Attacking Syria

18 Apr

Attacking Syria

 

[Prefatory Note: This post is an assessment of the recent Syrian missile attack by the armed forces of the U.S., UK, and France from a variety of perspectives. It is a modified and expanded version of a text earlier published in The Wire  (Delhi) and Il Manifesto(Rome). I intend to write two further posts suggested by the controversy generated by the airstrikes of April 14, 2018 against sites associated with Syria’s alleged chemical weapons capabilities. These strikes raise questions of international law, domestic constitutional authorization for international uses of force, strategic logic, and moral imperatives and rationalizations. Each of these issues is capable of multiple interpretations raising further concerns about the appropriate location of the authority to decide given the nature of world order in the 21stcentury.]

 

 

Preliminary Reflections

 

At this stage it seems reasonable to wonder whether Syria was attacked because it didn’tuse chemical weapons rather than because it did. That may seem strange until we remember rather weighty suspicions surrounding the main accusers, especially the White Helmets with their long standing links to the U.S. Government, and past skepticism about their inflammatory accusations that critics claim reflect fabricated evidence conveniently available at crisis moments.

 

A second irreverent puzzle is whether the dominant motive for the attack was not really about what was happening in Syria, but rather what was nothappening in the domestic politics of the attacking countries. Every student of world politics knows that when the leadership of strong states feel stressed or cornered, they look outside their borders for enemies to blame and slay, counting on transcendent feelings of national pride and patriotic unity associated with international displays of military prowess to distract the discontented folks at home, at least for awhile. All three leaders of the attacking coalition were beset by rather severe tremors of domestic discontent, making attractive the occasion for a cheap shot at Syria at the expense of international law and the UN, just to strike a responsive populist chord with their own citizenry—above all, to show the world that the West remains willing and able to strike violently at Islamic countries without fearing retaliation. Beleaguered Trump, unpopular Macron, and post-Brexit May all have low approval ratings among their own voters, and seem in free fall as leaders making them particularly dangerous internationally.

 

Of course, this last point requires clarification, and some qualification to explain the strictly limited nature of the military strike. Although the attackers wanted to claim the high moral ground as defenders of civilized limits on military actions in wartime, itself an oxymoron, they wanted even more crucially (and sensibly) to avoid escalation, carrying risks of a dangerous military encounter with Russia, and possibly Iran. As Syrian pro-interventionists have angrily pointed out in their disappointment, the attack was more in the nature of a gesture than a credible effort to influence the future behavior of the Bashar al-Assad government, much less tip the balance in the Syrian struggle against the government. As such, it strengthens the argument of those who interpret the attack as more about domestic crises of legitimacy unfolding in these illiberal democraciesthan it is about any reshaping of the Syrian ordeal, or a commitment to upholding the Chemical Weapons Convention.

 

A third line of interpretation insisting that what was said in public by the leaders and representatives of the three attacking Western powers was not the real reason that the attack was undertaken. In this optic, it is pressure from Israel to mute President Trump’s feared slide toward disengagement from Syria as a prelude to a wider strategic withdrawal from the Middle East as a whole, a region that Trump in his speech justifying the attack calls ‘troubled’ beyond the capacity of the United States to fix. At least temporarily, from Israel’s point of view, the air strikes sent a signal to Moscow that the United States was not ready to accept Syria becoming a geopolitical pawn of Russia and Iran. Supposedly, the Netanyahu entourage, although pleased by the Jerusalem move, the challenge to the Iran Nuclear Agreement, and silence about the IDF lethal responses to the Gaza Great Return March, have new worries that when it comes to regional belligerence and overall military engagement, Trump will be no more help than Obama, who quite irrationally became their nightmare American president.

 

And if that is not enough to ponder, consider that Iraq was savagely attacked in 2003 by a U.S./UK coalition under similar circumstances, that is, without either an international law justification or authorization by the UN Security Council, the only two ways that international force can be lawfully employed, and even then only as a last resort after sanctions and diplomatic avenues have been tried and failed. It turned out that the political rationale for recourse to aggressive war against Iraq, its alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction was totally false, either building the case for war on the elaborately orchestrated presentation of false evidence or more generously, as awkwardly victimized by a hugely embarrassing intelligence lapse.

