My Turn: Moral conundrums of attacking Iraq

Posted: Sunday, March 30, 2003

America's role in the world community is not that of the judge or the police force. Our law is not world law. We are one country among many. We may currently enjoy the unique position of being the most "militarily-endowed," but we are still just one country among many. Metaphorically speaking, we are the inhabitants of a single house in the world's neighborhood.

This neighborhood isn't like our American neighborhoods, however. It doesn't have a police department. It doesn't have a court system. In fact, it has no higher authority than the consensus of the neighbors. As members of the neighborhood, we realized it was in everybody's best interest to get together, form some sort of homeowner's association and establish some rules.

The rules we established were written to protect each of the individual homeowners from unwarranted attacks from any of their neighbors. In the event of such an attack, all the neighbors decided they would unite to repel the attacker and to reclaim that which was taken from the victim.

This "homeowner's association" is the United Nations and the rules are the Charter of the United Nations. This is an international organization created under the guidance of America at a time when America could just as easily have decided to conquer the globe (the end of World War II). At this point in history, America took a giant step toward lasting peace and agreed to participate in an organization that would regulate military action around the world.

The Charter of the United Nations states that its primary purpose is to preserve peace and unite the world against those who would destroy peace (Preamble and Chapter 1). It specifically decries the use of military force (or threat of force) by any country against any other nation for the purpose of influencing international relations (Chapter 1, Article 2, Section 4).

This charter is International Law, recognized and ratified by all the members of the United Nations. It was not only ratified by the United States, but also owes its very existence to the United States. How ironic that it is an American president who has chosen to ignore this international law and attack a sovereign nation without U.N. approval.

Bush's invasion of Iraq likewise cannot be justified by citing historic military deployments. Liberating Europe and defending England during World War II were actions taken against an invader (Germany). Likewise, when we attacked Iraq in the Gulf War, we were acting against the aggressor and in defense of the victim (Kuwait).

That has been the basis of our military action since the birth of our country. In addition, the U.N. Charter specifically denies any country the right to interfere in another country's internal affairs or conflicts. Therefore, trying to justify military action based on the plight of the Iraqi people (or factions thereof) won't work.

Bush is breaking international law. There is no question. The charter is very plain in its language. His orders to invade Iraq are illegal. The only difference between what Bush is doing and what any other criminals have done is that there is no "police force" that can bring him to justice; there is no military capable of confronting America - even in combined strength. This situation creates some moral conundrums: Does the power of the American military give Bush the right to break the law? Does Bush's position give him the right to turn our soldiers into mercenaries? Does the lack of accountability mean there is no crime?

International law aside, Bush is trampling American legal precedence. If military actions occurred here in the United States such as those in which our military is involved in Iraq, there would be an immediate and overwhelming outcry for violent retaliation. To attack someone without sufficient proof of crime and without the consent of the law is a crime.

Bush couldn't convince the rest of our "neighborhood" that Iraq was committing a crime so he took matters into his own hands, grabbed his bat, and jumped the fence into Iraq's backyard. That is the decision of a bully and a thug.

We, as Americans, are the only force on earth that can hold Bush accountable. We have that power and that responsibility. The fate of future world peace very likely is hanging in the balance. So, what do we do? Nothing, because most of us have chosen to remain ignorant of the true nature of current world events.

Patrick McGonegal is a long-time Juneau resident and a Web site developer.

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