• "God invented war so Americans could learn geography" -- Mark Twain.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Israel's Drummer Boy on 42d Street

It is always a sight to watch the New York Times slant the news to suit Israeli imperatives. 

Brazil's president Rousseff gave an important and diplomatically arresting address to the General Assembly, in which she denounced U.S. electronic snooping and called upon the world to erect electronic barriers to the overweening power of the US imperial security apparatus.

In what the Guardian characterised as a "scathing" and "blistering" speech, Rousseff denounced U.S. snooping as an affront to the Comity of Nations and a violation of international law.  She also spoke out, for the civil rights of ordinary people.

"As many other Latin Americans, I fought against authoritarianism and censorship and I cannot but defend, in an uncompromising fashion, the right to privacy of individuals and the sovereignty of my country"

 Nor was this simply a Brazilian concern.  As reported by RT News

US relations with all of Latin America have recently soured. In addition to Brazil, Mexico, Bolivia and Venezuela have all voiced anger with the US over the NSA’s surveillance of their countries this year. Bolivia has been especially bitter.
 Even the USophile BBC carried the report of Rousseff's speech on its front page

 And the Times?  On the Times... it was nowhere to be found. Not on the front page, not on the World page, 


not even on the America's page ... 


until the very bottom in small print, after stories on drug hauls and the like.

In short, the news was suppressed, albeit with the usual and tiresome buried, fine-print exception designed to give a colour of good faith to hypocricy.

Of course as the US flagship propaganda organ, it stands to reason that the Times would wish to suppress how disgusted  -- desde las pelotas hasta las cejas --  the rest of the hemisphere is with United States bullying arrogance -- or prepotencia as it is called in Spanish.

But of equal note is what the Times considers to be "fit to print" --

Iran, Iran, Iran, and more Iran.

Now Iran's alleged nuclear arms programme is certainly not not news.  It does indirectly affect U.S. interests to the extent that any proliferation of nuclear arms impacts U.S. interests and the stability of world.  As indeed, Israel's "illegal" (non-signatory) acquisition of nuclear weapons has destabilised the Middle East.

But Iran's possible acquisition of nuclear weapons is really only an urgent concern to Israel  whose destabilising and imbalanced nuclear hegemony in the region is upset by a challenge.

The true interests of the United States, from a national perspective would be to make the Middle East nuclear free and to induce Israel to destroy it's nuclear weapons.

Oh but mum on that.  Instead endless dross on Iran, Iran, Iran, Iran.

Qui bono?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Figure of Speech

In an interview reported by the U.K. Guardian, Hilarity Clinton admitted that she "wrestles with running" before adding, "But I'm both a pragmatist and realistic. I think I have a pretty good idea of the political and governmental challenges that are facing our leaders..."


"Both,  a. or pron. [OE. bothe, bae, fr. Icel. bāir; akin to Dan. baade, Sw. båda, Goth. bajs, OHG. beid, bd, G. & D. beide, also AS. begen, bā, b, Goth. bai, and Gr. , L. ambo, Lith. abà, OSlav. oba, Skr. ubha. &root; 310. Cf. Amb-.] The one and the other; the two; the pair, without exception of either.  ....   Both, as adj.:  Two, considered as distinct from others or by themselves; the one and the other.   This word is often placed before the nouns with which it is connected."

Does Clinton really think this way?  When used as an adjective, "both" presupposes a difference of kind or degree in the substantives it connects.  As in,

To judge both quick and dead.  (Milton.)
A masterpiece both for argument and style. (Goldsmith.)
To whom bothe heven and erthe and see is sene.  (Chaucer.)
He prayeth well who loveth well Both man and bird and beast. (Coleridge.)

If Clinton had wanted to emphasize with surplus redundancy that she was a hard-nosed, tough-as-nails, realistic, pragmatist she ought to have omitted the "both". Otherwise she is "dis-confusing" two things which are basically the same.  That does not bespeak a well-ordered mind.

In the interview, Clinton followed up with:

"I will just continue to weigh what the factors are that would influence me making a decision one way or another."


"The election is more than three years away and I just don't think it's good for the country."

Well... both for ill or good she at least has three years to decide what factors will guide her decision.

Political speech in the U.S. resembles a disordered mosaic of rough-cut, verbal chips which increasingly disconnect from one another and fail to reflect any cohering image or concept.   The vocalisations of our ruling class (oh grief!)  are incompetent to enable "decisions about the just and the unjust or the expedient and the inexpedient." (Arist. Politics, Bk I.)


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Unclean Tongue

The use of chemical weapons anywhere in the world is an affront to human dignity and a threat to the security of people everywhere. We have a duty to preserve a world free from the fear of chemical weapons for our children.   -- Barack Obama,  (14 Sept. 2103.)

Vietnam 1972
Uhuh...  Now,  Barack Obama wasn't born when the prize-wining photograph made the world news but we are not interested in Obama as a private golfer.  As president of the United States he is the official voice of the country he represents; and the country he represents is the very stuff of loathsome hypocricy.

Nor is it relevant that other countries may also commit atrocities.  At least they do so without pretending (with "humble exceptionalism")  that they are Jesus Christ or Eternal Victims. 

The United States argues that napalm and white phosphorus are not "asphixiating gasses" and are therfore perfectly legal.   However they are chemicals and are perfectly horrible.



