FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

World’s Policeman or Bully?

by ROBERT JENSEN

In the debate about a U.S. war against Iraq, the question often pops up: Should the United States be the world’s policeman?

This is a case where the answer doesn’t matter, because it is the wrong question. The United States isn’t offering to be the world’s cop; U.S. officials are acting as the world’s bully.

The role of police is to uphold the law. We all know that police officers sometimes fail to do so and that those who should hold them accountable sometimes look the other way. But police don’t boast that they will respect only those laws they decide to respect. When officers are nailed for disregarding the law, they become rogues.

All this talk about being the world’s policeman helps obscure a simple reality: U.S. policy-makers routinely ignore international law and act as rogues.

Was the United States acting as a police officer in 1989 when President George H.W. Bush ordered the invasion of Panama to depose Manuel Noriega, the Panamanian dictator and former CIA asset? The attack was denounced all over the world as an illegal act of aggression, not because other countries particularly liked Mr. Noriega but because the U.S. attack was unlawful.

Such contempt for international law is a bipartisan affair. In 1998, after passage of a U.N. Security Council resolution on weapons inspections in Iraq, diplomats came out of the meeting and told reporters that the resolution didn’t give any nation the right to move unilaterally against Iraq. Bill Richardson, then the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, simply shrugged and said, “We think it does.” By the end of the year, President Bill Clinton had ordered an illegal strike on Iraq.

Now, as the Bush administration is lauded for going the extra mile for diplomacy by ramming through a new U.N. Security Council resolution on Iraq, administration officials are announcing their intention to ignore the law. The resolution calls for the Security Council — not any individual member state –to consider possible responses if Iraq doesn’t comply. But the United States simply declares its intention to ignore the law.

White House chief of staff Andrew Card said, “The U.N. can meet and discuss, but we don’t need their permission.”

Secretary of State Colin Powell, the administration’s official “dove,” repeatedly has made it clear that the United States won’t be “handcuffed” by the United Nations.

U.S. officials don’t try to hide their contempt for the law or the intelligence of others. John Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, reassured the other nations on the Security Council that the resolution the United States had drafted included no “hidden triggers” for a U.S. strike. Yet he also contended the resolution “does not constrain any member state from acting to defend itself against the threat posed by Iraq or to enforce relevant U.N. resolutions and protect world peace and security.”

That is what President Bush meant in September when he challenged the United Nations to be “relevant”: If you do what we say, we will give you some minor role in executing our policy. If you don’t, we will do what we please.

Administration officials seem to think that simply repeating the phrase “Iraq is a threat to America” will make it so and somehow justify a war. But it is clear that the latest Security Council resolution doesn’t authorize a U.S. war on Iraq, nor does the U.N. Charter, the ultimate legal authority.

That means that if Mr. Bush takes the country to war, we won’t be the world’s policeman but simply the world’s bully with the power to ignore the law.

ROBERT JENSEN is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, a member of the Nowar Collective, and author of the book Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream and the pamphlet “Citizens of the Empire.”

He can be reached at rjensen@uts.cc.utexas.edu.

Robert Jensen is a professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center in Austin. He is the author of several books, including the forthcoming Plain Radical: Living, Loving, and Learning to Leave the Planet Gracefully (Counterpoint/Soft Skull, fall 2015). http://www.amazon.com/Plain-Radical-Living-Learning-Gracefully/dp/1593766181 Robert Jensen can be reached at rjensen@austin.utexas.edu and his articles can be found online at http://robertwjensen.org/. To join an email list to receive articles by Jensen, go to http://www.thirdcoastactivist.org/jensenupdates-info.html. Twitter: @jensenrobertw. Notes. [1] Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture, 3rd ed. (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1996), p. 106. [2] Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986). [3] Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, edited and with a revised translation by Susan McReynolds Oddo (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2011), p. 55.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

August 25, 2016
Mike Whitney
The Broken Chessboard: Brzezinski Gives Up on Empire
Paul Cox – Stan Cox
The Louisiana Catastrophe Proves the Need for Universal, Single-Payer Disaster Insurance
John W. Whitehead
Another Brick in the Wall: Children of the American Police State
Lewis Evans
Genocide in Plain Sight: Shooting Bushmen From Helicopters in Botswana
Daniel Kovalik
Colombia: Peace in the Shadow of the Death Squads
Sam Husseini
How the Washington Post Sells the Politics of Fear
Ramzy Baroud
Punishing the Messenger: Israel’s War on NGOs Takes a Worrying Turn
Norman Pollack
Troglodyte Vs. Goebbelean Fascism: The 2016 Presidential Race
Simon Wood
Where are the Child Victims of the West?
Roseangela Hartford
The Hidden Homeless Population
Mark Weisbrot
Obama’s Campaign for TPP Could Drag Down the Democrats
Rick Sterling
Clintonites Prepare for War on Syria
Yves Engler
The Anti-Semitism Smear Against Canadian Greens
August 24, 2016
John Pilger
Provoking Nuclear War by Media
Jonathan Cook
The Birth of Agro-Resistance in Palestine
Eric Draitser
Ajamu Baraka, “Uncle Tom,” and the Pathology of White Liberal Racism
Jack Rasmus
Greek Debt and the New Financial Imperialism
Robert Fisk
The Sultan’s Hit List Grows, as Turkey Prepares to Enter Syria
Abubakar N. Kasim
What Did the Olympics Really Do for Humanity?
Renee Parsons
Obamacare Supporters Oppose ColoradoCare
Alycee Lane
The Trump Campaign: a White Revolt Against ‘Neoliberal Multiculturalism’
Edward Hunt
Maintaining U.S. Dominance in the Pacific
George Wuerthner
The Big Fish Kill on the Yellowstone
Jesse Jackson
Democrats Shouldn’t Get a Blank Check From Black Voters
Kent Paterson
Saving Southern New Mexico from the Next Big Flood
Arnold August
RIP Jean-Guy Allard: A Model for Progressive Journalists Working in the Capitalist System
August 23, 2016
Diana Johnstone
Hillary and the Glass Ceilings Illusion
Bill Quigley
Race and Class Gap Widening: Katrina Pain Index 2016 by the Numbers
Ted Rall
Trump vs. Clinton: It’s All About the Debates
Eoin Higgins
Will Progressive Democrats Ever Support a Third Party Candidate?
Kenneth J. Saltman
Wall Street’s Latest Public Sector Rip-Off: Five Myths About Pay for Success
Binoy Kampmark
Labouring Hours: Sweden’s Six-Hour Working Day
John Feffer
The Globalization of Trump
Gwendolyn Mink – Felicia Kornbluh
Time to End “Welfare as We Know It”
Medea Benjamin
Congress Must Take Action to Block Weapon Sales to Saudi Arabia
Halyna Mokrushyna
Political Writer, Daughter of Ukrainian Dissident, Detained and Charged in Ukraine
Manuel E. Yepe
Tourism and Religion Go Hand-in-Hand in the Caribbean
ED ADELMAN
Belted by Trump
Thomas Knapp
War: The Islamic State and Western Politicians Against the Rest of Us
Nauman Sadiq
Shifting Alliances: Turkey, Russia and the Kurds
Rivera Sun
Active Peace: Restoring Relationships While Making Change
August 22, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton: The Anti-Woman ‘Feminist’
Robert Hunziker
Arctic Death Rattle
Norman Solomon
Clinton’s Transition Team: a Corporate Presidency Foretold
Ralph Nader
Hillary’s Hubris: Only Tell the Rich for $5000 a Minute!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail