Monday, 16 April 2018

An attack on international law

On Saturday, 14 April, the United States, France and the United Kingdom launched over a hundred missiles at Syria. This attack was a blatant violation of international law. And it was intended as such.

The United States, via its hyperbolic, moralising ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, had repeatedly informed the United Nations that the US will take any actions it sees fit, regardless of law or evidence or international support.

The attack on Syria supposedly targeted Syria's alleged chemical weapons facilities. The fact that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons had overseen the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons programme and that the destruction of its existing chemical weapons was carried out by the US was simply ignored. Also ignored was the fact that bombing stocks of chemical weapons in residential areas would be incredibly reckless and dangerous. The perpetrators of, and cheerleaders for,  the attack also found it convenient to ignore the fact that after bombing these alleged stocks of chemical weapons, there were no chemical poisonings.

The attack on Syria was supposedly justified by the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma on the previous Saturday. The only "evidence" for such an attack was the jihadist propaganda produced by the White Helmets and the Syrian American Medical Society. Moreover, the Syrian Arab Army and their Russian ally had gained control over the alleged "crime scene" on the day after the attack and had found no evidence of a chemical weapons attack. They were unable to find any victims. They were unable to find any doctors who had treated anyone for chemical poisoning. They were unable to find any witnesses or even anyone who had heard of the alleged chemical weapons attack. They were, however, able to interview staff in the only functioning hospital in the area, who were clear that no one had been treated for chemical poisoning.

The claim that the attack on Syria was conducted as a retaliation for the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons is simply not credible. However, even if it were true, it would not provide a legal justification for the attack. There are only two legal justifications. The first is self defence, meaning that a country has a right to defend itself from a foreign attack (ironically, this defence would be open to Syria against the US, France and the United Kingdom, but it is not open to the US, France or the United Kingdom as Syria is not attacking them). The second is a resolution of the United Nations Security Council authorising the use of military force. The US, France and the United Kingdom, not only did not have such a resolution, they never even sought one.

The attack on Syria was, as the perpetrators have said, intended to send a message. But the message was not the one they publicly assert. The message was: "We are above the law." The military strike on Syria was a political statement, making it clear that the US and its allies will not be bound by the rules of international law. By this action (which is only the latest in a long list of violations), they have overthrown any plausible belief in the rule of international law and shown the United Nations to be impotent against such outlaw nations.

The only solution to this lawlessness is for the people of the US, France and the United Kingdom to hold their leaders, who were responsible for this violation, to account. All these countries are democracies, yet in none of them were the elected representatives of the people consulted. Here in England, Prime Minister Theresa May made it plain in a press briefing on Saturday that it was her decision to authorise the attack and to do so without parliamentary approval. In this context, Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Opposition, should, as a matter of conscience, table a motion of no confidence, as a means of bringing down May's government. This afternoon, he has an opportunity to do so. I hope he does, but I fear he won't.


  1. The self defence argument WAS used by the US, which might imply that there were US personnel in the area (possibly those captured in East Ghouta by the Syrian Army, which would explain why the fake chemical attack happened much later on, and let the SkripalGate affair go on for much longer than intended.

    1. US military in Syria are there illegally. Their presence is itself a war crime. One cannot invade another country and then claim one is acting in self defence. The claim is patently absurd.

  2. I wonder how many members of the public it would take to walk into local police stations and report the lawlessness before they had to act...? Great post btw