US Imperialism, International Law and the United Nations

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The broad principles underlying the United Nations (UN) are noble and peaceful. They have unfortunately been perverted from the UN’s inception.

The UN is currently being used as an instrument of domination by several permanent member States of the UN Security Council.

According to the Charter’s Preamble the UN was established:

“to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war [...] to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained [...]” (Charter of the United Nations)

The UN General Assembly (GA) is democratic. One country, one vote. Unfortunately, even if it represents all 193 member states and passes very important resolutions, its members often follow the diktats of the powerful nations on which they depend financially.

The GA has no power. The latter lies in the self-given authority of the five permanent members of the Security Council (U.S.,UK, France, Russia, China), the only ones in possession of the very arbitrary and very powerful veto.

The astonishing number of resolutions passed by the GA regarding Israel have had no effect whatsoever and have invariably been blocked by the US at the Security Council (SC).

In his historic speech at the UN in 2009, which the New York Times unfairly qualified as “rambling”, the late Muammar Gaddafi rightfully and virulently criticized the unjust and contradictory nature of the UN:

The Preamble is very appealing, and no one objects to it, but all the provisions that follow it completely contradict the Preamble. We reject such provisions, and we will never uphold them; they ended with the Second World War. The Preamble says that all nations, small or large, are equal. Are we equal when it comes to the permanent seats? No, we are not equal.

[…] Do we have the right of veto? Are we equal? The Preamble says that we have equal rights, whether we are large or small.

That is what is stated and what we agreed in the Preamble. So the veto contradicts the Charter. The permanent seats contradict the Charter. We neither accept nor recognize the veto.

The Preamble of the Charter states that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest. That is the Preamble that we agreed to and signed, and we joined the United Nations because we wanted the Charter to reflect that. It says that armed force shall only be used in the common interest of all nations, but what has happened since then? Sixty-five wars have broken out since the establishment of the United Nations and the Security Council — 65 since their creation, with millions more victims than in the Second World War. Are those wars, and the aggression and force that were used in those 65 wars, in the common interest of us all? No, they were in the interest of one or three or four countries, but not of all nations. (Muammar Gaddafi cited in Who is Muammar Al-Qadhafi: Read his Speech to the UN General Assembly, Global Research, March 23, 2011)

It is worth noting that the Libyan leader was killed during the 2012 NATO military invasion, which had been been approved by the Security Council. Three of the SC”s permanent members namely the U.S., the UK and France, participated in this NATO led invasion.

According to Mahmoud Jibril, Libya’s interim Prime Minister during the Western-backed armed insurrection in 2011, Gaddafi was killed by a French intelligence operative “acting under direct instructions of the French government”.

French President “Sarkozy was eager to prevent the possibility of Gaddafi standing trial, particularly after the Libyan leader had threatened to expose his alleged financial dealings with the French President”. (Joseph Fitsanakis, Did French intelligence agent kill Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi?, intelNews.org, October 2, 2012.)

These allegations are not surprising since France played a leading role in the invasion of Libya.

Was the war on Libya, like the other wars Gaddafi mentioned, “in the common interest of us all” or “in the interest of one or three or four countries”?

Libya was invaded and its leader killed for many reasons, all of which were of financial and geostrategic nature. Mahdi Nazemroaya explains how only a few nations, most of all the U.S., control the UN:

The manipulation of the United Nations for imperialist interests, […] goes back a long way. From its inception, the United Nations was meant to facilitate the global influence of the US after the Second World War. [...]

The UN was used as a tool to control most these former Western European and American colonies of the Third World. At first the US and its post-war allies maintained their domination over the newly formed UN and the former colonies through their numbers and then through a Western Bloc monopoly over the structures of the United Nations. Hereto this monopoly includes control over the agencies and permanent veto-wielding chairs of the fifteen-member Security Council of the United Nations.

The Security Council above all has been used by the US as a means of protecting its interests. The purpose of the Security Council veto is to reject any international resolutions and consensuses against the national interests (or more precisely the interests of the ruling elites) of the US and the other major post-World War II powers [...]

As the Western Bloc began to lose its numerical advantage, control over the Secretariat would be maintained through the Security Council. The UN Security Council does this by filtering all the candidates for the top UN post in the Secretariat. Secretaries-general of the UN are appointed by the UN General Assembly based on the recommendation of the UN Security Council. Thus, the US and other permanent members of the Security Council have vetoes that can eliminate any candidates that would be hostile to their interests. (Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, America’s Takeover of the United Nations, Press TV 3 September 2012.)

