FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Effective Path To Controlling Chemical Weapons Is Not War

by KEVIN ZEESE

The most effective deterrent against the use of chemical weapons is not the mass bombing of Syria, an action that would be illegal under international law and counterproductive, but to use the international legal system that has been built since World War I and take legal action under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Members of the Security Council should immediately pass a resolution referring the issue of the use of chemical weapons in Syria to the International Criminal Court.  This would be an approach working within the framework of the rule of law to enforce the ban on chemical weapons that all members of the Security Council would agree on and would strengthen the international regimen that bans chemical weapons, rather than weaken it.

In his August 31st Statement on Syria, President Obama warned about of the “costs of doing nothing,” in response to the use of chemical weapons.  The president asked:

“What’s the purpose of the international system that we’ve built if a prohibition on the use of chemical weapons that has been agreed to by the governments of 98 percent of the world’s people and approved overwhelmingly by the Congress of the United States is not enforced?”

Just as President Obama has complied with the constitution by seeking a resolution from Congress authorizing the use of the military in Syria, he should also respect the rule of international law by abiding by the requirements of the chemical weapons ban and referring the matter to the International Criminal Court for investigation and prosecution.

A legal framework is in place to handle the prohibited use of chemical weapons.  The Chemical Weapons Convention provides for investigation of alleged violations by specialist bodies constituted by the Convention, as well as collective measures by states parties in response to activities prohibited by the Convention, recourse to the UN General Assembly and Security Council in cases of particular gravity, and referral of disputes to the International Court of Justice. These procedures cover not only the 189, countries that are signatories to the Convention but also countries like Syria that are not. The procedures of the Convention allow for the Executive Council of the Chemical Weapons Convention or the Conference of States Parties to convene a special meeting to consider the situation in Syria and recommend appropriate responses by states parties and the United Nations.

To operate within the law, the United States should provide the UN Security Council with the evidence it has regarding the use of chemical weapons by the Assad government.  Other members of the Security Council should do the same and these materials should be provided to the International Criminal Court.   This will allow the gaps in intelligence, alleged manipulation of intelligence, different information on who used the weapons and inconsistency between nations to be investigated.  We urge Russia, China or other members of the Security Council to propose a resolution referring the case to the International Criminal Court if the United States fails to do so.

If the United States proceeds with its plans to attack Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons the U.S. will be violating, rather than supporting, international law; it will be acting in violation of the rule of law, rather than using the rule of law to enforce the chemical weapons ban.  As the Western States Legal Foundation said in a September 2013 briefing paper:

“There is no provision of international law, however, that allows ad hoc coalitions of countries to determine for themselves who they believe the guilty parties to be, and to punish them by acts of war against the territory of a sovereign state. The United Nations Charter allows unilateral military action only where a country is under attack or imminent threat of attack.”

There is no question that under international law, the allegations of chemical weapons use by the Syrian government do not provide a legal basis for military action by the United States.  To put it directly: The United States will be violating international law if it attacks Syria.

The failure of the attorney general, White House counsel or  congressional committees to focus on the reality that a military attack on Syria is illegal shows the corruption of the rule of law in the United States.  The primary purpose of the UN is to “maintain international peace and security.” The UN makes it difficult to go to war as a country attacking another as the most serious crime a nation can commit. During the congressional hearings on the Syrian attack, not one senator or Member of Congress has asked Secretary Kerry, Secretary Hagel or General Dempsey how many civilians the United States is likely to kill in this illegal military attack.

The United States should become a signatory to the International Criminal Court, joining the 122 countries that have already signed the agreement. Perhaps U.S. leaders would consider the legality of their actions and the impact aerial bombing will have on the civilian population if they knew their actions would be reviewed by an independent tribunal and they would be held accountable.

To act within the rule of law to effectively deter the use of chemical weapons the following should occur:

1.   The U.S. should present its evidence regarding use of chemical weapons in Syria to the UN Security Council.

2.   The Security Council should condemn any use of chemical weapons and forbid further use of chemical weapons.

3.   It should expand the scope of the UN investigation to include the issue of responsibility for attacks, refer the Syrian situation to the International Criminal Court for further investigation and adjudication, and call for convening of a peace conference.

4.      If the Security Council remains unable to act, the General Assembly should assume responsibility under the Uniting for Peace procedure.

An attack by the United States on Syria would almost certainly result in many civilian casualties with great potential of a wider war and unpredictable consequences.  Aerial bombardment is a diffuse tool not narrowly targeted on stopping the alleged use of chemical weapons, but a blunt act of war that will cause widespread harm.  The United States government should not pursue this risky and illegal attack. Instead, it must pursue the legal, secure means of investigation and prosecution under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Kevin Zeese serves as Attorney General in the Green Shadow Cabinet, and is a member of the Steering Committee of the Bradley Manning Support Network and an organizer of Popular Resistance.

Kevin Zeese is an organizer at Popular Resistance.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
Pete Dolack
Killing Ourselves With Technology
David Krieger
The 10 Worst Acts of the Nuclear Age
Lamont Lilly
Movement for Black Lives Yields New Targets of the State
Martha Rosenberg
A Hated Industry Fights Back
Robert Fantina
Hillary, Gloria and Jill: a Brief Look at Alternatives
Chris Doyle
No Fireworks: Bicentennial Summer and the Decline of American Ideals
Michael Doliner
Beyond Dangerous: the Politics of Climate
Colin Todhunter
Modi, Monsanto, Bayer and Cargill: Doing Business or Corporate Imperialism?
Steve Church
Brexit: a Rush for the Exits!
Matthew Koehler
Mega Corporation Gobbles Up Slightly Less-Mega Corporation; Chops Jobs to Increase Profits; Blames Enviros. Film at 11.
David Green
Rape Culture, The Hunting Ground, and Amy Goodman: a Critical Perspective
Ed Kemmick
Truckin’: Pro Driver Dispenses Wisdom, Rules of the Road
Alessandro Bianchi
“China Will React if Provoked Again: You Risk the War”: Interview with Andre Vltchek
Christy Rodgers
Biophilia as Extreme Sport
Missy Comley Beattie
At Liberty
Ron Jacobs
Is Everything Permitted?
Cesar Chelala
The Sad Truth About Messi
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail