“No treaty, however much it may be to the advantage of all, however tightly it may be worded, can provide absolute security against the risks of deception and evasion.” - President Kennedy, June 10, 1963
As you know from history, after two world wars, the US led international treaty-creation that made military attacks on other nations unlawful unless that nation’s government attacked first, or there was provable imminent threat. Importantly, this is no restriction of military use for self-defense to stop an active attack.
You also know that no nation’s government attacked the US on 9/11, yet the US regularly uses military attacks against other nations. You may know that since World War 2 such US military actions have killed ~30 million since WW2, arguably more than Hitler’s Nazis.
You may also know that all “reasons” given to the US public to support current wars are easily verified as lies known to be false as they are told. You may have felt intentionally deceived at the time; now official US government disclosures and presentation of public evidence prove it.
You may wonder, given the treaties making war unlawful empower US military to reject war orders and arrest those who issue them since no war order is lawful in an unlawful war, what is the official US legal justification for these wars?
Since the beginning of US military action just after 9/11, colleagues and I are only aware of vague references to “self-defense” and a 2001 letter of US Ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, that mentions “ongoing threat” within Afghanistan. The UN Security Council resolved in its legal authority twice that nations should cooperate to get the facts and arrest the criminals of 9/11. Afghanistan agreed to assist in the arrests of any criminal suspects. The US refused to provide any evidence, used its military for armed attack, invasion, and military occupation. This violated the UN Security Council’s two legally-binding resolutions rather than uphold war law (details and analysis).
Outside of Negroponte’s letter, I’m not aware of any other legal attempt of the US to justify their wars to the international community.
As many of us have written for years, the US domestic “Authorizations for use of military force” (AUMF) are strictly limited to legal use:
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the judicial branch of the UN. Their definition of “armed attack” is by a nation’s government. Because the leadership of the CIA and FBI both reported that they had no evidence that the Afghan government had any role in the 9/11 terrorism, the US is unable to claim Article 51 protection for military action in Afghanistan. The legal classification of what happened on 9/11 is an act of terrorism, not an armed attack. In addition, American Daniel Webster helped create the legal definition of national self-defense in the Caroline Affair as "necessity of that self-defence is instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation." The US attack on Afghanistan came nearly a month after the 9/11 terrorism. Article 51 only allows self-defense until the Security Council takes action; which they did in two Resolutions (1368 and 1373) claiming jurisdiction in the matter.
In conclusion, unless a nation can justify its military use as self-defense from armed attack from a nation’s government that is "instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation," all other acts of war are unlawful. The legal definition of “self-defense” ends when the attack terminates. In general legal definition, no party is allowed use of force under the justification of “self-defense” if the law can be applied for redress and remedy.
Letter of the US 1973 War Powers Act (WPA): The authorization by Congress for US presidential discretion for military action in Afghanistan and Iraq (AUMF) references WPA. This act, in response to the Vietnam War, reframes the Founders’ intent of keeping the power of war in the hands of Congress. It also expressly limits the president to act within US treaty obligations; the principle treaty of use of war being the UN Charter.
This means that presidential authority as commander-in-chief must always remain within the limitations of the UN Charter to be lawful orders.
So it appears the US legal “argument” is only a vague claim of “self-defense” that destroys that legal definition, and in no way addresses how US military attacks honor the two treaties to end such “wars of choice,” or the meaning of those treaties.
That’s all they’ve got, and my interested colleagues and I are unaware of any reasonable attempt by the US to legally explain their use of military attacks.
Are you? If so, please comment and/or contact me with such links of an official US justification of lawful war.
I suppose the US has the same justification as the British for their invasion and occupation of India: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win” (attributed to Gandhi).
I do know that that all lawyers in the UK’s Foreign Affairs Department concluded the US/UK invasion of Iraq was an unlawful War of Aggression; all 27 of them were in agreement. This followed the Dutch government’s recent unanimous report and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s clear statements (my most recent article on this topic with more details here).
I do know that the two treaties to end nations’ armed attacks after two world wars are crystal-clear in letter and intent. They are meant to be as clear as where you stop at stop signs when driving, or where in-bounds and out-of-bounds are for a sports playing field.
I do know my own family’s sacrifices in these two world wars:
- Both of my grandfathers served the US military for World War 1. My dad says his father refused to tell “war stories,” and my mom’s dad serviced trains’ pneumatic braking systems in Paris.
- My father, only uncle, and wife’s father served the US military in World War 2. My uncle’s hair turned white, and he refused to ever discuss what he witnessed. My wife’s father was shot by Nazis on three separate occasions as a combat field medic; the last putting seven machine gun bullets through both his legs and crippling him. My father was trained to operate M4 Sherman tanks, and was young enough that only some of his 18-year-old cohorts in 1945 were shipped to Europe.
I do know that I refuse the long history of lie-began US Wars of Aggression that continues to today, and conclude with the most decorated US Marine general in his day that US wars are lie-started and strongly motivated for 1% corporate plunder.
I do know that I welcome public participation to share what they know, and act as they see best.