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             Andre Gunder Frank   
            [Easter Sunday  April 4, 1999]

                        We have to destroy it to save it
                        -- Vietnam War 'justification'

Today is the 50th anniversary of the signing of the NATO charter in
Washington. The  supposedly only defensive now 19 country NATO alliance is
celebrating the occasion with its first ever military offensive, and one
that is even out of area, by bombing little Yugoslavia in an undeclared
war. This is a strictly  'humanitarian' mission to keep the peace in
Kosovo,  as Big Brother's political and media WAR=PEACE double speak would
have us believe.  However, the entire operation also raises the most
serious and dangerous questions of international and national
contitutional law, which the NATO member states and their spokespersons
have conveniently soft-peddaled if they have been raised at all.
Additionally, the plight of Albanian Kosovars has led  many people of
good will and even  some experienced international humanitarian NGO's to
condone or even to support this  NATO offensive. They seem to have
forgotten the old addage that two wrongs don't  make a right. Moreover in
this case, the second wrong abrogates even all right to the protection of
international law the world over, thus putting  everyone at risk,
immediately including the Kosovars.

Therefore it is of literally life or death importance to beware of being
led down the garden path to support or even condone --let alone
participate in - vigilante lynch mob posses in the name of protecting
human rights. That was bad enough when there was  no law in the American
West, and  therefore one of the 'civilizing missions' was to bring  law to
the West. Now  we have  domestic and international law in the West
including the United States and other NATO countries, as well as in the
world. Therefore, the costs and dangers of neglecting/ circumventing/
abrogating it are even greater than when there was none at all. To now do
so through the wanton bombing of Yugoslavia in the alleged name of
humanitarian advancement or protection of human rights is worse than a
travesty. It means the violation and even the renewed abrogation of law,
the rule and the protection of law , and in this case especially also of
the United Nations Human Rights laws adopted at the initiative of Mrs.
Elanore Roosevelt after World War II.  Will we now initiate and need a WW
III to start all over again after first destroying the Woodrow Wilson's
League of Nations and now neglecting the United Nations and disregarding
its Human Rights Convention in the name of 'humanitarianism'?

For, make no mistake, the 19 states of NATO led by the United States are
in flargrant  violation of international law - and without even a
declaration of war - in wantonly bombing military and civilian targets in
Yugoslavia, including deliberately bombing urban bridges and blocking the
major Danubian international waterway normally used by the commercial
shipping of many countries. Indeed, NATO  led by the United States
deliberately by-passed the entire United Nations Organization and set
aside the consultative procedures it, and especially its Security Council,
offers for the discussion and settlement of international disputes in
particular those that  may threaten the peace.  However, even if the NATO
states had 'consulted' the Security Council ,as Secretary General Kofi
Annan belatedly requested, any Security Council 'sanction' of member state
bombing would still have been in abject violation of numerous  articles
[27, 41,42,51] and sections of the UN Charter, as was the bombing of Iraq
in 1991 and again in 1999, when the Security Council was not even

Maybe the failure even to have made declarations of war is a result and
indication of how much doing so also violates constitutional and national
law in  the NATO member states. For some or all would have been required
themselves to have pursued constitutional and/or parliamentary procedures
at home even to declare war, which their political and military leaders
sought to avoid because they would perhaps have been politically
impossible before their bombs rained in on Yugoslavia and their propaganda
on TV sets at home. In the United States, the constitution permits war to
be declared not by the President  but only by Congress. It passed a
rather ambiguous 'War Powers Act' when it was duped wholly by the wholly
invented Tonkin Gulf incident invented by the President. In the Gulf War
against Iraq,  the President again duped Congress through his prior
military faits accomplis. The Congress has so far not been duly consulted
on this already for the United States itself therefore already illegal
'non' war. Neither has the parliament of Canada. Indeed, it would be
important to inquire how many other NATO countries, and especially
Germany, are also violating their own constitutions and breaking their 
own laws to participate in this war that in any case violates all
international  [and thereby also national] law to which they have 

The NATO Charter is does not itself constitute international law;  
But it does oblige the organization to obey that law and it prohibits the
organization from any action that disturbs the peace, let alone any
aggressive  action against a non-member state - and even mored so one 'out
of area' - that has not previousl itself attacked or even provoked  a NATO
member state. In short, this NATO and US action is more than in total
violation of international law; its sets it aside and is the most serious
step so far in abrogating it altogether.  There have been twentieth
century precedents, but none as flagrant  as this one: e.g. Iraq in 1991
and Korea in 1950,  where military actioin allegedly was under UN cover.
Before that, the League of Nations was paralyzed by the Italian invasion
of Abessinia in 1936 and the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, in
each case by the action of a single country-that paved the way to World
War II.  It is difficult to know which is more illegal and dangerous
today: the conversion of the UN into an instrument of US foreign policy in
total violation of the UN Charter as in the war against Iraq in  1991, or
shoving aside the United Nations, its Charter, and its instruments for the
preservation of peace and security altogether.

It is therefore alarming indeed that today many individuals who are well
meaning but perhaps lack some  sophistication in international law [as
does the present writer as well], let  themselves be led down the garden
path in ther name of humanitarianism. [The uttter hypocrisy behind the
official claims to that effect are examined in a parallel note on NATO
Even more alarming is that some major human rights organizations of long
international experience now fall in line with those who suddenly and
hypocritically appeal to such law only to further their own narrow
political economic interests. What they now endorse amounts to the
international equivalent of rounding  up a vigilante [not even a
sheriff's] posse to go after suspected horse thieves or someone who was
has not yet been even charged [let alone brought to trial!] for violent
crimes against persons. Yet even in the Old  Wild West of the most violent
spaghetti westerns, it never occurred to anybody ever to take the law into
his own hands and systematically to shell or bomb a whole territory/state.
Fortunately at least, it also did not ocurr to them to claim that their
vigilante 'law' is humanitarian.  

More alarming is the position even of Amnesty International [AI] and Human
Rights Watch [HRW] among other humanitarian organizations, who have long
found ample reason to be critical of the powers that be for violating
human rights. Now AI and HRW suddenly support  these same powers in their
own flagrant violation of human rights in the name protecting them. The
situation was already well put in the days of Richard Nixon regarding
Vietnam :We have to destroy it to save it. An AI release reads "violations
of human rights lie at the heart of the current conflict in Kosovo, and
have done so ever since it developed during the 1980s. It is therefore
essential that the effective protection and promotion of human rights
should be the centerpiece of any agreement to be reached on Kosovo." So
six days into NATO's bombing on March 29, AI called for increases in
military intelligence operations on the ground in Kosovo. Human Rights
Watch has also pressed the cause of military intervention, using their
Kosovo Human Rights Flash to draw attention to Serbian abuses. After a
week of unrelenting missile attacks in Yugoslavia and Kosovo, none of the
Human Rights Watch reports included any tallies of civilian casualties
from the NATO bombings, not even of Albanians  in Kosovo or other innocent
civilians in Serbia and Montenegro. [part of the text in this paragraph is
from Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair's "CounterPunch"]. 

But even more serious and alarming still is that AI, HRW, many other NGOs,
most of  the media, political parties, governments, and many people in the
West, including apparently the legal profession that has not been
otherwise heard from , have lined up behind and lend their support to the
elimination and destruction of the ONLY real instrument humanity has -and
has devoted centuries to forging - for the protection of human rights: THE
LAW, including  international law. Granted that it is not perfect and
tends to be used by the strong against the poor; but it is still the only
law we have.
Therefore, anyone concerned with human rights and many other concerns,
must avail herself and strengthen that law, instead of setting it aside,
violating it, or even worse abrogating it.  Traffic regulations may indeed
some times be a nuisance, or be abused by the sheriff to set a speed trap
or the police as a license to print money through parking and other
tickets. But that is no reason - and on the contrary it would be very
dangerous - to violate all traffic regulations or to abrogate them in one
fell swoop. By extension, it is even more absurd  and much more dangerous
for NATO now  to abrogate all international rules of law that were
laboriously set up by previous generations  as at least minimum safeguards
for the exercise of human and political rights. And it brings Orwellian
double speak to a previously unheard of level for Big Brother now to claim
- or anybody to believe him - that all this is only a humanitarian mission
to protect human rights through law - and bombs.

US State Department spokespersons have denounced the Russian dispatch of
surveillance ships  to the Mediterranean as 'not helpful.' Well, it
probably is not. And how  helpful is it  for the government of the United
States hypocritically now to appeal to international law to protect three
of its soldiers captured by Yugoslavia? For at the very same time the US
and NATO  flagrantly violate and even abrogate that same international law
and thereby  produce a major humanitarian disaster today and pose a danger
of spreading their war further and further tomorrow?. [See the related AGF
posting on Hypocrisy]

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