implementation of these rights. And finally, we will do our best to ensure equal opportunity for all the participants of the market.”

It would seem that Secretary Albright’s threat to Boris Yeltsin’s government was taken to heart when Yeltsin picked Putin as his acting successor. Many criticize Putin’s history as a KGB agent, his apologetics for the Stalin era purges, his defense of the KGB, and his continued glossing over of the Russian assault of Chechnya. But it is likely that, so long as he promotes the interests of business, Putin’s “authoritarian streak” will not be questioned by Western leaders. Indeed, it may come to their aid — Putin said he will use friends from his days as a KGB agent, and as director of its successor agency the FSB, to help root out corruption and money laundering, which to him is only “a passing phase” (NYT, 24 March 2000).

On February 5, three days after Madeleine Albright left Moscow, the Aldi district of Grozny saw a glimpse of Putin’s authoritarianism. At least sixty-two civilians waiting in the streets to have their papers checked were shot down by Russian security forces. So far no threats to withold foreign aid have been forthcoming. Instead, Washington “bites its nails” waiting for Putin to be elected, as “the Russian longing for a strong hand” is used in the media as a metaphor for Washington’s own longing for the same.

International Law and the Rogue Superpower: The Bombing of Kosovo

Presented at the 1999 Independent Commission on War Crimes during the Bombing of Yugoslavia

The notion that humanitarian violations can be redressed with random destruction and killing by advanced technological means is inherently suspect. This is mere pretext for our arrogant assertion of dominance and power in defiance of international law.

-Walter J. Rockler, a Washington lawyer who was also a prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial (letter to the Chicago Tribune, 23 May 1999).

I advocate world government because I am convinced that there is no other possible way of eliminating the most terrible danger in which man has ever found himself. The objective of avoiding total destruction must have priority over any other objective.

-Albert Einstein, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, February 1948

International Law

What is international law? Should people interested in a just society care about it? Defining international law is in theory easy: “International law consists of rules and principles which govern the relations and dealings of nations with each other.”1 In practice, however, things may be different. Some, such as Robert Harris, an adviser to Margaret Thatcher, believe that questions of international law “are essentially frivolous…International law is essentially at any time what the states say it is.”2 Clearly Harris does not mean all states, since such a system would not be “frivolous.” Implicit in his statement is that international law is what powerful states allow. This cynical notion avoids the real issues. In my belief, international law provides a set of constraints on powerful states, which exist to ensure that they are held morally responsible for their actions. The framework of international law is not always respected, nor is it even enforceable for the most powerful states. It does, however, require states to justify themselves; at the very least the framework provides a basis for critical analysis of the actions of states. Using the meager democratic structures which exist, as well as the media, such critical analysis can lead to movements for revolutionary change.

Discussions of the applicability of international law to a particular case traditionally refer to the conflict between the “ideals” espoused in a law or treaty; and the notion of “sovereignty” which says that ideals cannot be enforced by countries if violations occur within the border of a single country. I will review the particular case of the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia and show that, though the media made frequent mention of this ideological conflict, most analysts missed the point. They focused on a narrow definition of sovereignty meaning “immunity within borders under all circumstances.” In doing so they failed to see the true ideological conflict, that between international law being what powerful states desire and international law as a set of rules for due process, as well as critique.

Any doubt that humanitarian ideals were a pretext for shattering the framework of international law are dispelled when one examines NATO’s bombing campaign in practice. I will show that, not only was the decision to bomb a complete abrogation of international treaties, considered the “supreme Law of the Land” by the US Constitution. NATO is in fact guilty of the worst international offense, war crimes.

