We do hear ever so much from some folks about 'International Law' on this or that topic, but when you ask them to point to what 'International Law' *is*, you get the famous Dumb Looks. Yes, indeedy, the UN is brought up... but that is a voluntary arrangement amongst the States involved to have a common forum and try to get a few things done together. And as every despot, tyrant, dictator, and authoritarian regime and some number of terrorist organizations is given a hearing there, it tends to be dominated by those with the biggest lungs, the loudest voices and the least amount of rights for their people... if they can even gather a Nation together which terrorists can't seem to do.
No one elected them.
They are not held accountable to the People of Planet Earth.
The UN is proportionately weighted to those with the despotic tendencies, as they also tend to have the most number of Nations around, so any attempt at 'democracy' gives such tyrannies full and open court to demean everyone else and not find one iota of wrong-doing in their own realms. The place reflects that.
Plus their resolutions are only as binding as the Nations want them to be, which is pretty damned little. Without backing nor legitimacy nor enforcement mechanism nor anyway to ensure equality of full rights for mankind, what you get is a slanted and distorted organization that is pro-tyranny and anti-democratic. So looking to the UN to *stop* aggressors is only as good as anyone wanting to step in and do the job, which usually falls to many Nations with inadequate and corrupt militaries and regimes, that then seek to exploit their 'peace keeping' positions to do all sorts of skulduggery, such as pedophilia, prostitution, and slavery. Such friendly 'peace keepers'. Still they should be trying to protect people, but usually end up bailing out on those folks at the first sign of trouble, like Rwanda and Srebrenica.
That really does strike the UN off as anything close to legitimate in this idea of 'International Law'. The only real improvement over the old League of Nations is that voluntary forces can be brought to bear if everyone and their grand-uncle can agree on it, and only then if some large, cohesive Nation backs it. Sort of like the old Roman Law where you could get a ruling in your favor, but it was up to YOU to enforce it. And since the rich could enforce the law by renting or buying enforcers, that was that. What a great paradigm for the UN, no?
Here is a bit from the old USS Clueless site, in which den Beste is replying to an individual on the question of International Law prior to the invasion of Iraq (highlighting mine):
It's a common tactic to try to get people to use a certain term for something as a way of framing the conversation. One has a different attitude about "wetlands" than one does about "mosquito-infested swamps". Draining a swamp sounds like a good idea, but everyone knows we're supposed to preserve wetlands.Yes, the contracts themselves are only as binding as the States involved want them to be. This is worked out via this thing known as 'diplomacy', in which States make agreements with each other to the extent that they want, and then adhere to them, or not, as the case may be. In the US a Treaty gains the level of the Constitution for clarification, but has no other impact upon the full Constitution as the only way to amend the Constitution is set out within that document and Treaties are not that method. As for the binding status of such Treaties, Geoff Hill notes the following:
Those who are trying to frame this as a discussion of "international law" are doing so because they're trying to imply certain things about international relations by extrapolation from our experience with national law. Within our nation we agree to be bound by the law, even if it tells us we cannot do certain things we desire to do, and when we have disagreements with each other, we take them to court and plead them in front of a disinterested jury which makes a decision, after which both sides are bound by that decision.
By extrapolation, the rhetoric about "international law" is being used to imply that the US may not unilaterally attack Iraq unless it gains permission through some formal process of "international law", that to do so it must prove that Iraq was directly involved in either the September attack or in other direct attacks against us, using convincing evidence publicly presented, before the UN. Based on that presentation, the UN (probably the Security Council) will then serve the function of jury and decide if the US has made an adequate case, after which it will decide whether the US would be given the right to attack.
The idea of jury trial in our normal affairs is intended as a way of restraining people from creating their own justice, and by the same token the users of this rhetoric see the process of approval by the UN as a way of restraining rogue nations (of which there is only one, needless to say, and I'm living in it). If we are sufficiently convinced of our reasons for attacking Iraq, we should have no compunction of proving it before what amounts to an international jury of our peers.
That's radically different than the reality of international relations, characterized by Geoff Hill as little more than a series of non-binding contracts.
I quote the following from Malcolm N. Shaw in his 'International Law, Fourth Edition' book: "International law is primarily formulated by international agreements" and "states do observe international law and will usually only violate it on an issue regarded as vital to their interests". None of these statements has anything to do with imposition to authority or practice. All international laws are complied with by the signatories -as they see fit-, and can/have been broken if said signatories view the following of the laws as contrary to their vital interests.Diplomatic agreements are Nation State to Nation State affairs, and are the guiding principle of how Nations interact with each other. 'International Law', then, only has force if those who have signed up to the agreements involved respect those agreements or are punished by the other signer(s) to uphold such agreements.
Since there is no overriding sovereign authority who can impose any international laws on any signatories [The UN is toothless in this regard], since any signatories can [and have in cases] flouted certain international laws [witness Norway and whaling laws], and since the laws -only- apply to the signatories and not the world in general, they can't very well be considered laws. They would be more properly designated as non-binding contracts upon the parties involved.
Further on Mr. den Beste looks at this and the way that 'International Law' is being used to hamper the normal methods of State to State interaction:
Take, for example, the attempt to use the UN Security Council as a mechanism in international affairs analogous to a jury in a civil suit. The jurors in the civil suit are intended to be uninvolved in the issue to be decided, and each juror is questioned by the attorneys in the case before being seated on the jury, and they are dismissed if they do know either party in the case or otherwise have some involvement with it. If jurors lie about their involvement in the case, and try to fix the result based on their own self-interest and get caught, then they are in major trouble. (It's a felony.) As a result, the jurors ideally have no interest in anything except trying to be fair.Unless you are a Leftist and into Civil Disobedience, vandalizing structures, threatening people and then complaining about the pepper spray in the face. But Nations just aren't supposed to act like that because the Left says so! And they will cite the non-existent 'International Law' all day long and not point to *which* law enforcement body you are supposed to go to. Because there isn't one.
But that is not the case in the Security Council, nor in any other international forum available. The members of the Security Council tend to vote on the basis of their own self interest. They would not be disinterested, and would not vote on the basis of the merits of the case. A given member of the council would approve our attack if it was to their benefit and vote against if the attack would be to their disadvantage irrespective of the merits of the issue.
So the actual effect of a requirement for UNSC approval for an attack would be that the US would not be permitted to fight a war any place which was inconvenient for any veto power, or for any 8 of the 12 non-veto nations currently on the Council (who, by the rules, collectively have a veto). The merits of the American case, and any evidence presented, would have no effect on the result. For all practical purposes, the Security Council can't pass anything even remotely controversial, including this. It isn't a jury and can't be treated as if it was one.
But if the decision process is flawed, the concept of the rules themselves is even more flawed. Proponents of this idea also try to present the idea that only certain "international crimes" can justify attack on another nation, and they particularly frame this case so that a suspicion that another nation plans harm against yours isn't enough; you have to prove that they actually already have committed direct acts against you. (They have to have done so, and you have to be able to prove it. They're also trying to invoke "presumption of innocence".)
They're deliberately setting the bar at that height because they strongly suspect that it can't be leaped. What they're saying is that wars may only be in retaliation; you can't ever preemptively attack someone in order to prevent a future attack against yourself.
But it's not clear just where that "law" came from. I've seen no reference, no source, no justification at all beyond the fact that those opposing the attack want to set the bar that high so as to prevent the US from mounting an attack.
Another implication is that we as a nation obey the law even when we enforce it against lawbreakers, such as criminals. By analogy, the US is not freed from the strictures of "international law" just because Iraq is in flagrant violation of that same law. (Which it is, among other reasons because it is currently directly violating the cease fire agreement it signed with us in 1991.)
And, of course, the finally ingredient is the presumption that obedience to the law is mandatory even if you don't like the law. Thus even if the US really, really wants to fight in Iraq it doesn't get to do so unless it satisfies this process described above because, well, it's the law and you always obey the law.
Now, if you really don't believe that anyone would try to slant things in this direction, we can take a look at what Mr. Dan Froomkin the #2 editor at the Washingtonpost.com has to say about what is expected behavior by reporters when going after the Bush Administration:
Provocation Alone Does Not Justify WarRemember, this is how reporters are supposed to slant the issues when covering the elected President's Administration in the Nation State known as the United States of America. These are not mere talking points, but philosophy and outlook that are antithetical to the running of a Nation State. By using the implication that things are going smoothly and swimmingly *now* and that if we all 'just got along together wouldn't things be better?' concept, this puts at peril the very ability of Nation States to hold each other accountable for their actions. Once accountability is removed, ANY action, including invasion of another Nation, genocide and moving to put at peril neighboring Nations is acceptable in this paradigm. Any Nation that dares take action to do anything to assert its rights as a Sovereign Nation is told to just 'suck it up and take it'.
