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How the U.S. flouts international law

By Sharon Smith | May 17, 2002 | Page 7

ON APRIL 11, the United Nations (UN) hosted a ceremony commemorating the new International Criminal Court--a permanent body aimed at trying those who commit crimes against humanity. The Bush administration, however, not only boycotted the ceremony, but withdrew its signature from ratification.

Bush has made clear that the U.S. has no intention of recognizing the new court, because it refuses to guarantee U.S. military and government personnel immunity from prosecution.

Since Bush took office, the U.S. has scuttled the Kyoto Protocol on Global Warming; withdrawn from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty; walked out of a London conference of the 1972 biological and toxic weapons convention; reiterated its refusal to comply with the Land Mine Treaty; and withdrawn from the International Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa.

The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and the Lawyers' Committee on Nuclear Policy recently published a report that shows, according to Nicole Deller, its principal editor, "The United States has violated, compromised, or acted to undermine in some crucial way every treaty we have studied in detail."

By opposing treaties and institutions that it can't control, and exercising veto power over those in which it does participate, the U.S. effectively shapes international bodies to suit its imperial aims.

Just last month, the U.S. removed Robert Watson, chair of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, who oversaw the Kyoto Protocol--after ExxonMobil oil executives requested his removal.

Days later, the U.S. ousted the director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), José Bustami. Bustami raised the ire of the Bush administration when he offered membership in the OPCW to Iraq, which the U.S. plans to invade later this year on the pretext that Iraq is manufacturing weapons of mass destruction.

According to a report in the British Guardian newspaper, the U.S. ambassador to the OPCW explained that, although he had promised to replace Bustami with a Latin American, "Latin Americans are so characterized by sheer incompetence that they won't be able to make up their minds." If Bustami's successor proves no more compliant, he added, "We will say 'screw the organization.'"

The U.S. applies the same logic to the UN itself. The U.S. uses UN support as a fig leaf for its imperialist wars when possible, as it did in the Gulf War 1991, and bypasses the UN when it is not, as when the U.S. used NATO as its vehicle for bombing Serbia in 1999.

In a February 1998 PBS news interview, Clinton's Secretary of State Madeleine Albright made this candid comment while discussing the role of the UN in condoning the U.S. sanctions against Iraq: "[T]he UN plays a very important role. But if we don't like it, we always have the option of following our own national security interests, which I assure you we will do if we don't like what's going on."

Thus, last October, the UN General Assembly passed its tenth consecutive resolution calling for an end to the U.S. embargo of Cuba. The U.S. responded by tightening the embargo.

Since 1948, the UN has passed scores of resolutions against Israel's mass expulsion of Palestinians and subsequent occupation of Palestinian lands--all ignored by Israel, with the U.S.'s blessing.

On April 4, the UN Security Council demanded that Israel end its reoccupation of the West Bank, "without delay." Israel responded with a massacre at the Jenin refugee camp, closing the area to reporters and human rights organizations for weeks, while covering up the evidence of its war crimes.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan even disbanded a planned UN fact-finding mission to investigate the allegations of a massacre at Jenin, after intensive "consultations" with Israeli and U.S. officials.

International law is only as effective as the means to impartially enforce it--and these are becoming weaker by the day, commensurate with the strengthening of U.S. imperialism through its war on terrorism.

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