Saturday, September 14, 2013

Glenda's Fault

The definitive story behind Obama's Syria venture will be written by diplomatic historians in years to come. It seems to us chipsters, however, that the unsung hero of the denouement is neither Putin nor Lavrov but rather Glenda Jackson,

erstwhile Elizabeth R. for Masterpiece Theatre, now MP for Hampstead and Kilburn.  For it was Ms. Jackson who, from her backbench seat, directed incisive questions at Prime Minister Cameron during the House of Commons debate on Syria on 29th August last making it rather evident that Ms. Jackson was agitating the pot against intervention while her party's leader, Ed ("Egg") Miliband was playing "all chaps together" with his opposite number who ended up calling him a "fucking cunt" when Miliband turned out not to be  quite as much the chap as he had led the Government to believe. 

In truth, Miliband had exacted a rather nominal amendment to the motion (providing for a second vote) by way of face-saving appeasement to opposition within his own party against military intervention in Syria. If he then voted against his own amended motion it could only be because he would rather Cameron suffer defeat in the House than that he should suffer defeat as leader within his own party.

But if defeat as leader was in the air, it could only have been on account of MPs outside the Shadow Cabinet and it seems to us, from her spirited questioning, that the off stage agitator has to have been the erstwhile Elizabeth R.  

If this analysis seems convoluted it is not as convoluted by half as that of those apologists who are now arguing that the Administration's pulling back from blowing Syria to smithereens was part of a ultra devious, cunning and clever strategy by the President to do exactly the opposite of what he gave every appearance of wanting to do in very earnest.

Everything the Obama Administration said and did in the week preceding the House of Commons vote indicated that it had resolved on war and counted on an Anglo-French phalanx to lend an aura of "internationality" to the aggression. 

To those of us who have seen Washington in war-woop mode, it was more than evident that the military-industrial jocks like  John McCain and the AIPACOIDS like  Barbara  Boxer were raising the roof to flatten Syria out of existence.  The biggest woop was given by the Obama himself on August 31st when he declaimed:

This attack is an assault on human dignity.  It also presents a serious danger to our national security.   ... This menace must be confronted.  ....  After careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets.

A president simply cannot say that national security is at stake and then do nothing.  Obama's tone and language, not to mention his military orders, were the coda to the finale. Had the House of Commons joined in the wooping the booming finale was a done deed.

Instead Her Majesty's Government politely but irrevocably  excused itself from the party.  Obama was left running in place on a mound holding a rather limp flag.  Not quite the stuff of Capitol Rotunda canvasses.

The House of Commons vote put a stumble into the rumble and forced a change of tack.  Not being able to count on the Brits to do the "democracy bit" for him, Obama had to bifurcate his war wooping with a sudden concern for constitutionalism and, given the scepticism from isolationists in the House, to modify the call for blood with assurances of pinpricks (later disavowed) and shots across the bow. 

What the nation heard on August 31st was a scrambled up Plan B or, more accurately, a Plan A-1, rev. (b); but the only really important thing here is that the scrambling interjected a pause in the events. Pause for doubts; pause for second thoughts, and time for the Russians to finally move their boats into position.

As they say, the kaleidoscope of history can change overnight.  From pushing aside all opposition, Obama now found himself crying for a horse to get him out of the mess he had got himself into.  He got one from Russia, but for the unravelling of his plans, which made the getting necessary, we have Glenda Jackson to thank.

And it was no small matter. Right-thinking people know the difference between one state protecting its client by supporting the rule of international law and another state promoting the interests of its client by degrading the rule of law.


Friday, September 13, 2013

Humble Exceptionalism & Other Stupidities

Obama's speech on Tuesday night was a tour-de-force in disconnects and contradictions all of which, as La Rochefoucault might have said, served to illustrate the "tours et retours insensibles" of tyrannical self-love.

The premise of Obama's speech was that "Assad" -- that is, the Government of Syria -- had deployed sarin gas against civilians.  The speech offered no new evidence of this assertion but simply repeated the now familiar rhetorical mix-n-match of ambiguous circumstantial facts.

In case anyone wonders what i mean by ambiguous: "In the days leading up to 21 August, ... Assad's chemical weapons personnel prepared for an attack near an area they where they mix sarin gas. They distributed gas masks to their troops."   Yes indeed, commanders do tend to distribute gas masks when there is a danger of being attacked by gas.  Yes indeed, the precaution taken was near a chemical weapons depot but that is not the same as alleging that those troops were mixing sarin at that time.  As premise for a casus belli this was shabby stuff more in keeping with a prosecutor pushing a cheap case. 

But the argued case for war was shabbier still, beginning with the moronic remark that "[b]ecause these weapons can kill on a mass scale, with no distinction between soldier and infant..." the world "has spent a century working to ban them." Actually, U.S. and British "area bombing" during the World War made "no distinction" between soldiers and infants and the distinction between gas and DIME bombs which riddle the body with microscopic shrapnel and which the United States supplied to Israel for use against civilians in Gaza and Lebanon is mostly choice of carnage and taste in melodrama.  Indiscriminate killing certainly presents a problem for international law but the choice of indiscriminate means is a collateral issue. 

When Obama stated that "civilised world has spent a century working to ban" chemical weapons, he was technically correct.  But he conveniently ignored the fact that the United States actively pursued a policy of indiscriminate aerial  killing "on a mass scale, with no distinction between soldier and infant" during the World War and that it was near 75 years before the United States formally ratified the Geneva Protocol on chemical weapons. As Georges Clemanceau famously said, "Wilson talks like Jesus Christ, but he acts like Lloyd-George."

However, thinking like Lloyd-George, Obama was actually rather clear-headed.  He said more than once that the "Assad regime" did not present a threat to American national security: "the Assad regime does not have the ability to seriously threaten our military," it is "not a direct or imminent threat to our security," and "[n]either Assad nor his allies have any interest in escalation that would lead to his demise. And our ally Israel can defend itself with overwhelming force;" and "so there is no threat to our security."  Got that?  Neither the Assad regime, nor its possession of chemical weapons presents a direct or imminent or reasonably foreseeable danger to the United States ... or even ... sacrosanct Israel. 

Given that finding, Obama's answer to his own question "what the United States of America and the international community is prepared to do" about Assad's supposed use of gas against civilians ought to be, "Nothing."  After all, if there is no likelihood that Syria will use gas against the United States or Israel, there is even less likelihood that it will use it against the United Kingdom, Russia, France or Argentina.  The rule of international law is that, absent self-defence, a resort to violence is permitted only when authorised by the Security Council.

But instead of coming to that logical conclusion, Obama did a volt face and repeated several times that a military strike was necessary in order to "to deter Assad from using chemical weapons, to degrade his regime's ability to use them and to make clear to the world that we will not tolerate their use."  A failure to do so, he said, would mean that "other tyrants will have no reason to think twice" about using chemical weapons and would embolden Assad's ally, Iran, which must decide whether to ignore international law by building a nuclear weapon or to take a more peaceful path"... as surely our devoted ally, Israel, has done. Surely this qualifies as a "massive disconnect." 

This very massive disconnect is the fundamental axiom of neocon geopolitical strategy.  True national security is not achieved by heaping conjectural possibility upon possibility and then preemptively reacting to them.  Nevertheless, neocon  policy is premised on the idea that America's "preeminence" needs to enhanced and enforced by "power projection" operations around the globe aimed at "deterring" potential threats and dissuading potential enemies from aspiring to challenge America's Alpha Maleness.

In other words Obama's power projection against Syria has nothing at all to do with its chemical weapons or with the horror of babies "foaming at the mouth, gasping for breath." It has everything to do with American and Israeli hegemony.  Surely this qualifies as a "massive hypocrisy" albeit one which Obama sought to obfuscate in lofty froth: "Our ideals and principles, as well as our national security, are at stake in Syria..." 

Having previously stated that Syria did not present a threat to U.S. national security, that left "ideals and principles" at the stake.  Obama did not say what these were and one was left to suppose that he meant those tried and true ideals which his hackneyed perorations have repeatedly fallen back on: "the true genius of America, a faith...  a faith in simple dream" that all men (and women too) "are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, ...." etc. etc.  (Address to Democratic Convention (2004); see also 2013 Inaugural.)  Snore.

The ideals and principles actually at issue are those which concern international law, the simple premise of which is that war between states is the summum malum which embraces all subsidiary evils and that, therefore, no nation state shall resort to force against another except in  self-defence against an actual or clearly imminent attack.

There is a reason for this principle and it is called "World War II" the destruction, depredations and slaughter of which ought not to be forgotten.  That horror was not a result of the "appeasement" American and British politicians are so fond of harping on.  What is called "appeasement" was a policy of affirmatively supporting anti-communist dictatorships by way of cordon sanitaire.   The war was a result of every nation becoming a law unto itself --  casting to wind all and any conventional restraints.  Who started the war and who provoked it are not as germane as the fact that 60 million dead and massive physical destruction are what happen when nation states get tired of sitting and talking.  It was that result which led to the forming of the United Nations and to the principle that henceforth, nations would not be the judges in their own cases; a non-defensive resort to force was allowed only when its necessity was so clear as to command a consensus among the major powers. 

Obombo side-stepped this fundamental ideal and principle by a naked resort to Penis Pride: "Let me make something clear: The United States military doesn't do pinpricks." 

Oh well, in that case project ahead! 

Here too, Obama again spoke out of both sides of his mouth: "[S]everal people wrote to me, we should not be the world's policeman. I agree."  Even so, "it falls to the United States to enforce international agreements.  The burdens of leadership are often heavy, but the world's a better place because we have borne them."

As Obama must surely know from his law school days, the heart of all law is procedure not substance.  The primary issue is not what needs to be enforced but how.  Totally contrary to Obama's implied assertion, no one has ever given the United States a standing mandate to enforce whatever, whenever it deems it expedient and necessary.  It falls to the United States to enforce some international agreement only when the international community specifically authorises it. If a consensus cannot be reached the answer is: "tuff!"

The United States seems to think that the failure of a consensus becomes a justification for dispensing with the requirement.  But, as any child can see, such a justification destroys the rule and sets the world back into that mode in which every nation becomes a law unto itself.

Within and behind the maze of contradictions, Obama's speech stood as a stunning example of international, imperial arrogance.  But it did not stop there. Obama went on to assert an imperial prerogative even within America's borders.  Acknowledging the need for a national consensus, Obama grandiloquently stated that he had submitted the matter to Congress.  But by "consensus" Obama simply meant an opportunity to agree with him.  If aggreement was not forthcoming -- if a democratic consensus could not be reached -- fuck it; he had the "authority" to act on his own.