 

To be fair, this Syrian military caper could have turned out far worse from the perspective of world peace and regional security. The 105 missile attack war over in 3 minutes, no civilian casualties have been reported, and thankfully, any challenge to the Russian and Iranian military presence in Syria was deliberately excluded from the targeting plan, or to the Syrian government, thus taking precautions to avoidT setting in motion the rightly feared retaliation and escalation cycle. This was not an idle worry. More than at any time since the end of the Cold War sober concerns abounded preceding the attack that a clash of political wills or an accidental targeting mistake could cause geopolitical stumbles culminating in World War III.

 

Historically minded observers pointed out alarming parallels with the confusions and exaggerated responses that led directly to the prolonged horror of World War I. The relevant restraint of the April 14thmissile attacks seems to be the work of the Pentagon, and certainly not the hawk-infested White House. Military planners designed the attack to minimize risks of escalation, and possibly even reaching behind the scenes an undisclosed negotiated understanding with the Russians. In effect, Trump’s red line on chemical weapons was supposedly defended, and redrawn at the UN as a warning to Damascus, but as suggested above this was the public face of the attack, not its principal motivations, which remain unacknowledged.

 

 

Doubting the Facts

 

Yet can we be sure at this stage that at least the factual basis of this aggressive move accurately portrayed Syria as having launched a lethal chlorine and likely nerve gas attack on the people of Douma, killing at least 40? On the basis of available evidence, the facts have not yet been established beyond reasonable doubt. We have been fooled too often in the past by the confident claims of the intelligence services working for these same countries that sent this last wave of missiles to Syria. International maneuvering for instant support of a punitive response to Douma seemed a rush to judgment amid an array of strident, yet credible, voices of doubt, including from UN sources. The most cynical observers are suggesting that the timing of the attack, if not its real purpose other than the vindication of Trump’s red line, is to destroy evidence that might incriminate others than the Syrian government as the responsible party. Such suspicions are fueled by the refusal to wait until the factual claims could be validated. As matters stand, the airstrike seem hastened to make sure that the respected Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), when finally carrying out its fact finding mission would have nothing to find.

 

To allay reactions that these are ideologically driven criticisms, it is notable that the Wall Street Journal, never a voice for peace and moderation, put forward its view that it was not “clear who carried out the attack” on Douma, a view shared by several mainstream media outlets including the Associated Press. Blaming Syria, much less attacking, was definitely premature, and quite possibly altogether false, undermining the essential factual foundation of the coalition claim without even reaching the formidable doubts associated with issues of the unlawfulness and illegitimacy of an international use of non-defensive force without authorization by the United Nations.

 

 

Remnants of Colonialism

 

Less noticed, but starkly relevant, is the intriguing reality that the identity of the three states responsible for this aggressive act share strong colonialist credentials that expose the deep roots of the turmoil afflicting in different ways the entire Middle East. It is relevant to recall that it was British and French colonial ambitions in 1916 that established the blueprint for carving up the collapsed Ottoman Empire, imposing artificial political communities with borders reflecting European priorities not natural affinities, and taking no account of the preferences of the resident population. This colonial plot foiled Woodrow Wilson’s more positive proposal to implement self-determination based on affinities of ethnicity, tradition, and religion of those formerly living under Ottoman rule.

 

The United States fully supplanted this colonial duopoly as the colonial sun was setting around the world, especially after the Europeans faltered in the 1956 Suez Crisis. At the same time the U.S. quickly made its own heavy footprint known, feared, and resented throughout the region with an updated imperial agenda featuring Soviet containment, oil geopolitics, and untethered support for Israel. Even earlier in 1953 the Truman Doctrine and CIA support for the overthrow of the democratically elected and nationalist government of Mohammad Mosaddegh disclosed the extent of U.S. involvement in the region.  These strategic priorities were later supplemented by worries after 1979 about the spread of Islam and fears after 2001 that nuclear weaponry could fall into the wrong political hands. After a century of exploitation, intervention, and betrayal by the West, it should come as no surprise that anti-Western extremist movements have surfaced throughout the Arab World, and engendered some populist sympathies despite their barbaric tactics.

