US Above The Law

FFF | President Bush has been making a big hullabaloo over the fact that the Iraqi regime has not signed on to an agreement that would authorize U.S. forces to remain in Iraq after December 31. Bush says that if an agreement is not signed between him and the Iraqi government, he will cease military operations in Iraq, keeping his military forces inside U.S. bases within Iraq. Bush says that “the law” and “Iraqi sovereignty” would require him to do this, even though he has yet to clarify how “the law” and “Iraqi sovereignty” permit him to keep any forces in Iraq, whether inside U.S. bases or not, if there is no agreement signed extending Bush’s occupation of the country.

In any event, apparently “the law” and the concept of “sovereignty” don’t apply to Syria and Pakistan. Those are two independent countries that Bush’s military forces have recently attacked, killing scores of Pakistanis and Syrians.

Bush says that “the law of self-defense” authorizes his military attacks against these two sovereign and independent countries. He says that people who are trying to evict Bush’s forces from Iraq are using these two countries as bases of operations.

There is at least one big problem, however, with Bush’s interpretation of “the law”: In Iraq Bush is the aggressor – the attacker – not the defender. Iraq is the defender. Therefore, as the attacker Bush is precluded from claiming self-defense when the defender attempts to defend itself.

Assume that an armed robber shoots at you. You have the right of self-defense. You have the right to fire back at the robber. When you fire back, the law does not entitle the robber to claim “self-defense” when he fires at you again. Since he was the one who initiated the attack, only his victim has the right of self-defense.

The principle is no different with respect to nations. Neither the Iraqi government nor the Iraqi people ever attacked the United States. Instead, Bush and his army attacked Iraq. That makes the U.S. the attacker, the aggressor. Iraq is the defender.

Was Bush’s attack legal? Of course not. For one thing, wars of aggression were punished as war crimes at Nuremberg. Second, Bush never secured a congressional declaration of war, which the U.S. Constitution requires. That makes Bush’s war on Iraq illegal under our form of government. Third, the UN Charter, to which the U.S. is a signatory, makes attacks on other countries illegal.

Thus, since Bush attacked Iraq, only Iraq can claim self-defense, not Bush. Moreover, the principle is the same with respect to Bush’s recent attacks on Syria and Pakistan. Not only is Bush’s violation of the sovereignty of those nations as illegal as when he violated Iraqi sovereignty with his initial invasion, Bush’s self-defense justification is as faulty and fallacious as an armed robber’s claim that he was defending himself from his victim’s attempt to defend himself.

The fact is that the Bush regime is going to do whatever it wants to do. In Bush’s mind, whatever he does is legal and moral because it’s all for “freedom” or in accordance with some plan of God. Thus, all the hullabaloo about the necessity for the Iraqis to sign an agreement extending Bush’s occupation of the country is just smokescreen. Bush obviously wants a cover for his continued occupation of the country. But if the Iraqi regime fails to sign an agreement by the December 31 deadline, that’s not going to stop Bush from employing his army any way he wants. That’s what he’s doing with Syria and Pakistan, and that’s what he will continue doing with Iraq. And it will all be legal, agreement or no agreement, because in Bush’s mind whatever the U.S. government does is automatically legal.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. Send him email