In sum, Obombo's address to the nation was nothing over and above a declaration of tyrannical prerogative at home and abroad.  To cover the stench, he resorted to more treakle and to one final absurdity.  In order to make "our own children safer over the long run... we should act. That's what makes America different. That's what makes us exceptional. With humility... let us never lose sight of that essential truth."

Yes! Yes! In all humility, let us confess that we are exceptional!

Alexis de Tocqueville would no doubt  remark that the notion of "humble exceptionalism" aptly encapsulates the warped American psyche ever at war with itself.  To that extent Obama's speech could be viewed as completely honest.

© WCG, 2013

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Point of Comparison

Obombo's delivery last night was such a shabby piece of work it seems a shame to waste good grammar on it.  But we wonder... has anyone bothered to look up the Geneva Protocol?  In the Age of Wiki it ought not to be that hard.  Well, let Chipster do the chipping.

The Geneva Protocol signed in 1925 and ratified by the United States fifty years later binds the signatory nations from "the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and of all analogous liquids, materials or devices."  The treaty prohibits the use of "gas" in wars between nation states.  Syria is a non-signatory party to the convention; the United States is a signatory party with stated reservations. [ Link ]

The Protocol is an inter-national agreement and does not prohibit the domestic use of gases against civilians whether or not armed.  For prohibitions against a State's gassing of its own citizens, reference must be made to the so-called Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court.

The Court was established as a forum for the prosecution of the "most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole": i.e.,  genocide, (Art. 6) crimes against humanity, (Art. 7) and  war crimes, (Art 8).  "Employing asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and all analogous liquids, materials or device" is a classified as a war crime. (Art 8 (b)(18).) 

As such it is a crime only as between one belligerent nation against another.  Article 8 (e) prohibits several "serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in armed conflicts not of an international character;" but the list does not include the use of asphyxiating gasses.

In 2010, an amendment to Article 8 was proposed which would as the use of gasses to Article 8, resulting in a prohibition of their use against domestic protesters or insurgents.

The amendment has been ratified by Botsawana, Estonia, Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Samoa and Trinidad/Tobango.  Not only has the United States not ratified the amendment, it does not recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court at all.

So... it took the United States 50 years to ratify the treaty against the use of chemical weapons.  It nevertheless supplied Saddam Hussein with chemical weapons and claimed that it's own use of napalm in Vietnam and white phosphorus in Falluja were "exempt" from the prohibition.  The United States does not submit to the jurisdiction of the International Court and has not even signed the amendment which would prohibit the domestic use of gas weapons. 

And yet Obambi mounts his podium and with Wilsonian Self-Righteousness intones,

"The question now is what the United States of America and the international community is prepared to do about it,  ....  a failure to stand against the use of chemical weapons would weaken prohibitions against other weapons of mass destruction  ... This is not a world we should accept. This is what's at stake. And that is why, after careful deliberation, ... " I propose to bomb the shit out of Syria.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Senator Boxer's Shilling for Israel shows Why the Senate should be Abolished


In her allocution on Syria during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Obama's war request, California Senawhore Boxer explained her yes vote by saying that it was important to "send a signal" to those brutal and dictatorial regimes, "like North Korea," who "might be inclined" to use chemical weapons or to "terrorists" who "could obtain them or use them, on America or our allies or our troops, or for example against Israel..."

Isn't that wonderful... the United States should go to war against Syria because chemical weapons might be used by North Korea.  If Boxer thinks this is logical she should be checked into a sanatorium

But her ensuing blather reveals the senawhore's true agitating motive.    To urge that the United States embark on war against Syria in order to protect Israel from a hypothetical resort to chemical weapons borders on treason.  It urges great expense and risk to the United States for some threat that is not only not imminent but not likely to anyone, even precious Israel.

How does Boxer overcome the fact that, in all the past decades and even during outright war, Syria has never used chemical weapons against Israel?  She cannot.  So instead she hypothesises some possible use by terrorists. She would have us believe that the way to prevent "some terrorists" from getting hold of Syrian Government stockpiles is to attack the Syrian Government and "degrade" its military capability.  This sort of reasoning is not only insane it is psychotic.

But Boxer is not a psychotic... at least of that sort.  She is simply a senawhore for Israel.  

Let's cut to the chase.  Syria is one of the few nations which has not signed the Chemical Weapons Ban Treaty.  Why not?  The plain-as-day answer is because Israel has not signed the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty.  In the absence of a nuclear deterrent to Israel's massive stockpile of nuclear arms, Syria plainly wishes to maintain an equivalent but cheaper counterbalance.  Syria's chemical stockpile is simply the poor-state's alternative for Mutually Assured Destruction.

Is MAD mad? We all know it is.  But it is the fulcrum on which states -- regional and global -- maintain their hegemonic balance.  Israel upset the regional balance by refusing to refrain from developing nuclear weapons. Syria compensated by stockpiling sarin. 

The race to maintain power parity is the product of one party's attempt to achieve destructive upmanship. The chest thumping exercise is costly and risky. Negotiated mutual arms reduction is the only way to reverse the spiral.  But Boxer is not interested in that.  She is shilling -- at great cost and risk to the United States -- for Israel.  Failure to act against Syria, she cried,

"makes it more likely -- and this is key -- that Iran will view us as a paper tiger when it comes to their nuclear program and this dangerous not only for us, and our friends but for the world." 

This is crap.  There is no "risk" that Iran will ever view the United States as a paper tiger or that its nuclear programme will present a global military threat.  Fukushima is a far great clear and present danger.

What Boxer is really advocating is for the United States to go to war against Syria in order to give Israel a regional power-edge over Iran.  Gasping babies has nothing to do with it.   Boxer was mum indeed when Israeli-deployed white phosphorous caused babies in Gaza to gasp. 

Boxer is not only a whore, but a hypocrite as well.  Someone might want to remind Boxer that she is supposed to represent California not Israel's contingency planners.

Once again the sordid spectacle that played out in Committee shows the need to abolish the Senate.  Boxer is impervious to the public clamour against an invasion of Syria.  She is in her eighties, will not run again and has five years left on her term.  Quite frankly my dear, she could give a rats ass what anyone member of the California Republic thinks. 

The idea that whores who are effectively insulated from public reproach or control should have the power to plunge the nation into war with all its attendants costs and risk is intolerable.  But this is precisely what the present constitution of the Senate allows.

There is no need for an organ that can override the public will in this manner.  Britain does well enough with a House of Commons as the effectively sole legislature of kingdom.  The House of Representatives is equally capable of discharging that political function. If the Senate is to be retained at all, the term of its service whores should be shortened to four years and not  staggered so that the entire Senate is up for reelection every four years. 

©WCG, 2103

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Obamination in Syria

It is difficult to believe that anyone would fall for the razzle dazzle that the Obama Administration is serving up in support of its desired intervention in Syria.

The Government's case that "Assad" used chemical weapons against civilians does not amount to anything more than alleging he had the capacity and opportunity to do so.   That is certainly the case, but any moron ought to understand that opportunity does not equate with commission.  The Administration has proffered no evidence (far less proof) that Syrian forces deployed the weapons on the dates in question.

That some kind of chemical attack took place appears to be undeniable.  The question of who mounted it depends on an antecedent issue; namely, the capacity and opportunity of the rebels to deploy such an attack themselves.  Curiously enough, the Administration did not argue that the rebels were incapable of mounting such an attack, although the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, did.  Still, as Cameron stated to the House of Commons, the evidence that the Syrian Government deployed chemical weapons was a "judgement."

In the absence of objective factual evidence going beyond circumstances of opportunity, one is left with arguments over motives.  On this plane, it is clear that the argument tips in favour of the Syrian Government, which could have had no reasonable motive for triggering international outrage by mounting a chemical attack.  That the rebels would wish to mount a false flag operation is equally obvious on the other side.

At best, there is simply no reliable evidence or credible argument that the Syrian Government is responsible for the attack.    But the issue of who smoked out whom is a red-herring in any event.

Assuming for the sake of argument that there was a government use of chemical weapons, the question becomes whether there is any legal basis for doing anything about it.  Given this assumption (that the Syrian Government is guilty as charged), there are three modes of reaction: political, economic and military. 

There is no question but that any and all nations have a right to shun Syria on whatever grounds and to the extent they deem expedient.  They may refuse to trade with Syria, they may exclude it from reciprocal treaties and engagements.  They need not even proffer a reason for doing so, but if they wish to assert  a  moral aversion to the use of gas, that would provide ample justification for responsive conduct which is in all events within national prerogative.

However, once a state proposes invasive measures, the question passes as to its legal authority under conventional international law to proceed in a violent manner.   Here, the premise for all further discussion is that no state has the right to intervene in the internal affairs of another.  The entire structure of international law is built on the premise of sovereign autonomy which accords to each and every nation a right not to be attacked by any other state.   This axiom ought not to be discarded with jejune cynicism because the alternative is simply ongoing chaos and war.

Clearly, all states reserve the right of self-defence and this includes retaliation after an attack.   The right arguably includes pre-emptive self-defence at least in cases where there is clear and convincing intelligence of an imminent attack.  To this extent the allowed conduct of states is analogous to the law of self-defence among individuals.

However, the extension of pre-emptive defence to include attacks aimed at degrading or destroying a potential enemy's capacity to attack is nothing but a polemical perversion put forward by those whose secret aim is to undermine the entire structure of international law.

It is important to penetrate the sophistries underlying this perversion.  An adversary is a state which has opposed interests of one sort or another and which may harbour hostile designs.  An enemy is an actor who has declared or embarked on acts of war.  The competitive and adversarial nature of international relations is both undeniable and contemplated.  But the entire point of international law is to keep the competition pacific and on this side of aggressive acts.  A potential enemy is merely an adversary  -- a state which is not subservient to, or aligned with the interests of the potential aggressor.  To argue for preemptive defence against "potential enemies" or mere adversaries is none other than to assert a "right" to make war at will.

Equally vague is the asserted right to defend against a "capacity" to attack.  International lawyers are currently quibbling over the distinction between "capacity" and "capability."  The quibble is beside the point.  All states have some capacity to make some kind of war, even if only with bows and arrows.  Most states have varying degrees of capability to make effective modern war.  Any state with a modern industrial base has a significant capability to make effective war.   Defence against a capacity or capability is another word for destroying an adversary's civil, economic and military infrastructure.   This was why, in the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, fertiliser factories  were alleged to be weapons sites. 