 

 

 

Violating International Law, Undermining the UN

 

It is helpful to recall the Kosovo War (1999) and the Libyan War (2011), both managed as NATO operations carried out in defiance of international law and the UN Charter. Because of an anticipated Russian veto, NATO, with strong regional backing in Europe launched a punishing air attack that drove Serbia out of Kosovo. Despite the presence of a strong case for humanitarian intervention within the Kosovo context it set a dangerous precedent, which advocates of a regime-changing intervention in Iraq found convenient to invoke a few years later. In effect the U.S. found itself backed into insisting on an absurd position, to the effect, that the veto should be respected without any questioning when the West uses it, most arbitrarily and frequently to protect Israel from much more trivial, yet justifiable, challenges than what this missile attack on the basic sovereign rights of the internationally legitimate government of Syria signifies.

 

American diplomats do not try to justify, or even explain, their inconsistent attitudes toward the authority of the UN veto, despite the starkness of the contradiction. Perhaps, it is a textbook example of what psychologists call cognitive dissonance. More accessibly, it is a prime instance of a continued reliance on the benefits of American exceptionalism. As the self-anointed guarantor of virtue and perpetual innocence in world politics the United States is not bound by the rules and standards by which its leaders judge the conduct of others, especially adversaries.

 

As a personal aside, with some apologies owed, I was the main author of the section of the report in my role as a member of the Independent International Commission on Kosovo, which put forth the rationale of ‘illegal but legitimate’ with respect to the Kosovo intervention. I had misgivings at the time, but was swayed by the shadow of Srebrenica and the difficulties of finding a consensus among the members of the Commission to put forth this line of argument, qualified to an extent in the text of the report, by invoking the exceptional facts and expressing what turned out to be the vain hope that the UNSC would itself create greater flexibility in responding to humanitarian crises of this kind and overcome what seemed at the time giving credibility to a pattern of justification for war making that could in the future be twisted out of shape by geopolitical opportunism. My fears have been realized, and I would now be very reluctant to endorse my own formulations that seemed, on balance the right way to go back in the year 2000. Now I lose sleep whenever I recall that I was responsible for what has become an insidious conceptual innovation, ‘illegal but legitimate,’ which in unscrupulous geopolitical hands operates as an ‘open Sesame’ rendering irrelevant Charter constraints.

 

The Libyan precedent is also relevant, although in a different way, to the marginalization of the UN and international law to which this latest Syrian action is a grim addition. Because the people of the Libyan city of Benghazi truly faced an imminent humanitarian emergency in March of 2011 the argument for lending UN protection seemed strong. Russia and China, permanent members of the UNSC, and other skeptical members, were persuaded to suspend their suspicions about Western motives and abstained from a resolution specifically authorizing the establishment of a No Fly Zone to protect Benghazi. It didn’t take long to disabuse Russia and China, mocking their trust in assurances by the NATO states that their objective were limited and strictly humanitarian. They were quickly shocked into the realization that actual NATO mission in Libya was regime change, not humanitarian relief. In other words, these same Western powers who are currently claiming at the UN that international law is on their side with regard to Syria, have themselves a terrible record of flouting and manipulating UN authority whenever convenient and insisting on their full panoply of obstructive rights under the Charter when Israel’s wrongdoing is under review.

 

Ambassador Nikki Haley, Trump’s flamethrower at the UN, arrogantly reminded members of the Security Council that the U.S. would carry out a military strike against Syria whether or not  it was permitted by the Organization. In effect, even the veto as a shield is not sufficient to quench Washington’s geopolitical thirst. It also claims the disruptive option of the sword of American exceptionalism to circumvent the veto when it anticipates being blocked by the veto of an adversary. Such duplicity with respect to legal procedures at the UN puts the world back on square one when it comes to restraining the international use of force by geopolitical actors. Imagine the indignation that the U.S. would muster if Russia or China proposed at the Security Council a long overdue peacekeeping (R2P) mission to protect the multiply abused population of Gaza. And if these countries went further, and had the geopolitical gall to act outside the UN because of an expected veto by NATO members of the Security Council and the urgency of the humanitarian justification, the world would almost certainly experience the bitter taste of apocalyptic warfare.

 

 

The Charter Framework is Not Obsolete

 

The Charter framework makes as much sense, or more, than when crafted in 1945. Recourse to force is only permissible as an act of self-defense against a prior armed attack, and then only until the Security Council has time to act. In non-defensive situations, such as the Syrian case, the Charter makes clear beyond reasonable doubt that the Security Council alone possesses the authority to mandate the use of force, including even in response to an ongoing humanitarian emergency. The breakthrough idea in the Charter is to limit as much as language can, discretion by states to decide on their own when to have recourse to acts of war. Syria is the latest indication that this hopeful idea has been crudely cast in the geopolitical wastebasket.

 

It will be up to the multitudes to challenge these developments, and use their mobilized influence to reverse the decline of international law and the authority of the UN. Most members of the UN are themselves so beholden to the realist premises of the system that they will never do more than squawk from time to time.

 

Ending Trump’s boastful tweet about the Syrian airstrike with the words ‘mission accomplished’ unwittingly reminds us of the time in 2003 when the same phrase was on a banner behind George W. Bush as he spoke of victory in Iraq from the deck of an aircraft carrier with the sun setting behind him. Those words soon came back to haunt Bush, and if Trump were capable of irony, he might have realized that he is likely to endure an even more humbling fate, while lacking Bush’s willingness to later acknowledge his laughable mistake.

 

 

Fudging Constitutional Authorization

 

Each of the attacking countries claims impeccable democratic credentials, except when their effect is to impede war lust. Each purports to give its legislative branch the option of withholding approval for any contemplated recourse to military action, except in the case that the homeland is under attack. Yet here, where there was no attack by Syria and no imminent security threat of any kind each of these governments joined in an internationallyunlawful attack without even bothering to seek domesticlegislative approval, claiming only that the undertaking served the national interest of their governments by enforcing the norms of prohibition contained in the Chemical Weapons Convention.

 

The American attempts to supply flimsy domestic justifications are decisively refuted by two widely respected international jurists, including one, Jack Goldsmith, who was a leading neoconservative legal advisor in the early years of the George W. Bush presidency. [Jack Goldsmith & Oona Hathaway, “Bad Legal Arguments for the Syria Airstrikes,” Lawfare website, Aprile 14, 2018]  Their article rejects arguments based on theAuthorization for the Use of Military Force, which in 2001 gave broad authority to use military force in response to the 9/11 attacks, but has no bearing here as Syria has never been accused of any link. The other legal claim that has been brought forward argues that the airstrikes are expressions of the president’s authority under Article II of the Constitution to serve as Commander in Chief, but any freshman law student knows, or should know, that this authority is available only if the use of force has been previously validated by Congress or is in response to an attack or a plausible argument of the perceived imminence of such an attack. Revealingly, the internal justification for Trump’s authority has not been disclosed as yet, and has been heavily classified, showing once again that government secrets in wartime are not primarily kept to prevent adversaries from finding things out, but as with the Pentagon Papers, are useful mainly to keep Americans in the dark about policies that affect their wellbeing and possibly their survival. It also gives the leadership more space for deception and outright lies.

 

It has been reliably reported that the Trump White House preferred to act without seeking Congressional approval, presumably to uphold the trend toward establishing an ‘executive presidency’ when it comes to war/peace issues, thereby effectively negating a principal objective of the U.S. Constitution to apply the separation of powers doctrine to any recourse to war. This also marginalizes the War Powers Act enacted into law in the aftermath of the Vietnam War in the vain attempt to restore the Constitutional arrangement after a period during which the President arrogated power to wage war and the policy acted upon produced the worst foreign policy failure in all of American history.

 

 

Where Does This Leave Us?

 

There are several levels of response:

 

–with respect to Syria, nothing has changed.

 

–with respect to the UN and international law, a damaging blow was struck.

 

–with respect to constitutionalism, a further move away from respect for separation of powers, thus marginalizing the legislative branch with respect to war/peace policies.

 

–with respect to oppositional politics, citizen protest, and media reactions, an apathetic atmosphere of acquiescence, with debate shifting to questions of purpose and effectiveness without virtually no reference to legality, and quite little, even to legitimacy (that is, moral and political justifications).

 

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22 Responses to “Attacking Syria”

  1. Carlos April 18, 2018 at 11:36 pm #

    We are in uncharteted waters.
    My fear is that the limited influence of the UN
    is under attack,especially by Israel’s
    appointment of Nicki Haley, and that
    the limited influence that the UN has in
    geopolitical spheres, will be further eroded.
    The UN was a beacon of common sense
    but continual attacks on its credibility for
    selfish ie individual country’s purposes,
    will leave the planet much poorer.

    • Mike 71 April 19, 2018 at 10:26 am #

      President Donald Trump appointed Nikki Haley as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., with the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate. While she has vehemently objected to UNESCO’s and UNHRC’s “Israel Bashing,” she was not appointed by the Israeli government, despite the fact that Israel approves of her vigorous advocacy on Israel’s behalf.

      • Sean Breathnach April 20, 2018 at 10:15 am #

        In another forum, I too have said Nikki was the Israeli Ambassador to the UN, only in jest though. One might be forgiven for believing she was indeed representing Israel.

  2. Sean Breathnach April 19, 2018 at 3:55 am #

    Dear Professor, I most heartily agree with your analysis of the Airstrikes on Syria by the US, UK and France.

    My mind is drawn back to the Iran-Iraq war 1980/88, when Iraq was guilty of using chemical weapons, mainly supplied by the US. During this war, Iraq was a friend of the US, so the conclusion has to be, that it’s okay to use chemical weapons if you have the US on your side. By the same token, Israel is committing atrocities against the Palestinians with impunity, backed by the US. Hypocrisy comes to mind.

    I’m afraid that the UN is toothless in dealing with acts of war, if Resolutions put forward to solve these conflicts, agreed by a majority of members on the security council but vetoed by just one member are rejected.

    • Richard Falk April 19, 2018 at 4:48 am #

      I completely agree with your comment. I tried to call attention to this
      outrageous reliance on double standards by reference to U.S. contradictory
      attitudes toward the use of the veto and by its self-serving belief in
      American exceptionalism.

  3. ray032 April 19, 2018 at 1:36 pm #

    Richard, my main venue for discussing current events daily, especially relevant to the Syrian WORLD WAR, is THE WASHINGTON POST. Fake News propagates it as a “Civil” War. ALL WARS are the total abandonment of any notion of Civility when the the animal-beast in Humankind is loosened upon the World.

    In so many articles in the last weeks, I have been arguing essentially the same ideas and concepts you present here with words not as elegant as your Professorial style. It’s not appreciated by most of the other commentators.

    I appreciate your confession of being the prime mover of the ‘illegal but legitimate’ concept of Responsibility 2 Protect and the difficulty of reaching consensus with the Independent International Commission on Kosovo.

    I can only imagine how you must feel from Time to Time, seeing how the US and the West has perverted the Principle in the effort to maintain Global Dominance economically, militarily and politically.

    Reading that paragraph reminded me you may have had a ‘Micaiah moment’ I refer to in your April 7 article, ‘Will Democracy Survive?’ I did hope the bare bones way I wrote the comment had enough info that would make others curious enough to follow the link. According to my WordPress Stats, only 2 people did. I assume you’re one.

    Micaiah the Prophet lived around 3000 years ago. Here’s how the Biblical record of that 1 Day in his life starts in 1 Kings 22. Not much has changed in the 3000 years.

    And they continued three years without war between Syria and Israel.
    And it came to pass in the third year, that Jehoshaphat the king of Judah came down to the king of Israel.
    And the king of Israel said to his servants, Know ye that Ramoth in Gilead is ours, and we be still, and don’t take it out of the hand of the king of Syria? […] And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, Inquire, I pray thee, at the word of the LORD to day.
    Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said to them, Shall I go against Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I forbear?
    And they said, Go up; for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king

    They had reached consensus. The king of Judah was suspect of the consensus, asking if there were all the Prophets in Israel? The king of Israel said there was 1 more, but ‘I hate him, because he always prophesied against me.’

    Guards were sent to find Micaiah and bring him to appear before the kings. He was told all the other Prophets reached consensus, so don’t rock the boat, and go along with them in telling the kings the Lord will give them victory in battle.

    So he came to the king. And the king said to him, Micaiah, shall we go against Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall we forbear? And he answered him, Go, and prosper: for the LORD shall deliver it into the hand of the king.
    And the king said to him, How many times shall I adjure you that you tell me nothing but that which is true in the name of the LORD?

    Micaiah changed the story after that, telling the king, Therefore hear the word of the LORD; I saw the LORD sitting upon his throne, and all the host of heaven standing on his right hand and on his left.
    And the LORD said, Who shall entice Ahab king of Israel, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?

    The king of Israel discarded his royal robes and chariot, entering the battle incognito, and was killed.

    Before the Battle, the king ordered “Place this one in prison, and feed him a scant amount of bread and a scant amount of water until I come back in peace.’ ”
    Micaiah said: “If you will return in peace, the Lord did not speak to me.” And he said, “ALL the nations listen.” The Bible doesn’t say what happened to Micaiah after that day.

    In another vein, as a Jurist, you will be interested in reading the speech Canadian Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella delivered at the Hebrew University’s Minerva Center for Human Rights, April 9, 2018.

    In a strongly nuanced way, she is criticizing the Zionist attempt to make the Israeli Supreme Court subject to the prevailing political attitudes. Some excerpts of the excerpts of her speech.

    “When an independent judiciary is under siege, democracy is under siege, and when democracy is under siege, a country’s soul is being held hostage

    What is most alarming to me about this ongoing attempt to delegitimize the reputation of the judiciary is that it is being done in the name of patriotism. This, to me, seems somewhat perverse. Patriotism means upholding the values on which your country is based. Those values in Israel are Jewish and democratic. They include respect for human rights, tolerance, equality, and dignity. That is what being patriotic means. Yet in championing those values, the Israeli judiciary finds itself demonized by some for being independent from political expedience and immune to political will.

    Those critics who think patriotism means doing only what politicians want are the biggest threat to Israel’s values, because they misconceive democracy as majoritarian rule

    Independent judges who are not politically compliant are not anti-democratic, they are doing their job; those critics, on the other hand, who think patriotism means doing only what politicians want are the biggest threat to Israel’s values, because they misconceive democracy as majoritarian rule…….”

    https://www.timesofisrael.com/without-an-independent-judiciary-israels-cherished-democracy-will-be-at-risk/

    .

  4. Mike 71 April 19, 2018 at 4:07 pm #

    From the Associated Press, April 19, 2018: “Assailants in Syria’s Douma shoot at U.N. Security Team”

    BEIRUT: Assailants opened fire at the U.N. security team visiting the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria, an official said Wednesday, forcing it to retreat to its base and further delaying a fact-finding missioon. by outside experts to examine the claims.

    Gunmen shot at the U.N. team in Douma on Tuesday and detonated an explosive, leading it to return to Damascus, said the head of the international chemical weapons watchdog, Ahmet Uzumcu. He did not identify the assailants.

    Inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons have been waiting since Saturday to visit Douma, the site of the alleged April 7 attack. They were initially blocked by the Syrian government and its ally Russia, on Monday.

    The advance security team from the U.N. came under fire Tuesday, compounding the delays. The OPCW inspectors have not yet been able to visit the site and Uzumcu did not say when they would deploy.

    The United Nations said more security measures were needed before the inspectors could go in.

    “There’s still a lot of volatility in the area,” U.N. spokesman. Stephane Dujjaric said, adding that the U.N. security team needed to make at least another visit before the fact-finding mission could go ahead.

    The town is under the protection of Russia’s military police. The Russian military said a Syrian employee was slightly wounded in the cross-fire Tuesday.

    Journalists visiting Douma on a government sponsored tour Monday did not report any security threats. The Associated Press met with residents who said they were overwhelmed with chlorine fumes on. the night of the alleged attack and lost their loved ones.

    With 11 days now having passed, concerns are growing that evidence could fall prey to tampering or be otherwise compromised.

    In response the opposition’s Syrian. Civil Defense, whose first responders were operating in Douma on the night of the alleged attack, gave the chemical weapons watchdog the location of victim’s graves so it could salvage evidence, said the group’s chief, Rated Sales.

    Russia and the Syrian government have denied responsibility for the alleged attack, which took place during a government assault on the then rebel held town. The Army of Islam surrendered Douma two days later.

    Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Wednesday that the evidence was at risk of being tampered with as the delays dragged on.

    “We are very much aware of the delay that the regime imposed on that delegation,” Mattis said. “But we also are very much aware of how they have operated in the past. In other words, using the pause after a strike like that tottery to clean up the evidence before the investigation team gets in.”

    • ray032 April 20, 2018 at 5:00 am #

      ‘Truth is the 1st casualty of War’ is still True in the Syrian WORLD WAR planned by the US just WEEKS after 9/11. Changing the governments of Iraq, Libya, and at THE END, Iran, were also part of that 2001 US WAR PLAN.

      Trump made it clear he will be following that 2001 US WAR PLAN by going after Iran. Bringing the Bolton/Pompeo AXIS of WAR on board confirms that.

      This article was posted online 6 years ago,. The title is being proved True to this Day.

      SYRIA: A WITCH’S BREW – ON THE ROAD TO TEHRAN
      https://ray032.com/2012/02/27/syria-a-witchs-brew-on-the-road-to-tehran/

      • Mike 71 April 20, 2018 at 6:26 pm #

        The point here, Ray, is that both the Syrian regime and its Russian and Iranian allies are doing everything they can to prevent the OPCW from documenting the use of chemical weapons in Douma. The use of chemical weapons has been banned and defined as a War Crime since World War I.

      • Richard Falk April 20, 2018 at 9:05 pm #

        Please note prior response. The world is not ready for world government, and here the question is not about
        the CW but whether sovereign states should circumvent the veto and the Charter restrictions on the use of force
        to act as enforces, especially as here where the facts have not been confirmed objectively.

      • Mike 71 April 21, 2018 at 8:19 pm #

        Perhaps, the time is right for “vigilantism” to enforce International Law. What alternative is there to enforce the long established ban on the use of chemical weapons in warfare? The concept of the “Responsibility to Protect (R2P),” supposedly condemned within the International Community (U.N.), was likewise disparaged by the U.S. when it condemned Vietnam’s 1979 invasion of Cambodia to overthrow the genocidal Khymer Rouge regime. Had the Vietnamese, or someone else acted earlier, the genocide of over 2 million Cambodians could have been mitigated.

      • Richard Falk April 22, 2018 at 12:52 pm #

        There are competing candidates for vigilantism, including with respect
        to Israel/Palestine.

      • ray032 April 21, 2018 at 4:53 am #

        Mike, the latest information I have seen is this:

        Attempts by chemical weapons experts to enter Syria’s Douma to examine the site of a suspected gas attack appear to be at a standstill .

        International frustration is growing at the delays in allowing the investigators from the OPCW to gain access to the suspected site.

        Despite being told by Syria on Wednesday (April 18) that they would be allowed into Douma, an advance UN security team came under fire, preventing the visit.

        The OPCW inspectors are held up by the United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) which has a say about any movement of UN aligned organizations in areas that might be dangerous. The UNDSS is led by an Australian police / intelligence officer. The holdup seems to be intended.

        Who was firing on the UN advance Security Team is the question?

  5. Dr Dayan Jayatilleka April 21, 2018 at 1:10 am #

    An excellent piece, Richard, reinforced by your self critical retrospective about Kosovo 1999. That was a turning point in Russian consciousness and Putin still refers to it.

  6. louisproyect April 21, 2018 at 5:48 am #

    Sad to see someone with as distinguished past as Falk repeating the typical Assadist propaganda about the White Helmets.

    • Richard Falk April 21, 2018 at 12:46 pm #

      I have tried to find the truth, and yet I encounter lots of well-evidenced
      suspicion from those with no ideological bias as far as I can tell. It is a
      very complex, confused reality..

      • down with the propagandists and zionism April 22, 2018 at 1:07 pm #

        Mr. Falk,

        You must know the CIA propagandists, in the service of the zionism, who pose as ‘left’ which is laughable. You should NOT post this person, propagandist of the criminal intelligence services and Mossad in your blog. They have ALL the platforms and the UN, ICC, and more ‘international’ organizations in their pocket to spread lies and deceptions.

        NO ONE is learning anything from these criminal propagandists, because they just repeat the lies of CIA-Mossad-MI6 to fool the public. Do you want Americans be more dummies where is not possilbe. Already there are millions of dummies who kept fool.