Human Rights vs Sovereignty in Kosovo

The March – June 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia was, according to mainstream foreign policy analysts, a test of the principle of “new humanitarianism.” The Western powers finally used force “on behalf of universal values instead of the narrower national interests for which sovereign states traditionally fought…”3 Indeed, many retrospective accounts cast the decision to bomb as the resolution of the conflict between the separate values of human rights and sovereignty. On the one hand, NATO desired to “save lives,” but on the other, the situation in Kosovo was an internal affair of Yugoslavia, whose sovereignty should not be interfered with. According to this view, in deciding to bomb, NATO decided allegedly to consider human rights above sovereignty: “Fifty-four years after the Holocaust…, America and Europe had finally said `enough’ .”4 “America…has long been an agressive promoter of human rights…whose national identity derives more from a `value-driven agenda’ than from traditional notions”5 such as sovereignty. In a New York Times Magazine article entitled, Our Humanity vs. Their Sovereignty, Max Frankel writes, “scenes of huddled masses burned out of their homes and driven into exile aroused our sympathy and overrode all obligations to respect Serbia’s sovereignty.”6 This view is at best only partly true, and reflects a dangerous new double standard on the part of powerful states in the interpretation of international laws.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The most basic international standards of human rights are encapsulated in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has been split into the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (hereafter CPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (hereafter ESC). These conventions deal with the treatment of citizens by their own governments. The United States has ratified the CPR, which upholds citizens’ liberties such as freedom of expression and freedom from persecution and torture; but it has not ratified the ESC, which includes what are often considered the more basic rights7 of subsistence such as the right to a minimal standard of living, the right to work, and fair wages.

According to supporters of the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, the government of Serbia was violating the CPR rights in its treatment of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, and this could not be tolerated. If we assume this was true (a case can certainly be made for this, although the scope of violations is now admitted to be far less serious than initially alleged) how should the US deal with such violations? Looking at the historical record we find that “agressive promoters of human rights” like the United States, when confronted with human rights violations, have often reacted differently than they have with respect to Kosovo. Some violations such as those in East Timor, Colombia, and Turkey, all of which are much worse in scope than those in Kosovo, are committed by allies of the US (Turkey is a fellow member of NATO). In these cases, the US has “reacted” with weapons sales and monetary aid, enabling the atrocities to continue. This reveals the first double standard: not all human rights violators are targets of a “value-driven agenda”. Based on this fact alone, independent military action by the US or NATO to suppress human rights violations is highly suspect.

The United Nations Charter

The primary vessel for international law in the current epoch is the Charter of the United Nations. The Charter invokes the principle of sovereignty in Article 2 as follows: “The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members,” and “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.” If a state is commiting an internationally recognized crime within its borders, the Charter says, “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter.” It is this principle which supposedly caused NATO to debate the legality of bombing Yugoslavia.

The NATO leaders and the mass media misled the public, however, by focusing much of the debate on the idea of “sovereignty.” In doing so, they ignored the rest of the UN Charter, including the end of Article 2 on sovereignty, which holds, “…this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter Vll.” In the words of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, “What the Charter does say is that `armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest.'”8 Or, as international law scholar Olivier Corten of the Free University of Brussels emphasizes, sovereignty brings obligations as well as benefits. “All states have formally agreed that they should respect fundamental rights, such as…respect for the physical person…They decided in a `sovereign manner’ to respect these principles, so they must respect them in a sovereign manner too.”9

The UN Charter does not deal solely with cross-border crimes and ignore crimes happening inside borders, as NATO policy makers would have us believe. On the contrary, the Charter does provide a mechanism for dealing with humanitarian problems such as the maltreatment of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. Article 1 defines two of the main purposes of the United Nations to be “to maintain international peace and security,” and “to achieve cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights…” To promote these ideals, the Charter relegates to the UN Security Council the responsibility to “investigate any dispute, or any situation which might lead to international friction or give rise to a dispute, in order to determine whether the continuance of the dispute or situation is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security” (Article 34, UN). In other words, one who would criticize the internal policies of another state needs to prove before the Security Council that the state is infringing upon the “common interest.”

The International Criminal Court

Assuming the Security Council determines that a state is guilty of egregious human rights violations, such as those defined in the CPR, then the UN Charter urges that “legal disputes should as a general rule be referred by the parties to the International Court of Justice” (Article 36, UN). So the Charter does allow for criminal proceedings against suspected human rights violators, even when those violations occur within the borders of a country. The US has already provided key support for international tribunals for Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Cambodia. In fact, each of these international tribunals are mainly involved in gathering evidence for and prosecuting crimes which occurred within the borders of a single state. These tribunals naturally are not cautious about eroding the sovereignty of Yugoslavia, Rwanda, or Cambodia. Why didn’t the US and NATO refer their dispute with the Serbian government directly to the court responsible for crimes in Yugoslavia?