When a U.S. administration speaks of deterring "potential threats" (that is, a  potential, possible harm) it is not referring to any imminent aggression or actual harm but rather to using "forward presence operations" to "preclude the development of any potentially hostile entity" and for the sake of "deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role," as Dick Cheney's  Defense Planning Guide put it. (Ibid,  Cover Letter, 18 Feb. 1992, I 91/28291, pp. 2, 26   [1].)

This double conditional phraseology has become entrenched in Washington's strategic lingo which routinely casts geopolitical issues in terms of "maintaining U.S. preeminence" by means of "power projection operations" aimed at "precluding" and "deterring" "potential rivals" or "potential enemies" or "potentially powerful states" which might seek to "expand their own  influence" or "that may threaten America's ability to exercise its dominant military power." (See e.g., P.N.A.C's  September 2000 White Paper, entitled Rebuilding America's Defenses [2] ).

While the public's general indifference to English grammar might make it tone deaf to what is being said, Government statements and memoranda invariably conceive national defence in terms of ongoing "power projection" or, in plain Anglo-Saxon, bullying.

With this summary in mind, it can be seen that the neocon doctrine of preemptive defence against the capacity of potential enemies to present a threat (i.e. a possible harm) to the United States in unspecified ways is nothing less than advocacy of ongoing chaos and destruction.   To label such policy, "satanic" is hardly an exaggeration, for that is what Satan is about.

There is, in the present situation, no assertion, yet, that the use of gas in Syria constituted an attack or presented a true and imminent threat to the United States.  In the world of phantasmagorical (or pathological) abstractions, Syria might possibly attempt a gas attack on some United States installation or craft.  The likelihood of her doing so, without provocation is, zero.   There is simply no basis for asserting national self-defence on the assumed basis that the Syrian Government deployed chemical weapons against its own domestic insurgents.

President Obama might intone that Syria's use of chemical weapons implicates "core national security interests" but he does not even attempt to explain how other than to fall back on the neocon doctrine that the potential of any state to possibly present a threat qualifies as a "clear and present danger" which justifies a pre-emptive attack.   Within a more rational construct of reality, it suffices to say that a U.S. attack on Syria simply cannot be justified as self-defence.

Nevertheless,  the use of chemical weapons against domestic insurgents or a civil population does give rise to a conundrum in international law.  For, while the resort to such weapons, as a substantive fact, may be universally condemned, there is no universally agreed upon or satisfactory procedure for responding to their use.

After the Great War, virtually all nations signed a convention against the use of chemical weapons during war.  The idea was that, by whatever means nations might obliterate their young men, the use of gas was not one of them.  Since no attack at all against civilian populations is permitted, it went without saying that the use of gas against an enemy's non-combatants was also prohibited. 

If such an attack takes place, during war, the aggrieved belligerent party is entitled to take such proportionate retaliatory measures it deems fit.  In this context, "proportionate" typically means a tooth for a tooth, and maybe one more for good measure.

What happens, however, when a country uses chemical weapons against its own population, or "gasses" them in large numbers by other means?   This was the conundrum which presented itself at the Nuremberg Trials after the World War.  Germany and Germans could be tried and convicted for war-crimes against nations with whom it had been at war and against civilian populations under occupation.  But there was no basis for prosecuting anyone for crimes Germany committed against its own citizens, in particular against German Jews.  Horrendous as it might have been, it was not a war crime but rather a moral outrage which had occurred within the temporal framework of a war.

It was the Victors' determination to punish such conduct which gave rise to the newly-minted doctrine of "Crimes against Humanity." Accordingly, the Nuremberg Tribunal did the legal equivalent of a skip-and-shuffle, ruling that "insofar as the inhumane acts charged in the Indictment, and committed after the beginning of the war, did not constitute war crimes, they were all committed in execution of, or in connection with, the aggressive war, and therefore constituted crimes against humanity." [3]   In other words, non-prosecutable crimes against a belligerent's own citizens were piggy-backed onto the war-in-general.

As it evolved after Nuremberg, the doctrine of "Crimes Against Humanity" applies without more to any country's own civilian population, but the conduct in question must be  part either of a government policy or of a wide practice of atrocities tolerated or condoned by a government or a de facto authority.  Isolated or sporadic events simply do not qualify. (Article 7, Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, (2002).) [4]   Sporadic events may be violative (and prosecutable) as violations of the traditional laws of war but absent systematic practice they do not constitute crimes against humanity.  

Historically speaking, the requirement of  a "widespread or systematic"  practice had its genesis in the fact that the concept of  "crimes against humanity"  arose in reaction to ongoing practices such as the slave-trade, the reduction of entire populations to slavery and genocide.   The practical purpose of the systemic requirement, was to set a fairly high threshold for responsive action.  

The limitations of the concept are implicit from the circumstances out of which it evolved.  They presuppose an ongoing practice of multiple, successive horrors and they envision after the fact prosecution by some victorious agency.  In other words, the deterrence lies principally in the fact that if the perpetrator(s) loose the conflict they will be punished.

Recognising the weakness of the beer, the United Nations Charter did provide a mechanism for intervention against presently ongoing atrocities, provided the intervention was authorised by the international community as  represented by the Security Council.  The obvious and practical purpose of this requirement was to preclude the chaos which would ensue from individual states unilaterally assuming the prerogatives of Lord Protector of the World. 

