The US border with Mexico is 2000 miles long and is heavily guarded, at a cost to the US taxpayer of $7.8 billion last year. (In 2006 Bush declared that “Unfortunately, the United States has not been in complete control of its borders for decades . . . ”) Now consider what would happen if Mexican security forces were pursuing a criminal who had fled into the US and they opened fire across the border, then crossed it, killing a US border guard.
If a US citizen was killed by foreign soldiers within the United States there would be reaction verging on the hysterical. There would be cries for retribution and demands for punishment of those responsible. Quite right, you will say, if only because international law, in the shape of the Charter of the United Nations, specifies that all signatories shall “refrain from the threat or the use of force against the territorial integrity . . . of any member or state, or in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.” All perfectly clear: a country that uses force against another without justification that is approved by its international peers is acting illegally.
So reflect on a recent incident on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
On April 23 US troops were involved in a fire-fight in eastern Afghanistan. They alleged that their enemy crossed over the border into Pakistan. They then used artillery to shell Pakistan’s territory. Not only that but they crossed the border and killed a Pakistani para-military trooper. The news agency AFP recorded that the incident occurred when soldiers from the ‘coalition’ (read ‘US’, because there were no other foreign troops in that area) and ‘the Afghan army’ (entirely under US control):
“clashed with Taliban militants on the porous frontier between the two countries on Wednesday. Afghan and [‘coalition’] troops then pounded the Pakistani side with shells and also made an incursion into the Bajaur region, during which one soldier was killed and another injured, the [Pakistan foreign] ministry said. “We have lodged a strong protest with the Afghan and [coalition] side and told them in clear terms that such incidents must not be repeated,” spokesman Mohammad Sadiq told reporters. “We also protested the death of one of our security personnel as a result of firing from the other side.”
So a Pakistani border guard in his own country was killed by foreigners who consider it acceptable – no, not just acceptable: a responsibility, a duty, a God-given right – to invade the territory of a foreign country and kill its citizens if these citizens are unfortunate enough to be in the way of US bullets, shells or missiles.
There is no law governing Bush America’s barbarity overseas. All the strikes by the US within Pakistan have been blatantly illegal by any reckoning. (There have been at least four US drone-launched missile attacks, killing dozens of civilians.) But there is no possibility that Bush America will be condemned by anyone. Even the directly injured party, in this case Pakistan, with its new democratic government, wouldn’t lodge a complaint under international law because Bush America would simply ignore it. Not that Washington would ignore the complainant itself of course, because any weak country unwise enough to try to claim that international law applies to America would be doomed to economic and political retribution. Put bluntly: the United States of America, just like Israel, its only real ally, can and will conduct military operations against any country in the world – providing that country is not strong enough to retaliate in military or economic terms – and kill anyone it likes without fear of retribution of any sort. Israel’s overflight of Lebanon by 12 combat aircraft on April 28 was yet another example of such cowardly arrogance. There could be no attempt by Lebanon’s government to counter this brazen violation of sovereignty, and the contempt felt by Israel for the world at large was summed up in a report by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that “The Israel Defense Forces when asked about the alleged flyover said ‘it is our policy not to comment on our operations’.” In other words: Get Lost.
Even if Lebanon complained to the United Nations about Israel’s illegal overflights there would be no action because, as always, Washington would veto any attempted condemnation of its fifty-first state. After all, the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, declared on May 4 that the US has “has been at Israel’s side for all of 60 years, it will be for the next 60 years, 100 years and 1,000 years. With all its success, I am a tremendous admirer and have great respect for Israel,” he said, expressing particular admiration for a state “representing democracy and freedom.” Yes, that’s the freedom to steal the lands of the original inhabitants and freedom to treat the descendants of the original inhabitants like Untermenschen. (And you can imagine the effect of this dolt’s statement in the Arab and Muslim world: he has reinforced the belief that the US totally favours Israel against them. Bright boy, Mullen ; with people like him, al Qaeda doesn’t need any recruiting sergeants. And what right has Mullen to commit his country to a foreign policy for a thousand years?)
It must require enormous courage, moral and physical, to take military action against countries who can’t retaliate. Moral courage like Pontius Pilate’s and physical courage like that of a mentally diseased coyote. One can only guess at the mindset of the people who order strikes like the one in Pakistan and authorize the insolent menacing of Lebanon. They are almost on equal terms with the intellectually inadequate but hideously malevolent ninnies who imprisoned the journalist Sami al-Haj for six years in the Guantanamo Gulag. He has now been released without charge, because even after 200 interrogations and countless investigations there was not a shred of evidence that he was guilty of any crime. His mistake had been to try to get into Afghanistan to report on the US invasion. Washington had him dragged, bound, drugged, blindfolded and shackled, into the most shameful prison constructed thus far this century – if we exclude the CIA’s secret black holes in Afghanistan, the Indian Ocean, eastern Europe and East Africa. (It is unlikely he bought a gift from the Guantanamo souvenir emporium, surely the sickest retail outlet in the world.)
Sami al-Haj was detained in Pakistan by order of the US, whose dreamland dopes thought that he had interviewed Osama bin Laden. He hadn’t been anywhere near bin Laden, but this didn’t matter to the deranged fanatics of US Intelligence. After six years of disgusting treatment he was released without charge, but of course is now sick and mentally fragile. Well done the filth of the universe who, in a final brutal insult to cap his six years of torture, flew him home in a US aircraft in chains.
Bush and his poisonous bunch of malignant chickenhawk barbarians have shown the world that they respect no laws, care nothing for human beings unless they are Israelis, and trample on human rights with all the vicious contempt of a demented elephant. The next administration will have to cleanse the stables of the filth, but it’s going to be a difficult job.
BRIAN CLOUGHLEY lives in France.