We man learn something by looking at the record of the United States with respect to International Courts. Most recently, the United States has been opposing most of the rest of the world by refusing to sign the treaty establishing an International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague.10 This reveals the second double-standard. “America clearly believes in building a system of international justice,” The Economist laments, “but on one vital condition: that any such system does not apply to America itself..Such an absolutist version of sovereignty is rapidly becoming an anachronism.”11

According to advocates of bombing (quoted above), sovereignty was important but not as important as human rights, so NATO could defy the inviolability of Serbia’s border to “save” Albanians. At the same time, the US has rejected an international criminal court with universal jurisdiction, on grounds that it would interfere with US sovereignty! Perhaps international rules of sovereignty were never a real concern for NATO policy makers. Rather, this was a convenient ruse to sidestep discussion of due process of international law, which includes bringing disputes to the ICC under the recommendation of the Security Council.

The UN Security Council

Under the UN Charter, the Security Council is the international body responsible for maintaining international peace and security.12 According to the Charter, any state convinced of the necessity of intervening in the affairs of another state must follow the due process of international law. Namely, “If the Security Council deems that the continuance of the dispute is in fact likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, it shall decide whether to take action” (Article 37, UN). Furthermore, “the Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken…to maintain or restore international peace and security” (Article 39, UN). NATO openly disregarded this in deciding to bomb Yugoslavia. Even the charter of NATO itself, the North Atlantic Treaty, explicitly gives the UN Charter precedence: “The Parties untertake, as set forth in the Charter of the United Nations, to settle any international dispute…by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not endangered, and to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations” (Article 1, NATO). Moreover, the North Atlantic Treaty maintains that the UN Security Council is to decide on matters of peace and security (see Article 7, NATO). The UN Charter clearly agrees with this: “ enforcement action shall be taken under regional arrangements or by regional agencies [such as NATO] without the authorization of the Security Council.” (Article 53, UN).

The Decision to Bomb Yugoslavia

Why did NATO really decide to bomb Yugoslavia? In the journal Foreign Affairs, Michael Mandelbaum ponders the reasons for and results of NATO’s war against Yugoslavia. He concludes, “The humanitarian goal NATO sought — the prevention of suffering — was not achieved by the bombing.” In fact, “NATO never even attempted what was announced to be the purpose of going to war in the first place: the protection of the Kosovar Albanians.”13 Mandelbaum also admits that the decision by NATO to bomb Yugoslavia was illegal according to the UN Charter. Others have argued convincingly that most of the Serbian concessions to NATO after the war could have been obtained without violence.14 So why, then, did Secretary of State Albright describe the bombing of Kosovo as “simply the most important thing we have done in the world”15? Sharing this perspective is Morton Halperin, head planner for the US State Department, who “says the continued willingness of countries to intervene in humanitarian crises shows that `the rules and procedures of the new world order are growing…'”16 What does Halperin mean by “willingness to intervene” and “the rules of the new world order”?

Recall that a country claiming to be an “aggressive promoter of human rights” does not even council its allies against committing horrible human rights violations, but instead furthers their capacity for doing so. I surmise that the phrase “humanitarian crises” means “situations in which humanitarian concerns can be used by powerful states to intervene forcibly.” Moreover, since it is not just the “obligations to respect sovereignty” which hamper intervention, but all of international law, Halperin’s “rules of new world order” must include the right to violent intervention by powerful countries no longer constrained by treaties. It is true that powerful states have always given themselves the prerogative to act as they please in international affairs, but rarely so openly. As put by Oxford don Michael Byers, “NATO is making it much more easier for other states to intervene in the future.”17 The precedent made here was not that of humanitarian values overcoming the sanctity of borders, but rather of “the right to intervene” overcoming in public discourse the obeisance to international law.

This precedent is extremely dangerous, because NATO is openly admitting that in international relations there are no rules, save for those defined by the powerful, in accord with the views of Robert Harris (note 2). The implications of this are described by Harvard University Professor Samuel Huntington: “While the United States regularly denounces various countries as `rogue states,’ in the eyes of many countries it is becoming the rogue superpower.”18 The consequences of defying the Charters of the UN and NATO in deciding to bomb Yugoslavia have serious ramifications for the exercise of international law in the future.

In promoting a state of international anarchy in which it is the
“rogue superpower,” the US has violated the most basic principles for
which it allegedly stands (see Table 1). The United States
Constitution holds that “This Constitution…and all Treaties made, or
which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall
be the supreme Law of the Land [my emphasis]; and the Judges in every
State shall be bound thereby…” (Article VI, USCon). The UN Charter
is a treaty and thus should be treated as the “supreme Law of the
Land.” In addition, the US has signed the Vienna Convention on the
Law of Treaties (entered into force in 1980), which lays out
international rules for the observance of treaties. In particular,
“Every treaty in force is binding upon the parties to it and must be
performed by them in good faith.” (Article 26, Vienna).

Table 1. Laws which require that the United States adhere to International Treaties


Relevant Text

United States Constitution “This Constitution … and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authorityof the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby…”
(Article VI)
Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties “Every treaty in force is binding upon the parties to it and must be performed by them in good faith.”  (Article 26)

“A party may not invoke the provisions of its internal law as justification for its failure to perform a treaty.”  (Article 27)

Principles of International Law Recognized in the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and in the Judgment of the Tribunall  “Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefor and liable to punishment.”  (Principle I)

“Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties…” constitutes a Crime Against Peace (Principle VI a)

What happens when a treaty is violated? The Nuremberg trials of the Nazi war criminals set the precedent for the responsibility of individuals to respect international law: “Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefor and liable to punishment” (Principle I, Nuremberg). In the case of waging war in violation of treaty obligations, the Nuremberg Judgement is explicit: “Planning, preparation, initiation or waging a war of agression or a war in violation of international treaties…” is considered a “Crime against Peace” (Principle VI a, Nuremberg). Clearly if so-called “rogue” states were violating these accords, the US would be outraged, but the US is too powerful to be held liable. In fact, the International Court of Justice rejected Yugoslavia’s request of April 29 to have the US “cease immediately acts or use of force,” not because of flaws in the case, but because of lack of jurisdiction. Yugoslavia held that the US and other NATO countries were in violation of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. With great insight, the US had ratified the Convention only on condition that the Court was barred from judging on cases against the US. In the case of the “rogue superpower” sovereignty is more important than human rights.

NATO War Crimes

Not only was the decision of NATO to bomb Yugoslavia illegal in theory, it was illegal in practice. The most serious violations of international law are violations of laws respecting war; crimes against these laws are called war crimes. In making their judgement on the Nazi war crimes, the Nuremberg Tribunal declared, “To initiate a war of agression, therefore, is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” In what follows I give two illustrations of war crimes which NATO has committed, the crime of conducting a deliberate war against civilians and the crime of using weapons of highly indiscriminate nature, cluster bombs. Others have tabulated more extensively the criminal acts of NATO19,20 so I refer the reader interested in more detail to those works.

A war against civilians

The Hague Convention Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land of 1907 outlaw the waging of war against civilians, as well as the destruction of civilian objects: “The attack or bombardment, by whatever means, of towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings which are undefended is prohibited” (Article 25, Hague) Also, “In sieges and bombardments all necessary steps must be taken to spare, as far as possible, buildings dedicated to religion, art, science, or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospitals, and places where the sick and wounded are collected, provided they are not being used at the time for military purposes” (Article 26, Hague). News reports told of horrible “mistakes” where bombs killed civilians, but Jerome Zeifman, former Watergate Committee Counsel, argues that the targeting of civilians was deliberate: “the armed forces of the United States have participated in non-defensive aggressive military attacks.”21

Even NATO admitted that among its goals were the destruction of the infrastructure of Serbian society. Leutenant General Michael Short advocated airstrikes in the capital city of Belgrade, stressing the ” `need to strike at the leadership and the people around Milosevic to compel them to change their behavior.’ ” According to Michael Gordon of the New York Times, “While NATO says it is not fighting against the Serbian people, General Short also hopes that the distress of the Yugoslav public will undermine support for the authorities in Belgrade. `I think no power to your refrigerator, no gas in your stove, you can’t get to work because the bridge is down — the bridge on which you held your rock concerts — and you all stood with targets on your heads. That needs to disappear at 3 o’clock in the morning.’ ” 22 That evening Belgrade sustained a power blackout as NATO warplanes struck a power plant. The following day, Pentagon spokesperson Kenneth Bacon was quoted as saying, “I don’t think he [Milosevic] believed that NATO would hit Belgrade hard, night after night…It has, and it will continue to do so.”23

Airstrikes in regions known to be inhabited by civilians, let alone the most populous city of a country, are illegal (see Table 2). The insistence of NATO that “it is not fighting against the Serbian people” is imprecise. Robert George, Professor of Government at Princeton University, notes that, “even if it would be militarily effective to gain victory by terrorizing the civilian population, that is morally wrong. That is waging war on civilians.” He denounces the indiscriminate nature of the NATO bombardment of cities in Serbia, Vojvodina, and Kosovo, which took place from over 10,000 feet. “Was it fair to impose on Serb and Kosovar civilians the burden of the deaths of large numbers of civilians to ensure that there would be no deaths of NATO troops?”24 Referring to the high-altitude bombing, The Economist writes, “On some interpretations this alone may constitute a war crime.”25

Use of Cluster bombs

Among the most indiscriminate of weapons, cluster bombs were dropped by the NATO allies on heavily populated areas. Cluster bombs scatter of order 200 bomblets in random directions, each of which has a 5-30% failure-to-explode rate. Not only are cluster bombs unguided and unpredictable weapons of mass destruction, unexploded bomblets act as land mines which can kill soldiers and civilians alike. The First Protocol to the 1949 Geneva Convention declares, “Indiscriminate attacks are prohibited…[such as] an attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.” (Article 5, Geneva)

Over 1,100 cluster bombs, each containing about 200 bomblets, were dropped on the province of Kosovo alone. According to the World Health Organization, about 150 Kosovars were killed or injured by “land mines and unexploded ordnance,” which included cluster bomblets, in the first month after the bombing ended. In addition, commercial fishing from Ancona to Trieste has been banned by the Italian Government because NATO planes unloaded unused bombs into the Adriatic, including cluster bombs. Several fisherman have been injured, and 97 bomblets have been recovered so far. Unexploded cluster bombs pose a serious risk to civilians throughout the world. Millions of less-advanced bomblets are still scattered in the forests and fields of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, the result of America’s Indochina war campaigns of the 1960’s and 1970’s and are “still killing and maiming,” according to an August 2 Newsweek article. Cluster bombs dropped during Operation Desert Storm have killed or injured over 1,000 Kuwaitis. And now, a “Washington source” is quoted in Newsweek as admitting, “We used cluster bombs in Kosovo in a way that we knew shifted the risk from pilots to civilians.” This disturbing admission begs the veracity of NATO’s claims to be conducting a “humanitarian war.”

Table 2.  International Conventions Violated by NATO During the Bombing of Yugoslavia
Violated Text
The Hague Convention Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land (1907) “The attack or bombardment, by whatever means, of towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings which are undefended is prohibited.” (Article 25)

“In sieges and bombardments all necessary steps must be taken to spare, as far as possible, buildings dedicated to religion, art, science, or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospitals, and places where the sick and wounded are collected, provided they are not being used at the time for military purposes.”  (Article 26)

“Civilian hospitals organized to give care to the wounded and sick, the infirm and maternity cases, may in no circumstances be the object of attack…” (Article 18)
Principles of International Law Recognized in the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and in the Judgment of the Tribunal (1950) Violations of the laws or customs of war which include…wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity” are War Crimes (Principle VI b)
Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969; entered into force 1980) “A treaty is void if its conclusion has been procured by the threat or use of force in violation of the principles of international law embodied in
the Charter of the United Nations.”  (Article 52; cf. the threat of bombing to induce Yugoslavia to sign the Rambouillet Agreement.)
Protocol Additional to the Geneva Convention and Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol 1)  (1949) “Indiscriminate attacks are prohibited…[such as] an attack by bombardment…which treats as a single military objective a number of clearly separated and distinct military objectives located in a city, town, village or other area containing a similar concentration of civilians…[or] an attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.” (Article 51)

“Attacks shall be limited strictly to military objectives…In case of doubt whether an object which is normally dedicated to civilian purposes, such as a place of worship, a house or other dwelling or a school, is being used to make an effective contribution to military action, it shall be presumed not to be so used.” (Article 52)

“It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population.”  (Article 54

“Care shall be taken in warfare to protect the natural environment against widespread, long-term and severe damage. This protection includes a prohibition of the use of methods or means of warfare which are intended or may be expected to cause such damage to the natural environment and thereby to prejudice the health or survival of the population. ” (Article 55)

“The use of remotely delivered mines is prohibited unless such mines are only used within an area which is itself a military objective or which contains military objectives, and unless:   (a) their location can be accurately recorded…; or (b) an effective neutralizing mechanism is used on each such mine” (Article 5.1; eg. unexploded cluster bombs) 
Ottawa Anti-Personnel Land Mine Treaty (1997) NATO’s use of cluster bombs should be interpreted as a violation of the land mine ban, since unexploded bomblets (5-30% of the total) embed themselves in the ground and act as land mines.
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982; entered into force 1996) US Intended to halt and board ships bearing oil to Montenegrin ports. France objected so NATO settled on a “voluntary” blockade, which some states (such as Ukraine) disregarded.  The Convention states, “In straits…all ships and aircraft enjoy the right of transit passage, which shall not be impeded…” (Article 38)

Additionally, NATO planes dumped unused cluster bombs in international waters off the coast of Italy.   According to the Convention, “States shall adopt laws and regulations to prevent, reduce and control pollution of the marine environment by dumping.” (Article 210)
“Dumping” means “any deliberate disposal of wastes or other matter from vessels, aircraft, platforms or other man-made structures at sea.”

48th session, U.N. Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities (1996) “…urged all States to be guided in their national policies by the need to curb the production and the spread of weapons of mass destruction or with indiscriminate effect, in particular nuclear weapons,chemical weapons, fuel-air bombs, napalm, cluster bombs, biological weaponry and weaponry containing depleted uranium. ” (Resolution 1996/16)

The Future of International Law

NATO has succeeded in creating a precedent for independent intervention outside of the trappings of international law, making it “easier to intervene in the future”(note 17). NATO has committed war crimes. What can stop the further degradation of peace, justice, and human rights in coming years? The UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, posed the problem quite lucidly:

To those for whom the Kosovo action heralded a new era when states and groups of states can take military action outside the established mechanisms for enforcing international law, one might equally ask: Is there not a danger of such interventions…setting dangerous precedents for future interventions without a clear criterion to decide who might invoke these precedents and in what circumstances?27

Only outspoken, rational, and thoughtful criticism which appeals to the moral nature of the human race can stop the continuance of the NATO precedent. I believe a campaign to strengthen the legitimacy of international law should be part of this discourse.

1 Legal Information Institute, Website:
2 Harris, quoted in Lucier Insight into the News August 2 1999.
3 Mandelbaum, Foreign Affairs, Sept-Oct 1999.
4 Wines, New York Times, June 13 1999.
5 Miller, New York Times, April 18 1999.
6 Frankel, The New York Times Magazine, May 2 1999.
7 Shue, Basic Rights: Subsistence, Affluence, and US Foreign Policy, 2nd Ed., 1996, Princeton Univ. Press.
8 Annan, The Economist, Sept 18 1999.
9 Corten, UNESCO Courier, July-August 1999.
10 At the Rome meeting which established the court, 120 nations voted in favor of the ICC, 21 countries abstained, and the US, Israel, China, Iran, Iraq, Libya, and Sudan voted against the treaty. Douglass Cassel, director of the Center for International Human Rights of Northwestern University School of Law, reported in the May 12, 1999 issue of Christian Century that “following the 120-7 humiliation of the US in Rome, delegates applauded for 15 minutes.”
11 The Economist, Oct 9 1999.
12 The US is a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council, together with China, Russia, Britain, and France. Permanent Members may veto Council Resolutions. Since 1966, the US has (often for reasons of “sovereignty”) vetoed 72 Security Council Resolutions, while Britain has vetoed only 29, Russia 15, France 14, and China 2.
13 Mandelbaum, Op cit.
14 See for example Chomsky, The New Military Humanism: The Lessons of Kosovo, 1999, Common Courage Press.
15 Albright, quoted in Mandelbaum, op cit.
16 Halperin, quoted in The Economist, Sept 18 1999.
17 Byers, quoted in The Economist, May 15 1999.
18 Huntington, Foreign Affairs, March 1999.
19 Lykourezos, Complaint Charging NATO’s Political and Military Leaders With Grave Breaches of the Geneva Convention of 1949 and Violations of the Laws and Customs of War See
20 Zeifman, International Ethical Alliance versus William Clinton and William Cohen See
21 Zeifman, quoten in Lucier, Op cit.
22 Short, quoted by Gordon in the New York Times, May 13 1999.
23 Bacon, quoted by Becker in the New York Times, May 14 1999.
24 George, quoted in Lucier, Op cit.
25 The Economist, Op cit., May 15 1999.
26 Dickey, Dennis, Nadeau, Bernard, & Barry, Newsweek, August 2 1999.
27 Annan, Op cit.