The problem with this mechanism was that the Security Council itself was merely the formalisation of rival world hegemonies.  Unanimity among the major powers in the Council was unattainable with respect to any country in which a major power had a protective interest.  

This deadlock is a reflection of the actual scepticism countries harbour with respect to humanitarian crimes.  The deadlock not only reflects one major power's venal desire to shield crimes by its own, it also reflects the rival power's equally venal desire to promote its own interests under the pretext of a humanitarian intervention.

The U.S. media is prone to harping on Soviet vetoes of Council resolutions.  But the United States has not been laggard itself.  It has consistently vetoed resolutions adversely impacting on its own interests and in 2011 both the Obama Administration and the House of Representatives signalled a U.S. veto of any resolution condemning Israel for "systematic and deliberate" war crimes against the civilian population of Gaza (including the use of white phosphorous) which were determined to have occurred by  United Nation's independent Goldstone Commission. [5]

Removing the requisite authorisation for intervention from the Security Council to the General Assembly would constitute an obvious and actual democratisation of the ideal of "international consensus."  However, the United States has been the principal opponent of any such improvement.

The ineffectiveness of existing mechanisms to interrupt and put a stop to "crimes against humanity" has recently given rise to the related doctrines of "humanitarian intervention" and "responsibility to protect" aggrieved populations ("R2P").   Generally speaking, these doctrines expand the scope of crimes against humanity so as to include various forms of civil discrimination and, at the same time lower the authorisation required for intervention.  [6]  [7]   [8]

Despite the veneer of politically correct moralising, the purpose of  these doctrines is simply to provide a supposedly "objective" set of standards for unilateral state action.  But legality is always less a matter of substance than a question of procedure.  The issue is not "what" but who determines "when". 

Humanitarian Intervention is simply the canard which accompanies the chaos of unilateralism.  In the 19th century, it was routinely invoked as a cover for  European colonial enterprises launched under the banner of the White Man's Burden to protect the native from his own. 

It is important to grasp that the concept of humanitarian intervention presupposes that national self-defence is not at issue.  There is no threat whatsoever to the intervening nation which supposedly acts solely for the good of others.

With this in mind, it can be seen that the doctrine is far older than modern colonialism.  It has its genesis in the christian doctrine of "just war" which was first explicitly put forth in 851 by St. Cyril of Constantine who argued  that while a Christian was affirmatively forbidden to resort to violence in order to defend himself it was laudable and requisite for him to come to the defence of others.  

This convenient doctrine was enthusiastically taken up by Pope Urban II in defence of the First Crusade, launched he said, to defend the helpless Christians of Jerusalem and to avenge the barbarities and sacrileges committed upon them,

They circumcise the Christians, and the blood of the circumcision they either spread upon the altars or pour into the vases of the baptismal font. When they wish to torture people by a base death, they perforate their navels, and dragging forth the extremity of the intestines, bind it to a stake; then with flogging they lead the victim around until the viscera having gushed forth the victim falls prostrate upon the ground. Others they bind to a post and pierce with arrows. Others they compel to extend their necks and then, attacking them with naked swords, attempt to cut through the neck with a single blow. What shall I say of the abominable rape of the women? To speak of it is worse than to be silent."  (Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History, Vol 1:2, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1895), 5-8.)  [9]

The modern, enlightened age has been no less ornate in its rhetoric.  During the Great War, British soldiers were urged to their own slaughter with fabricated stories of the Huns roasting babies on bayonets and of the Kaiser's infernal  Kadaververwertungsanstalten or corpse-rendering factories, where bodies of the battle-slain were allegedly turned into soap.  [10]

The most recent incarnation of the interventionist doctrine was the  Canadian R2P  proposal put forward in 2001 which sought to establish a set of clear guidelines for determining when intervention is appropriate  and how the intervention itself should be carried out.  The proposal recommends a conceptual shift from a "right to intervene" to thinking in terms of "a duty to protect." 

The proposal is correct in its understanding that "a non-defensive right to intervene" is to all intents and purposes a contradiction in terms.  But casting the issue in terms of a duty to protect is simply a modern day resurrection of St. Cyril's doctrine -- although the authors of the report were undoubtedly ignorant of first millennium orthodox moral theology. 

The critical question is not what constitutes a humanitarian violation nor how the intervention is to be carried out.  The only way to provide a truly disinterested procedure for determining when intervention is necessary and appropriate is to put the matter before the international community as a whole.

Unfortunately, any present-day discussion of humanitarian intervention gets burdened with what lawyers call "a parade of horribles" or an invocation of "The Holocaust" which, supposedly, trumps all argument and serves as a trumpet for any  intervention.   Argumentum ab horibilis is a species of rhetoric that passes into dramatic spectacle the purpose of which (as Aristotle pointed out) is to suspend credulity and to equate caution with acquiescence. The spectre conjured up is  that of babies being tossed into the flames or a reburnished  Kadaververwertungsanstalten  in which millions were lined up for gassing, incineration and recycling into soap, slippers and lamp shades.  "How," it is asked, "how can one do nothing in face of such unspeakable horrors?!?!?"