The selection process of the UN Secretary-General reveals why those in office espouse concepts such as the so-called “responsibility to protect” (R2P), which actually refers to “military invasion”, and why they fail to act as “spokesm[e]n for the interests of the world’s peoples, in particular the poor and vulnerable among them”, as their position requires. If R2P had been drafted with genuine intent, it would have been invoked to protect Palestinians against the permanent Israeli aggression. Under Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretariat has rather endorsed Israeli agressions and approved the illegal blockade of Gaza. Kofi Annan was “an enabler of ‘responsibility to protect’” and Ban Ki-moon its “executioner”, Nazemroaya argues.

In regards to both Libya and Syria, Ban Ki-moon has followed the US and NATO script for R2P and regime change. When a major propaganda effort was launched against Syria following the Houla Massacre, Ban Ki-moon and other UN officials quickly followed the US line and condemned Damascus at a special session of the UN General Assembly in New York City. (Ibid.)

Ronda Hauben details the “mysterious process” by which the Security Council was able to influence the way the UN investigation on the Houla massacre was conducted and how a one-sided version of the events supporting the Western propaganda prevailed:

By a rather mysterious process, the Security Council’s request that an investigation of the Houla massacre, which was to be carried out with the involvement of UNSMIS, was shifted to a significantly different process that was carried out by the Human Rights Council and the Commission of Inquiry it created, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (hereafter CoI). How this shift happened and the significance of this change, merit serious consideration by those who are concerned about the role the UN is playing in the conflict in Syria [...]

Major-General Robert Mood, head of UNSMIS, [...] said that UNSMIS had been to Houla with an investigating team [...] They interviewed locals who told one story. They interviewed locals who told another story. But the circumstances leading up to Houla, the detailed circumstances, the facts related to the incident still remained unclear to the UNSMIS investigators. This led General Mood to say that if there was a decision to support a more extensive on the ground investigation, UNSMIS could help to facilitate it.

In his June 15 press briefing, General Mood said the UNSMIS Report on Houla included statements and interviews with locals with one story and statements and interviews with locals with another story. The August Report of the CoI tells only one story and claims that they either do not have other information or that any other information they know of is inconsistent, so that they have accepted that there is only one story. The Reports that the CoI produced had no on-site interviews or statements, but only telephone or Skype interviews with insurgents or those supporting the account of Houla presented by the armed insurgents. (Ronda Hauben, US-NATO Sponsored Crimes against Humanity in Syria. Coverup by UN Human Rights Council, taz.de,November 28, 2012)

Of all 297 UNSMIS international unarmed military observers on the groundto monitor a cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties“, none were from the US. The conditions of the UNSMIS mandate were set by the Security Council, which decided on July 20, 2012 it would allow the mission to be extended only if it confirmed “the cessation of the use of heavy weapons and a reduction in the level of violence sufficient by all sides”. The US must have known those conditions would be impossible to meet since it had itself been providing the rebels with heavy weaponry and contributing to the violence. Even The New York Times ran a story on the CIA arming Syrian rebels on June 21. The UNSMIS mandate was ended on August 19. If the US was not part of the UNSMIS, it was and still is, on the other hand, a member the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). The US possibly used its influent position at the Security Council to request that the HRC takes over the Houla massacre investigation, where it could play a part in its findings and align them with its war agenda.

[T]he US was elected to a second three-year term on the 47-member United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC). President Bush boycotted the HRC for criticizing Israel too much, but Obama joined in 2010 to ‘improve’ it. US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice welcomed Washington’s re-election this week, saying that the HRC “has delivered real results”, citing its criticism of Syria, though she criticized the rights council’s continued “excessive and unbalanced focus on Israel”. (Eric Walberg, Human Rights: the People vs the UN, November 18, 2012.)

While it should be the guardian and promoter of international law, the UN has shown several times it acts on behalf of the powerful against the powerless. NATO has been manipulating the UN to legitimize its brutal neo-colonial designs and international law is being used in a very selective manner by imperial powers. James Petras explains:

Imperial law supersedes international law simply because imperial law is backed by brute force; it possesses imperial/colonial air, ground and naval armed forces to ensure the supremacy of imperial law.  In contrast, international law lacks an effective enforcement mechanism.

Moreover, international law, to the extent that it is effective, is applied only to the weaker powers and to regimes designated by the imperial powers as ‘violators’. [T]he application and jurisdiction of international law is selective and subject to constraints imposed by the configurations of imperial and national power [...]

To counter the claims and judgments pertaining to international law, especially in the area of theGenevaprotocols such as war crimes and crimes against humanity, imperial legal experts, scholars and judges have elaborated a legal framework to justify or exempt imperial-state activity [...]

