Why should an organisation devoted to saving “succeeding generations from the scourge of war” make it its business to authorise war?
In the 70 years since the inception of the UN, the world has unfortunately witnessed many theaters of conflict.
SEVENTY years ago, the Charter of the United Nations solemnly proclaimed that the people of the UN were determined to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” and to “establish conditions under which justice … can be maintained”.
Peaceful resolution of disputes was the over-arching ideal of the Charter. However, the Charter permitted two exceptions under which recourse to war was permissible:
> Under Article 51, a nation can defend its sovereignty against an armed attack.
> Collective use of force can be undertaken under Chapter VII of the Charter under a resolution of the UN Security Council.
In the euphoria of the establishment of the UN, these two provisions were regarded as just and fair exceptions to the prohibition on the use of force.
But with the tragic misuse of UN authorised interventions in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, one is made to wonder why an organisation devoted to saving “succeeding generations from the scourge of war” and securing peace and justice should make it its business to authorise the revolting actions that necessarily flow from war. It is therefore timely to demand that the provision relating to collective use of force under Chapter VII be reviewed or repealed.
Spiralling wars: In the 70 years since the inception of the UN, the world has unfortunately witnessed many theatres of conflict. In a nuclear age, the savagery of war has become even worse. The grounds on which war can be waged have expanded.
Anticipatory self-defence: Some powerful nations like the US and Israel have interpreted the Charter to read into it the right of pre-emptory attack or anticipatory self-defence.
Humanitarian intervention: A new ground of “humanitarian war” without the authority of the UN has been established extra-legally by the American-European Union Alliance.
Regime change: Wars for the purpose of regime change were and are being waged in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen.
Proxy wars: Many rich and powerful states are fomenting civil wars and supporting armed mercenary forces for the purpose of subverting the sovereignty of other states. Tragic examples are Yemen, Libya, Syria and Ukraine.
Privatising torture: Since the 90s, wars, incarceration in overseas prisons and torture have been privatised. This is a wicked way of avoiding accountability under national laws.
Terrorism: Unspeakable horrors are being committed by terrorist groups like the IS. However, it must be stated that all terrorism, whether by private groups or state actors, is an abomination. On the pretext of combating terrorism, many states are committing atrocities both within their territory and abroad.
Targeted killings: Extra-judicial assassinations of the officials of other states or national liberation movements are being carried out by drone attacks, special-forces units or covert operations.
Humans as guinea pigs: Some nations are developing, deploying and testing their new weapon systems in countries that they invade or occupy – countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Gaza whose population has become a guinea pig for testing deadly weapons.
Threat of missile attacks: Threats of missile and nuclear attacks have become standard language of foreign policy. This is a violation of international law.
Selective sanctions: In the name of human rights, sanctions are being enforced but in a very selective way by the Security Council and by individual nations against their opponents. This is despite overwhelming proof that sanctions hurt innocent civilians and cause untold misery and deprivation to the weakest members of society.
The ICC: The International Criminal Court has gone into operation. But nations like the US and Israel refuse to join it. The UN Security Council and the ICC have brought to book a few war criminals. Sadly, the work of the ICC shows a terrible ethnic bias against Africa. Mass murderers from the USA, EU and Israel remain immune.
Cold War reignited: The Cold War has become reignited and with it new theatres of conflict as in Ukraine are causing massive loss of life.
Merchants of death: The arms trade continues unabated and ignites and fuels regional wars and retards the search for political solutions to international disputes. All arms traders are merchants of death but enjoy a prestige and wealth unknown to many other professions.
Western exceptionalism: Western unilaterism is a sad reality of geopolitics today. In the last decade itself, there were full scale invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq on trumped up charges plus bombing of Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Syria. In Yemen, Libya and Syria, western proxies are in the forefront of the so called civil war.
US drones blow up “enemy combatants” in many parts of the world with sickening regularity. Despite its professed belief in democracy, Washington has a sorry record of collaborating with right-wing military officers to overthrow elected leaders who do not do Washington’s bidding. The latest victims are Morsi in Egypt in 2013 and Yanukovych in Ukraine in 2014.
On July 3, 1988 the United States shot down an Iranian Airbus killing 290 passengers. The Western world expressed only muted regret.
Genocide in Palestine: US and European complicity with Israel in the 67-year old genocide of the Palestinians is an undeniable fact. As I write, Israel continues to butcher children, women and civilians in Gaza.
Srebrenica: Dutch complicity in the massacres in Srebrenica is well documented.
Structural violence: Add to these military atrocities, the structural violence and oppressive economic systems of the West. There is a desire to consolidate an uncompromising version of corporatism that seeks total economic hegemony over Asia and Africa.
Environment: An environmental catastrophe is awaiting the world unless we take adequate measures to control the threat. Needless to say that part of the ecocide is contributed by the use and misuse of weapons of mass destruction.
In sum, it is a pretty grim situation in the world today. What can be done to bring about a more peaceful and just world? There are obviously no simple solutions. A comprehensive, holistic approach is badly needed.
Reflecting On The Law by Shad Saleem Faruqi
Shad Faruqi, Emeritus Professor of Law at UiTM, is a passionate student and teacher of the law. He can be reached at email@example.com. The views expressed here are entirely his own.
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