The flaw in the rhetoric is that, by definition, "widespread and systemic" crimes do not take place as they are unitarily depicted after the fact.  There is, as it were, no there, there.  This is illustrated by the  genocide of European Jews itself, which, as the most serious "non-revisionist" historians concede,  was the result of a confluence of often separate and unrelated actions always taken under cover of war or cover of production.  Two impeccable sources provide examples of what was known:  Rafael Lemkin, the Polish Jew, who analysed Nazi Occupation policies and who coined the word "genocide" which until then did not exist ( [11] [12] ) and Pope Pius XII who, in 1942, denounced the "progressive extermination" of the Jews which, he said, was taking place. [13

Both men saw the situation up close;  Lemkin from a first row seat and Pius through the thousand eyes of clerical reports.  At the same time, neither man saw the whole phenomenon but rather myriad pieces only some of which involved mass "executions." What both came to understand was that the Nazis had deployed policies the cumulative and ultimate effect of which would be the erasure of Jews from society as an intellectual, social, and physical phenomenon. 

But the fact that distinct and dispersed policies might unite in a common result does unify those policies in their actual execution.  The singularity of the term "holocaust" misleadingly suggests a singularity of event -- that a genocide took place, like a murder.  However, genocides and systematic crimes against humanity do not take place in the unitary singular but through a multiplicity of instances. They may be united conceptually by plan, purpose or confluent effect, but "the crime"  occurs severally and distinctly. 
Thus, against what precisely were the Allies supposed to intervene and how were they to do so?  At the time, alleged "gas chambers" were little more than a rumour and even if accepted as true left open the question of where exactly they might be located.  When President Roosevelt stated that the best way to stop the depredations then being committed against Jews and others was to win the war, he was not making excuses but rather an completely correct assessment based on what was reliably known. A pervasive crime could only be stopped by an equally pervasive solution.

This brief digression into a particular historical issue has been necessitated by the polemical arguments of those who advocate "humanitarian intervention" and who cite The Holocaust  as a trump card  to shame and silence any and all opposition.  But when the facts are objectively analysed the argument is void of substance. 

The conceptual defect of "humanitarian intervention" to prevent "crimes against humanity" is that it is not possible to take "tailored"  action against a "system" or to  target something that is widespread. Analyzed with practical logic,  the doctrine of humanitarian intervention is simply a pretext for general war. 

If on the other hand, the crime in question is some isolated non-systemic horror, then there is no legal authority for one state to violate the sovereignty of another in order to act as a prosecutor ad litem for what is, essentially, a discrete criminal act.

The attempt to fashion a doctrine of "responsibility to protect" simply wipes aside the difficulties with a moral bromide that  subjectively gratifies our inner sense of righteousness without providing any check, either substantive or procedural, against the abuse of morality in pursuit of nefarious national interests.

The intervention into Syria contemplated by the United States suffers from all the defects of the R2P protocol.  Even assuming that the Government of Syria is responsible for an incident of gassing its own civilians and assuming further that this incident constitutes a systemic crime against humanity or a violation of accepted humanitarian modes of conduct, there is simply no international consensus warranting an intervention. 

Instead, President Obama falls back entirely and fully on Cheney's neocon doctrine of preventive power projection.  In his request to Congress, Obama scores "Syria's acquisition of weapons of mass destruction" which he declaims, "threatens the security of the Middle East and the national security interests of the United States."   Accordingly he, requests authority "to deter disrupt, prevent and degrade the potential for future uses of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction"  in order " to protect the United States and its allies and partners against the threat posed by such weapons."  [14]

The game is given away by the "or."  Obama does not limit the request to destroying existing arsenals of chemical weapons but wants approval to destroy any weapon of mass destruction on the ground that their mere existence is a "threat" to the United States "or" Israel.  Dick Cheney could not have said it more bluntly.

In his previous statement on 31 August, President Obama sought to sharpen the bluntness by a rhetorical pitch worthy of Urban II, in which he spoke of "young girls and boys gassed to death by their own government" which constituted "an assault on human dignity" and which made "a mockery" of international law.  "What message will we send," he asked, "if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight... What does it say about our resolve to stand up to others who flout fundamental international rules?  To governments who would choose to build nuclear arms? To terrorist who would spread biological weapons? To armies who carry out genocide?"  [15]

The statement bespoke its own hypocrisy.  International norms require international approval for an "intervening" attack on a sovereign nation.  The Administration has presented no pretence of a claim that the Syrian "rebels" constitute anything like a recognisable de facto rival belligerent and government.  The only state in the region who has chosen to build nuclear arms is Israel.  If any party has a record of "spreading" biological weapons in the region it has been the United States which supplied them to Iraq, condoned their use in the 1980's and deployed white phosphorous  in Fallujah in 2004.

The Administration has obliquely referred to the fact that dastardly Syria has refused to sign the protocol against biological weapons.  What the Administration omits to note is that Israel has refused to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.  When the two facts are viewed together what is more than obvious is that Syria's refusal is made to counter-balance the hegemony of the Israeli nuclear threat. 

In 2004, Obama loftily intoned his hope for an emergence from the "long political darkness" into which the Bush Administration had plunged the country.  In 2013, with a "righteous wind" coming from his mouth, Obama  seeks to extend the long night of darkness even further.  

©Woodchipgazette, 2013



[3] http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/judlawre.asp



[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanitarian_intervention 


[8] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Responsibility_to_protect

[9] http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/urban2-5vers.html)


[11]http://www.preventgenocide.org/lemkin/americanscholar1946.htm (links to original works)

[12] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raphael_Lemkin