Sunday, 8 September 2013

Further Complications with the US Argument for 'Punishing' Syria for Chemical Attacks: Hypocricy and Lack of Foundation

So, yesterday I had a post pointing to a piece by Udo Schuklenk, rather convincingly picking apart the US case for military attacking Syria as a 'punishment' for the current regime's alleged chemical warfare attacks against civilians. Today, I found two further reasons against any such idea, besides the numerous ones presented by Udo:

1. Articles in The Daily Mail, making public solid evidence to the effect that the UK, whose prime minister David Cameron has apparently swallowed president Obama's argument for an attack whole and unchewed and made motions in parliament to gain support for this line (to no effect, so far), has for many years when Syria was suspected of stockpiling chemical weapons agents, like sarin, exported ingredients for manufacturing exactly such agents to Syria with the government's and relevant agencies' open approval and license. The ingredient in question is one that in other contexts is perfectly innocent or benign, namely sodium fluoride (an ingredient in almost all tooth paste and sometimes added to drinking water to boost population dental health), but as here described, also a necessary bit in the manufacturing of sarin, which is exactly the gas claimed by the US to have been used by the Assad regime (and famous since the terrorist attacks in the Tokyo underground in 1995). It wouldn't surprise me one bit if also other of those countries now contemplating jumping onto the US attack wagon, at least if UN support can be produced, similarly have exported this or some other part of the alleged Syrian chemical weapons arsenal – in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if also the US government can be found to have done the same.

The relevance of this for Obama's argument is the following: If the Syrian regime is to be punished by a military attack (that will most certainly kill lots of people having nothing to do with the matter, besides being unlucky enough to reside inside Syrian territory – nobody believes in the fairy tales about precision warfare anymore), then surely a proportional punishment has to be directed at those that have aided and abetted such a serious act. That is, if the alleged action of the Assad regime is to be seen as a crime worthy of such a degree of punishment (including foreseeable collateral damages of substantial proportion), surely aiding and abetting such a crime must be viewed as deserving a punishment in the same ballpark, although at a more moderate proportion in the same way that assisting a murder deserves less punishment than the murder itself. Note that the argument that the aiding was unwitting does not hold up to scrutiny, since the UK and the rest of the countries here viewed Syria as a danger from the chemical weapons perspective already in those times and were fully well informed about the military application of sodium fluoride.

So, it would seem, that the same legal logic invoked by president Obama to motivate attacking Syria would force him to the conclusion that if, say, Damascus is to be bombed in punishment for the alleged attack, then some more minor part of the UK – say Middlesbrough or Bristol – should be in for a similar treatment.And it doesn't end there, for it would also seem that David Cameron himself, as a matter of legal logic, would have to accept and support such a conclusion. Lovely, isn't it?

2. Now, and this is something that dawned on my today, there's a basic fault of the whole attempt to try to make a legal argument in support of a military attack aimed at punishing a country's leaders or its officer's at lower levels for an alleged crime. This argument requires that due process is applied, and what Obama has suggested is far from that. Due process would seem to require that those that are suspects in the crime are apprehended for subsequent inquiry and investigation by the International Criminal Court – not that Damascus or whatever other place is contemplated by the Washington hawks as a fitting target is reduced to a pile of rubble, possibly killing the Syrian leadership possibly responsible for chemical attacks together with a huge bunch of other people, without anything even resembling trial. There is only one problem: the USA, for entirely selfish reasons, is on record as actively working against the ICC and its underlying idea of installing a legally secure institution for punishing war crimes and crimes against humanity. In conclusion: Obama's argument relies on the idea of applying due legal process and rule of law, while what he suggests is the opposite. Not only that, he represents a country that is an active enemy of the very notion of such rule of law.

So, in the end, it would seem that, even discounting for the blind eye towards those who have made the alleged chemical attack possible and the hypocricy implied by that – the entire attempt of the US regime and president Obama to dress up in legal garment what is, I suppose, in the end the same old 'preventive self-defense' rubbish as usual, fails even more splendidly than argued by Udo yesterday.

Now, should Obama change his mind and accept, as EU leaders now seem keen on, that an ICC-based due process handling of the alleged chemical attack of the Syrian regime is applied, as would seem logical in view of the legal argument made, such a due process would also have to include, of course, the crime of aiding and abetting such alleged criminal behaviour, which in turn would seem to imply that David Cameron and relevant ministers (of security, defense and foreign trade) should, at the very least, be held for questioning and possible a number of other governments should be in for the same treatment. A little something for the EU council of ministers to contemplate in their further musings on this matter.