This does not imply that imperial rulers totally discard international law: they just apply it selectively to their adversaries, especially against independent nations and rulers, in order to justify imperial intervention and aggression – Hence the ‘legal bases’ for dismantlingYugoslaviaor invadingIraqand assassinating its rulers [...]

Imperial legal doctrine has played a central role in justifying and providing a basis for the exercise of international terrorism.  Executives, such as US Presidents Bush and Obama, have been provided with the legal power to undertake cross-national ‘targeted’ assassinations of opponents using predator drones and ordering military intervention, in clear violation of international law and national sovereignty.  Imperial law, above all else, ‘legalizes’ aggression and economic pillage and undermines the laws of targeted countries, creating lawlessness and chaos among its victims. (James Petras“Legal Imperialism” and International Law: Legal Foundations for War Crimes, Debt Collection and Colonization,December 03, 2012)

On behalf of four men, Canadian and American lawyers recently filed a complaint against Canada with the United Nations Committee against Torture, because the Canadian authorities failed to prosecute George W. Bush during his visit to the country. Considering its strong economic, diplomatic and military ties to the U.S, such a move was not expected from Canada and its inaction demonstrates yet again how the U.S.’ imperial law overcomes international law.

As a signatory to the Convention against Torture, Canada has an obligation to investigate and prosecute a torture suspect on its soil. This is the first time a complaint concerning torture allegations against a high-level U.S. official has been filed with the U.N. Committee. The Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ) and the U.S.-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed the complaint on the men’s behalf.

“Canada has the jurisdiction and the obligation to prosecute a torture suspect present in Canada, including a former head of state, and even one from a powerful country,” said Matt Eisenbrandt, CCIJ’s Legal Director. “Canada’s failure to conduct a criminal investigation and prosecution against Mr. Bush when there was overwhelming evidence against him constitutes a clear violation of its international obligations and its own policy not to be a safe haven for torturers.” (Lawyers against the War, Survivors File U.N. Complaint Against Canada for Failing to Prosecute George W. Bush for Torture The Canadian Centre for International Justice, November 14, 2012.)

Global Research offers its readers a list of selected articles on this very important issue. For more in-depth analysis, visit our archives United Nations and Law and Justice.

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SELECTED ARTICLES

Who is Muammar Al-Qadhafi: Read his Speech to the UN General Assembly, March 23, 2011

America’s Takeover of the United Nations, Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya,  September 3, 2012

US-NATO Sponsored Crimes against Humanity in Syria. Coverup by UN Human Rights Council, Ronda Hauben, November 28, 2012

Human Rights: the People vs the UN, Eric Walberg, November 18, 2012

“Legal Imperialism” and International Law: Legal Foundations for War Crimes, Debt Collection and Colonization, James Petras, December 03, 2012

Survivors File U.N. Complaint Against Canada for Failing to Prosecute George W. Bush for Torture, Lawyers against the War,  November 14, 2012

Hamas Shouldn’t Fire Rockets … But Israel Has Violated HUNDREDS of UN Resolutions, Washington’s Blog, November 20, 2012 

UN General Assembly Vote On Syria: World Gone Unipolar – And Mad, Rick Rozoff, August 06, 2012

Canada’s Vote Opposing UN Recognition of Palestine. Quebec’s Motion to Recognize Palestine Statehood, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, December 05, 2012

UN Vote on Palestine, Stephen Lendman, December 01, 2012

UNESCO Human Rights Conference Honoring Israel’s President Shimon Peres. Four of Five Speakers Pull Out, Ali Abunimah, October 24, 2012

Boycott and Chaos at the United Nations in Geneva: Who Committed War Crimes in Iraq? Dirk Adriaensens, October 03, 2012

The UN and General Mood’s “Missing Report” on Conflicting Accounts of Houla Massacre, Ronda Hauben, September 11, 2012

UN Envoy Brahimi bears Poison Chalice to Syria, Finian Cunningham, September 10, 2012

NAM Summit: Ban Ki-Moon in disgraceful show of US puppetry, Finian Cunningham, August 30, 2012

Can the US and its Allies arbitrarily Violate International Law?, Rick Rozoff and John Robles, August 17, 2012

Terrorism as an Instrument of US Foreign Policy: UN-Backed Rogue States Plan Syria’s Slaughter, Felicity Arbuthnot, August 11, 2012


Articles by: Julie Lévesque

About the author:

Julie Lévesque is a journalist and researcher with the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), Montreal. She was among the first independent journalists to visit Haiti in the wake of the January 2010 earthquake. In 2011, she was on board "The Spirit of Rachel Corrie", the only humanitarian vessel which penetrated Gaza territorial waters before being shot at by the Israeli Navy.

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