        He censors all the comments at his blog and spread LIES EVERY SINGLE DAY. Why YOU should give a platform to these criminal zionists like Mike 71 and proyect? I am afraid either you like to please the criminal zionist tribe or you have not understood what is going on.

  7. Don E. Scheid April 21, 2018 at 11:38 am #

    From a strictly legal point of view, the coalition of the U.S. the U.K., and France may be seen as a vigilante group that acted to enforce international law with their April 2018 military operation against Syria.
    Vigilantism historically has a bad name in the United States primarily because “vigilante justice” in the Old West was often short on procedures to ensure fair trials, resulting in summary executions. Nevertheless, vigilance committees played an important role in many towns and communities in frontier America. These organizations sought to impose law and order in the absence of any official legal authority. They were a form of self-help law enforcement. Vigilantism arises to fill a vacuum in legal authority. It also sometimes operates simultaneously with legal institutions of law enforcement that are perceived to be inadequate.
    This is the situation confronting the international legal system. Gross violations of international law occur, as with Syria’s use of chemical weapons. But enforcement of the law (e.g., the Chemical Weapons Convention) cannot be authorized because the Security Council is shackled by the veto of one or more of its five permanent members. Accordingly, in order to hold states accountable for gross violations of international law, some method of self-help must be adopted. Thus, a vigilante committee.
    The question is when, if ever, should such unilateral law enforcement be allowed under international law. Should it be allowed only for the enforcement of gross violations of jus cogens norms? Should it be allowed only if a coalition of some number or complexion of states approve of the enforcement? And so on.

  8. Beau Oolayforos April 22, 2018 at 12:27 pm #

    Dear Professor Falk,

    It seems that both sides – the West, as you indicate, and now the Syrians & Russians – would fain hinder the OPCW’s work. Managing the crime scene. 40 people dead and many hurt….would it be OK now to remember also the hundreds or thousands who met similar fates during the “liberation” of Fallujah, Mosul, etc? Chemical weapons are awful things, but those human beings are equally dead.

    Gibbon tells us how the Roman people cheerfully resigned the cares of government, along with their rights, to the Emperor, so that they could more fully enjoy their bread & circuses. The Senate became a rubber stamp, and things went OK under the Antonines, but then came the Fall. We are in the dangerous position of having military people as the MODERATING voices. Will Mad Dog Mattis keep us from the Brink?

  9. The Jewish State is in New York not Palestine April 25, 2018 at 8:28 am #

    The following is another attack on another propagandist in the service of the Western intelligence services pose as ‘left’ defending their wars and spreading lies against President Bashar Assad who decided to defend Syria and defeat the criminal west design for his country. These articles are directed another imposter who pose as ‘left’ but he is nothing but a USG propagandist against Assad to serve the interest racist zionist tribe that he is one of them, proyect. He yet to produce SINGLE article to attack war crimes against humanity of the axis of evil US-Israel-Britain in Yemen, Libya, Syria and elsewhere, but goes after Assad, who is defending his country from zionist mass murderers and racists and refuse to call Clinton, Bush, Paul Wolfowitz, Trump a mass murderer, but freely calls President Bashar Assad who is defending his country where evil empire and his extension in the region bomb on the daily bases ‘a mass murderer’ leaving these criminals, who came from way continent to implement ODED YINON strategy for the interest of the criminal zionist trib, alone

    https://gowans.wordpress.com/2018/04/24/another-beautiful-soul-counterpunching-the-global-assault-on-dissent/

    This imposter is attacking whoever goes against his masters, the western intelligence services and Mossad’s plot, to fool the public. These propagandists must be exposed all over the world.

    https://louisproyect.org/2018/04/23/petrified-assadism/

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. syria, warmongering, various | Pete's Politics and Variety - April 19, 2018

    […] link to Richard Falk on the syria strike. Well articulated, as […]

  2. Szyici i sunnici – odwieczny konflikt? – Jarosław Pietrzak - May 6, 2018

    […] jest niewinny. Richard Falk, wybitny ekspert od prawa międzynarodowego, rozpoczął swój komentarz do bombardowań od przypuszczenia, że Syria, być może, bardziej niż za to, że użyła broni chemicznej, […]

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