It is a measure of the cynicism (captivity would probably be a better word) of the corporate-owned media in the U.S. that zero coverage is given to questions like the ones raised in this piece. -- Inter Press Service published Monday an article by Dahr Jamail on the way in which the U.S. is riding roughshod over long-established principles of international law as it attempts to reengineer Iraqi society. -- John Bolton's radical view that international law exists only to the extent that states are willing to admit that it exists is an unspoken tenet of virtually every piece of mainstream journalism that Americans read, while voices reflecting long-established legal principles as well as the will of global civil society are marginalized or excluded. -- In the world today, the U.S. is playing the role of Athens in Thucydides's famous Melian Dialogue in Book Five of The Peloponnesian War: "Of the gods we believe," the Athenians told the Melians they were in the process of destroying, "and of men we know, that by a necessary law of their nature they rule wherever they can. And it is not as if we were the first to make this law, or to act upon it when made: we found it existing before us, and shall leave it to exist forever after us; all we do is to make us of it, knowing that you and everybody else, having the same power as we have, would do the same as we do." -- At the end of Book Five, the Melians surrender "at discretion to the Athenians, who put to death all the grown men whom they took, and sold the women and children for slaves, and subsequently sent out five hundred colonists and settled the place themselves" (The Landmark Thucydides (Free Press, 1996], pp. 354. 357). -- Death and slavery have a different character in our times, but then Americans purport to have values that are more enlightened than those of the ancient Athenians. -- Despite their citizens' commitment to liberty and justice for all, in the international arena U.S. leaders tear up international conventions like the 1907 Hague Convention referred to by Dahr Jamail below, which forbids the kind of rewriting of a nation's laws by an occupying power that is now being done in Iraq (see also Gerhard von Glahn, The Occupation of Enemy Territory: A Commentary on the Law and Practice of Belligerent Occupation [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1957], pp. 98-99: "civil law in a narrow sense is immune from interference on the part of the occupant")....
U.S. INFLUENCE 'TOO MUCH'
By Dahr Jamail
Inter Press Service
September 5, 2005
LONDON -- U.S. influence in the process of drafting a constitution for Iraq is excessive and "highly inappropriate", a United Nations official says.
"It is a matter of public record that in the final weeks of the process the newly arrived U.S. ambassador (Zalmay Khalizad) took an extremely hands-on role," Justin Alexander, legal affairs officer for the office of constitutional support with the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) told IPS. "Even going so far as to circulate at least one U.S. draft."
Alexander, who oversaw the recent proceedings in Baghdad added: "This involvement was highly inappropriate for a country with 140,000 soldiers in country."
Zaid al-Ali, a legal expert who also oversaw the drafting process in Baghdad, made a similar case at a meeting at the International Association of Contemporary Iraqi Studies in London.
"There are three ways in which the occupation intervened in the context of Iraq's constitution-writing process," he said. "Firstly, the occupation authorities selected and affected the makeup of the commission that was charged with drafting Iraq's transitional law, and its permanent constitution. Second, the occupation determined the limits and parameters within which the constitution was to be drafted. Third, the occupation authorities intervened directly in order to safeguard its interests in the context of the constitutional negotiations."
Al-Ali said it was significant that one article in the draft constitution on foreign military bases was dropped from the final version. "One article contained in a previous draft provided that setting up foreign military bases in Iraq was to be forbidden, and that the only way in which this could be deviated from would have been by a two-thirds majority vote in Parliament."
Al-Ali said "this article was dropped from the final draft of the constitution."
An alliance including the Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars and the large movement of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said it rejected the draft and a "political process which had been led by occupiers and their collaborators."
The group said in a media statement: "We consider this draft as a next step of this process which does not represent the peoples' will." The alliance also expressed "major suspicions about the honesty of the next referendum, which will take place under occupation and with neither international nor Arabic and Islamic supervision."
Dr. Marinos Diamantides, senior lecturer in law at the University of London, said the entire drafting process could be illegal under international law.
"One could argue the entire process is against the law," Diamantides told IPS. "According to the 1907 Convention (the convention for the pacific settlement of disputes), the occupying power has a duty to maintain the legal system of the country it occupies. This is the first time ever that an occupying power has dismantled the internal law system of the country it occupies."
He also pointed out that ironically the Sunnis now have power to derail the upcoming referendum vote by a two-thirds vote in three provinces. That power was originally intended to give Kurds power to veto the constitution.
When Iraq's Kurdish and Shia dominated parliament recently approved the draft, Sunnis immediately began campaigning for a 'no' vote in the upcoming October referendum. If the draft were to pass the referendum, it would be followed two months later by election for a government.
At least four provinces are predominantly Sunni, and Sunni clerics have urged their followers to reject the draft if it does not meet Sunni demands.
Adding further complexity to the already muddled situation, former U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Iraq during the sanctions Denis Halliday believes that even the United Nations has no place in occupied Iraq..
"The U.N. doesn't have a position in Iraq today," Halliday told IPS. "Once the invasion took place, the U.N. became collaborators with the enemy (the United States)."
Halliday, who had resigned from his U.N. post in protest against "genocidal sanctions" added: "This lesson should have been learned in August 2003, when our office in Baghdad was blown up, as we were collaborators. The U.N. has simply become a tool of the U.S., and Iraqis can no longer distinguish between the U.S. and the U.N."
Justin Alexander said Iraq might need a new constitution. "If Iraq creates a progressive and effective constitution and laws to implement the constitution, then this could benefit Iraqis." But "in the absence of mutual reconciliation and an end to the occupation this is all futile."