War is so serious that even proving the existence of a casus belli isn’t enough. Make officials prove to the public that going to war will make things better. Demand to know what happens if the war (or tactical strike) doesn’t go as planned? Demand to know what happens if it does? What happens after “victory”? Ask them: Isn’t it possible this will make things worse, rather than better?
Or just the United States and its Allies as the press seems fine and dandy with dictatorships and tyrannies expanding and intimidating folks to get their way. Thus the stance itself is anti-democratic and anti-Nationalist. This is not the Nationalist of pro/con of one Nation, but a pure stance against the entire system of Nation States. By putting this forward as a set of ideas to weaken the United States, these same actors are destroying the very 'International Law' that they purport to uphold. Diminish the capability of Nations to have outlook and enforce Treaties, and you are at the start of removing Nations as Sovereign Units.
What are these things that the Left keeps on pointing to as 'International Law'? This part from den Beste sums it up:
That agrees with the Jacksonian view of things: "international law" is an illusion. What you have are cases where nations cooperate for the benefit of both, in trade or in military cooperation or in any of several other ways, and as soon as the relationship ceases to be valued by both, it generally ends. The fact that most of those relationships follow a pretty standard pattern and last a long time doesn't mean there's any law involved; it just means that the nations involved are honorable and consistent.Long standing Friends and Allies with which Nations have enduring cooperation have just that - long standing and enduring cooperations between Nations that represent their Peoples. They find it agreeable to work together on common causes and that can often bring Nations closer together over time and lead to more and deeper agreements between those Nations. As Sovereign States they can sever those ties from either side, however, if they find that the agreements are no longer being abided by or that National outlook has changed. Such is the way of Nations.
Even worse, however, is when Treaties and agreements that have standing for long periods of time are no longer enforced. While the Left points to the Geneva Conventions to deride the United States, they have remained stoutly silent about it with the case of Iran taking UK Seamen hostage. By trying to enforce the agreement in the case of terrorists in the United States, the Left is trying to ignore that the US has not signed on to the 1977 GC that specifically *covers* terrorism: the President and Senate have both refused to sign on since 1980, with all opportunities for intervening Presidents and Senates to push to try and get this going.
No President nor Senate will do that as it contravenes the basic outlook of what is allowable in the way of the use of the irregular Armed Forces of a Nation. The US Constitution particularly gives power to the Congress to utilize war powers covering the non-Federal but National capability of Citizens and their companies in the form of Privateers via the Letters of Marque and Reprisal language. The 1977 GC cannot be signed as it contravenes the Constitution and steps in on a power only the People of the United States can work on. Terrorists, by not being in the employ of a Nation are going against the outlook of what is warfare by the United States. Terrorists, to the US, are waging illegitimate war outside the framework of Nation States and thus have no backing and no standing.
In the case of Iran, however, which *is* a signatory to the Geneva Conventions, the Left has pulled out the feeble "but they aren't at war!". The GC covers *more* than just active warfare and also accounts for Belligerent status, which is what happens when one Nation kidnaps another Nation's Uniformed Soldiers, in contravention to Treaty and even common civil understanding of warning a ship to *leave* territorial waters. This is particularly covered in the following:
Convention IIIArticle 4 is the one that eveyone remembers for Armed Conflict, but Article 5 covers just this situation where Iran is asserting a belligerent act and doubt as to the status of these soldiers in uniform as being *spies*. Mind you being in uniform when captured like this is the exact opposite of what a spy IS in the Geneva Conventions. Uniformed Soldiers of a Nation State get protections under the Geneva Conventions as they are the fully lawful representatives of that Nation and represent that Nation. Nations that sign on to the Geneva Conventions agree to respect that for *all* other Nations or unrecognized Nations in the case of Civil War. You put on a Uniform of your Nation and you get these protections from the signatories of the Geneva Conventions. This is *especially* the case between two Nations that have signed the GC as both the UK and Iran have. This Treaty is fully in-force for both and ALL Nations that have signed the GC should look to ensure that all OTHER signatories are upholding it. To not do so is to remove the legitimacy of the GC as something that is enforced by its signers and to remove it from play in conflicts.
Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Geneva, 12 August 1949
Art. 5. The present Convention shall apply to the persons referred to in Article 4 from the time they fall into the power of the enemy and until their final release and repatriation.
Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy, belong to any of the categories enumerated in Article 4, such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal.
If Iran did not consider this act to be one of belligerence or to be an infringement of their Sovereignty by the Armed Forces of the UK it would not have taken these Seamen captive. As they have and these individuals had on Uniforms they are to be accorded full status as POWs due to a belligerent act. In so doing there is a long list of things that Iran must do, including the following:
Art. 13. Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious breach of the present Convention. In particular, no prisoner of war may be subjected to physical mutilation or to medical or scientific experiments of any kind which are not justified by the medical, dental or hospital treatment of the prisoner concerned and carried out in his interest.This means, no parading POWs in front of the press or media, or through public areas for display. They are to get respected and private treatment, under the watchful eye of neutral third parties like the ICRC. Their messages to their Government and families may be censored and examined, but may not be published. This is the civilized treatment of individuals who have consciously put on the Uniform of their Nation and is respected by ALL signatories to the GC. Breaches of the GC are considered to be War Crimes when committed by a signatory Nation and may be, depending upon action, a casus belli to any and all other signatory Nations.
Likewise, prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.
Measures of reprisal against prisoners of war are prohibited.
Art. 14. Prisoners of war are entitled in all circumstances to respect for their persons and their honour.
Women shall be treated with all the regard due to their sex and shall in all cases benefit by treatment as favourable as that granted to men.
Prisoners of war shall retain the full civil capacity which they enjoyed at the time of their capture. The Detaining Power may not restrict the exercise, either within or without its own territory, of the rights such capacity confers except in so far as the captivity requires.
By not enforcing this concept and the Sovereign Right of Nations to hold each other Accountable to such Treaties and Agreements, this international system of diplomacy and agreements is being degraded and eroded.
Without diplomacy having any backing via the Rights of Nation States to enforce their Sovereignty and the backing of well understood agreements upon other Nations that have signed such agreements and blatantly disregard them, the entirety of the Nation State system is put at peril. The ability of Nation States to have reciprocity in their agreements and to be held to them is essential in this conceptions of Nation States as Sovereign containers. Within this system is the scope and capability to have all sorts of internal governments, and the interaction between these governments is done via diplomacy and held accountable by military action.
If you do not support that as a concept then you are putting the entire Nation State system at peril of disintegration.
And as a container type system it is also the ONLY thing that can actually hold a system that makes freedom and liberty possible within that container known as the Nation State. It is no guarantee of that, but it has that possibility within the internalized concept of Nation State. By not holding the accountability between Nations to be held to their agreements, the Nation State and your personal liberties are put at supreme risk over the long haul.
If you enjoy your liberties and freedom, then you should support this idea of Accountability amongst Nations to be held to their Agreements. Nothing better has been offered to date, and nothing replaces this Reciprocity of Agreements amongst Nations. If you don't support the Reciprocity and Accountability, then you do not support the idea that ANY NATION has value. You may not discriminate on this, from the weakest to the most powerful from the most free to the most repressive to their own people: If these Nations cannot be held accountable, then the structure of this system is put at risk and YOUR personal freedoms and liberties are put at risk right along with it.
And if you fall under the compact of We the People, then this is highly destructive to YOU if you do not support the ability of Nations to hold other Nations accountable to their signed agreements.
If other Nations do not want to be held accountable there is one and only one thing they should be doing: Not signing them or repudiating them.
They have that within their right as a Sovereign Nation State. That is fully acceptable.
And it tells us much when a Nation *does so*.
This should be beyond Left and Right, beyond *politics*.
To not support Treaties and the reciprocity inherent in them is suicide to you.
Slow, long water torture of which the only end is Barbarism.
That is what you are asking for if you do not support these agreements in all cases and fully for what Nations have signed up to both singly and collectively. Otherwise the agreements become fully meaningless, the system of Nation States unsupportable and your rights and freedoms worthless when the Nation State system is destroyed by these actions.
That is where this leads when Reciprocity to be held to Agreements becomes worthless as a concept.
And that does scale *perfectly* from the National to the Individual.
If you do not support Nations to stand by this, then you are saying that you do NOT stand by your agreements as an Individual.
So one's position on the concept of Reciprocity to be held to one's agreements on the Nation State end of things is also seen as a reflection of the Individual involved.